Dan In Japan: Day 10

Today was another one of those, let’s let the weather decide what to do today. Was it dry and warm enough to spend the entire day outside? Well it was dry, not sure about warm, but it’ll do… off to Harajuku! (Tune in tomorrow to find out where I’d have gone if it was wet!)

When I booked this trip, there was one thing I knew I’d need- comfy shoes. See, if my trips to London have taught me anything it’s that I’d rather walk than get the tube. As long as it’s within about 30 minutes or so, why not? You get to see way more and end up places you might not have even known about. Seeing way more of Tokyo is obviously very appealing. So while my ultimate goal was Harajuku, I had planned a route starting at Shin-Okubo, through Shinjuku, on to the Tokyo Metropolitan Government building for the sky deck, then through Yoyogi park finishing up at Takeshita street in Harajuku.

Shin-Okubo is another place that I decided to visit because of Simon and Martina (the guys from YouTube). Because they used to live in South Korea, they mentioned at the live show that they were missing some Korean food. An audience member chimed in suggesting they go to Shin-Okubo, Tokyo’s Korea Town. Full of Korean food shops and (more importantly) shops selling K-Pop goods! So I went along to take a look.

(I actually forgot to take any photos while there so these are just 3 I found through Google!)

While I knew it was pretty unlikely, I decided to make it my mission to find SOMETHING with Crayon Pop on! This was unlikely because firstly, they’re not that popular over in SK and secondly, about 90% of the goods on sale was for boy bands:( But I wasn’t going to be disheartened! Roughly every 2 or 3 shops was a store selling idol goods, so one of them had have something, right?

RIGHT! ONE of them did! One out of maybe 15! The penultimate shop I went in which, like most of the stores sold mostly knock of goods, had a section of posters and badges. There amongst the Big Bangs and Shinees was a box of Crayon Pop posters and right behind them, badges! So I don’t really need either of those things, but I’d come this far! They had no ChoA badges left do I settled for poster (plus it was only about 70p!). I don’t know what I’m going to do with it, but hopefully that one sale makes this store think “hmm, looks like Crayon Pop are getting popular again, better order some more goods”. Then my work will be complete!

Next on my agenda was Shinjuku to visit the metropolitan government building. On the 45th floor is a free sky deck with amazing views of the city, so I began my 20 minute walk and made my way to the building. I’m not sure 45 floors is THAT high, but it’s definitely high enough that when going up in the lift my ears popped! It’s also high enough to see some beautiful views of the while city, including my next destination- Yoyogi Park and Meiji Shrine.

Once again I began my 20 minute walk, but this time it was a much more pleasant experience. The walk was mostly through Yoyogi Park which is a massive forest in the middle of the city. Once your inside you’d easily further you were in Tokyo. While the park was lovely, Meiji Shrine itself is simply stunning. From it’s huge gate to the main courtyard, it’s just a beautiful building. The photos don’t really do it justice. Plus the story and the meaning behind shrine and park simply add to it all.

But now it was time to stop living in the past and to head to possibly the most modern and fashionable parts of Tokyo- Harajuku. Famous for it’s main street, Takeshita Dori, it’s where all the cool kids hang out. I figured I’d fit right in!

By the time I got there it was around 4 o’clock so the place was PACKED with school kids. While I’ve heard it’s always busy, I’m confident this was its peak. The street is lined with fashion shops and souvenir stalls, with the odd character store/cafe thrown in for good measure.

The version of it you often see on TV, where everyone’s wearing increasingly more out there clothing (or fashionable depending on how you want to look at it) isn’t quite the reality I saw. Yes there was some of that (there was a camera crew interviewing people) but the majority was by far tourists, taking photos, shopping for souvenirs and eating crêpes.

So once I’d taken a load of photos and bought my souvenirs I was feeling a bit hungry so I thought I’d get myself a crépe. All the way down Takeshita Dori are dozens and dozens of crêpe stores selling all sorts of amazing combinations of fillings. Everything from ice cream to cheesecake, from strawberries to donuts. The crêpes are rolled like ice cream cones and then stuffed with whatever you want. They all looked amazing and I’m sure tasted as good. Mine definitely did, I went for ice cream, custard, banana and caramel sauce. 540¥ and worth every penny.

So the day went on, I walked up and down the street many many times, exploring all the little side streets and mini malls. Once I was content that I’d not missed anything worth seeing I headed round the corner to Omote Sando, the designer street, where all the major brands have their flagship stores. Apple, Gucci, Prada, Louis Vuiton… I went in one of those stores! Oh and there was a massive 6 floor Kiddyland (sells character goods- Hello Kitty, Ghibli, Snoopy, anime etc…) so of course I went in there. Then finally, before I headed home, it was time for some dinner. There was only one place I wanted to eat at in Harajuku…

The Kawaii Monster Cafe! Designed by Sebastian Masuda (Kyary Pamyu Pamyu’s visual stylist), the idea is that when you enter the restaurant you’re being eaten by a monster and you’re dining in it’s stomach. The place is filled with bright colors and giant oversized features all surrounding a central carousel. The waitresses and monster girls all wear… well pretty much what you’re meant to believe everyone dresses like in Harajuku. While you’re allowed to take photos, you can’t use flash and it’s pretty dark in there so my photos aren’t amazing. Here’s a press shot with the lights on so you can get the idea!

If the decor wasn’t weird enough, the menu is just a crazy. What I went for (as do a lot of people from what I can tell) was the painter pasta. A multicoloured spaghetti dish, which just tasted like carbonara. There were 5 brightly colored sauces on the side, but these didn’t really add much and were more for show. Expensive? Quite. Worth it? Everything has been on this trip so far. The only other thing that stood out on the menu (but both were a little out of my budget) were the colourful poison parfait extreme (a massive multi coloured sundae) and the cocktails, which come from a section called Bar Experiment. The ingredients are mixed in front of you and they designed to change colour and react as they’re mixed. Very clever, very pricey! Here’s another press shot of some of the food and drinks.

After all that excitement, it was time to head home. On the next blog, find out if my bowel movements turned pink after I ate that pasta! Exciting!

Dan

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