Konnichiwa from Nippon!
Meiji Jingu shrine and Harajuku
Ridley: Our first proper day in Tokyo was last Sunday as we spent much of Saturday completely jet lagged-sleeping on long haul flights is just so damn difficult-when we arrived, we were like zombies. We stumbled our way through the streets, trains and subway to our hotel, where we slept till the next morning.
As it was Sunday, we decided to head to Harajuku. There we saw the Meiji Jingu shrine (we also wanted to see all the cosplayers dress up in costumes of their favourite anime characters). The day consisted of us getting confused (pretty standard), praying, wetting our hands to purify them and witnessing a Shinto wedding at the Shrine!
I was busy trying to capture ‘artistic’ photos of the wall of wooden blocks filled with people’s prayers, when a very nice (and extremely thoughtful) Japanese man came over to me.
He said ‘wedding parade’ and he gestured for me to come with him. So I shuffled forward to where he was pointing and saw the wedding procession. I think I thanked the man in about three different languages before I got it right! He didn’t have to do that, it was very kind of him and it’s the little things like that, that really make your holiday! I have to say the Japanese are the politest, most helpful of people.
Other things that happened at the shrine; we took many pictures of the large old decorated barrels of sake.
Latimer got chased by a fly all the way there (it really wouldn’t leave her alone) no matter how many times she’d flayed her arms around like a crazy woman.
The praying part took us a while to master. I think we seemed like stalkers as we studied the people around us so we could copy what they were doing. They all give their donations first, then they clapped twice, prayed and bowed twice, but each person had a difference sequence of these three. Eventually we both went with what we thought would work for us. At the end of the day, we were trying to be respectful, the good intentions were there!
Outside of Meiji Jingu, we squeezed down through one of the main Harajuku shopping streets, Takeshita.
Latimer: wherein you can buy all manner of crazy clothes, I will return for odd tights and socks at a later date. Before I bought lots of clothes along this street, but I’m not sure I’m up for a mad shopping spree this time. Might just stick to tights this time.Ridley: Then we doubled back, passed the park in search of people dressed up. Instead of them, however, we stumbled upon a load of stalls selling food and tribal art. There were crowds of people in the middle of picnics and a large stage with singers. I wondered (out loud) if it was some sort of African festival, having not seen the giant Jamaican flags and colours-everywhere. However, I did see the annoyed look of disbelief directed at me from one man, yes people, the blond does seep all the way through sometimes. There was a definite haze nearer the stage too (teehee-it could have been smoke from the barbeque too though…) so we held our breaths and scurried away to continue our search.
Consequently, because of this festival (we think) not many (at all) of the cosplay Harajuku people turned up that Sunday. Only the rockabilly boys were there, dressed up in leather jackets with giant quiffs. They were dancing outside Yoyogi park, which was brilliant too. Inside the green, there were comedians (though we couldn’t understand them, they were getting a lot of laughs), there were dancers, musicians, loads of groups doing yoga or playing Frisbee. There was hardly any part of the large park that wasn’t occupied. We wandered for ages through it all and then sat on a bench to people watch.
Latimer: from a distance we observed a mime artist setting up his act. A group of boys passed by, one decided to sit down in front of the mime artist and await his act. His friends were forced to join him. The jury was out on whether they wanted to or not. Ridley watched the mime artist and noticed the act was flagging; “he’ll loose his audience if he keeps up the crap Olympic ring-acrobat miming.” She nodded. I got bored and started people watching. I saw a westerner on a bike walking his dog. Odd I thought, what if he went too fast or the dog got startled? By the time I looked back at the mime, the boys were gone, his audience diminished. “Where’d they go?” Ridley gave a deep nod, “Lost his audience didn’t he.”
Ridley: There was man playing a music on possibly an erhu beside us. There were rounds of head bowing from us and him when we were leaving.
The next day was Akihabara….
Where it was brilliant, crazy, loud, colourful and just plain fantastic all rolled into one!
We’ve gotten so many pictures of the billboards, the anime, the manga and all the technical stuff that’s for sale here.
There were also loads of girls dressed up in maid costumes…
Latimer: Ridley was caught staring at the maid-dreaming café.
Some of the maids that lined the busy Akihabara streets must have misinterpreted her confusion as interest.She was swiftly handed a flyer by a school-girl in a maid costume with a happy, high-pitched ‘irasshaimase’. Without thinking, Ridley took the flyer. She stared, still baffled.
The odd, anime-esque map, depicting a girl and her rabbit/dog thing, plotted a course through Akihabara towards what we could only imagine was a café full of maids waiting happily to serve the masses- but were we wrong? Was it actually a cry for help? Were the maids prisoners in some strange anime-esque story of betrayal and corruption- was she the only one that could get away- was she trying to get help for her friends?
Had we, the adventurous, intrepid gaijin, in fact scorned her cries? We’ll never know. In true shoujo-anime style, I hope some bishounen (pretty boy) swept in to save her and her friends, as myself and Ridley enjoyed our curry dinner (yums).
Ridley: We went to a cat café instead of the maid one, it was the less strange of the two options. Though it was still very surreal, being in the middle of Tokyo city, randomly petting other people’s pet cats. We went to Ja La La café, which shows up in an accurate location on google maps when you type in it. The door slides open not pulls open, for anyone going there-took us awhile to realise that one. We stood outside like idiots wondering how to get in, I just kept worrying we’d let the cats out. Eventually we knocked and we were ushered into a room with about twelve cats all lounging around. Though we first had to take off our shoes and wash our hands before we were allowed touch the cats. Just in case we were diseased or anything. We were there for 30 minutes, where Latimer had more luck with the little felines. She had two cats stalking a toy she’d started to wave round, they ignored me, despite numerous attention grabbing tactics. I pouted and told them all my cat at home likes me, sometimes. Eventually this gorgeous tabby here and I made friends. He was purring as he lay on his back half asleep. Very Kawaii (cute)! There was also the biggest cat I’ve ever seen there (a Maine Coon). Really beautiful! He kept turning his head, avoiding me deliberately as I took pictures, fame will make you hate the camera it seems! Going to a cat café is definitely something extremely different to do and after all, that’s what Japan is all about, doing things out the ordinary!
Latimer: The Maine was the biggest cat I ever saw in my life. Like a tiny Tiger cub. But, my god, the cat café reeked of cat (surprise surprise). Might need to air out your clothes after ward!
Later that day, as we walked through Asakasa of an evening, we were asked by some Korean business men (with pretty good English) did we know the way to their hotel. We stared, laughing inside (of course we didn’t know the way). We said ‘no’. Then Ridley said; “why don’t you pop into a shop and ask?” (this seems like a straightforward statement). The businessmen stared, then shook their heads and went on their way. Of course to Ridley it seemed like going into a shop and asking for directions just wasn’t the done thing.
Ridley: There really seemed like there was so much disapproval in his face at the time, now I realise he was just perplexed!
Latimer: I wondered- just what did the Korean man think ‘pop into a shop’ meant? Ha, well to us it’s ‘to go into a shop’. This is just an example of Irish English isn’t necessarily English-English! Pop into a shop… haha, what must that sound like? What do people think when they hear Irish people say ‘grand’? That’s probably a word that is used very regularly by us, but likely makes no sense to non-Irish-English speakers!
More later on our adventures!
We’re working our way through Tokyo and we’ve been taking lots of pictures….don’t miss out!