Day 2 of my trip and I was left to my own devices as Boom had prior engagements. Since it was a Sunday, I decided to head off to Harajuku to snap photos of the cosplayers on Meiji Bridge. Lo and behold, there were none to see — apparently Tokyo’s freezing temperatures (8 degrees Celcius, which drop down to 4 degrees when the wind picks up) were enough to keep even the hardiest cosplayers away.
It wasn’t such a big deal for me, since there were other things to see and do in the district. First and foremost was my visit to Meiji Jingu — which I never forget to do whenever I am in Tokyo. I love the long and relaxing (and crunchy!) walk from Meiji Bridge to the main shrine — as the woods begin to thicken and the street noises peel away, you almost get the feeling that you are not in 21st century Tokyo anymore.
It became a habit of mine to offer ema or prayer tablets, as well as purchase o-mamori or protection amulets, whenever I was at the shrine — and this time was no different. I think the ema in particular are very effective, because whenever I offer one in thanks and to hope for another trip to Tokyo, the request is granted in one way or another. I also cherish the shrine’s o-mamori because in a funny way I think they work: when ever I lose or break one, I just narrowly miss being involved in a traffic accident or suffer from a virulent disease.
I was also very lucky to have witnessed three happy couples tie the knot at the shrine. It was really fascinating to see ancient Japanese wedding rituals being played out in front of you. I also loved the exquisite wedding kimono of the brides, although I do not envy them having to sit and smile serenely despite the gown’s deceptive weight. I was disappointed however by the pushiness of some fellow tourists, who were a little too snap happy with the wedding party I mean, if I were the bride, I wouldn’t be too happy having random strangers taking photos of my wedding day
My quota of peace and serenity met, it was time to head off into the organized chaos that is Takeshita Doori. Despite numerous trips down this iconic Tokyo street, nothing really prepares you for the shock of several hundred people crammed into a small street a tiny Japanese subcompact would have trouble getting through. “Divisoria, but posher,” would be the best way to describe the scene at Takeshita Doori — as shops compete for customers with blaring music and glittery store displays, aggressively pushing their products to the point that half their store shelves are already parked on the street.
I think — and I am not afraid to admit it, that I am already too old for Takeshita Doori, as the crush that I used to find fascinating and exhilarating was five degrees above overwhelming this time around. I made my escape via Meiji Doori and back out to Omotesandou, and went to look for the least crowded crepe stand in Harajuku. No such luck, but I did find one that was out of the way enough for the lines to be blissfully short. After I finished my crepe (the crumbs were cleaned up by some very friendly sparrows <3), I went off in search of the Kiddyland Harajuku temp store on Cat Street.
Yes, kids — Cat Street is real. Unfortunately, I did not find any errant Composers mucking about in search of pretty young graffiti artists to fuck
with around with (not that I didn’t try LOL). Cat Street is pretty calm and laid-back — the perfect antidote to the frenetic pace of Takeshita Doori. A couple of blocks in and you will find the money-sucking wormhole that is Kiddyland Harajuku — where everything from Rilakkuma to Totoro, Star Wars to Kubrick, Zumreed headsets to Digital Harinezumi cameras, were on display to be drooled at. I’m glad I escaped with my credit cards intact — however, my cash supply didn’t fare as well.
My errands in Harajuku pretty much done, I took the quick three minute train ride to Shibuya for another personal ritual: coffee and people-watching at Starbucks Tsutaya Records. This branch of the international coffee chain faces the infamous Scramble Crossing, and has a mezzanine which offers great views of the oncoming horde. After a quick stop at Hachiko’s Statue to say hello to the sweet widdle doggie, I snagged a seat next to a lovely couple (American hubby and Filipina wife) who were in Tokyo on holiday. Yes folks, Filipinos will one day take over the world (I would like to volunteer as your Evil Overlord, BTW).
Although Shibuya is the center of the universe as far as fashionistas are concerned, I love the neighborhood mostly because to two things: Tokyu Hands Shibuya and Mandarake Shibuya. Yeah, yeah — so I’m in the wrong neighborhood, but you’d be surprised by the number of elegant little misses and dashing boy-band contenders crowding the aisles at both stores, as if miniature power tools and 1970s super robot toys were going out of fashion. I had an absolute hoot being elbow deep in BL manga alongside this pretty young thing who looked like she stepped out of the pages of a fashion magazine. Just goes to show: you never really know who is fujoshi and who isn’t.