Read Part 1|Departures and Arrivals, here
After a much needed sleep, I was up early on the second day of our trip, eager to get going. I’d made plans before leaving about where I’d like to go on each day, and today I’d planned on going to Harajuku.
Harajuku is best known for being the teen fashion epicentre of Tokyo – spawning youth teen crazes such as Lolita, Visual Kei, Fairy Kei and the famous Harajuku Girls. It’s said if you go to Harajuku on a Sunday, you can see Tokyo’s trendy teens crowding the entrance to the train station, all dressed up in their favourite fashions. I, however, was going on a Wednesday, so sadly missed this.
Luckily our hotel was situated on the main road to Harajuku – Meiji Dori – it was little more than a 5 minute walk. On the way we passed this little shrine. We stopped to take some pictures and admire the surroundings – it was like a little haven in the middle of a busy, bustling city…
I have no idea who/what the shrine was dedicated too, but it was impressive all the same.
I left my parents and brother, Glen, at the crossing in front of Harajuku Station a little while later. They crossed the road and went off in search of the park, whilst I went to take in the sights of Takeshita Dori…
It’s hard to describe what it was like to be here really – I’d seen so many photos of the entrance to this fashion mecca over the past few years – it was amazing seeing it in real life! Every now and then, as the seasons go by, they change the decoration over the entrance gate of this street (‘Dori’ in Japanese) and while we were there it was covered with balloons in the shape of snowflakes – obviously left over from the end of winter.
Just inside the gates I found a McDonalds, and being super thirsty (it was such a hot day, surprisingly!) I got myself a drink. Again, another chance to use my Japanese. Next door to the McDonalds, I immediately spotted the famous pink and white Daiso store – the largest 100yen store in Tokyo, with over 3 floors of affordable and, to be honest, great quality items, all for as little as 100yen (60p GBP, 95c USD).
I know it sounds silly to get excited over what is basically a big £1 Store, but this Daiso was one of the main places I wanted to visit in Harajuku! I’d heard so much about all the great stationary and craft bits you can buy here, and I was not disappointed! I got some great little bits, including a pair of kawaii craft scissors in the shape of a mouse, a little ceramic bowl for fruit/snacks, sewing needles, note books and even some Japanese sweets to munch on my travels.
Here are my mouse scissors in action!
I must admit I went a little crazy on Takeshita Dori – I ended up spending about 30% of my entire holiday budget. Oops! A large sum of that 30% was spent in the chain of shops called ACDC Rag…
Little branches of these stores are dotted in various places along Takeshita Dori, and sell the latest in teen fashion and accessories. I got a little rucksack from this one, in the shape of a black bear. It’s super kawaii 😛
I made my way up the street – it’s basically one long pedestrian street lined with shops and boutiques on both sides, with side streets with even more shops and stalls. I passed a lot of crepe stands, they looked so yummy!
I must have spent about 4 hours walking along this street. Seriously – it wasn’t even that long of a street, I was just having a great time! I’d spend so long here in the end that I bumped into my parents, who had already been to the park and were now contending with the crowds here. We went and had some lunch, then I carried on my way again.
On my way out of the back entrance to Takeshita Dori, I came across a store that had a basement full of gashapon machines…
I LOVE these things! Gashapon are little vending machines that offer all sorts of small items, from stationary, clothing, toys, electronics – all for as little as 100yen. I had been saving my 100yen coins, hoping to find some of these machines, so I went a little crazy in here too hehe!
I found myself wishing I had a little purse or pouch to keep all my 100yen coins separate in whilst I was in Japan, so when I got home a wrote a pattern for a little Lucky Coin Pouch. I will be posting the pattern for free on this blog, on Friday <3
By this time it was about 1pm. I made my way along Meiji Dori again, in search of my next target – Kiddyland…
Kiddyland is a massive, multi floor toy shop in the heart of Harajuku. It might not look like much from the outside, but inside it is full to the brim with every sort of kawaii toy and accessories you can think of, featuring all of Japans best loved characters and brands. There are floors for Rilakkuma, Totoro, Hello Kitty, and even western brands such as Peanuts and Disney. They even have a Kawaii Elevator that takes you between its choc-a-bloc 5 cute floors!
Again, I spent a lot of time in here. I really liked the super cute Totoro and Rilakkuma 3D rings, though decided not to get one as, although they were super kawaii, weren’t very practical for everyday wear – especially as I use my hands a lot of crocheting…
Cute, none the less!!
I did however get some 3D puzzle kits, a bottle of water in the shape of Rilakkuma, little pots of mini Sanrio erasers on keyrings, Gudetama note tins and a Peanuts fabric basket to hold my yarn in when I got back home. I also got a few Rilakkuma gashapon!
I’d spent about 6 hours shopping in all – I just wanted a break from the hustle and bustle at this point in the day, so I went off in search of some peace and quiet, away from the crowds. My aim was Yoyogi Park – a massive public park just behind Harajuku Station.
This is the entrance to the park…
A long, wide path stretches between the trees from the entrance gate up to Meiji Shrine, towards the north of the park. It was so beautiful and peaceful here – such a contrast from the chaos of Takeshita Dori, just a little way away.
A little way up to the shrine, there was a little side path which lead to a private park. If you paid a small fee for maintenance you could enjoy the ponds, gardens and paths within, so I paid up and took a wander. I’m glad I did – it was so pretty in there!
I must have seen just one other person in this area the whole hour I was here – and although it was so isolated and quiet I felt totally safe and at peace. It was really something 🙂
I left the private park and continued up towards Meiji Shrine…
It was really busy here – as you would probably expect from one of the main shrines in Tokyo. Most people just entered the gates and continued up towards the main area, though every now and again you would see an elderly Japanese man or woman bowing down before the gates in respect – it was really nice.
Just inside the main gate are little areas for prayer and refection, including this area where you could wash your hands and drink the special water from the trough. I assume the water has some spiritual significance, though as there were no signs around to give information I can only guess at this.
The photo above shows a little display where, for a small fee, you can buy a little wooden plaque or a piece of paper and write down a prayer, wish or something you are grateful for, and the monks will pray for you. There were hundreds of plaques, featuring every language you could think of. I added mine, with a thanks to my parents for an amazing holiday.
By this time my feet were hurting like mad, so I decided to call it a day and head back up the main road towards our hotel for a break. Along the way I stopped off at a little shop, I forget what it was actually called – but it was kind of like the Tiger stores you see around – it sold lots of little knick-knacks, stationary and ornaments. I got a little plastic cactus for my Mum and Dad and a pen for my brother.
I relaxed at the hotel for about an hour, then we all met up and went for dinner. The rest of the evening we spend, again, around the Shibuya Crossing area, this time visiting stores like Seibu and Loft.
And so ended our first full day in Tokyo! I hope you are enjoying hearing about my adventures in this magical city, and I look forward to telling you about Day 2 in the next post, tomorrow <3