Day 4. Didn’t make plans for today so after breakfast in the morning, we headed back to Harajuku. MJ was still high after last night’s Morning Musume concert and wanted to return to the ticket store to get tickets for today’s concert as well.
We arrived in Harajuku early so the shops were still closed. It was at least another half hour till the stores started opening but people had already started queuing outside the ticketing shop and some of the clothing stores. We were not in any particular hurry to get the tickets, so we decided to stroll around the area first.
We eventually reached Omotesando. Here we spotted the Street Style crew on the street this morning snapping up the most fashionable people.
Street Style is part of the Japan Fashion Association, a government initiative that has been helping to improve the standard of local fashion. Only possible in Japan. I have been following the site for about 7 years now.
Needless to say, our hopelessly uncoordinated costumes shouting tourists! did not make the cut.
We returned to the ticketing store at Takeshitadori. The sales assistant was cutting prices for some of this afternoon’s concert tickets. MJ urged me to join him for the concert. Tickets at the back of the middle row were $400 a pair. After considering carefully, I decided to opt out of the madness. While I was willing to pay for the last night’s concert (on justification of it being a once in a life time event) I couldn’t see the reason to spend so much to watch the exact same concert again.
Clearly not understanding the exchange rate, MJ proceeded to buy a single 5th row center seat for $400. I fear I have created a monster.
MJ bought a ticket for the evening concert so we had the afternoon to kill together before we went our separate ways. Lacking any prior plans for the day, I suggested heading to the nearby Meiji shrine.
The Meiji Jingu Shrine is Tokyo’s second most commercial shrine after the shrine at Asakusa. Despite this, MJ missed it on his last trip here. Located deep inside Yoyogi Park, it can be considered Tokyo’s largest and grandest shrine. It was built to commemorate the Meiji Emperor, thus the name. The Meiji shrine is famous for it’s giant Torii gates and Taikos.
It was still early in the morning so it wasn’t too crowded yet.
The shrine plays host to many traditional weddings during the weekends. A great deal of advertising is put into marketing weddings there. We chanced upon one such wedding this Saturday morning. The couple were in the dull attire. The bridesmaids were in colorful Kimonos. With spring a popular time to get married and the constant demand for traditional themed weddings, the occurrence of random women in colorful kimonos all over Tokyo had finally been explained.
MJ and I decided to write our blessings too. Paper and envelopes for donations were provided. Each morning, the letters would be collected and read out during prayers. With my wishes written in hiragana, the priests tomorrow will probably assume me to be some mentally challenged kid.
Things have probably been going out of hand at the shrine with all the unruly tourists, so photography is now forbidden within the main shrine.
The charms I got from the shrine in the past have all proven to be quite effective so I returned to the counter to get some charms from the shrine before we left. MJ commented that the charms were the nicest he’d seen in Japan yet and proceeded to buy some as well.
I wanted to visit the NHK Studio Park so we headed towards the direction of the NHK buildings. The tourists had started to make their way to the shrine. Headed in our direction were throngs of students.
Upon passing by Yoyogi National Stadium, I found out from a banner that there was an inter-school volleyball tournament taking place there. Behind the stadium, street vendors had set up stalls by the path that connected the stadium and the NHK Studio Park. Rows of policemen stretched along the sides of the path. A worker’s rally was going on here. Amusingly, NHK mascots joined the rallying crowds.
Being a lover of Yakisoba, I opted to get our lunch from one of the stalls. While the owner cooked our Yakisoba, I was tempted into ordering one of the huge sausages displayed at the front of the store.
Considering it was only 500 yen, the yakisoba was fine. The sausage however, was not. The owner took one displayed from the front and seared the edges on the pan. It ended up being burnt on the outside and cold on the inside. It was also completely tasteless.
By today I had wised up the enormous amount we were spending on drinks each day. Didn’t get a 200 yen drink at the store and instead drank from water I brought along. Still thirsty though, so I had to get a drink from a nearby vending machine. Another bottle to bring along more water I guess.
There was a special guest here this day at NHK and a bunch of elderly folk were queuing up to enter the building. Turned away by the audience, MJ refused to enter the park. Regretfully, another spot missed. Out by the dressing room building, some people waited to catch a glimpse of an actor as he left for the adjacent studio. On hindsight, I should had just came back on my own later.
Apart from three crazy youths attempt to sing on the bridge, there wasn’t anything going on here. The middle girl shouted through a loud speaker. The other two walked around waving their flags and chanted. All three of them were equally tone deaf.
We headed to Ebisu, where many romance dramas were filmed. While we intended to return here another night to view the place in its fully lighted glory, but with only a couple of hours to kill before MJ’s concert we decided to check it out in the day too.
The station was located in a department building about half a kilometer from the main site, connecting us all the way there was a series of really long travelators. The station had its own unique jingle for arriving trains.
Ebisu or Yebisu Garden Place is the former site of the Yebisu Brewery. These days it is home to promenades of up-class shops and restaurants.
Ebisu is a really nice place to simply chill out. But we headed to Starbucks to get some coffee first. Drinks here were grossly overpriced with my Frappucino costing the equivalent of SGD$10. The staff at Starbucks was exclusively female. Orders were conveyed and repeated in a sing-song manner.
Instead of the crowded seats down in the square below, we decided to sit up in the open garden in front of the palace. We soon discovered why no one else was there though, huge winds were blowing there. The moment I put down the giant Sakura Macaron I ordered (200 yen) and turned away, it disappeared. I would later find it in much worse condition at the other end of the park. Thank goodness it was sealed. We decided to head down to the sheltered square instead.
It was crowded at the square but there was ample seating. A few families had brought their toddlers here to run around clumsily in the square. Two of them, a young girl and boy were dressed up in tiny hip hop styled clothes. A middle school girl by the bench next to ours was practicing dance moves.
The macaron as with other sakura flavored foods was definitely an acquired taste. The Frappaccino was an interesting experience, the base was filled with soft jelly. It wasn’t worth the price though. After people watching for half an hour, MJ and I went our separate ways.
My intention was to head to Nakano but somehow I got the place mixed up with Ikebukuro. Took a look around since one of the hallmark Bic Camera electronic stores was here. It was split into two separate buildings one 8 floors and the other 7 floors high. I was still weighing upon the idea of getting another spare battery for my camera. I don’t think my two batteries will last for the touristy days, with each battery lasting only 300-400 shots.
The spare battery sold here for about $10 less than in Singapore but I eventually decided not to get another. With no purpose, I thought I would head to somewhere closer to our hotel.
Took the Metro to Ochanomizu, which we had noticed in the JR trains quite a few times by now. I was interested in seeing how the place looked on foot.
Literally translated, Ochanomizu means tea water. In the past water from the river was used to make tea. Part of the same ward we were staying in, it was a peaceful and culturally rich neighborhood.
At the junction, four foreign restaurants were built under the bridge the JR lines passed over. Just beyond the crossing here is the famous Akihabara.
I dropped by Ishimaru and its sister building. A queue had developed outside the later, idol autograph sessions are held there regularly.
There were quite a few people here this evening, though I expected it to be much more crowded today being Saturday. Akihabara grew up as a town full of stores selling electronic equipment and gadgets but the recent surge of otaku meant that now the stores covered anime, manga and figurines instead.
There seemed to be an increase maid cafes since I last came here. At the end of almost every street was another young girl clad in a french maid dress was giving out pamphlets. On the main streets, rows of maids advertised their nearby cafes. Most of these cafes occupied the upper floors of the various buildings. One of the girls shouted through a loudspeaker on the second floor. She stood in the middle of two similarly dressed dutch wives.
Exiting one of the backstreets, I chanced upon the Aoki building, one of the rivals of The Suit Company. It had what was the largest AKB48 poster ever. Their Sakura no Shiori themed ads had been playing on television the past few days as well. With AKB48 on their side, they couldn’t lose.
I tried entering a duty free store to see if I could get my camera equipment cheaper here. Turns out it was owned by PRCs (People’s Republic of China) so there were none of the usual greetings we had become accustomed to. As I entered, one of the Chinese staff quickly swerved in front to stop me. At first I told him in English that I was from Singapore but he didn’t understand a word. It was only when I forcefully said “Shin-jia-por Ren” that he went on to interrogate me as to what I was looking for exactly. I didn’t know what camera was in Chinese so I just said camera. Reluctantly he allowed me into the store.
Cameras were on the second floor of the shop, it turned out they only had point and shoots and other touristy models. The rest of the Chinese staff upstairs stared at me as if I did them them some prior injustice. I was glad to make it out alive.
Feeling quite out of place in this otaku environment and with the rude Chinese duty free shops not helping, I decided to take a slow stroll back in the direction of the hotel. But before that, a quick stop to get some refreshment. I was already out of water.
It was a pleasant stroll back through the Bunkyo culture ward, the weather was still fine this evening. I passed by a couple of the universities and a church on my way back. All were closed by this hour. The church had a meter tall statue of the Virgin Mary and its own small park blossoming with blue flowers.
Back at Suidobashi station was an artsy sculpture built on the walking path next to the river. It seems that in high tide, the water from the river would rise up through the grill and cascade downwards. Unfortunately it was low tide.
I walked around Tokyo Dome for while before retiring to my hotel room at 8.30 pm. MJ and I were to meet for dinner, but the concert extended later than expected. I regret not going for dinner on my own since by the time he got back at 10, all the eateries had closed. We headed to 7-11 to get our food.
The cup noodles were surprisingly good. Much better than anything you’d get into Singapore. It came with a slab of garlic butter to put in after the noodles had cooked. The serving is huge though and the soup rich, so it’s not something you could eat unless absolutely hungry. I was.
That night on NHK, a group of ugly European girls fulfilled their dream by visiting the Egg Magazine headquarters to meet their favorite Gyaru models. Their favorite model, Tanaka Aina awkwardly helped them apply Gyaru styled makeup which worked out to be quite a disaster.Planning your holiday? We recommend visiting Agoda for a full list of hotels with early bird specials.