Last minute shopping frenzy on the last day26 May, 2013 by Grace
Following our plans, we woke up a bit earlier on this day with the intention to reach Harajuku by 10am. We had turned in earlier the previous night to rest up, so we weren’t sleepy or tired. One of the reasons for waking up early was that it was the last day and we wanted to maximize time.
But the bigger reason was actually because I wanted to visit the Johnny’s Shop in Harajuku, which opens at 10am. This is an official merchandise shop of male idol-producing company Johnny’s Entertainment (JE). The shop, which sells mostly just photos of the idols, is so popular with fans that it’s advisable to go in the early morning to avoid having to take a queue ticket and coming back hours later.
The day’s plans consisted of youth-oriented places, so Etine’s mum was to do her own shopping in Shinjuku and then join us for lunch. For some reason, Etine and I reached Harajuku Station really early around 9.20am. But we took some time to figure out where the JE Shop was, on account of me having forgotten to bring my printed-out directions.
It didn’t help that it was drizzling on and off, so after walking around a bit we walked back to the station. Surprise surprise, the JE Shop was actually popular enough to warrant its own labeled spot on the area map. It’s quite rare for a shop of its size to be labeled on the map, but I guess I shouldn’t be shocked considering how big JE is in Japan.
So with that we easily found the shop, but when we were there it was still too early. A staff member spotted us hanging outside and told us that we couldn’t hang around there as it’s a no-waiting area, and directed us to wait at what looked like a smoking rest area right beside the Sendagaya exit of Harajuku Station. It’s apparently the place where fans wait before the shop opens, and when I Googled about it I learned that literally every morning you can see female fans queuing here.
At near 10am, the staff member came out to this area and announced for the fans to form a queue. This was when Etine and I stood up looking to join the queue, and realized that somehow in those few seconds, every other fan had queued behind us, making us the first ones in the queue! It was amusing. Also, there were actually male fans.
When the staff member started to lead the queue into the shop, we mistakenly walked into the first floor…while the rest of the queue continued on to some side stairs we hadn’t seen. Turns out the photos are actually at the basement while the cashier is on the first floor! We didn’t know since it was our first time here, but that was kind of embarrassing So much for being first.
Photography is off-limits for the shop. All the idol photos that are on sale are displayed on exhibition boards, and you take a slip of paper, fill in the group name that you’re buying the photos of, and then tick the serial numbers of the photos on it. At the cashier, you hand the paper over and the staff will collect the photos you wanted from the shelves behind them, and then you pay for it.
Etine isn’t into JE even though she knows some faces, so I tried to make it quick. Except I mostly failed, taking about 40 minutes in total selecting the photos to buy and then making the purchase. To be fair, I also bought a few photos for friends who were JE fans.
We walked to the famous Takeshita-dori after that. It’s basically just a shopping street, but regarded as a super trendy fashion area. It was still morning but thanks to the dark clouds, everything looked pretty gloomy.
The fashion sold here is definitely more affordable than in Shibuya and Shinjuku, but I didn’t manage to see anything I really wanted to buy. Etine managed to buy quite a few accessories.
After a while, it started raining again, and we couldn’t really stay in one shop and pretend to look around forever while seeking shelter since most shops are quite small. We spotted a crepe stand that had a small shelter over a bench, so we ended up buying crepe from there and sat on the sheltered bench to eat.
By the time we were done eating, the rain had let up, so we continued walking along the street. We spotted one really cute looking shop and walked in out of curiosity, to discover it was a lolita clothing shop. All the clothes were so cute and the staff members were also decked out lolita-style. Etine and I were trying to contain our squeals over all the cute in that one shop.
I have to say I quite liked the clothes, but I definitely couldn’t see myself wearing them. It also seems like going the lolita route is only for those with deep pockets. Still, it was fascinating looking around.
Being kind of an Evangelion fan, I had been looking for the Evangelion Store that was located in Takeshita-dori, but it wasn’t actually on the main street. After fumbling around with a map, I realized it was located in a back alley, which we then went to.
When we reached, it was apparent there was some kind of event going on. I knew it was the day of the Blu-ray release of Evangelion 3.33, but I hadn’t checked whether there would be anything happening in the shop. It was after I returned back to Singapore that I learnt that some famous cosplayer of Shikinami Asuka Langley was having an event in the shop. Anyway, luckily the event was ending when we reached, so much of the crowd left along with it.
As usual, photography was not allowed inside the store. I couldn’t even begin to describe the amount of merchandise I was tempted to buy. The most expensive temptation for me was the backpacks and phone pouches that corresponded to the respective Evangelion units’ colours. Damn, how do they make anime stuff this stylish? It would be so cool to carry these around. Etine dissuaded me from buying any of those after seeing the price tag.
We ended up buying much more affordable merchandise. They are…actually kind of useless, in the sense that I probably won’t use them but let them sit around to look pretty (and then it’ll eventually collect dust). Etine was buying something as a souvenir for her friend, but by including it with my items we managed to reach the amount needed to get a free character hard sticker. I wanted Asuka, but ended up getting Kaworu.
After that, we were done with Takeshita-dori, and we were hungry. We went back to the train station to get a ride to Shibuya where we’d meet with Etine’s mum again for lunch. We planned to eat monjayaki, since it’s considered Tokyo’s specialty and I came here the last time without trying it.
I had always wanted to go to the store that had its giant black-and-white “monja” sign as part of so many Shibuya photographs for years, and we went there. You really only have to go right under the sign to find the shop, but it’s called Shibuya Masuda-tei. You can’t Google any information about it in English online, because it seems no foreigner ever mentioned the shop name when they ate there.
It was nearly 2.30pm when we were there but there were still quite a number of customers. We didn’t need to wait to be seated though. The prices of monjayaki here range from 64o to 980 yen. They also have okonomiyaki, but we didn’t bother since that’s not the shop’s specialty. We got to ordering right away. The staff didn’t speak English, and there doesn’t seem to be an English menu, but the Japanese menu was easy enough for me to translate to Etine and her mum.
Not entirely sure how much we could eat, we ordered 2 first. On account of it being our first time eating monjayaki, when the ingredients arrived in bowls, we were a bit confused as to how to cook it. We asked a staff member, who then offered to show us once how it’s done. For the second bowl, I left it to Etine to make.
Both tasted really delicious, and while I made sure to spam the sauces on my portions, Etine and her mum were content without adding any sauces. All of us felt like eating more because it was so good, but I was worried about time constraints for the day, so we didn’t order more.
One downside of eating monjayaki is the burnt food smell that gets left on you. Thank goodness it was kind of drizzling so it wasn’t so bad, but we could definitely smell it. We then all headed for Shibuya 109 to shop for clothes.
Etine got stuck on the first floor for a long while, ending up buying a branded handbag. It was kind of a misstep to buy the bag first, for it proved rather heavy to carry around for the rest of the day. But I have to mention, service is really good in Japan and these stores automatically provide rain covers for the paper bags to ensure your purchases don’t get wet.
We went around looking at clothes for quite a while, until around 4 when Etine and I left for Johnny’s Family Club, being wary that it closes at 5pm. Etine’s mum then headed to Shinjuku to do her own shopping.
Johnny’s Family Club (JFC), you guessed it, is yet another place belonging to JE. The JFC is actually the name of the JE fanclub, and also the name of its office located in Shibuya. It was some distance to walk as it’s away from the shopping malls and I’d forgotten to bring the detailed directions, so we were literally wandering based on a very rough map and the address.
By my miraculous sense of direction, I had a hunch to turn into this smaller road after looking at street signs. Going in, I thought it was actually wrong, but when we got closer to a certain building, I could make out the words “Johnny’s Family Club” and I got all excited because we found it.
So what exactly is here? If you’re not a fan you probably won’t bother walking in here. There’s nothing for sale, so there’s no long queues to get into it like the JE Shop. It is literally an office, but with kind of like an exhibition space for autographed posters of the idols’ releases and starring dramas. There’s also a TV showing random videos of the idols.
There were a number of schoolgirls around, whom I would guess drop by here occasionally after school. Unlike the JE Shop, photography is allowed here, so I spent a while snapping photos of the posters.
After which, I went to the JFC counter to hand over my fanletter for one of the idols, to the staff. I had wanted to write and mail it out a month before, but being worried I’d get the address format wrong or have it lost in international mail, I ended up bringing it to Japan. The JFC counter, besides accepting hand-delivered fanmail, also accepts applications for the fanclub.
While on the way back to the shopping malls, we dropped by Tsutaya, a CD store. Didn’t find much here to buy, but it was really nice admiring various signatures on display, and the special setups for promoting a music release.
Since we felt like shopping more, we abandoned our plans to visit Nakano Broadway and continued shopping in Shibuya. We moved around 109, Marui City, Tower Records and other random places.
We also caught a bit of a free live performance by a relatively unknown female idol group called Sunmyu. They were promoting their second single, and I was surprised to learn they were not indie but signed to Pony Canyon. The song was a little too sugary for my taste and Etine didn’t really want to watch either so we didn’t stay long.
By the time the shopping malls were going to close, we were exhausted, carrying a lot of purchases and getting wet in the drizzle. Yes, it was really drizzling on and off the entire day! What luck. Anyway, since the malls were closing and we couldn’t shop anymore, we finally went to find dinner. We put off eating in order to maximize shopping time, so both of us were really hungry.
Although the day had relatively tolerable weather, night had fallen, and with the rain, it was getting really cold and wet. After walking back and forth quite a bit, we settled for beef bowl chain Matsuya. I’ve always seen it around but never eaten it before…what a mistake that turned out to be. I’ve never eaten a more delicious beef bowl in my entire life. And it’s so affordable too. I’d eat Matsuya everyday if I lived in Japan.
After cleaning up every tasty grain of rice from the bowl, we once again made our way back to Shin-Okubo for the last time to rest for the night.
The next day, we got up in the early morning to check out and grab a cab to Shinjuku Station (too much luggage so we passed on taking the train), where we bought the Limousine Bus tickets and boarded the bus to Narita Airport. There wasn’t really much time to do anything until check-in except to eat an early lunch, trying to avoid having to eat the meals on Scoot. After checking in, we had just enough time to buy some foodstuff as souvenirs at the duty-free store in the airport until boarding time.
And that concludes my week-long Japan trip! It was really fun and really not long enough. I’ll definitely want to go for a longer trip next time. I hope those who have been following my posts enjoyed reading.Planning your holiday? We recommend visiting Agoda for a full list of hotels with early bird specials.