Day One: Exploring Harajuku Fashion
Yay, arrived in Tokyo! I’m a little late on the diary but I’ll try and get you up to speed.
Day one and me and Amber were totally jetlagged from the journey. We decided to have a low key day and took the hotel shuttle bus to nearby Shinjuku Station, the busiest train station in the world. At first, I didn’t know how we would decipher the labyrinthine subway map, but just as I realized that I could match up the Japanese characters to the dual-language version in my guidebook, a very helpful employee came up to assist us and we easily found and cought our train to the Harajuku area.
Harajuku is generally where teenagers decked out in completely crazy clothes (think Little Bo Peep meets Marilyn Manson) hang out. When we arrived at Harajuku Station, we got an unexpected treat – there were loads of stages set up for a festival. We watched the dancers for a time, and then bought lunch from one of the many vendors. Noodles and bubblegum-flavored shave ice – yum!
After lunch, we decided to make our way into Yoyogi Park to visit Meiji Shrine, or Meiji Jingu, a Shinto shrine. This torii, or gate, marks the entrance to the shrine. The shrine itself is quite beautiful, although sadly, it is not original – the original building, dating to 1920, was destroyed during World War II. It was rebuilt in 1958.
Since this is the first Shinto shrine we visited, it was interesting to learn how people pay their respects. First, you approach the Temizusha, which is a sort of fountain with wooden dippers. You take a dipper, fill it with water, and rinse your left hand, then your right hand, and then the handle of the dipper before placing it back on the ledge. You may also rinse your mouth, although you are never to drink directly from the dipper. After purifying yourself at the Temizusha, you can proceed to the main shrine. There, you can elect to toss coins in an offering box, at which point you bow twice, clap your hands twice, bow again, and say a prayer.
To go off on a slightly longer tangent, many Japanese practice both Shintoism and Buddhism. Shintoism is seen as emphasizing nature and finding happiness in this life, while Buddhism emphasizes the afterlife and rebirth. Shinto Shrines are considered places of worship as well as the home of the kami, or gods – there are no services as in a Christian church.
I found both the shrines and the Buddhist temples we visited to be lovely, peaceful, and quite moving. After visiting the shrine, we walked around the Harajuku area a bit, and did some shopping.
By this point, we were almost tired out but decided that we could visit one more place. We decided on Shibuya, which was one metro stop away. Shibuya is a major shopping and entertainment area in Tokyo, probably most famous for Shibuya Crossing, which is a huge, six-way zebra crossing that gets crosssed by a sea of people ever time the light turns, and which was featured in Lost in Translation. It’s overlooked by large neon billboards and video screens. We tried to visit a few shops, but everything was so totally mobbed that we gave up. Completely beat, we decided to call it an early night. We had a light dinner of appetizers down at the hotel bar overlooking the city, and then turned in.
Such an amazing first day in Tokyo!