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Harajuku

Tourism

Things to Do on a Fall Trip to Tokyo: Meiji Shrine, Harajuku, Cat Street

So I’ve had drafts on this series of Japan posts since the autumn trip happened on October 2017 haha. It’s a seven-day trip and who knows when I can finish writing about all seven days. I figured might as well shoot out what I already have, so here we are  ūüôā

For this trip to Japan I played happy and very willing tour guide to my sister. It was her first time in Japan and she was very excited and was also very easy to please. She had a list of things she wanted to see (which is basically why this itinerary was spread out so thin hah your fault but it’s cool). I filled in the gaps with my own best-of and must-go-never-been list.

Day 1. Manila to Narita. We flew in via Jetstar on a 12:40am flight from Manila. It was a smooth 5-hour ride to touchdown. Escalator from luggage claim and immigration clearance led directly to the food court, such genius. We parked our luggage for some well deserved hot udon for breakfast, then took our time playing with the Gapcha machines (found a Bigbang one!) while sister bought a magazine* from an airport store.

Narita airport’s kitsune udon! Sister’s breakfast set had udon too plus rice and natto and a whole raw egg. Yum.
This one was easy to entertain. Had to pull her away from the magazines on display at Narita airport.

*This will be the first of a few that she will buy. Japanese magazines are thick and come with super nice freebies such as packets of fancy facial serum or a pack of Moomin-print pouches.

Jetstar sells the Keisei Skyliner tickets we needed going from airport to Tokyo, so we got that for Y2,200 (discounted by 270). Hopped on, almost broke our backs hauling our luggage up and down the designated rack (Use your core! Use your core!), then got off at Nippori station to transfer to the Yamanote line. Got off at Shinjuku station then transferred to Odakyu line and finally landed at Shimokitazawa station. Sounds like a lot of walking and hauling luggage and climbing of stairs? Yep. We just got there and our limbs already hurt and we loved it.

Official check in wasn’t until 3pm, but our very nice Airbnb host Masashi/Massage offered to meet us at 12pm so we can leave our stuff and walk around freely. Yes, please. The stuff must be left behind and we had a lot walking around to do. So we bought some curry pan from a nearby Family Mart and stayed put at the station’s West Exit for Masashi to get us.

Train N of infinity. The Japanese railway system is a maze but it’s a very efficient system and it just takes a bit of ‘hi hello, I’d like to get to know you.’ It’s great. Also hello there TVXQ! They had a new album dropping when we were there so I’d see oppas’ faces everywhere, thank you Japan.

Should you ever want to stay at Shimokitazawa, maybe take a look at Masashi’s apartment? It’s a 5-minute walk from the station, it’s nice and clean and had enough rooms and space to comfortably fit three grown girls and all their stuff. Also, it’s the best best best neighborhood with all the vintage shops, cafes, restaurants, hair salons, live houses, and little grocery stores. The apartment was close to a post office too! Which was great cos we wanted to send postcards. The area is also only a 5-minute train ride from Shibuya and Shinjuku, so easy access to the other fun stuff.

Meiji Shrine. After dropping our bags, we walked back to Shimokitazawa station and took the train going to Meiji-jingu. Followed the signs and checked the map and tried to jog my memory and soon enough we arrived at Meiji Shrine. I’ve been here before and I enjoyed how peaceful and quiet it is as soon as we crossed that first torii gate. There’s that sense of calm from the thick canopy of trees and the steady yet leisurely pace of everyone else around. Like the bustling city outside was far far away. We took our time, walking up to the main shrine and waving at the trees. We saw a cute family dressed in their kimono best, posing for pictures. Sister bought a charm for good fortune. I’d say allot an hour here if you want to visit, because it’s a bit of a walk in and out again, and when you get there, it’s not really a place you would want to rush through anyway.

Harajuku. After the calm, here comes the frenzy. I was super excited to come back to Harajuku. The Fountain of Youth is here, didn’t you know? We walked down Takeshita-dori once, just to see what was there (there was A LOT), crossed the street for some tantanmen (yes we were hungry again) then crossed right back and walked back up and down the street a few more times, stopping in stores and wandering down a few side streets. It was well into the afternoon by this time and it was freezing by the way, because we were two girls who dressed for very light autumn. Thank you, stores and your heaters for being our refuge.

We found ACDC RAG and Stylenanda and a few vintage stores (some were high-end selling LVs and Comme des Garcons and some choice Chanels, some were much more affordable). We had Marion Crepe and Calbee fresh potato chips drizzled with honey. It was awesome.

Cat Street. We had to choose between Cat Street and Omotesando given the constraint of time and capacity of our bodies, and we ended up at Cat Street since this place was both new to us. My only wish was that we came here when we had more time/were less tired/had proper outwear because it was freezing. It’s a quaint shoppersville too, much more spacious than Takeshita-dori, lined with stores that were a bit more expensive. We found more vintage stores like Ragtag and Flamingo. We found Opening Ceremony which had great stuff, G-Dragon style but huhu not cheap.

It was well beyond dinner time at this point and well below 20 degrees too. A nice, warm restaurant would have been in order but we found Luke’s Lobster and we weren’t going to say no to those lobster sandwiches even though we had to hunker down in one of their tiny outdoor chairs and eat them there. While eating, we eyed a gyoza place that had a long queue of locals–the sure sign that it was delicious stuff–but we were too cold and beat to line up. So we headed back to the station, found this cafe-slash-boutique called Honey Mi Honey, and climbed the stairs and went in for some warmth and rest and lattes. It was our last stop for Day 1, and it was a great call.

Tourism

Things to Do on a Spring Trip to Tokyo: Tsukiji Market, Yoyogi Park, Takeshita-dori, Ueno

Day 3. I cannot not go back to Tsukiji Market. I know Tokyo had awesome sushi everywhere, but after last year’s market experience, I just had to have it again. So I led the way back to Tsukiji for a late second breakfast, finding¬†Iwasa Sushi, the same restaurant where Hazel and I ate last year. I like that place because the line was forgiving unlike the more popular shops. We waited for only 20 minutes. Their sushi was heaven, even their free refillable green tea and miso soup were so good. Also the staff there are very nice. The okasan¬†staff for one so kindly gave me a small sealed jar that was apparently a seaweed paste that you mix with steaming rice (thank you Ryn for explaining haha). Continue Reading

Tourism

Things to Do on a Spring Trip to Tokyo: Harajuku, Shibuya, Sumida River, Sensoji

Day 2 of my first ever spring in Tokyo had us running around Harujuku and Shibuya in search for sneakers, because the day before’s rainy trek destroyed my friend’s¬†old pair. We found the Onitsuka Tiger flagship store and the Nike flagship store, both in Harajuku near Takeshita-dori. Then we got on the train to Shibuya and found¬†Hachiko. He was corded off–I think there was an event–so I only got to wave at him.

We participated in the Shibuya crossing, and spent the afternoon going up and down the streets, whiling hours away inside¬†Muji, Tokyu Hands and Tower Records. Tower Records was something I really had to see. It’s been so long since I saw so many CDs in the Philippines. And even then, record stores didn’t go as high as 6-7 floors. Japanese CDs are expensive though. I bought the¬†Arctic Monkeys¬†AM¬†album and tried to check for gold slivers inside. I¬†found none. But it’s okay, because Alex Turner <3

Said hi to Tower Records Hachiko instead. Shibuya, Japan.

Said hi to Tower Records Hachiko instead, because the original one at the Shibuya Station was corded off. Shibuya, Japan.

It's hard to explain why the sight of so many CDs excited me. But if you're a music lover from the Philippines too, you'll know what I mean. Tower Records, Shibuya, Japan.

It’s hard to explain why the sight of so many CDs excited me. But if you’re a music lover from the Philippines too, you’ll know what I mean. Tower Records, Shibuya, Japan.

"No indie, no life?" "Yuhuh." Tower Records, Shibuya.

“No indie, no life?”
“Yuhuh.” Tower Records, Shibuya.

The Arashi wall. It wasn't very hard to find. Hehe. Tower Records, Shibuya.

The Arashi wall. It wasn’t very hard to find. Hehe. Tower Records, Shibuya.

 

Before the sun set, we headed back to the hotel for some rest for our tita bones. Then we walked a good 20 minutes to the nearest hanami venue, Sumida Park. On the way, we passed Sensoji Temple, lured towards it by the bright red lights. It was deserted, as was Nakamise Street, so it was a good time to go around and take pictures of the shrine, the temple, and the famed bells of the Kaminari Gate.

Noodle vendo machine. You choose your meal, slip in your yen note, press a button and voila! Food comes out! Kidding, hehe. An order slip comes out then you go in and wait to be called. Asakusa, Japan.

Noodle vendo machine. You choose your meal, slip in your yen note, press a button and voila! Food comes out! Kidding, hehe. An order slip comes out then you go in and wait to be called. Asakusa, Japan.

My vendo meal. Noodles with a hot, spicy dipping sauce. Perfect for the cold. We asked for house tea but the kind shop man told us it's better to slurp the sauce and drink water instead. Asakusa, Tokyo.

My vendo meal. Noodles with a hot, spicy dipping sauce. Perfect for the cold. We asked for house tea but the kind shop man told us it’s better to slurp the sauce and drink water instead. Asakusa, Tokyo.

Sakura on the Sumida Bridge. Crossing it to get to Sumida Park. Asakusa, Tokyo.

Sakura on the Sumida Bridge. Crossing it to get to Sumida Park. Asakusa, Tokyo.

"Try to get a shot of the entire temple." "Okay but you'll look like an ant." "Cool." Sensoji Temple, Asakusa, Tokyo.

“Try to get a shot of the entire temple.”
“Okay but you’ll look like an ant.”
“Cool.” Sensoji Temple, Asakusa, Tokyo.

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Sensoji Temple, Asakusa, Tokyo, Japan. We were lured by its striking red color and the bright yellow lights on our way to Sumida park.

Nakamise Street, quiet and deserted for the night.

Nakamise Street, quiet and deserted for the night. Went back here in the morning of our last day and it was mad chaos.

Spring blossoms and lights at Sumida Park, lining the banks of the river. Asakusa, Tokyo.

Spring blossoms and lights at Sumida Park, lining the banks of the river. Asakusa, Tokyo.

Salarymen and women toasting the end of another work week along the Sumida River. Kanpai!

Salarymen and women toasting the end of another work week along the Sumida River. Kanpai!

When we finally reached Sumida, we found cherry blossoms lit up with garlands of fairy lights. Under the trees, in full view of the water buses floating along the river, the locals celebrated the end of the week. There were couples on dates eating from disposable wares, side by side the salarymen who were guzzling their beers with chips and yakitori. TGIF indeed. Kanpai!

All photos belong to me. 

Tourism

Things to Do on a Summer Trip to Tokyo: Meiji Shrine, Harajuku, Shibuya

Day 2 was kind of Tokyo-drifting day 1 proper, that being our first full day to roam the city. Our hosts said we arrived in Tokyo at a very opportune time, just after the heat wave had come and gone (32+ degrees! Boiling heat just days before). It was cloudy and a bit dry that day, and we left the cool comfort of our air-conditioned apartment for the great outdoors.

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