Saturday, June 2, 2012

[Tourist] Day 16: Tokyo Day 2 Yoyogi, Meiji, Harajuku, Ginza and Shinjuku

No need to really recap the morning again, right? Awoke at stupid early o'clock. Had filling breakfast. Left hotel in awful outfit:

So unbearably American
Good. That saves us some time.

Seeing as it was Sunday and as Brian, aka The Points Guy, had done all the hard work for me months ago, I decided to follow his itinerary from the Park Hyatt Tokyo straight through to Harajuku. First stop would be Meiji Shrine located in Yoyogi Park.

It only took about ten minutes of brisk walking to leave the skyscrapers of Shinjuku behind. As I entered the park I saw some really crazy firefighter training session or drill going on. They worked with a level of precision and exactness that would have made the Swiss jealous. It was a sight to behold, though I was quite thankful there was no actual fire.

Probably related to Godzilla

I am just Jack-Nicholson-in-As-Good-As-It-Gets to have thoroughly enjoyed this sidewalk pattern

Yoyogi park is a sizable expanse of greenery with enough tree growth that it at times effectively shades out the rest of the city. I found the entire experience a nice break from urban Tokyo and a needed chance to step away from myself for a bit. Maybe ten minutes into my walk through Yoyogi Park I came upon Meiji Shrine, a major tourist destination in Tokyo.

The last traces of urban Tokyo I'd see for a while

I had a strong desire to sit under this tree for hours and daydream

Now I have to find the other 40

Thank god for having read Brian's trip report again that morning as I would never have known how to purify myself or properly perform the blessing ritual. As it was I did it like a pro (I'm sure I had all the locals fooled) and made my supplication before the gods. Hopefully they are tight with Tin Hau, because she and I are on good terms after the Lamma Island experience.

Thank you Thepointsguy for letting me know what I was supposed to do here

The clapping loudly part I didn't quite get down right

I am like a modern day Moses, parting the trees. Fear my Jewish heritage!

Possibly the first non-Disney torii I've seen in my life? Definitely the biggest.

On the way out of Yoyogi I saw this guy:

Oh god what is that man and what was he doing to this tree root system:

And he was doing some truly disturbing things to the roots of this tree:

Who knows? Maybe he was helping their growth? Or checking their health? Or dude just really wants to get down with trees? Dendrophilia's fine in my book, just don't do it where I have to see it. Interestingly, Google is telling me that dendrophilia is not a word, but it really wants me to use necrophilia instead. Dear Google: necrophilia is not okay in my book, though I also don't want to have to see that. Glad we had this conversation. I feel like we've both grown from it.

The peace of the shrine was totally shattered by a piercingly loud announcement over some PA system about park rules. Surely there has to be a 

Fine. That's now the largest torii I've ever seen. You win this round, Meiji Shrine.

That's a lot of sake. I kinda want to play mah jong with those.

You know she's thinking "maybe if I drink all of this wine, I'll be able to tolerate being married to you, Mr. Blue Shirt Guy".

I emerged from the area through the much more popular Harajuku exit. At this point it was about 10 AM. I wandered Harajuku for a bit, including taking a stroll down Takeshita Dori, the street that becomes a haven to cosplayers every weekend afternoon. 10 was still quite early so I didn't see too many folks in costumes, but I did get to experience the festival-like atmosphere. I managed to kill about thirty minutes, which was great because there was somewhere I wanted to go at 11.

Very busy at Harajuku early on a Sunday

This photo didn't come out well, but what the heck was thing?

Soooo many jokes, all inappropriate.

I really wanted to go in there and yell at them about my shoes. Damn you Clarks!

Very well organized for a tornado mart

I originally took this photo for the Shazbot sign, but I now realize that was only the second coolest thing in the frame.

That's one way to advertise your knock-off Gucci products.

I really want a Diet Pepsi but I can't seem to find the vending machine

Takeshita Dori!

Well yes, it is a big deal when I visit your neighborhood

McDonalds: Everywhere You Want To Be And It Drives You Nuts

Stealing someone else's joke, but why does a Nudy Boy need clothing?

Oh god this shirt is so awful and hilarious and I can't wear it in public can I?

Just a tiny bit fucked up

A little more than a tiny bit fucked up. Thank you, Japan.

I don't think those words mean what you think they mean, Japan.

I know so many guys who would be into that particular roleplay

My internal dialogue went something like this:
Me: Hey, would you be interested in going to a toy store?
Self: Tell me more.
Me: It's got three floors of toys. And a special Snoopy section.
Self: I'm listening.
Me: And it's only five minutes away.
Self: I'm in.
Me: Good. It's called Kiddieland.
Self: Wait, what? That makes me sound like a perv.
Me: Guess you'd better not put it in the trip report then, you weirdo. Especially in the same update that also mentioned dendrophilia.

Yeah. So. Kiddieland. Awful name for a fun store. I bought quite a bit today - at Kiddieland and elsewhere - but I can't really share it yet because they are all surprise gifts (well, not that the gifts will be a surprise, but the contents and, well, you get it). So maybe I'll put up a giant post at the end of the trip report with all the random crap I bought. Back to the trip report!

On the way to Kiddieland I saw this massive queue making it's way up one of the main streets. I was too shy to ask what they were waiting for, but then I noticed a couple of Frenchmen who were also observing the line. I asked them if they had any idea what people were waiting for and one of them, who spoke some Japanese, went up and asked. When he came back the best he could come up with was that they were waiting for a pan? We all left confused.

Absolutely massive line of people that was there every time I walked past this spot

Kiddieland is located on Cat Street. I don't make this stuff up people, I just deliver it to you. I got to the store about fifteen minutes before it opened and struck up a conversation with a woman from Portland who was waiting with her son to buy a present for one of his friend's birthdays. She had moved to Japan fifteen years earlier and, with the exception of a year or two back in the states, had lived there ever since. She proved invaluable in recommending a few stores to me.

I rolled through Kiddieland pretty quickly (dear God that sounds awful) and then made my way up the street to one of the stores she had mentioned - Oriental Bazaar. It was three floors of rather classy Japanese souvenirs. I bought my share and then started walking back to Takeshita Dori, in search of another store she had mentioned: Daiso, aka the 100 yen shop.

Screw you Bulgari, there's Kiddyland 150 meters away!

I really wanted to ask them who exactly they sell sunglasses to since no one in Tokyo wears them

I searched the whole store, but there wasn't a single kid for sale. Truth in advertising much?

Sparkling apple juice

Studio Ghibli fans anyone?

Those Sponge Bob socks still haunt my nightmares

Soooo many people I want to get this for

I take it back, SpongeBob socks...*this* will haunt my nightmares. 

For reasons that will make sense to virtually no one reading this, I really wanted a tie or a mug with Lucy moving the football but sadly, no dice.

There we go. SHAZBOT!

You'll never guess what this tastes like. Here's a hint: Orangina.


Takeshita Dori was by now in full swing and I got to see my fair share of people dressed up as all sorts of characters. The narrow road was packed with people but I pushed my way up to the top. Along the way I heard, of all things, a store playing Steely Dan. Now that I can be okay with.

I failed spectacularly in finding Daiso - I later realized it was marked on the map provided by the Park Hyatt - and so I decided to go to Ginza to take in the massive department stores and shop at a different toy store, Hakuhinkan Toy Park.

This is what people come to Takeshita Dori for on weekends. It's like Dragon Con or Gen Con but better because it's in Tokyo and everyone bathes.

I was flagging really badly so I went in for a pick me up. Not half bad. Not half good, but not half bad either.

I had just about made it to Shimbashi Station when I realized I was famished. I found another ramen place and went in. I pointed to some random ramen dish on the menu. Once again freaking massive portion size. But the broth was so buttery and delicious that I did not mind. They had a TV on during lunch and it was this very odd show where they showed in a picture-in-picture arrangement Japanese people watching American TV shows. The particular clipped that aired while I was trying to eat was of one of those shows about people who had such bad weight issues that they needed surgery. The whole thing was just bizarre.

I strolled through Hakuhinkan Toy Park for a bit. Here are some photos:

Another toy store? Sure, I'm totally down for htat.

I have no idea who this would be appropriate for but what the hey

For a second I thought this referred to Homestar Runner and I was going to buy it on the spot

Disney. Is. Everywhere. Give in.

You love Totoro. You will buy Totoro. You will sacrifice your firstborn to Totoro.

One of these is a collectors item now

Yuffie? YUFFIE? Who the hell would choose their one FF7 figurine to be of Yuffie? If you used Yuffie as one of your three characters then do me a favor and stop reading this trip report, you're dead to me.

If it wasn't so much money I would totally have bought this and used it

I have no idea what this board game is but it looks awesome

Oh wait, not at that price ($200)

I feel like the word "nerd" has been co-opted by non-nerds. Keep your non-nerdy hands off our label!

After taking in more of Ginza I decided to head back to Shinjuku. As I arrived at Shimbashi I literally thought to myself "man, you really only need the JR train lines to get around - I don't think I'll use the subway at all". I am an idiot and should never have thought such things. I paid for it.

There was a Yamanote line train waiting for me. I got on and stood there. And stood there. And stood there some more. There were tons of announcements in Japanese that obviously dealt with some sort of delay. I pulled out my map and figured out that I could take a subway line to a different subway line to get back instead. I tried to ask a railway worker about how long of a delay they expected and that got me nowhere, so I decided to make the change.

When I got back down the stairs the Suica machine would not accept my ticket. I guess they don't like it when you enter and leave the same station. The line at the info desk was massive so, being the badass that I am (hah!), I hopped the gate. You all probably see what's coming, because I did about ten seconds later. When I then tried to use my Suica card to get on the subway, it didn't work. Fortunately that info desk had no line and it was fixed in a few seconds.

Once back in Shinjuku I walked through Isetan, a massive department store. The entire ground floor is made of case after case of delicious-looking food. Imagine a Saks or Bloomingdale's jewelry and cosmetics section except the cases have food in them - glistening, perfect food. The pastry section alone nearly did me in. But I stood strong and didn't buy anything. I'm saving my calories for random sodas from vending machines. Stop judging me, dammit.

Surprise roof garden!

What can I say, I love this building?

Ah Tokyo, where in the middle of a major business district there just happens to be an old shrine

Well today is just full of torii isn't it?

This was a mistake.

Very cool looking building

Does this chocolate leave you crunked?

One of the greatest things I've ever tasted

Is that who I think it is in that ad?

Decent enough but I'd not buy it again

I then wandered through Shinjuku in search of Tokyu Hands. I finally found it and strolled around there for a bit. After that I headed back to the hotel, content with another fun day in Tokyo.

Japanese bluegrass band is the only way I can describe this act. The weird thing was they were very good.

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