First stop on my tour around Asia: Tokyo! Moshi, moshi ah no ne. I honestly can't think of a better way to start the next three months. Customs and immigrations in Tokyo was a breeze. You truly experience the friendliness of the Japanese people the minute you step off of the plane. One of the not so great things about Narita Airport though, is that it is quite far outside of Tokyo, so you need to either take a train to the center of the city, or split a cab with 2 or 3 people. I picked up a Suica N'ex card to go from the airport to central Tokyo. This is a great option (roughly $50 round trip), and you get a Suica card pre-loaded with 2,000 yen, which is the card used for their subway system. I had to transfer at Shinjuku station, which was quite hectic. Luckily, a very nice young man offered to escort me to the Oedo line, in exchange for practicing English with him, which led me to where I will be staying for the next four days. After arriving at my apartment, I was out the door less than an hour later for dinner with two guys who I had met on A Small World. We went to Two Rooms for dinner and drinks. I recommend the Kiwi Mojito to start your night off; super refreshing. To eat, I had the Tsukiji fresh carpaccio of the day and the veal chops, which were both delicious. After being up for 30 hours and having a few cocktails, I headed back to my apartment and slept like a baby.
When I woke up today, I headed straight to the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building. This is one of the tallest buildings in Tokyo where you get a 360 view of the city at the top. It definitely puts the size of Tokyo in perspective. This place is huge!
On the main floor of the TMG, there is a tourist center where you can pick up guides for different portions of the City in English. I picked up a few for Ginza, Roppongi, Shibuya and the Harajuku area. I have a feeling I'll be back for some other areas in a few days. I decided today I would do Harajuku. The self-guided tour has your start at Omotesando station, which is just a quick ride from the TMG. Before trekking through the streets, I grabbed a quick lunch at Hiroba. Hiroba does a lunch buffet for 1,260 yen until 2:30. The organic Japanese buffet includes primarily vegetarian options, but they have meat options as well; descriptions are only in Japanese, but signs for each dish include cute drawings of fish, chickens, or pigs to help you figure out if animal ingredients were used. Everything was super yummy, and I recommend the little quiche squares that they have. So good!
After lunch, I strolled down Omotesando street and browsed in the shops. There is everything from Prada to Laforet, where I managed to pick up some fashionable souvenirs.
|The corner of Omotesando and Meiji-dori|
After having a taste of the modern, fashionable world in Tokyo, I decided to switch it up and take in some of the more traditional sites. Just a 5 minute walk from the shops is the entrance to the Meiji-jingu shrine. This particular shrine is a Shinto shrine, which is the ancient original religion in Japan. After walking through the gate it is about a 10 minute walk to the shrine through a nice park.
Before reaching the shrine, you encounter a few more gates and barrels of sake wrapped in straw. These sake barrels are offered every year to the enshrined deities to show respect.
Before entering the shrine it is customary to rinse your hands at the temizuya. One of the guides told me the very specific wash instructions: First wash your left hand, then your right hand. Then take a scoop of water and wash your mouth with your left hand. After your mouth has been washed, rinse your left hand again, and finally rinse the water dipper.
Once inside, it is frowned upon to take pictures of the area where all of the ceremonies are performed, but I managed to take a few shots of the surrounding architecture.
|These are special votive tablets for personal prayers of gratitude toward the deities. |
They are hung around a divine tree with your wishes written on one side and then they are offered at Mikesai.
That about wraps up day one. Tomorrow I'm going to be exploring Roppongi and Ginza! More to come, mata atode ne!
Tank: Rag & Bone
Bag: Marc by Marc Jacobs