This is the second part of the series of our honeymoon to Japan. Here is the first post – Japan: I ♥ Tokyo.
Harajuku is a very popular neighborhood in Tokyo. If you only come to the city 1 day you can’t miss it, because you will be able to visit in a single place a beautiful shrine, a park and went crazy with the shopping. Harajuku is the perfect example of the amazing balance between tradition and trendy modernity that you can find in Tokyo. Once you arrive to Harajuku station (Yamanote line from the JR railway) you can choose right, the street & shopping or left, the park and shrine. We visited it in the morning and decided that will go left, and wait until the streets were going to be more buzzy.
Our first stop was the Meiji shrine, as we were going to see in many shrines entrances after this one, the first thing that welcomes you is a large Torii that represents the transition from the profane to the sacred. The most famous toriis in Japan are the ones in the Fushimi-inari walk of toriis in Kyoto and the Miyajima island, which is standing inside the water. Then you are seduced by a park that leads you to the main buildings of the temple. Meiji shrine is dedicated to the emperor with the same name and his wife, empress Shoken. The most representative thing in the shrine is a huge wall full of sake barrels that are donated to the shrine in memory of the emperor. Meiji was the one who established sake as the national drink of the country, all the current sake companies wish to remember it by this annual donation.
We read in some Japan guides that Meiji is one of the most famous shrines to get married, and that sometimes traditional ceremonies take place there. We were very lucky to see a little part of the ceremony where the most intimate guests walk with the newlyweds in a procession. Afterwards they take group pictures in the most formal way, every detail, position was closely supervised by the photographers, and some other people that looked like the protocol staff. The traditional wedding dress of the bride is amazing, especially the big hood covering her head.
After the visit to the shrine we were ready to start shopping, or more precisely window-shopping, in Harajuku. We crossed the railway again, and walked to the entrance of Takeshita-dori. You will certainly not confuse Takeshita with another street as it has a large sign with its name, a large doll and when we were there a big flat screen where you see yourself entering the street :)
Takeshita has lots of cute clothes stores, if you are into Japanese kawaii fashion you will fall in love with every piece as I did :P and the thing that I liked even more, you can afford them! I am a great cheapo myself so you can trust me!. One of the most visited store is the socks and tights, which have 2×3 discounts on most of their items. Tattoo tights were a huge trend when we were there, and I (of course) succumbed with a cat tattoo one. I also bought in a beautiful store called Wonder Rocket, a coat with bear ears which you will see me wearing in lots of pictures! (See it in the Japan: “Comida deliciosa” in Nikko post). Food-wise there are also two very popular spots in Takeshita, the crepes stalls with hundreds of flavours. They are presented in a cone with a spoon, super easy to eat and delicious! Remember that you are not supposed to eat in the streets so if you buy a crepe you must eat it in the benches next to the stall.
Takeshita-dori ends in Meiji dori a large avenue, and the following street just ahead is called Harajuku St. Although Takeshita is completely amazing, you may feel that every other tourist is also there, but Harajuku St. takes a different turn, the stores are fancier (which means also more expensive) and fewer people wanders around in that other part of the neighborhood. No need to say that it was great!
Another interesting place in Harajuju is Ometosando-dori and its surroundings. Our first stop in Ometosando was to have lunch in a belt-sushi restaurant called Heiroku sushi. We read in a blog that it was a good place to eat in a centric location and we were very glad to follow this recommendation! Belt restaurants in Barcelona are only low quality Asiatics, so it was a surprise for us that Japanese usually eat sushi in belt places. The system is quite simple so even though there are no English instructions you can follow it in seconds :) just pick your most appealing plates in the belt, the price of it depends on the color of the plate ranging from 1.8€ to 4€, which is a steal for Barcelona sushi prices. Water and matcha tea are offered as a compliment. When you are finished just get up and a really nice waitress will count your plates and give you the note to take to the cash register. Our note was 20€ for both of us! Bonus tip: ask the sushi chef to send you a specific plate through the belt by shouting: “Sensei, toro nigiri kudasai!” (change “toro nigiri” for your favourite sushi dish).
We were extremely excited to visit the Kiddyland store in Ometosando-dori after we read that it had been under a renovation building specific areas for Rilakkuma, Snoopy and Hello Kitty (we are such little kids! :P). We had to restrain ourselves for not leaving the store with half of the Rilakkuma merchandising; finally (only) a small bin for the bathroom, the cutest ear plugs and some candy boxes fitted our budget (and suitcase :P).
Let’s move to our other favourite neighborhood in Tokyo: Shimokitazawa. We learnt of it in the Hello Sandwich guide and although it was off the convenient Yamonote line, also it was a less touristy and a more local experience that looked promising!. To arrive to Shimokita we had to take the Keio Inokashira line, which is another railway company different from JR that also stops at Shibuya. From our entrance (Hachiko entrance) we had to cross all the station following the blue signs (JR is green) finally, an after a little confusion (we have to admit :) ) we were able to find it. A single ticket is about 2€. We read about three or four weeks ago that the precious upstairs station has been closed and that it will now be a subway, so we don’t know if you will be able to see the characteristic urban Sihomkitazawa sign next to the bridge of the station. We left the station by its north exit.
Shimokitazawa is famous for its retro stores featuring both new and vintage clothes. The clothes are so well curated that you can’t tell which one is new and which is vintage. Also prices are really great, If I could I would love to buy my clothes only in Shimokitazawa for the rest of my life :) I fell in love with a clothes store called Big Time, and a decoration & gifts store called Sou, but all the stores are so great that you can’t pick a favourite. A really remarkable store in Shimokitazawa is Village Vanguard, and this post would not be complete without mentioning it. It looks like a bazaar where you can find everything, from housewares to books and toys. You will certainly find your gifts here and the visit is a must!. Please be aware that opening times are different in Shimokita than in other neighborhoods, here most stores open at noon or later, so maybe it would be best to come here to have lunch and then an afternoon stroll.
One of the luckiest choices of restaurants in Japan was in Shimokitazawa. In an alley, we saw a beautiful door of a really small restaurant which caught our eye. The restaurant is called Tan Tan and you absolutely must eat there at lunch. They have 3 menus to choose from, and it was one of the most delicious homemade meal we had in Japan. The beautiful couple which owns the place is in charge of everything, and although they did not know how to speak with us were soo lovely!, another nice costumer, whom spoke English, told us that they said that it was the first time they had non-japanese customers. Dani chose the curry rice and I opted for the grilled meat: oishiii !!!
Japan is famous for its thematic bars, for instance the Maids cafés in Akihabara or the cats cafés. A cat café is a regular café full of beautiful and cuddling cats that you can share your time with. Japan has strong conditions a home with a cat must have so, lots of cat lovers do not have enough space in their homes to be able to own a cat. We were already missing so much Juno that we did not dare to go. However, the Cateriam café in Shimokitazawa does look nice!, you can check some pictures by the lovely miss Alix.
I did not want to end this laaaarge post (sorry about that!) without mentioning the supermarket in Shimokita next to its station. The next day we were going to leave the city and go to Ainokura, with a looong trip in front of us we wanted to buy some provisions. Just buy everything that fancies your eye! We spent all the trip snacking all the time, which was of course wonderful and let us enjoy lots of yummy rarities that you would never find in Barcelona.
All the parks in Tokyo have this non-smoking signs all around. Every single detail in Japan is so well curated, love that it is a wood house sign.
The purification ritual consists of rinsing both hands and then your mouth with the pure water of the shrine, be sure to not put directly from the ladler the water in your mouth, instead you must use your hand :)
The photographers set everyone in their accurate place, in a perfect pose and without smiling.
Happy-happy to start shopping in Takeshita dori.
Hey, you can spot my coat in the back of the picture!
Cat inspired things everywhere, my type of paradise :)
Enjoying our luch at Heiroku sushi kaiten sushi place. We love it so much that went twice!
Two different toro nigiri and a salmon nigiri, yummy!
Kiddyland is a must: look at the adorable elevator in the Rilakkuma floor :)
The only light in some streets are from the vending machines. Despite the gloomy streets Japan never looks threatening, you can feel very safe.
Sometimes you can discover small shrines in some streets crossings; this one is in Shimokita.
Every morning we bought a juice (or two) in a 7-11, Family Mart or Lawson.
Shimokita railway bridge, not sure if still there with the new subway access.
With my new bow pin just bought in a little lovely store in Shimokita. We also bought there two vintage cups of tea with cat drawings.
Setagaya-ku is one of the livelier streets in Shimokitazawa, I just can’t have enough of its adorable illustrated flags.
We stopped at a game center with a family flair (quite different from the more hardcore-gamers in Akihabara). I love the games where you just have to hit as quick as you can: no brainer, but stressless :)
Hara donuts in Setagaya-ku is a good spot for a sweet at noon snack
Look at the crazy opening hours I mentioned!
Cute little mario and my heart melts :P
Dani looking handsome and coordinating colors with the amazing train
Can I live here, please? :)
Having lunch at the great Tan Tan: best curry rice ever and delicious grilled meat menus.
Waiting to have dinner in an okonomiyaki restaurant in Harajuku called Yai Yai Okonomiyaki. Okonomiyakis are like Japanese omelettes with meat, vegetables or seafood. Each table has its own grill where the food is finished and kept warm.