Trip Report: Japan 2012 – Day 5 – Ueno, Meiji Jingu, Yoyogi, Omotesando, Shibuya

Day 5 was a busy day. We went from one end of Tokyo to the other. But it was a Sunday in late March, so it was definitely all happening. You’ll see.

First stop: Ueno. So this was supposed to be prime hanami – or cherry blossom viewing – season. This is the time when the Japanese people come alive, start singing and dancing, and then pass out drunk under pink trees. It is the best time ever. Unfortunately for us, it was unseasonably cold that season, so as you can see by the picture, the cherry blossoms had only barely started budding. Here’s a calendar of hanami season when  you’re ready to plan out your trip.

Hanami at Ueno Park. Image Credit: Ryan.

Each tarp or blanket or whatever is a reserved spot. It’s all honor system, but many committed hanami party goers elect one poor sap to sit there all night to hold the space.

One Lone Celebrant, Ueno Park. Image Credit: Ryan.

We first stopped off at the food vendors. Because, obviously.

Ueno Food Vendors. Image Credit: Ryan.
Oden at Ueno. Image Credit: Ryan.

Did I mention that – cultural mores and values aside – Japan is almost totally alcohol open-carry?!

Water Steamed Sake and Tea, Ueno. Image Credit: Ryan.

We didn’t have a space reserved, so we just parked ourselves where we could find a space – behind some trash bins and under a baby cherry tree. And about 20 minutes later, someone walked off with T’s phone right from this spot. Attempts to Encyclopedia Brown the crime scene were unfruitful. As was the trip to the koban (police box).

Ryan and T’s Hanami Spot, Ueno. Image Credit: Random Stranger.

Oh well. On to Harajuku, across town. First stop: Meiji Jingu. I’m not going to give you a history lesson, but the shrine was established in 1920, dedicated to the Emperor Meiji and the Empress Dowager, and is the most popular shrine in Japan to get blessings on New Year’s Day. Surrounding the Shrine is a huge forest in a huge park in the middle of Tokyo.

Torii at Meiji Jingu. Image Credit: Ryan.
Wooden Placards at Meiji Jingu. Image Credit: Ryan.
Tributes of Wine from France, Meiji Jingu. Image Credit: T.
Tributes of Sake from All Over Japan, Meiji Jingu. Image Credit: Ryan.
Wedding Party, Meiji Jingu. Image Credit: Ryan.
Gawkers of Wedding Party, Meiji Jingu. Image Credit: Ryan.
Main Area of Meiji Jingu. Image Credit: Ryan.
A Bridge. Image Credit: Ryan.

Okay, so this is right next door at Yoyogi Park. Especially on Sundays, various peoples with similar interests come to share in fellowship and mutual appreciation. Here, we have the people that like to dress up like Elvis in denim.

Denim Elvises, Yoyogi Park. Image Credit: Ryan.

Here we have the people that like to dress up like Elvis in black.

Elvises in Black, Yoyogi Park.

Here we have the people that dress up like zombies and like to sit on virtual rides.

Zombies in Virtual Rides, Yoyogi Park. Image Credit: Ryan.

Here we have the people that like to wave flags.

Flag Wavers, Yoyogi Park. Image Credit: Ryan.

Here we have the people that like to pretend to do standup comedy (there were many of these guys performing their acts).

Comedians, Yoyogi Park. Image Credit: Ryan.

Here we have the people that like to bang on drums.

Drummers, Yoyogi Park. Image Credit: Ryan.

Here we have the people that like to shave their bodies, paint themselves gold, and do choreographed routines. There’s really something for everybody at Yoyogi Park. 

Golden Guys, Yoyogi Park. Image Credit: Ryan.

And here we have… whatever this group of people like to do.

Not Quite Sure, Yoyogi Park. Image Credit: Ryan.

And, with that, we were off to nearby Omotesando. This area has been called Tokyo’s Champs-Élysées and is very trendy and very crowded.

Trendy Omotesando. Image Credit: Ryan.

Snack: mattcha ice cream and cake in the shape of a donut.

Mattcha Donut Snack. Image Credit: Ryan.

Just as an FYI, you can find the finest in Honduran, Dominican, and, uh, Cuban cigars in Japan.

Tobacco Shop, Omotesando. Image Credit: Ryan.

But we were here in Omotesando for the finest in tonkatsu at Maisen. The restaurant is built in what was an old bath house

Maisen, Omotesando. Image Credit: Ryan.

T’s teishoku (set menu): hire tonkatsu, sushi, soba.

T’s teishoku, Maisen. Image Credit: T.

Ryan’s teishoku: Kurobuta rosu tonkatsu. Was it good? It was like biting into juicy, crunchy bits of happiness.

Ryan’s Teishoku, Maisen. Image Credit: Ryan.

Shopping interlude.

Kimono Shop, Omotesando. Image Credit: Ryan.

Note: there are $200 pairs of chopsticks in there.

Chopsticks Shop, Omotesando. Image Credit: Ryan.

Dinner: Napoli style pizza at Napule, Omotesando. Changing it up. It’s been written that the owner won first place in a Napoli style pizza competition in Italy, so we’ll see.

Napule, Omotesando. Image Credit: Ryan.

First of all: what the heck is that? We ordered a pizza, not a pizza pocket. Second: the guy took a third and a fourth place in the competition. Credible, but it’s not first. Overall verdict: ma-ma (so-so).

Pizza at Napule, Omotesando. Image Credit: T.

We then headed on over to Shibuya. First, a picture of the Hachiko statue.

Hachiko Statue, Shibuya. Image Credit: Ryan.

Shibuya was pumping for a Sunday evening. This is a picture of the Shibuya crossing which is famous for the massive, massive amount of people that walk through it every day. On the right edge, you can barely make out the two-story Starbucks where you can sit, drink a coffee, and people watch.

Shibuya Crossing. Image Credit: Ryan.

This is inside of Don Quijote, Ryan’s favorite store in Japan. It has everything: Fendi bags and Rolex watches, produce and packaged foods, toilet paper and blank CDs, watches, cameras, shoes, track suits, toys, adult toys, etc. Pictured: one of the many safety hazards in the store.

Inside Don Quijote, Shibuya. Image Credit: Ryan.

A box full of boobs. The brown demonstration models have seen a lot of mileage.

Box Full of Boobs, Don Quijote. Image Credit: Ryan.

You can find an L&L (Hawaiian) BBQ, a Kua’aina Burger, and a Cafe Kaila in the area.

L&L BBQ, Shibuya. Image Credit: Ryan.

Another good shop to find in Shibuya is Tokyu Hands. Lots of DIY and craft stuff. And some nice and useless stuff like this bowl. It does speak the truth, though.

Curry Bowl, Tokyu Hands, Shibuya. Image Credit: Ryan.

Another tidbit: always enter the pet stores in Japan, because you never know what crazy animal you’ll find. In this case, a meerkat.

Pet Store, Shibuya. Image Credit: Ryan.

And good night. It was a long day.

 


Questions, Comments or Criticisms?