Monday, June 22, 2015

Japan Day 1: Meiji Shrine & Harajuku

First of all, we loved Japan! It was exceeded my expectations and if there were a good opportunity I would pack up and move there right now. I'm currently trying to convince John that we need to go again in 6 months, or at least once a year. The things that everyone says about the country were all true, at least from our perspective: it's exceptionally clean, super safe, people are polite, and the food is fresh and amazing. The shrines and forests were ancient and mysterious, and for me there was also the element of getting in touch with the culture and land of my ancestors.

Day 1: Tokyo

SIM Card at Bic Camera & navigating through Shinjuku Station madness

We stayed at the Hotel Century Southern Tower which we took a gamble on and ended up being our favorite and hotel for the whole trip. It's Japanese owned, new, quiet, plush, and located right across from Shinkjuku station. There were also Shiseido products which I was a big fan of! We had a breakfast of French pastries at Gontran Cherrier our first morning. It became our breakfast just about everyday in Tokyo because it was close and easy to get to. There's a surprisingly large volume of high quality French pastry shops here.

Lucky for us, our good friend Rick had gone to Japan twice this year and had lots of good tips for visiting.  First item on the agenda was to get a SIM card at Bic Camera. We went to the one located in/next to the Odakyu department store which you have to walk around Shinjuku Station to get to. Shinjuku Station is the world's busiest transportation center IN THE WORLD and also houses 4 major department stores in it. Needless to say, it can be a little disorienting to get around at first. In fact I watched a couple videos on youtube before we left home so that I could get over the fear of getting lost. We ended up doing fine (minus one little incident, more on that later) and got what we needed.  An interesting thing we found is that when you walk into a department store upon opening in Japan, all the sales people bow to you as you walk through the various deparments. That felt kind of cool.

Walk through Yoyogi Park & visit to Meiji Shrine

Our first meandering through the station and the jet lag left us a little tired so we took a quick hotel break before walking to Yoyogi park. You can see it in my Scar-Jo picture above from our hotel window, just to the left. Unlike New York, Japan has not one, but many lovely parks that also contain shrines and are heavily vegetated. The canopy was so dense walking through Yoyogi park that we felt like we were in an ancient forested. It got a little eerie feeling on the way back because it was getting dark and you could hear all the crows cawing.

Meiji Shrine is in the middle of Yoyogi Park and it wasn't very crowded when we arrived. There are certain purification rituals that you're supposed to perform at shrines that I vaguely knew about but not really. I did my best but wished I had researched this before I came. There was a " How to" sign at this water pavilion which helped me out for the rest of the trip. 

Prayers surrounding the tree.

There was a bonsai exhibit at the shrine.

John apprehensive of the encroaching darkness and the crows.

Harujuku - Shopping & the Rabbit Cafe

My feet were getting tired at this point and I was really glad that I brought comfortable shoes! Harujuku was across the park so we stopped there for lunch at what was supposedly the #5 top ramen restaurant in Tokyo. It was good and they made us hold up this sign which, for all I know says "Look at these ridiculous tourists!" But they took our picture for us so that's alright.

And then it was time for a long awaited treat: the bunny cafe! There are several in the city but we chose this one because it was closest to our hotel. The way these cafes work is that you pay by the half hour to get a cold drink and sit around petting cute bunnies. They have a wall of cages and you get to take turns with the other patrons picking which bunny you want to play with. You can also buy a small cup of fresh veggies to feed the bunnies so they like you more. Some people do not know animals very well and kept picking spastic rabbits, but we got a nice one. They let you pet all the bunnies in the cages too so we could get a sense of which ones were good.

John was not as delighted about this experience as I was. You can tell it's very girly here.

I wanted to take this one home with me! 

A trio of baby mini rexes! 

We paid for a half hour rabbit encounter and I was fully ready to add on another 30 min. but John was done. So off we went to explore Harujuku.  We stopped at the Laforet complex which is filled with small stores of a lot of the brands I'd seen in my Fudge magazines. I'm not a fan of malls in general though so we left to peruse a street of boutiques which was much more quiet. We never made it to the famous Takeshita street, but I was fine with that. I did find a couple shops I really liked: Ships and Relume Journal Standard. They're kind of like J.Crew with a Japanese twist.

Even though John was unimpressed by the rabbit cafe, he did want one of these rabbit parfaits! 
There were some great thrift and vintage shops. I didn't get anything but it was fun to browse!

 At the end of day one we collapsed when we got back to our hotel and fell asleep without eating dinner.


John Jenson said...

Very jealous. What an awesome experience.

holtkamp said...

So beautiful! Japan is definitely on my list of travel destinations! That bunny cafe sounds so awesome, wish we had them in the states!

Desiree said...

Just looked at all these posts from day 7 backwards...
First of all, the pictures are stunning! Second, you are stunning. You look like a Banana Republic model in each photo. There is just a gracefulness about you. Glad you and John could have such a great adventure! Good for you guys:)