Harajuku, Asakusa, and Around
Tuesdays and Wednesdays I only have one class and it’s first period, so I am completely free after 10:30. That means I still have plenty of time left in the day to go adventuring! Yesterday I went to Harajuku. It’s not the first time I’ve been to Harajuku, but it was the first time I got to really walk around and go shopping. Today I went to Senso-ji and Tokyo Sky tree, and then I rode the famous Himiko boat.
But before I get to the adventures I mentioned in my headline, I want to talk about the okonomiyaki we made in the dorm. On Sundays there is no meal plan, so several of us decided that we would make okonomiyaki for dinner. When trying to translate it into English, most people call it a Japanese pancake. While it general is a pancake, I wouldn’t associate okonomiyaki with the normal pancakes I would think of. It uses okonomiyaki flour that looks like the pancake mix I would use when making homemade pancakes, and when cooked it looks like a pancake, but the okonomiyaki we made contained cabbage, pickled ginger, and other ingredients I didn’t recognize. It was definitely different from anything I had ever tasted. Still, it was fun making it with everyone.
I was really excited to go shopping in Harajuku and looked forward to seeing all the unique fashions. Also, I typically wear darker clothing, so I was looking forward to seeing if I could find clothes more my style. However, I realized as I walked up and down Takeshita-dori (the famous shopping street in Harajuku), that for Japanese women’s clothing, there are three types of styles: The super girly and almost doll like (which I refer to as the “Japanese Kawaii”), the business woman, and the super gothic. I like dark clothes, and a buckle or two on a pair of pants or shirt sleeves would be cool, but these shirts had zippers, chains, buckles, and skulls. I have nothing against people who wear this kind of clothing. It’s just a little obnoxious for my tastes. Suffice to say, if I wanted to find clothes that I’d be comfortable with wearing back in the United States, I’d probably have to stick to stores like H&M and Forever 21. However, I did manage to find a store called Closet Child that specializes in the more gothic styles, but because its all used clothing, the styles of clothing vary greatly, so I was able to find some pretty cool clothes for a cheap price. I also found some cool jewelry shops that had stuff relatively cheap.
Overall, I’d say Harajuku is actually a pretty expensive place, but you can find some good deals if you look hard enough. Also, the convenient thing about Takeshita-dori is that because it’s such a popular tourist destination, almost all the shopkeepers speak at least some English. Unfortunally, many of the shops didn’t allow people to take photos, so I don’t have too many pictures of my trip.
Today after my class I met up with one of my Japanese friends and we went to Sensō-ji, which is a famous Buddhist temple. I got to see the outside of it when I had gone to see my friend’s Taiko performance, but this time I got to actually go inside. Inside the main gate and before the main temple, I got another Omikuji (fortune) and I got “Regular Fortune” while my friend got “Good Fortune.” After that we went over to this area where they were burning what I’m guessing was incense. The smoke is said to make you better. For example, if you want to be smarter, you want to make the smoke to go to your head. My friend has the remnants of a cold, so he wanted the smoke to go to his throat. We then tossed our coin into the offering box and went to pray. I have to say, the main temple here was much prettier than the main shrine at Meiji Jingu. At Sensō-ji there were big artworks on the ceiling and in the main temple area, and almost everything seemed to be made of gold. After praying at the temple, we washed our hands. Apparently there is a certain order for washing, and it differs depending on whether you are at a shrine (Shinto) or temple (Buddhist), and I think I think I got the order wrong, but oh well. It was still a cool experience.
After that we grabbed lunch and then made our way to Tokyo Sky Tree. We decided not to enter because we didn’t feel like paying the entrance fee, but it was cool just seeing it from the outside. It’s 634 meters tall. That’s almost the length of 6 football fields! We stood under and tried to look up at it, but it usually just made me feel dizzy. Plus my neck hurt from trying to look straight up. It was actually easier to look at it from a little ways away. One of these days I want to go back to Tokyo Sky Tree and actually go up to the observatory. I can only imagine what kind of amazing pictures I would be able to take of the city.
After Tokyo Sky Tree my friend returned home because he had to go to his part time job, but I decided to stay in Asakusa because there was one thing left that I really wanted to do. In guidebooks of Japan, I had seen pictures of something called a “water bus.” It’s basically a boat that takes you down the Sumidagawa (Sumida river). However, the one pictured in the books and the one I chose to ride wasn’t just any boat. It’s called the Himiko and was designed by one of the most renowned cartoonists in Japan. It was ¥1560 to ride it from Asakusa to Odaiba, and honestly, there wasn’t any particular reason I wanted to go to Odaiba. I just really wanted to ride the Himiko. It’s definitely an “only in Japan” kind of thing, and I’m so excited that I can say, “yeah, I totally rode in that.” Plus, I got some pretty cool pictures of the city from the boat. It was definitely some of the best money I’ve ever spent.
As I mentioned before, there wasn’t anything in particular I wanted to do in Odaiba, so I just wandered around for a little while. It reminded me a little bit of New York. Lots of places around Tokyo have tall buildings, but for some reason Odaiba in particular just reminded me of New York. I think part of it was because the buildings all looked new and fancy. Plus, by the time I arrived in Odaiba, the sun had gone down so the city was full of lights and it made for a really picturesque nightlife scene.
Overall, today was an absolute blast! However, I do have to say that after two days of endless walking, my legs definitely hurt. I won’t let that stop me, though. This may be my only chance to go to Japan (although I have a feeling it won’t be), so I want to make the most of it. I can handle a little leg pain if it means I get to have more awesome days like this.