We spent two days in Tokyo, Japan. Well, really one day in Tokyo and one day at Tokyo Disneyland (more about that in my Friday post this week). I had no idea what I really wanted to see with our free day, I think maybe I was overwhelmed at the multitude of things to see and do. After talking to Yoshiko, the lady who had rented us the lovely Umejima Red Ninja House for our short trip, we decided to check out the Shibuya area.
Shibuya is a busy shopping district, popular with the stylish younger generation (I think I still classify as the stylish younger generation…right?!). It is also famous for the Shibuya Crossing, a busy intersection where at any given moment one can see hundreds of people crossing every which way because the light turns red for every lane of traffic every so often to allow all the many pedestrians to cross quickly.
So we had decided to go to Shibuya, now how to get there? We walked quickly to the Umejima train station (on the sky tree line) from our apartment and proceeded to look at all the maps as though they were in a foreign language… oh yeah, they were in completely in Japanese, no wonder. When we asked for help from the station master, he was barely able to understand or speak to us (not saying that is a bad thing, just a little stumbling block). He was finally able to figure out what stop we wanted despite our complete lack of Japanese verbal skills. We paid for our 350 Yen tickets and then used Google Maps the rest of the way to figure out our transfers and such.
(Just a side note here…I used Google Maps and Google Translate our whole trip… If you are going to Japan… I would suggest these as true lifesavers. )
We arrived at Shibuya station (on the Ginza line) and walked out of exit 4, not because we had any reason to, but just because it seemed to have the least amount of traffic. It turned out to be the one that was almost next door to the Shibuya Crossing, which was in my humble opinion a bit anti-climatic. It is simply a large intersection with many people crossing. Not sure why this is so exciting…
I was getting hungry… which was no surprise to any of us three. I am on a strict eat-all-day-every-day diet. And for this trip, what I wanted was sushi. This was another time where planning could have helped us. We didn’t realize that most of the sushi places in the Shibuya district (maybe all of Tokyo?) were either take-out only or had standing areas (no seats). Not such a great idea with a toddler. So we searched for a while.
Finally we happened upon a fast food sushi restaurant called Uobei Shibuya Dogenzaka which was quite cool. We all enjoyed it!
I felt like I was a new person after my sushi fix and was ready to walk around and check things out. A friend of Chad’s that had been living in Tokyo for many years suggested that we check out the Meji Shrine which was within walking distance from the shopping area.
On our way to the shrine, we happened upon an Earth Day festival that was packed with people and cool booths. Chad and I regretted eating out so soon because the booths serving vegetarian and vegan Japanese food (even organic beer!) looked and smelled divine. Oh well, maybe next year…
pushed moved our way through the crowds, we finally made it to the other end of the festival and were impressed with the substantial Yoyogi Park that surrounded the Meji shrine. It was pristine in its cleanliness and planning. It was busy, but didn’t feel crowded as the paths were wide and smooth. We stopped and watched some Japanese “Greasers’ dancing to rock-a-billy music for a bit and then headed onto the shrine.
The Meji Shrine is a Shinto shrine that is dedicated to the deified spirits of Emperor Meiji and his wife, Empress Shōken. The pathway to the shrine is wide and covered with tiny pebbles, which can make a stroller difficult sometimes, but easily walked. We walked through many Torii (large wooden Japanese gates) until we finally arrived at the actual shrine.
The grounds were gardened simply and the shrine itself was rather plain, without any opulence or gold that one may see in other Asian cultures’ shrines. It was stark and quiet. We walked to the shrine and Chad and Zoë dropped in some yen coins, clapped twice, and bowed for good luck (more just for the experience obviously).
At this point we decided to get a beer with Chad’s friend who had been so helpful at telling us what to see in Shibuya. And as they say, “The rest is history.” Ok well, maybe I should say, “The rest is walking around for a couple of hours looking for another sushi restaurant, finally finding one, eating, and going back to the apartment.” That just sounds so drawn out though, don’t you think?
Have you ever been to Tokyo? What about the Shibuya district? Where did you find the good sushi restaurants (seriously, please help me, we have a return trip through Tokyo in two weeks)?
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