Tokyo Day 3: Shibuya/Shinjuku, okonomiyaki, Meiji Shrine & purikura photo booths

It’s fun to have friends in other countries. On our third day in Tokyo, Will’s friend Scott took the train up from Osaka to spend the day with us. Valentine’s Day, actually. 🙂 Aww.

First order of business? Find some okonomiyaki for lunch. We got off at Shibuya Station, and actually, first first, I had to pay tribute to Hachiko. You know, Hachiko, the Akita dog that would greet his owner daily at Shibuya Station when he returned from work, and continued to loyally wait there every day for nine years after his owner had died? (Sigh, so sad. Don’t watch the movie or you’ll cry your eyes out.) They have a statue of him there as soon as you exit the station via… the Hachiko exit. Then, we crossed the street — that is, the famous Shibuya crossing, one of the busiest intersections in the world! Many of you have seen it in movies, but here was our view of it:

After walking around and venturing into a mall full of those doll-ish, cutesy fashions you often associate with young Japanese women (I got yelled at for taking photos of some kinky cat tights), we sat down to some okonomiyaki, which is kind of like a pancake/omelette made of eggs, flour batter, shredded cabbage, and other veggies and ingredients, topped with a special sauce. Mine had pork, I think. It was good and very filling.

Our next order of business was to visit the Meiji Jingu Shrine. We headed in that direction via what I saw on my map called “Cat Street” — just makes you curious, right? Being cat lovers (well, Will is an Internet-cat lover) we had to investigate. Turns out it’s nothing special, really. No stray cats running around, no cute cat merchandise, just a quaint street with boutique style shops. And this candy store, Candy Show Time, where you can watch them make the candy:

This “Cat Street” leads you to Harajuku, which along with Shibuya, is known for its youth culture, nightlife and very eclectic fashions (think: cosplay, Anime, etc.). And sure enough, we passed some of these dressed up young people right as we crossed the street into the Meiji Jingu Shrine.

The Meiji Shrine is located in a big park. It’s a Shinto shrine, so it’s very different than the bright-red Sensoji Temple you saw in my previous post. Yeah, it was nice, has some beautiful, large torii gates, lots of trees and nature surrounding it, and we came upon what looked like some newlyweds. The bride was all dolled up and we got to watch her carefully get into their vehicle without ruining her pretty hair:

The Harajuku/Shinjuku area at night is just full of life! Wow. Especially at the Pachinko arcades, which are multilevel buildings full of not just Pachinko machines (think American slot machines, but it’s kind of like a vertical pinball instead), but tons of other arcade and video games. Holy moly. Sensory overload. Here we are just standing outside of one:

Apparently, they’re super popular in Japan. By the way, have you heard of Japanese purikura photo booths? Not your average photo booths….they do crazy things like enlarge your eyes and turn them into cat-eyes, and then you can add fun doodles and characters and stuff to your photos before the machine prints them out. So, in Harajuku and Shinjuku you can find these pretty much at any of those multilevel arcades, usually near the top floors. It’s insane. You’ll usually find a dozen or so of these purikura booths on one floor, and you can even rent out costumes before going in your booth. Some of them have blocked off areas for women only. (The one we went to had signs forbidding guys-only from using the booths. Yikes).

Anyway, what an adventure! From the minute we stepped in the booth it was so confusing! Everything happens SO fast! We were cracking up as soon as we saw our cat-eyes on the screen, and had barely enough time to think of our next pose before SNAP it took the picture. Oh my word. Then the machine where we edited the photos had ZERO English on it, so we had no idea what the heck we were doing or choosing — it took Scott, Will and myself to try to figure it out. In the end, we got a very small printout with our photos on it. Small, but funny. Too funny. (See Will with a soft glow effect.) So, the lesson here is: go prepared! Have some poses planned ahead of time, and then…go with someone who can read Japanese. Hehe.

We topped off the night with some yakitori for dinner (Japanese skewers), and checked into our hotel room. That’s right, we spent two nights in the capsule, and then got a room for the last two nights. A cozy, comfy room at the Tokyo Kiba Hotel…and check out the bathroom. LOL. Three-in-one. Toilet, sink, and shower. In a tiny space. But guess what?! The sink moves! So you can roll it out of the way when you take a shower, and it turned out to be more than enough room to shower in (for me, anyway. I don’t know about Will.). Ah, the Japanese. What will they think of next?

Up next: Akihabara, Kanda Myojin Shrine & sukiyaki 

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