Tokyo: Shinjuku, Harajuku, Shibuya
After a few days, we finally made it to Tokyo! Stepping foot in the capital prefecture. But at the same time, I felt like I was finally feeling the hype around it. It's one thing to look envy Japan photos on Instagram. It's another to walk the crossing, see Mario Karts in your commute, and see Piko Taro as a face mask. So, we explored the holy Tokyo trinity: Shinjuku, Harajuku, and Shibuya.
Shinjuku is where we stayed. This was the closest station to all the landmarks, so we chose this place. We explored this on two nights with my cousins from both the US and at home.
I had an easier time remembering landmarks to our hotel because the buildings and billboards I saw were huge and easy to spot. The colorful lights, the perky pop-art, what's not to love about the city life? A lot of the major brands, both Japanese and foreign, were easy to spot too. There were a lot of Mos Burgers, Uniqlo buildings, and high-end fashion to boot.
And here is where I lowkey want to enter just because I saw the Filipino flag. IDK what Gold exactly was, but wondered what Philippines got to do with it. The train stations are pretty dope, too. You don't see this much anime in train stations of other countries, and a Pablo inside? Sweet?
There are some subdued parts of the city as well, where it's rather quiet and hidden. We ate at some of the smaller restaurants, and they were good enough for such a great price. And what we ate mostly? Ramen. TBH we ate ramen almost every day ever since we landed in Osaka, and my cousins are like "ramen again?". But me, I'm happy I got to eat that much ramen. It's not something I do in Manila daily. :)
Interesting Things In Shinjuku
I Eat Toshiro Mifune At Night
One of the most interesting spots is this restaurant named after one of my fave classic actors, Toshiro Mifune. He starred in Kurosawa's best work, such as Rashomon, Yojimbo, and The Seven Samurai. Do I remember any restaurants in Manila with actors as names? I knew there was a time when they sold Sir Chips at the height of Be Careful With My Heart. How about this: a local noodle eatery called Eat Bulalo. Then the main dishes are called Tito, Vic, and Joey. With each dish, it came with a Pepsi drink :^).
Gojira-Sama, Lord of the Vape Naysh
Another unique, interesting thing in Shinjuku: the Godzilla! This statue looms over the Toho Cinemas building in Godzilla Street. Once the classic Godzilla theme plays, the kaiju rips a fat one over the road. Yes, there is a Godzilla Street in Japan. And he's also the God of Vape Nation.
Face Filters Are Fads, Body Filters Are Forever
While my cousins and I walked along the streets, we noticed this huge screen with us in it. Normally we'd pass by the CCTV demos at malls and see ourselves walking, but not on this scale! But this is more than your normal screen with a front camera... It's got augmented reality with body filters! It only detected my cousin and my other cousin's wife though. I got too busy taking photos of the thing. Kawaii!
Snapchat? Instagram Stories? Messenger Stories? Facebook Day? I don't know them.
Mysteries Unexplained: Rilakkuma's Night Identity
Yet my most amusing encounter that definitely got me thinking, "Oh, this is Japan all right" is in a drug store. My cousins were looking for chocolate and I've purchased enough already for those I want to give pasalubong* to back home. I was just looking at the shelves and I noticed how out of place a Rilakkuma package looked like in the condoms section. WTF right?
Then I took a closer look and realized "It really belongs here!" The cute illustrations fooled me enough to not take a second look at the suggestive image. Ahh! LMAO but then again there's the Spongebob tampax. Unlike the Western version though, you know this one is real.
The morning after we arrived at Shinjuku, our first stop in our itinerary is Harajuku. When I think of Harajuku, I think of the similarly named colorful fashion from head to toe. But that day, I found a rather subdued version of my expectations. Compared to what the name is known for, Harajuku is much like any other area in Tokyo save for the subculture it spawned.
Perhaps the closest I can get to the Harajuku aesthetic is in Takeshita Street. Here you'd find access to lots of discounted goods, foods, and so much more. This is a business hotspot so you can find brands and shops from both Japan and all over the world. Of course we've heard of the home grown Yoshinoya and Korean brand Etude House–they're there along the way!
(Dora voice) Can you see the McDonald's?
Along the way, I purchased some cute stuff. I got a pair of sweet pink-blue gradient heart shaped glasses that broke when I got home :(. But I also got two chokers: one with a black strap and square pendant, and another with a pink strap and a heart pendant. I spotted a Matsumoto Kiyoshi along the way and got my K-Palette eyeliners there. There were tons of interesting stuff here too, including a wearable horse head and a Piko Taro face mask. And honestly, I think they made that so you can look like an ~internet sensation~.
Aren't these paws the cutest? :)
Ahh, Shibuya is literally heaven on earth! Among all the places I went to in Japan, I felt really enchanted here. And since my entire Japan experience was pretty memorable, I'd say my use of "enchanted" means a whole new level!
One of Shibuya's icons is the legendary Hachiko. Hachiko is the ultimate symbol of undying loyalty to his master, Professor Ueno. Even when the latter died, he waited at the Shibuya train station until the pupper's end. If that ain't love, I dunno what is.
Before he died, they recognized his loyalty and built him a bronze statue by the station. Until today, it is there. What I did not expect, however, is this tiny cat that rests underneath it and barely gave a damn about the people. (How I wish I had that attitude.) The cute thing is he's also got the Christmas spirit–just look at that collar!
I'm easily fascinated with random things, but it was only when I crossed Shibuya that I took interest in pedestrian lanes... Strange noh? Well can you blame me though, the Shibuya crossing is pretty iconic! There's something mindful about crossing a huge pedestrian with hundreds of people at the same time. Then there's the anticipation of watching the cars go by when it's their time to go.
There are tons of buildings around the Shibuya crossing where you can get a decent view from above. For us, we got to stare from the building with the Starbucks at the second floor. We spent more than 20-30 minutes of what was just us taking photos / time lapses of the crossing! All just to watch everyone cross! It's so fascinating.
What amuses and scares me at the same time are those who try to reach the last few seconds of crossing. One in particular, was an old guy. When I saw him, I was like "Oh no! Cross already!" But Japanese drivers seemed to mind this guy and took their driving to consideration. I still gotta appreciate the guy for making it to the other side unscathed though!
Another one of those "only in Japan" moments is seeing this. Yes. Only in this country is Godzilla a daily part of your life as well as Mario Karts are a part of your commute. That's all they do all day: drive around the crossing. Lowkey wanting to just watch the crossing from Starbucks again just to watch these guys until I get tired.
More of Shibuya Other Than The Crossing
The inner streets of Shibuya are also eye candy, and are quite distant from the noise of the main streets. Did I mention we found a pet shop with the cutest puppers?
I forgot the name of the street, but there is one area where it became an international hotpot with different nations.
And after all we went through there, we definitely capped it off with Ichiran which is another form of heaven itself. I will talk more about it in my next entry, but for now I'm right here remembering the winter Shibuya air.