Hi friends! I released my Japan Vlog 3 a week ago, following my day at Meiji Shrine and the streets of Harajuku. It was a really nice mix of traditional Japan and modern Japan, where I got to experience more natural imagery and culture versus the pop trends and fashion in the city streets. We were planning to go to the Imperial Palace, Ginza and an art exhibition (never ended up seeing that one) but in the end, we changed our minds as the Imperial Palace was closed and Meiji Shrine would be perfect for the New Year. There were more people there than usual, as during the New Year time, Japanese people like to go to the Shrine and pray for the following year. It was a really interesting, calming and different experience for me, which I greatly appreciated. Normally, I hate gardens and nature because I find them really boring, but ultimately I felt like it was a good thing that I went and experienced it all because it was unique to the others things I had done there (namely; shopping). I wore very comfortable clothes - a big, baggy hoodie, skinny jeans, a beanie and some nike runners because I knew it would be a day of walking.
We hopped on our usual train line, to Harajuku - this is how you access the Meiji Shrine. The entrance of the Shrine area is just about 50m down the road from the train station, making it so convenient. Also what's really amazing is the sudden change from city to more 'forest' area. Once you go inside, it feels like you're in a totally new place, and it's hard to believe the concrete jungle is just a couple of hundred metres away.
When we approached the Meiji Shrine entrance, you see this giant gate figure. I'm not really sure what these things are called, but they look super oriental and traditional. Walking to the main shrine area takes around 15 minutes. Along the way, we saw lots of interesting exhibits such as the Barrels of Sake Wrapped in Straw and also the Shrine garden. The area itself is absolutely massive!! There are a few maps around, but I didn't find them very useful because I'm terrible at directions and maps but Sacha was a skilled map-reader (haha, maybe it's not the maps that are uselesss, but me lol). Before entering the main Shrine area, there were these small stations, with flowing water and scoops. We're meant to wash our hands and mouths with the water (as you can see in my video). I'm not sure why, but I thought it was to purify ourselves to be able to enter the Shrine. It was pretty awkward for Sach and i though, because we had no idea what we were doing. We just watched other people do it, and they seemed so advanced. I felt kind of rude spitting the water back into the station since it's kind of frowned upon to spit here and it's sort of gross AHHAA.
After successfully entering, we took our usual photos and had a nice stroll around. There were a LOT of people everywhere, which made it very exciting. I also had a little prayer for my family and the new year - not that I'm really religious, but I felt like it was respectful and a good way to immerse myself in the culture. There were a lot of little stalls around, selling fortune charms and signs you could hang up with well-wishes. It was very cute and I loved reading the English ones.
Sacha wanted to explore the whole area, which I found TIRING but that's what we did. We shared a small tube of HOT STAR chips (yum) which brightened my mood considerably. Then, we headed towards the Meiji Park area. It was very beautiful, the grass was all yellowy because of the Winter season. There were little kids running around, screaming happily at the top of their voices. Ah, what a peaceful and relaxing time. I think we spent quite a while there for morning tea, just sitting on the grass and staring out to the little river down below. Sacha told me this really dumb joke, but I still laughed. She was like, 'What did the fizzy drink man say to promote his products? They're SODA licious (delicious)'. Hehe, she told me I could use that one and I'm ashamed to say, I did. I really wanted to see deer around, but I don't think there would be deer in the city area now that I think about it.
We also wanted to visit the Meiji Shrine garden, which we passed on the way in, so we started to head out. I was also getting really hungry, despite chowing down on a tube of chips, thus we were going to eat lunch right afterwards. The garden had a 500 yen entry fee, and it was bigger inside than it looked. There wasn't that much to see because it was Winter, but I bet it would have been beautiful in the Spring. My favourite spot was right by the water, because I'm an Aquarius (jokes, that explains nothing - I just prefer the look of water to mountains or terrain). Around there, a man was holding out a hand full of peanuts, saying 'Oiiii oiiiii oiiii' hahahah but ater we found out it was to attract little birds onto his hand to take the food. That man would later on become a legend in our memories during the trip. There was also this well full of super clear flowing water in the garden. It was so clear that it almost looked like nothing was in the well at all! But the water was nice and warm, and we lined up to wash our hands in it for luck. I find the traditional practices of Asian cultures incredibly fascinating.
Finally, Sacha responded to my grumbling stomach and we left in search of SUSHI. My favourite. Up till this point, we hadn't had a taste of any sushi, not even a touch on the tastebud. We walked up to the central area of harajuku, surrounded by shops, people and tasty food places. But alas, no sushi. Finally, we ended up at this shop called Heiroku Sushi. Apparently, it's quite famous in Japan for tourists. And something really cool happened in line! You see those guys in front of us? During our wait, they were like 'Are you hungry?' and we were like 'Nah not really'. But then, they said they had this Kind Deeds card to let someone in front of them in line, so they gave it to us. This Kind Deeds thing is a sort of global game apparently. There are Kind Deed cards circulating all around (in our case, it was 'Let a stranger go in front of you in line') and once you perform to kind deed, you pass the card along to the receiver so they can do the same deed for someone else. It's passing niceness along :) I like it! Unfortunately the sushi itself was not that nice to be honest. I much prefer Sushi Hotaru back home! It was a big disappointment for my first experience of sushi and it wasn't that cheap either...For dinner we got crepes - yummy yummy. I had a banana caramel one, and sacha had oreo cheescake I think? They were about 500 yen each. Super filling but also very heavy so we couldn't finish them off. We ate these whilst wandering around Harajuku's Takeshita street. It was so fun because there were just strange fashion shops everywhere that looked so enticing.
We ended up going down some stairs and into a massive Purikura zone! There were a lot of teenage girls crowded around tens of giant, photobooths. Each one cost around 400 yen, ez. We didn't even know where to start, so we just went to the closest empty one, which was a Rola photobooth. Hehe, definitely a lot of fun. Look at our eyes and legs!! Stretched beyond recognition - so kawaii lol
Finally it was time to go home, so we went to the train stations for a lonnggg ride. The next day would be another packed one...
Haha thanks for reading!!
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