We had a lot of ground to cover today and what better place to start then the most famous crossing in the world, Shibuya. Ellie taught is the story of Hachiko the dog and the famous meeting points in this bustling area. We took in the hug crossing from a viewing point in Starbucks-this must be the best located Starbucks in the world! A short walk brought us to the National Stadium and a market stall selling all sorts of handicrafts. Ellie tried on a few fetching hats and all us girls took stereotypical sunglasses photo-with no intention of buying anything! The market led us to a mini boot sale with people selling old clothes, records etc. A lot of the stuff looked pretty retro and cool but with a small rucksack it just wasn't sensible. We wandered through Shinjuku Gyoen park, the biggest in Tokyo and performed another New Year ritual at the Emperor's temple. E&M explained that this in the most important prayer as it covers everything for the upcoming year-so much so Ellie spent 100 yen on her prayer! On our way out of the temple we saw a wedding party-the bride was wearing the traditional kimono dress. Ellie said they must be rich to be able to afford a ceremony here-I suppose it is the equivalent of St Paul's Cathedral. E&M educated us in the rituals of a Japanese wedding and J&I decided one tradition in particular we would like to merge with our wedding. Each guest has to give the Bride and Groom 300,000 yen, about £200-basically you pay for the privilege of an invite! It was lovely to see the wedding party and learn more about the Japanese culture.
Ellie also explained how Japanese people hold funerals and there is an aspect I think we should adopt in England too. They have a day to remember the dead and believe that the spirits of their loved ones visit Earth on this day. I think it is nice that they talk about lost relatives and seem much more open about death than England where it turns into a year later and everyone seems to forget or avoid talking about those who have died-Japanese culture keeps memories alive in a nice and open way, I like it!
We walked to the young peoples' hangout, Harajuku. You can tell immediately it is aimed at teenagers, the shops, clothes and restaurants all have a young vibe. With my maturity level I obviously loved it and finally saw some of the crazy dressed Japanese people we'd expected to see throughout Tokyo. We went to a few shops; the most bizarre was a clothes shop for dogs! It had every item your dog could ever want (or maybe not). My favourite was a fancy dress outfit that made the dog look like a unicorn-complete with a stuffed princess toy riding it!!
The winning shop for us was of course the 100 yen shop. It was truly awesome and the only place-since leaving England where James and I went shopping crazy. E&M bought a few things too. Maya found a use for James when she spotted the perfect shower curtain, but it was on the top shelf. We may not understand a word of Japanese but did come in handy at reaching things (Flynn-you know all about my super power!)
We had a good noodle lunch and delicious vegetable pakora before a wander in the posh area where we admired, from a far and armed with our 100 yen shopping bags, the designer shops and a waiting list to get into a fancy popcorn shop!
Another highlight to add to the ever increasing list is our free trip up the Metropolitan Building. The views all over Tokyo were breath-taking and to top it off we watched the sunset behind Mount Fuji-a memorable moment for sure. The camera battery died half way through and J&I enjoyed it so much we came back the next day at night to get some electronically charged shots.
We loved the old part of Tokyo and where we were staying but Shinjuku was how we imagined Tokyo; the neon lights, high storey buildings, the crowds, gaming shops and, when Ellie pointed them out, Karaoke bars.
More delicious food was on the agenda tonight and of course, all you can drink for another two hours! We clarified at the start which food was all you can eat and we definitely got our monies worth. Ellie was designated BBQ chef and she did a sterling job delivering us beautifully cooked meat and spicy Chinese leaf every time. We all ate (and drank) a ridiculous amount but the meal was carb free so Atkins would have approved!
We hung around the Shinjuku area and partook in some Japanese pastimes-a fun rapid fire photo booth that made us all more attractive (I know, hard to believe!) I showed my competitive side with a bit of Mario Kart against Maya. We didn't have a clue what was going on but came in 2nd and 3rd anyway! E&M had bought me a birthday bear and its own sushi t shirt-so lovely and I have named her Ellie Kato (Maya's last name) in their honour. She is now Sam (the bear) new girlfriend!
We had such an amazing time with the girls and couldn't bear (haha) to say goodbye so arranged to meet for the last supper on Tuesday. A fabulous weekend with so many memories.