Posts Tagged With: harajuku

Where to shop: Tokyo’s top 6 department stores

Department Stores

Tokyo is home to some of Japan’s biggest department stores, rivaling most around the world. Shoppers can spend the entire day wandering the floors of a Tokyo department store, where primarily fashion and home decor make up the bulk of the goods sold. Throughout the day, visitors can go to a Depachika, or department basement gourmet halls, commonly found throughout the city’s biggest department stores. Here, customers may spend hours walking through the isles of depachika looking for fresh food, snacks, and other packaged goods.

 

Shinjuku Isetan
This Shinjuku based department store is one of Tokyo’s biggest, with branches located all around Asia.

 

Ginza Mitsukoshi
Mitsukoshi is one of Ginza‘s most prominent department stores. It’s “depachika”, or basement food hall, is considered to be one of Tokyo’s best.

 

Lalaport
Lalaport in Tokyo Bay is a shopping mecca. With shops, cafes, and gourmet restaurants, visitors can spend the entire day just exploring all it has to offer.

 

Kiddy Land
This toy store in Harajuku is one of Tokyo’s finest. A great stop for anyone traveling with kids.

 

Shibuya Parco
Shibuya Parco is the perfect place to spend the day pampering yourself. With shops, cafés, a theatre, and a salon, a day in Shibuya Parco is another one of Tokyo’s finest department stores.

 

Marui
Marui is another chain of Japanese department stores that features high end fashion brands and designers as well as boutiques.

 

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Where to shop in Tokyo? Here are our favourite places

Anyone who loves shopping knows that Tokyo is one of the most renowned shopping cities in the world. It should come as no surprise that Japanese people love style and fashion as designers from around the globe know that Tokyo is a hot spot for their label to be featured. It is here that well-established Japanese shops and famous brand names like Gucci, Chanel, Armani, Louis Vuitton, and others stand side by side on the various blocks that make up the center of the Ginza shopping area. Tokyo also serves as a hub of artistic ingenuity as art galleries and purely Japanese modern architecture are visible throughout the entire city.

 

Ginza
While the history of this region dates back to the Edo period, recent modernization efforts have made Ginza an even more desirable shopping destination with its high end stores, boutiques, and cafes. Exclusive, sophisticated brands and restaurants featuring delicacies from all over the world can be seen throughout the area. Several fashion labels have commissioned their own personal restaurants in Ginza, with locales such as the Gucci Café and the Armani restaurant attracting visitors looking for a gourmet break from a day of shopping. During the weekends, Ginza employs the use of hokosha tengoku, or closed-off pedestrian streets, so that weekend shoppers have a chance to browse many stores of the renowned shopping region without having to worry about traffic congestion.

 

Harajuku and Omotesando
Harajuku’s high fashion boutiques and branded shops make this area a hot spot for pop culture and new, cutting edge styles. On “Omotesando Hills”, you’ll find about 100 famous-brand shops including “Anniversaire Omotesando” popular for its limited-edition champagne and chocolate, as well as Prada, Louis Vuitton and Dior boutiques competing to express their individuality even through their architecture.

 

Roppongi
Roppongi has both aspects as an office town and an entertainment center that never sleeps. Since there are numerous embassies in the vicinity, many of the shops, bars and restaurants have international flavors and cater to people from other countries. Roppongi Hills, one of Japan’s newest commercial developments, has over 200 shops and restaurants making it a great place to spend the day exploring local Japanese culture.http://www.roppongihills.com/en/guide/floor_guide/

 

Shinjuku
This is one of the busiest towns in Japan, with its train station reportedly handling the largest number of passengers in the world. Department stores, electrical appliance megastores and huge book stores fan out around the station and are constantly filled with customers. In the underground mall, there are dozens of shops where you might find an unexpected bargain. The “Don Quixote” discount store is located along Yasukuni Dori (Ave.) at the east exit, and to the north of this store is the Kabuki-cho bright lights district, crowded with restaurants, adult entertainment spots, arcades and theaters. On the west exit side are the Tokyo Metropolitan Government buildings, super-high-rise buildings and first-class hotels. Enjoy the night view from the free observatory at the top of the Metropolitan Government building or from one of the skyscraper restaurants.

 

Shibuya
One of Japan’s busiest towns, Shibuya is extremely popular with young people. There are department stores, restaurants and specialty shops; casual fashion shops in particular have a high profile as typified by the “SHIBUYA 109” fashion building. Each street has its own characteristic look; for example, Koen Dori (Ave.) has the “Seibu Department Store” and “Parco”, Bunkamura Dori (Ave.) has the “Tokyu Department Store“, and Spain Zaka (Hill Road) has small clothing boutiques and miscellaneous goods shops. On “Center Gai or Center Street”, the street extending from the station, there is a constant stream of young people strolling past the fast food shops, shoe stores, and accessory and cosmetics shops. Fashion shops recently started opening up on Meiji Dori (Ave.), so you can enjoy window shopping while walking to Harajuku or Omotesando.

 

Tokyo Bay
This large shopping mall in the heart of Tokyo houses hundreds of stores and entertainment facilities perfect for all types of shoppers. Visitors can spend the day roaming the grounds and discovering new shops, movies, and several gourmet restaurants and cafés. Tokyo Bay is not to be missed for anyone looking for a day of fun for the whole family. For more information, please visit: http://tokyobay.lalaport.net/lala_eng/ Department Stores

 

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Things to do: Idol Worship, Korean hotties and more at Yoyogi National Gym August 03-11

Whether you like it or not, you’ll no doubt be familiar with at least a handful of artists or sugary pop groups managed by Avex. They infiltrate TV shows, commercials for sodas and sweets, and are to be found on every other billboard in Shibuya and Harajuku. Now you can see them all over nine days (Aug 3-11) in two handy locations—Shibuya-AX and Yoyogi National Gymnasium. Performers at A-Nation Island include Korean hotties Super Junior, sizzling Crystal Kay and funky video-makers World Order. Popular girls’ mags will hold fashion shows, and there will be stalls to browse and spend money at a fair in front of Yoyogi Gymnasium. Entry is ¥500 and concerts and other events are priced from ¥4,500 (adv)—buy online here.

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Kyary Pamyu Pamyu, Harajuku blogger turned singer just released a new album “Nanda Collection”

“Am I an adult? Or am I a kid?” sings Kyary Pamyu Pamyu on “Furisodation,” a song about the Harajuku blogger-turned-model-turned-pop-star turning 20 earlier this year. That’s the question that looms over all of her sophomore album, “Nanda Collection.”

The album is obsessed with the messy transition from youth to adulthood, the sound of Kyary figuring out Kyary. At times she’s a ninja, a monster, an invader and a lush. “Nanda Collection,” though, is consistently compelling, the year’s finest coming-of-age document and 2013′s best pop album so far.

It helps that producer Yasutaka Nakata still sounds like he’s having fun experimenting with the music. Like last year’s great “Pamyu Pamyu Revolution,” Nakata stuffs “Nanda Collection” with catchy hooks and a love of individual sounds (the syllable “mi” on the taiko-rhythm-game-meets-Eurodance of “Mi,” or “nori” in “Noriko to Norio”). Yet now, he’s unafraid to let his productions sound confrontational. “Ninja Ri Bang Bang” features the sound of swords being drawn, slicing through an otherwise jubilant tune, while “Invader Invader” includes bass-heavy interludes reminiscent of dubstep/EDM artists like Skrillex.

Nakata’s production is the perfect sonic backdrop for Kyary’s age crisis. Her debut album embraced childlike glee, highlighted by the energy of her breakout single “Ponponpon.” Now, though, she can see maturity on the horizon. “When I grow up, will I be happy?” she asks again on “Furisodation,” while she gets self-conscious about her eye-catching garb on “Fashion Monster.” Kyary still has some youthful escapades — “Saigo no Ice Cream” revolves around a store running out of the frozen treat — but even the bubbly “Kimi ni 100 Percent” features the maturity-dodging line, “Starting tomorrow, I’m going to buckle down and get serious.” She tries finding herself in the past, whether through traditional Japanese imagery (“Ninja”), or 1990s Shibuya-kei (“Super Scooter Happy,” a near-faithful cover of a 2004 song by capsule). She tries on ambition during “Invader Invader” with the line, “Let’s conquer the world!” Later in the album, though, she’s fretting. “What do I do? What can I do?” she sings.

Her resolution comes on the excellent album closer “Otona na Kodomo.” Over glossy music anchored by a Chicago-house piano line, she sings that she’s slowly figuring out being a grown-up, while maintaining her youthfulness. It ends with the lines, “Sorry that I can’t be obedient, and sorry that I can’t live up to your expectations.” And thank goodness, because “Nanda Collection” wouldn’t be one of the year’s best if she did.

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Where to eat: LA FÉE DÉLICE, the best crepes in town!

Authentic crêpes and refreshments at this colourful French cafe.

As exhausting as Harajuku can be, there are a handful of treasures peppered across the bustling neighbourhood, and La Fée Délice is one of them. Literally wedged in a little nook off ‘Cat Street’, this is the ideal place to take a breather from shopping and the loud crowds. The interior has only six or seven tables, but if the weather is nice another handful are set outside.

The place specializes in crêpes, the delicious thin pancake that has nothing to do with those sickeningly sweet and creatively-filled concoctions sold on nearby Takeshita-dori – this is the real deal. Both savoury and sweet crêpes are served there, so if you’re hungry for a meal you should order one of the galettes, which is buckwheat-based and topped in a few variations: the classic ham, cheese and egg, or if you feel more adventurous, you can add anchovies or blue cheese. If you’re just down for a snack (or dessert…), try a sweet crêpe – we loved the vanilla sugar and the ubiquitous banana-chocolate combo. Most crêpes are priced around ¥900-1,500.

Alcoholic drinks such as cider, wine and beer are served, along with the usual tea, coffee and soft drinks, which makes it the perfect place for a leisurely afternoon catching up or reading. The baroque-like decor and dark tones are typically Parisian, and the staff is both Japanese and French, so if you’re up for some small talk in French, this is the place to hit.

La Fée Délice (official website)

5-11-1 Jingumae, Shibuya (see map)

Open: 11:30-23:00

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Vintage clothes shopping in Tokyo

 

Funny little shop in Shimokitazawa

Funny little shop in Shimokitazawa

Tokyo, most folk attest, is expensive. Some claim prohibitively so, and while Japan’s capital does have something of a rep for hiking up the prices on imported brand goods this might be why it seems there are so many oddly dressed people in the city at times.

They swing all ways: gray flannel types with pallid ties and ill conceived brown-with-black ensembles, as well as tired students decked out primarily in jeans, with creases ironed over the front pockets.

There are others too, of course, those who pull off their chosen look masterfully, a look they’ll parade on their very next shopping trip. From personal experience, however, I wanted to see if shopping can be achieved on a reasonable budget in Tokyo, my own desired look: the British gentleman.

The first stop was not a vintage store at all, but Uniqlo, which along with H&M is quickly becoming fashionable as the place to buy something cheap and inexpensive to chicly go with the very expensive item you’ll wear over the top of it. The theory is that it’s better to stick with dark items so that iffy stitching or buttons won’t draw unwanted attention to themselves. With black T-shirt (¥500) and a black belt (¥1,000) bagged, it was time to head to Look (ルック in the local parlance) Street in Koenji; one of Tokyo’s better havens of cool vintage and thrift boutiques.

 

One of the many vintage shops in Tokyo

One of the many vintage shops in Tokyo

 

First call was Lady Feoh, a tiny enclave for the ball-dress inclined madam, which drew attention to itself via the item displayed in the front window: a grand-glam-jet-black-power-plastic dress. Next was Kiki: Cowboy day-glow classics, and Soul Box, beautiful jewelry and items with a decidedly French accent.

For the uninitiated there are a couple of things to mention: Vintage shopping is not about the buying, it’s about the browsing in Japan. Secondly in the changing rooms here in Japan, you’ll often hear some of the best music you’ve ever heard. Thirdly, finding what you’re looking for is hard, like trying to discover the girl of your dreams in, say, your hometown shopping center. She is there, but like art, you have to search deep.

Heading towards Koenji Station the staff get prettier and the clothes less aged: Green Dor – a kind of Ann of Green Gables apology – is the best of the bunch. If I were a girl I’d bring my knitting and spend the day. Next, at Gloveeex I spent some serious money: black Levis A-types, for ¥6,000, before leaving for Harajuku: tourist central in some ways, but also home of some seriously impressive shops. Thrift Store Chicago has an excellent supply if you don’t mind the crush, with goods sorted by brand: you have your secondhand Ralph Lauren Polo shirts, your Levis, and North Face in itemized sections and. We Go, just down the hill operates a chain of stores that offer a mixture of the old and the new.

These stores behind me, shopping done and bags in hand I headed home – until the next day when I paraded my newly acquired jeans and T-shirt like the rest, and like the rest I pretend not to notice anyone else. We all kept checking ourselves in the glass-fronted café and store windows though, the beautiful girls and boys within staring out into space eternal. Their drinks probably cost more than my T-shirt.

Decent Discount / Vintage Shopping Spots:

Shin Koenji / Koenji

Lady Feoh: Koenji Minami 3-23-20 Look

(ルック) Shopping Street (商店街)

Kiki: On Look Street close to the above, on the right.

Soul Box: Koenji Minami  2-48-7

web: www.soul-box.com (in Japanese, but owner speaks English)

Green Dor: On Look Street in the arcade leading up to Koenji station. Small (green) entrance on your left.

Gloveeex: Before the above, on your left.

Harajuku

Thrift Store Chicago: 31-21 Olympia Annex Bldg, B1F, Jingumaewww.chicago.co.jp

We Go: 6-5-3 Jingumae, Shibuya-ku http://shop.wego.jp (in Japanese)

 

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Yoyogi park, perhaps not here to stay

A girl performing at Yoyogi park

A girl performing at Yoyogi park

Performance art at Yoyogi Park

It may seem odd to include mention of a park in a chapter about the stranger aspects of life in Tokyo, the ‘other’s side of life and the like, but given that Tokyo is so very limited on communal green spaces in which the populace at large and visitors from around the country or overseas can get together, the very existence of such a gem as Yoyogi Park in one of the busiest areas of the city is itself an oddity!

According to rumor – and likely true – Tokyo’s Yoyogi Park was actually set to vanish in whole or in part had Tokyo won their late 2009, bid to attract the 2016 Olympic Games. In the end, Tokyo’s bid failed and so we still have the park – although when you walk around town and see all the banners for the Olympic games for 2020, Tokyo is in the run for the 2020 Games.

In the past, the park was the site of Japan’s first ever powered flight, in 1910, served as a military drill area, later as a residential quartering zone for occupying American officers after World War II, before being turned into the athletes’ village for the Tokyo Olympics in 1964. Three years later it made its debut as a park and is now known as one of the best places in the city to see cherry blossoms (in Spring) and ginkgo trees (in Autumn) whilst also being an area for sports lovers to flock to with its multiple facilities and athletic areas near the sail like shape of Yoyogi Gymnasium.

Yoyogi park, stairs towards shibuya

Yoyogi park, stairs towards shibuya

Up and over to flea markets and festivals.

The park is sandwiched in between Harajuku and Shibuya, borders Meiji Shrine‘s own huge expanse of tree filled land, and is for many the best park in Tokyo if suffering from a lack of greenery. Other parks also worth a visit can be found in central Tokyo near the Imperial Palace, Shinjuku and out west in the suburbs.

Numerous lakeside and wooded walks can be enjoyed throughout Yoyogi as can the gentle spray of fountain in summer. Ball games, picnics, and dog walking all seems to be an ever-present regardless of when you visit – and it is all just a stone’s throw from the hustle and bustle of Shibuya and Omotesando.

Sunday afternoons sees a shift to the performing arts not seen in the week in areas near the main elongated fountain, when those out to practice dance moves, magic tricks, juggling, and a wealth of other hobbies are forever moving around, performing to passers-by and generally enjoying their moment in the spotlight – all individuals presumably not too displeased with Rio de Janeiro’s success in securing the Olympics.

Rockers dancing to Japanese rock music

Rockers dancing to Japanese rock music

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My Saturday in Tokyo; Satagaya area

(Please scroll down to read an English translation)

Experience the relaxed vibe of Shimokitazawa
Dit weekend heb ik maar eens mijn wandelschoenen aangedaan en ben met mijn camera op zak op pad gegaan. Als eerste ben ik op zaterdag naar Shimokitazawa gegaan. Dit is in de wijk Setagaya. De wijk is hele ‘up and coming’ in Tokio, ondanks het feit dat het buiten het centrum gelegen is. Tijdens een enquette onder jongeren gaven velen aan graag in deze wijk te willen wonen. Wat is er te vinden? Als je op het station aan komt, dan kun je grofweg twee kanten op. De noordkant of de zuidkant. Aan de zuidkant vind je veel barretjes, theaters, en restaurantjes. Aan de noordkant vind je veel hippe winkeltjes. Bijvoorbeeld veel vintage kledingwinkels, tweede hands lp en cd winkels en leuke vintage spulletjes.

At shimokitazawa

At shimokitazawa

De wijk bestaat uit veel kleine steegjes die leuk zijn om doorheen te lopen. Je valt van de ene verbazing in de andere. Overal iets wat te zien. Helaas toen ik er was, waren veel winkeltjes nog dicht, hoewel de rolluiken in veel gevallen ook erg leuk waren om te zien. De sfeer in deze wijk is heel relaxed. The mensen zijn heel ‘laid back’ en zeker op een zaterdag was het met name bij de lokale broodjeszaak enorm druk met mensen die lekkere broodjes of muffins kwamen afhalen of die gezellig met een kopje koffie lekker van een ontbijt of lunch aan het genieten waren.

A young girl taking a break at Shimokitazawa

A young girl taking a break at Shimokitazawa

Store front at Shimokitazawa

Store front at Shimokitazawa

Vintage store in Shimokitazawa

Vintage store in Shimokitazawa

Als je van hip en trendy houdt, maar wel graag ook betaalbaar, dan is shimokitazawa zeker een wijk die leuk is om te bezoeken. Harajuku is in vergelijking veel duurder en extremer wat mode betreft. Shimokitazawa is meer een wijk voor studenten en mensen die hun eigen ‘look’ willen creëren met de leuke vintage winkels die er te vinden zijn.

Cool bar in Shimokitazawa

Cool bar in Shimokitazawa

Maneki neko
Als je van katten houdt, dan is de Maneki neko een must see. Dit is het al oude bekende witte katje wat zijn pootje ophoudt en vaak aan de ingang van restaurants of soms in winkels te vinden zijn. Deze kat wuift naar klanten en probeert ze met zijn pootje naar binnen te lokken. Aan deze kat is een speciale tempel gewijd. Deze tempel heet Gotokuji en is vanaf Shimokitazwa gemakkelijk met de trein te bereiken.

Maneki Nekko

Maneki Neko

De oorsprong van Maneki Neko
Je zal je vast afvragen waarom Japanners een hele tempel wijden aan één enkele kat en geloven dat deze kat geluk kan brengen. Het verhaal van de oorsprong van Maneki neko of ‘lucky cat’ gaat als volgt. Op een dag kwam er een witte kat aanlopen bij de Gotokuji tempel. De tempel was in die tijd erg arm en de priester had amper eten om zichzelf te voeden. Toch, toen de kat aan kwam wandelen, kon hij het niet over zijn hart verdragen om haar weg te sturen. Hij voedde de kat en de dagen verstreken. Op een gegeven moment ging het nog slechter met de tempel en de dagen dat er geen eten was, werden er steeds meer. De priester zei dan ook gekscherend tegen de kat die hij Tama had genoemd:’Misschien kun je beter je geluk elders proberen Tama, hier valt niet meer zoveel te halen.’ De kat wandelde vervolgens langzaam naar de poort van de tempel toe, en begon haarzelf te wassen, zoals katten wel vaker toen. Inmiddels begon het weer te betrekken en begon het te regenen en te stormen. Een belangrijke samurai kwam langs rijden met zijn gezelschap. Hij en zijn metgezellen besloten te stoppen en te schuilen onder een boom. Toen hij opkeek zag hij de kat zitten, en besloot hij naar haar toe te lopen om haar beter te bekijken. Eenmaal bij de kat aangekomen, sloeg de bliksem in, in de boom waar de samurai minuten ervoor nog aan het schuilen was. De samurai zag dit als een teken en besloot de tempel in te gaan om de priester te bedanken voor het sturen van de witte kat die zijn leven had gered. Vanaf dat moment werd de samurai een beschermheer van de tempel en was de tempel gered. Het verhaal van de wonderbaarlijke kat verspreide zich al snel in Edo (zo heette Tokyo in die tijd) en vele mensen trokken naar de tempel toe om de merkwaardige kat te zien in de hoop dat dit geluk zou brengen. Tegenwoordig zijn er nog steeds mensen die voor een beetje geluk naar deze tempel komen om een wit katje achter te laten in de hoop dat dit geluk brengt.

Maneki Nekko mania

Maneki Neko mania

Het complex is natuurlijk interessant vanwege deze kattenbeeldjes die je staan op te wachten, maar de gebouwen zijn ook zeker de moeite waard om te zien. Er is een mooie pagode te zien en ook een grote begraafplaats waar veel familie leden van de familie Ii (zo heette de samurai die beschermheer was) zijn begraven. De kat schijnt er ook ergens begraven te liggen, maar dat graf heb ik helaas niet gevonden. Wel zag ik dat in de speciale hal toegewijd aan Maneki neko een dienst werd opgevoerd voor een meneer die blijkbaar wel wat geluk kon gebruiken.

Gotokuji temple

Gotokuji temple

Pagode at Gotokuji temple

Pagode at Gotokuji temple

Sakura's at Gotokuji temple

Sakura’s at Gotokuji temple

Sumo tempel
Aangezien ik toch in de buurt was, besloot ik de trein te nemen naar Setagaya Hachiman jinja. Dit is een shinto tempel die is opgedragen aan sumo worstelaars. Van origine was Sumo namelijk een soort van rituele dans waarbij de ‘dansers’ zogenaamd met een ‘kami’ of geest aan het worstelen waren. Later werd deze dans de sport die het nu is. de ring waar sumo worstelaars in spelen wordt nog steeds als heilige grond beschouwd. Nog veel van de traditionele ‘danspassen’ uit de vroegere vorm van sumo zijn bewaard gebleven, vandaar dat je sumo worstelaars altijd eerst deze stappen ziet uitvoeren voordat het gevecht daadwerkelijk plaats vindt. Terwijl ik er was, had ik geluk. Er werden twee babietjes ‘gedoopt’ in deze prachtige tempel. Ik voelde me echt heel gelukkig dat ik dit bijzondere ritueel mee mocht maken, hoewel één van de babietjes het minder leuk vond.
Bij deze tempel is een openlucht sumo ring te zien met een kleine stenen tribune erbij. Op deze plek vinden nog steeds gevechten plaats.

Setagaya Hachiman jinja

Setagaya Hachiman jinja

Sumo ring at Setagaya Hachiman jinja

Sumo ring at Setagaya Hachiman jinja

At Setagaya Hachiman jinja

At Setagaya Hachiman jinja

Shokoin tempel
Een andere tempel die in de buurt ligt van de Setaga Hachiman jinja is de Shokoin ji. Dit is een buddhistische tempel met een begraafplaats die bekend staat om het mooie bamboebos er omheen. Hier ben ik ook nog even langs geweest voordat ik mijn reis verder vervolgde. Ik twijfelde of ik in Setagaya zou blijven en nog de carrot tower zou bekijken (een hoog gebouw in de wijk waar je in kan om het uitzicht te bewonderen) of dat ik meer terug richting huis zou gaan en nog langs Yoyogi koen zou gaan. Het is nu op en top kersenbloesemtijd dus besloot ik toch maar de metro te nemen richting yoyogi koen.

Cementary at Shokoinji

Cementary at Shokoinji

At Shokoin jinja

At Shokoin jinja

At Shokoin jinja

At Shokoin jinja

Yoyogi koen
In yoyogi koen (koen betekent park) was het een drukte van jewelste. Hoewel het weer niet fantastisch was en het zelf behoorlijk begon te waaien, was het heel druk in het park. Veel Japanners waren naar het park afgereisd om te genieten van een pick nick onder de uitgelopen kersenbloesems. In Yoyogi koen is er in het weekend altijd genoeg te doen, zo zijn er optredens door steeds weer verschillende mensen en zijn er ook ‘oude bekenden’ zoals de trommelaars die altijd bij de ingang richting Shibuya aan het ‘jammen’ zijn.
Vandaag was echter anders dan anders, vanwege de kersenbloesems, kwamen er natuurlijk veel mensen naar het park dus een uitgelezen moment voor mensen om hun kraampje op te zetten en de heerlijkste hapjes te verkopen. Was is een pick nick immers zonder eten en drinken? Hoewel er natuurlijk ook mensen zijn die zelfgemaakte hapjes meenemen, worden de meeste mensen in yoyogi park verleid door de heerlijke geuren van gebakken noodles, bao pao’s, worstjes en andere lekkernijen.

Hanami at Yoyogi koen

Hanami at Yoyogi koen

The crowds enjoying Sakura at Yoyogi koen

The crowds enjoying Sakura at Yoyogi koen

Inmiddels begon ik al een beetje moe te worden, maar terwijl ik richting de metro liep, zag ik dat bij het station nog veel meer kraampjes waren waar niet alleen eten, maar ook kleding en andere zaken werden verkocht. Ook was er een podium waar de bekende Japanse meidenband AKB 48 aan het optreden was. De batterij van mijn camera hield er inmiddels ook mee op, en hoewel de muziek leuk klonk en ik uit de verte veel mensen zag genieten van het optreden, besloot ik toch maar de metro richting huis te pakken.

English:

(Please scroll down to read an English translation)

Experience the relaxed vibe of Shimokitazawa
This weekend I put on my walking shoes and went out with my camera. First thing in the morning I went to Shimokitazawa. This is an area in Setagaya district. The area is very ‘up and coming’ in Tokyo,  eventhough it is located outside the city center. During a survey among young people many of them indicated that they would like to live in this area. Why is it worth wile to visit?  When you arrive at the station, you can go basically in two directions. The north side or the south side. On the south side you can find many bars, restaurants and theaters. On the north side there are many shops selling one of a kind vintage clothes and other items, second hand lp & cd shops and clothes stores by small labels.

At shimokitazawa

At shimokitazawa

When you walk around Shimokitazawa or ‘Shimikita’ as it is called by the locals, you can find a maze of small streets and alleyways that zig zag across and take you to all the cool places. Where ever you walk there is something interesting to see, it is truly amazing! Unfortunately when I was there, most shops were not open yet, although the shutters of most shops were pretty amazing too with interesting paintings or graffiti. The admosphere in the area is really relaxed. The people are ‘laid back’ and especially on a Saturday there were many that frequented the local sandwich shop to buy the most wonderful sandwiches and muffins to take away or have there with a nice cup of coffee.

A young girl taking a break at Shimokitazawa

A young girl taking a break at Shimokitazawa

Store front at Shimokitazawa

Store front at Shimokitazawa

Vintage store in Shimokitazawa

Vintage store in Shimokitazawa

When you like hip and trendy, but are on a budget, the affordable prices in Shimokitazawa is definitely a fun place to go. Harajuku is in comparison a lot more expensive and more extreme where fashion goes. Shimokitazawa is more and area for students that want to create their own look by buying choice items at one of the many vintage or small label shops that are scattered around the place.

Cool bar in Shimokitazawa

Cool bar in Shimokitazawa

Maneki neko
If you are a cat lover, then Maneki neko is a must see. This is the all known with cat that hold up her paw and if often put at the entrance of a lot of restaurants or even some shops. The cat beckons with her paw to custumers and charms them to visit the restaurant or shop. Did you know this cat actually has her own temple? This temple is called Gotokuji and can be reached from Shimokitazwa by train.

Maneki Nekko

Maneki Neko

The origin of Maneki Neko
You might wonder why Japanese actually award an entire temple to a simple cat and believe it is the key to good luck. The story of the Maneki neko or ‘lucky cat’ goes as follows. On a day a white cat sauntered on to the de Gotokuji temple. This temple was at the time really poor and the main priesst hardly had any food  to feed himself, let alone the cat. Regardless he felt for the little critter and took it in. The days past and the plight of the temple only grew more serious. At one point the days without food became more and more frequent so the priest said jokingly to the cat:’Tama (this was the name the priest gave the cat) I think you’d better find another place to live.’ The cat looked at him and walked off towards the entrance of the temple. She didn’t actually go far. Just outside the temple she remained and started washing herself like cats tend to do. By that time the weather started to go bad and a storm was starting. An important samurai was just passing together with his entourage. He decided to take shelter under a tree. When he looked up he noticed the cat near the temple gate. The cat caught his eye and he proceeded to move closer. When he had reached the cat, lightning struck the tree, where moments before the samurai was taking shelter from the rain.  The samurai saw this as a sign and followed the cat back into the temple to thank the priest who took care of the cat that had saved his life. From that time onwards the samurai decided to become the guardian of the temple and it started to flourish from this influx of money. Word spread quickly around Edo (this is how Tokyo was called at that time) and many people flocked to see to this wonderful temple to see the cat that had saved a samurai. The visitors hoped that being in the vicinity of the cat, some of it’s good luck might rub off on them and, although the cat is long since dead, still many people come to the temple for a bit of good luck.

Maneki Neko mania

Maneki Neko mania

Of course the cats are nice to see, the complex itself is also worthwile. Especially the pagoda is really nice. Besides that there is cementary where a lot of members of the Ii family have been buried. (This is the name of the samurai who became the protector of the temple after he felt he his life was saved by her.) The cat is said to have been burried there as well, but unfotunately I did not find her Grave. I did see a man who underwent a special Shinto ceremony in the hall dedicated to Maneki neko apparently he was in need of a bit of luck as well!

Gotokuji temple

Gotokuji temple

Pagode at Gotokuji temple

Pagode at Gotokuji temple

Sakura's at Gotokuji temple

Sakura’s at Gotokuji temple

Sumo temple
Since I was in the neighbourhood, I decided to take the train to Setagaya Hachiman jinja. This is a shinto shrine dedicated to aan sumo wrestlers. In the old days sumo was not considered a sport at all but was part of an elaborate shinto ritual. Two wrestlers preformed a kind of dance meant to resemble a fight with a vicious ‘kami’ or spirit god. Later this dance grew out into the sport it is today. Many of the original moves from those days were kept, so before every bout, the wrestlers do a sort of dance that represent the original shinto ritual. In fact the ring in which the wrestlers fight is considered hallowed ground up until this day. I was Lucky, while I was at the temple, a ritual ‘baptism’ for lack of a better word, was conducted. I felt privaliged to have been a witness to this, although one of the babies enjoyed the whole thing a lot less and screamed it’s little heart out.  This temple actually has an open air sumo ring with a stone spectators area. It is still in use today and once in a while sumo matches can be seen.

Setagaya Hachiman jinja

Setagaya Hachiman jinja

Sumo ring at Setagaya Hachiman jinja

Sumo ring at Setagaya Hachiman jinja

Sumo ring at Setagaya Hachiman jinja

At Setagaya Hachiman jinja

At Setagaya Hachiman jinja

Shokoin temple
Another temple that is quite nearby is the Shokoin ji. (The ‘ji’ stands for a buddhist temple so whenever you see a sign with the name of a temple that ends with ‘ji’ and has the English word for temple behind it, it basically says … temple temple) This particular temple is well known for the beautiful bamboos that surround the temple grounds. Before taking my journey further, I decided to drop by since it was just around the corner anyway.  After visiting the Shokoin temple I either wanted to go to the carrot tower and stay in the Setagaya (this is a a high building that has an observation deck from where you have a nice view over the city) or I was going to go more in the direction of home and head to Yoyogi koen. (koen stands for park in Japanese) Since it is cherry blossom season, the park won and besides the weather wasn’t too great either so I figured the view could wait for another day.

Cementary at Shokoinji

Cementary at Shokoinji

At Shokoin jinja

At Shokoin jinja

At Shokoin jinja

At Shokoin jinja

Yoyogi koen
In yoyogi koen it was even more crowed than usual. Even though the weather was not great and the wind had started to pick up, there were still many people in the park enjoying the hanami (having a pick nick under the cherry trees). A lot of Japanese had travelled to the park to enjoy one of the best days for enjoying the blossoms as they are currently at full bloom. After the weekend they will slowly start to fall out unfortunately. Yoyogi koen is always a nice place to visit on the weekends. There are generally a few people performing, some new and some familiar faces too like the drum players that always gather there and sit near the Shibuya exit enjoying a nice jam session.
Today was unlike most weekends, obviously because of the cherry blossoms. A lot more people frequented the park than usual which allowed wonderful opportunities for the local vendors. The came out in mass to set up their little stalls and sell the most wonderful snack food like fried noodles, freshly steamed bao pao, sausages on a stick and other delicacies. I mean, what is a pick nick without food and drinks right? And since many people know that one a day like this, food is abundant so most of them opt for not lugging everything with them, but to just buy some there.

Hanami at Yoyogi koen

Hanami at Yoyogi koen

The crowds enjoying Sakura at Yoyogi koen

The crowds enjoying Sakura at Yoyogi koen

By this time I was starting to get tired, but while I was walking towards the nearest metro station, I noticed even more stalls near the stadium, which offered not only food, but also other items like clothes for instance. Later on I noticed a stage and it turned out the popular girl band AKB 48 performing. By that time the battery of my camera had died and even though the music sounded alluring and the smell of food delicious, I decided to head home and grab the next metro instead.

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Tokyo daytrips

(For an English translation please scroll down)

Met Tokiotours kun je leuke dagtripjes maken om je herinnering aan Tokio compleet te maken.

Kies bijvoorbeeld het leuke ‘shoppers paradise’ pakket.

Wat houdt het in?
Ik kan je eventueel ‘s morgens (op een tijd die voor jou het beste uitkomt) ophalen bij je hotel (mits dit wel in het centrum van Tokio is, anders spreken we af bij Tokio station). Vanaf daar nemen we samen de metro naar Omotesando. Vervolgens laat ik je dit chique winkelparadijs zien en lopen we langzaam richting de gekte van Harajuku waar je je ogen zult uitkijken door de vreemd uitgedoste mensen en de winkeltjes met lolita, punk en goth kleding.
Tussendoor stoppen we ook nog even bij een van de grootste 100 yen winkels van Tokio en kun je naar hartelust koopjes jagen. Hier zijn ook leuke souveniertjes te verkrijgen voor een leuke prijs.
Daarna lopen we door naar Meiji jingu mae. Dit is een van de mooiste tempels in Tokio uit de Meji periode. Het park er omheen is al erg mooi en brengt je in vervoering door de rust die er heerst. Bij Meiji jingu  kun je je wens achterlaten in de heilige boom opgeschreven op een gebedsbordje of vijf yen offeren voor een wens aan de kami (god). Als we geluk hebben zien we nog een bruidspaar in originele shinto kleding die in processie onder begeleiding van de priesters door de tempel lopen om hun huwelijk te laten inzegenen. Na de tempel gaan we nog langs bij een traditionele souvenirwinkel voor als je dat ene speciale kadootje nog niet hebt gevonden gevolgd door een heerlijk sakura (kersenbloesem) ijsje.
Hierna nemen we de metro terug naar Omotesando voor een biologische lunch. Na de lunch vervolgen we onze reis naar Ginza met een bezoekje aan een van de warenhuizen daar. Hiermee besluiten we de dag. Ik kan je nog wat tips geven als je zelf nog wat wilt rondkijken in Ginza of op zoek bent naar dat ene specifieke kadootje of winkel.

Een shinto bruiloftsprocessie bij Meiji jingu. A shinto wedding procession at Meiji jingu temple

Een shinto bruiloftsprocessie bij Meiji jingu.
A shinto wedding procession at Meiji jingu temple

Zie de tab ‘prijzen’ voor meer informatie of stuur je mail naar tokiotours@hotmail.com

ENGLISH
Together with Tokiotours you can make several unforgettable day trips and make your experience to Tokyo everlasting!

Choose for instance our special ‘shoppers paradise’ package

What do I get?
If you like I can pick you up in the morning (at a time that is convenient for you) at your hotel (as long as it is located in the center of Tokyo, if not I will meet you at Tokyo station or a convenient subway station) From there we will take the subway to Omotesando. I will show you around in this wonderful shoppers paradise and slowly we will walk towards the craziness of Harajuku where you will be amazed by the strangely dressed people and the crazy shops with lolita, punk and goth clothes.
During our relaxing stroll we will stop at one of the biggest 100 yen shops in Tokyo so you can get your bargain deals at your hearts content. You can also buy many souvenirs here at bargain prices! Afterwards we will proceed towards Meiji jingu. This is one of the most beautiful temples in Tokyo. The park surrounding the temple is already quite beautiful and brings you into a tranquil mood when you leave the hustle and bustle of the city behind and step into the tranquility of the park. At the Meiji jingu you can leave your wish into the sacred tree written on a votive board or offer 5 yen to the kami (god) to grand you your most secret wish. If we are lucky we will see a bride an groom in original shinto clothes walking in a procession chaperoned by the priests heading for their wedding ceremony.
After the temple follows another souvenir shop. This time one with more traditional gifts in case you still haven’t found that one special gift. Of course our visit is not complete without a yummy ‘sakura’ (cherry blossom) flavored ice cream cone.
The cone get’s our apetite working so it is time to head back via the subway to Omotesando for an organic lunch. After lunch we will head for Ginza to see one of the big department stores there. Here is where I will leave you. If you like I can give you some more advice on where to go in Ginza if you are looking for something special or for a specific shop.

Please go to the tab ‘prices’ for more information about this trip or send your inquiries to nicki@tokiotours.com

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