Sightseeing in Tokyo continues – Shibuya, Harajuku, Meiji Jingu, Tokyo Tower are just some of the places we managed to see on our second day in Tokyo. Another intense day that showed us a whole new face of Tokyo.
We decided to start our second day in Tokyo (you can find a description of the first day here) where we finished the first. First thing in the morning, we went to the Shibuya district – the most colorful and crowded district, the center of fashion and youth culture.
Before we got there, however, we circled around our neighborhood to find the nearest fire department. No, we were not on fire ;) Before leaving, we read that the fire department conducts earthquake preparation training. With special rooms and platforms, you can get a feel for what it’s like during a quake and how you should behave. We wanted to go to such a meeting a little out of curiosity, and a little out of actual interest/fear, because for some reason, however, hotels are at least equipped with flashlights and instructions on what to do in case of an earthquake. Unfortunately, our plan backfired because they did not conduct such training in the nearest units.
We tried our luck at a few more places that day, and some even held such training sessions, but only on specific days.
Table of contents
Morning on Shibuya
So we drove in the direction of Shibuya.
This entertainment district makes a very different impression in the daytime. It’s still noisy from the screens, billboards and stores, but at least the neon lights don’t ring so much in the eyes anymore. There are also fewer people (although still crowded).
In the square, near the intersection, there is a statue of the dog Hachiko – he escorted his master to the train every day and waited assiduously until he returned. One day the master died, and the dog continued to come and wait for its master for another 10 years. A full-length film has even been made on the subject, and a monument has been erected to the dog at the station to commemorate his devotion and loyalty.
It is now a meeting place and a good landmark.
We then walked toward Shibuya 109, a famous meeting place for local youth. The building catches the eye from afar thanks to the giant inscriptions on it and its distinctive shape, which can be described as a supported cylinder. The building has 10 floors full of boutiques (about 100 stores in all).
We are assailed by advertisements from everywhere, and where we do not reach our eyes there are displays with things we would never wear or whose purpose we have not yet learned. Well, every country is a custom, but it will turn out that Shibuya is only a foretaste of what awaits us later.
Japan’s love hotels
Fortunately, just walk away a piece and you can breathe. From a bustling, noise-strewn street, you can suddenly find yourself in tight, low-rise buildings that foster an atmosphere of intimacy…. Yes! We are in the district of love hotels (so-called. Japan’s Love Hotels). Fact, we weren’t here at night, so we don’t know if it turns into a red-light district, but during the day it was quite tolerable here.
Love hotels in Japan, this is a very interesting topic in general and will definitely get a separate entry. How to recognize them? What’s inside and, ultimately, who uses them?
Recognizing them may not be as easy as it may seem. While some directly exude sex from the very entrance some look completely inconspicuous. So how do you recognize a Love Hotel? The easiest way is by price list. If there are hourly prices or time slots on the board, chances are you are standing in front of a love hotel. Often you’ll find screens, pictures of different rooms and really fancy equipment next to them. Many of them are stylized on a particular theme, and from the outside you can see that the front of the hotel is completely out of keeping with the entire facade of the building.
The descriptions on the outside are generally in Japanese, which makes it difficult for tourists to use them (by the way, the Japanese are rather reluctant to talk about them, but they use them mightily). Fortunately, technology comes to the rescue, and in many hotels of love guests are greeted by screens with a preview of the rooms (not live, of course!), so you can see what you are paying for. Depending on your funds, you can disguise yourself in basic rooms or styled after fairy tales, movies, torture rooms, richly decorated chambers, prisons…. their imagination knows no bounds, and here we will spare going into detail.
This does not mean, however, that these are places where one comes to have kinky sex. Japanese people use them because they simply don’t have enough space at home and live with their parents for quite a long time. Tourists also take advantage of them, as it may be cheaper to rent love hotel than other options.
To use such a room sometimes you just have to get everything done at the vending machine – more and more facilities are self-service!
We mentioned that the Japanese have little space in their apartments. The hotels are no better – we have not yet slept in such small and ingeniously arranged hotels. The arrangement is astonishing, but also cramped.
The use of every free square meter can also be seen on the streets. They do not put multi-level parking lots in city centers. They put up parking lots simply stacked, consisting of variously operating elevators. They are often hidden simply in buildings. Here we have an example under a cloud ;)
We continued walking towards the Meiji Jingu (English: Meiji Shrine) – although if we were to be completely correct we should write: shintō chram, not temple (we will also write about the differences and similarities another time). It is a shrine dedicated to Emperor Meiji and his wife, Empress Shoken, and inside are his ashes.
Entering from Harajuku Station, one can immediately walk through the large wooden torii and enter the temple’s expansive grounds, or go to Yoyogi Park. If you will be in the period of cherry blossom, be sure to go to the park :)
On the way through the wooded area to Meiji Jingu, you can see, among other things. barrels of sake (called taru) that were donated to the temple by the producers to be consumed during various festivals. In ancient times, sake was produced and consumed in Shintoist temples, and in some shrines this tradition (of production) is still preserved today.
Closer to the religious buildings themselves, as in other churches, one can find distinctive wooden boards with inscribed prayers left by visitors.
To reach the buildings themselves, you have to walk several hundred meters along a road among the trees. This is peculiar because, after all, we are in the center of a city of 10 million people, full of skyscrapers, skyscrapers, neon signs and advertisements, and here we can at least for a moment feel like we are in a forest.
Meiji Jingu is the most famous chram in Tokyo. Unlike Senso-ji temple, you won’t see numerous decorations, splendor, bright colors and stalls here. The buildings are made of cedar wood and are characterized by simplicity and austerity. It’s quieter, quieter, slower in the chram area. Definitely a better atmosphere than in the most popular Buddhist temple.
Across the street is another must-see place – Harajuku, with its Takeshita Dori Street with its distinctive Japanese youth – so different from the quiet sacred grounds and park. Yes, it’s the stores and their customers that are so special here that you can’t take your eyes off them.
It is here that you can meet the greatest peculiarities and even fashion victims. Already at the station, we enter the world of cosplay, gothic, gyaru/ganguro, kawaii and more Others that it is impossible to write out. Should someone find that they want to look and dress like them, this is where they will find all kinds of outfits and accessories that they can purchase.
The appearance and attire of the youngsters is a peculiar attraction for tourists: a mix and match of punk, manga, lolita and Hello Kita fan styles is the order of the day. Moreover, it is very cultured here, no one accosts anyone, and each subculture lives in harmony with the other (at least that’s the impression they give). No one is rioting, no one is eating in the street, no one is littering and no one is walking through a red light. This can give the impression that the outfit is just a mask for these quiet, closed people or the only way to stand out from the crowd.
The street is as colorful as the customers who visit it – in addition to stores selling clothes, accessories, you will also find tattoo studios, beauticians, hairdressers and a host of other establishments and stores that we couldn’t even name ;) Lots of kitsch, plastic but also interesting ideas and initiatives. We were captivated by the pancake stalls with their mock-ups on display (about 40-50 kinds of sweet and salty pancakes) and stores with everything panda. Just around the corner, you can also find European stores like Zara or H&M (prices due to the lower yen exchange rate were more favorable than in Poland).
Also worth mentioning is the DAISO chain of stores, on Takeshita Dori you will also find this store. It is a big Japanese chain of “everything for 5 zloty”, or more precisely “100-yen shops”. Yet there are also products for 200, 300, 400 and 500 yen each. What can you buy there? Everything! From food to souvenirs at affordable prices. Recommended to everyone!
Tokyo Tower and. Jizō statues
After this spiritual and cultural experience, we headed east toward Tokyo Tower. It is Japan’s answer to the Eiffel Tower, surpassing it by a full 9 meters (Tokyo Tower – 333 meters, Eiffel Tower – 324 meters). Its construction was completed in 1958 (that is, 69 years after the Paris counterpart was completed).
However, it was the European building that impressed us more than the Japanese one. This may be due to the fact of the tower’s very surroundings – there is nothing like the Elysian fields in Tokyo, the tower is right on the street.
Near the tower is another Buddhist temple where you can take a break from the rest of the tourists. It was our second day in Japan and we were interested in every temple and chram, but when we discovered that they were at every turn our enthusiasm cooled a bit.
Here we were able to take a close look at the buildings in peace and quiet, and saw for the first time the famous Jizō statues, which we will encounter many more times during our stay in Japan. Although they seem cute at first glance, there are human dramas behind them, as each statue symbolizes a child who was not born, whether through miscarriage or abortion.
After a short rest, we set off on a walk towards the port. We managed to find a place from where we had a relatively nice view of the Rainbow Bridge. Unfortunately, the clarity left a bit to be desired, and even at this hour there were no colors visible on the bridge to explain the name of the bridge. We were counting on him to show us his true face in the evening.
A little higher up was the train station that took us to Odaiba Island. Unfortunately, all-day tickets work for this train, so we had to pay extra for the ride. On the bridge, in addition to the tracks for the railroad, there is an expressway, a normal road as well as a sidewalk for pedestrians (we didn’t see those).
The island of Odaiba itself is for us the opposite of Tokyo and Japan in general. Accustomed after just two days to cramped, utilization of every available space, we suddenly experience a little shock. There is just a lot of unused space on this island. Wide sidewalks, large and empty parking lots, lots of greenery, multi-lane roads on which single vehicles glide. The skyscrapers stand alone and are just waiting for more to be built in the immediate area to complete the landscape.
There are also quite a few attractions on the island: Toyota Show Room (unfortunately, only a small part was open); the TV building (Fuji TV), from which you can enjoy the skyline; a smaller version of the Statue of Liberty (what do they have with this imitation of other countries?!).
There is a boardwalk along the coast that offers a beautiful view of the other shore, the Rainbow Bridge, and the small boats that float peacefully on the water (the view is especially recommended in the evening, when the boats glow with a thousand colors). During our stay, clouds were gathering over the promenade and it seemed that rain was about to pour. Fortunately, the clouds quickly parted :-)
There are also numerous shopping centers here (such as the mall, where most of the stores are dog accessories). For manga/anime fans, we especially recommend the Gundam robot that stands in front of the Diver City center – said to be true to scale. At first it was difficult for us to find it, it is hidden as if from the middle of the island, at the lower entrance directly to the level with food.
Japanese specialties :)
We also encourage you to go into the center itself, where there are quite a few restaurants where you can eat something good :) We were tempted to eat something that just looked interesting in the picture, because we couldn’t figure out what it was for nothing. This thing was our first ever noodle soup eaten with chopsticks (!) and egg “meatballs” with little octopuses (!). Interesting combination.
And one more thing. How do you think you would find yourselves in such a restroom? :)
We stayed on the island itself until evening to admire the illuminated bridge, boardwalk and the aforementioned boats. It was already late in the evening when we returned to our hotel.
It was another day that made us fall asleep standing up. But you need to recuperate quickly, because tomorrow we’re heading out of Tokyo and will have our first ride on the world’s fastest trains, the Shinkansen!
You can read about our Shinkansen trip in the next post.
Many, many more photos in the gallery: