Posted by Erik W on Jun 1, 2012 4:40 PM
Day four was somewhat a relaxing day. We hit up Shibuya (渋谷区), the big shopping district in Tokyo.
I wanted to make sure I got to visit the huge hobby stores, so the first couple places we visited was The Loft (株式会社ロフト) [Map] and Tokyu Hands (東急ハンズ) [Map]. Tokyu Hands was my favorite. It's a hobbyist's dream. Over 8 floors of woodworking supplies, sewing and jewelry supplies, drawing supplies, model train supplies (pictured below), etc. They also had demonstrations going on and stuff too.
Interesting side note: In Japan, "Where's Waldo?" is "Where's Wally?". Not sure why.
We wandered around to a few other stores as well, like the two-story Apple Store. It's worth noting that all the stores in this area were huge. Between the smaller footprint available and the fact that these were the flagship stores for the area, many stores were 6, 7, 8 floors, like this Forever 21:
We ate lunch at this very small Ramen restaurant in an alley. I do not recall it's name. By small I mean, the size of a bedroom, with seating for probably 8. We ordered our meal via a vending machine, which gave us a ticket to give to the cook. It was probably the only meal that I didn't enjoy that much, and my stomach felt a bit uneasy the rest of the day.
At night, we went to the two-story Starbucks overlooking the Shibuya Scramble Crossing. [Map] It's the busiest intersection in the world. There are so many pedestrians, traffic is stopped in all directions and everyone goes at once.
At one side of the crossing is a statue of Hachikō (ハチ公), a famous dog who's story goes like this:
In 1924, Hidesaburō Ueno, a professor in the agriculture department at the University of Tokyo, took in Hachikō, a golden brown Akita, as a pet. During his owner's life, Hachikō greeted him at the end of each day at the nearby Shibuya Station. The pair continued their daily routine until May 1925, when Professor Ueno did not return. The professor had suffered from a cerebral hemorrhage and died, never returning to the train station where Hachikō was waiting. Every day for the next nine years the dog waited at Shibuya station.
After a long day of checking out all the shops, we headed home, passing this funny sign in the train station on the way back:
Despite being very tourist-ey, and the fact that it was raining that day, I really wanted to go to Senso-ji Temple (金龍山浅草寺) [Map] Tokyo's oldest temple.
At the front of the grounds is the Kaminarimon, or "thunder gate", featuring a large lantern and statues:
Once you pass through the gate, on the way to the temple you pass a line of shops and traditional food, several blocks long, very much aimed at tourists. They were fun to browse nevertheless:
On the way to the temple we also passed a Omikuji Stall, in which you shake a cylinder full of sticks, each one bearing a number, and then take the fortune from the appropriate drawer. Mine was pretty good :)
The temple itself was very beautiful, but they asked not to take photos of the inside, so I didn't.
Surrounding the temple were also some beautiful gardens:
For lunch we went to this restaurant nearby where I had katsudon (カツ丼), a dish involving rice topped with deep fried pork, egg, and some vegetables. It's apparently a pretty popular dish, so I wanted to give it a try. The flavors were really good, but the combination of textures was weird... kinda soggy. I'm not sure if it was how my particular dish was prepared, or if it's normally like that.
Afterwards we stopped at a couple more shops:
It was the first time out in Japan when it was raining, and we were obviously carrying around umbrellas. The awkward thing is always what to do with them when you're entering a store or something. Luckily in Japan they have a solution: at the entrance of all the stores, was a box with a hole in the top you put your umbrella in, then you pulled it forward, and your umbrella would come out wrapped in a bag. Cool huh?
Then we headed to Shinjuku to visit one of my friend's friends. Shinjuku has a particularly large and spansive underground station. Which normally is a bit overwhelming, but was particularly nice we could walk a long distance underground out of the rain:
Before we got there, we stopped at a 7&i, the Japanese version of 7-11 convenience stores. They're practically everywhere. I came across this strawberry sandwich, which I decided not to get, and noticed that all the cans of beer and soda had braille on the top to distinguish them for the blind. They also have little dips under the tab so you can open them easier. Brilliant!
We then got to my friend's friend's place, and had a fun evening of games and drinks. Despite the language barrier between me and a few of his Japanese friends, I had a lot of fun.