Monday, April 30, 2012

A Day In Tokyo: Harajuku and Meiji Shrine

After my friend and I were done in Odaiba, we got back on the train and made our way to Harajuku Station.  Our plan was to make our way down Takeshita Street, check out Omotesando Hills and finish with Meiji Shrine which is basically right next to the station (also on the list was to find somewhere to eat along the way).  I had been to Takeshita Street once a few weeks prior but I didn't have time to walk down the whole thing. That last time had been in the afternoon on a Friday so the street was aleady packed, but this time it was slightly before noon on a Tuesday which allowed for a more leisurely stroll down this Harajuku hot spot.  For a second we considered getting crepes at the infamous Marion Crepes since there was no line (which is a rare event) but we had just had soft serve ice cream back at Odaiba and also we were a little overwhelmed by all the choices at Marion Crepes. 

We continued down Takeshita Street and we also hit Cat Street where we found some really cool shops (one of them had tons of hats).  Then we went into Omotesando Hills where I thought perhaps we could find a place to have lunch. At the time, I didn't know that Omotesando Hills was a super upscale mall, but I soon found out.  Architecturally, it's really cool but shopping-wise, I can't really say....I mean, I don't think I could even afford to buy truffles from the French chocolate store. We took a quick stroll around the top floor where all the restaurants were located but as we didn't feel like spending a small fortune on lunch, we decided to walk around the area and find someplace else.  I think it was fate that as we happened to be crossing a street, I turned my head and recognized the sign for Ichiran Ramen. There were no ifs ands or buts about it, we headed straight there.  My friend loved the "cubicle eating" experience and this time around, since I knew what to expect, I was a bit more adventurous with the customization of my ramen.  In any case, it totally hit the spot.

The great thing about ramen is that even though you're full, it's a pleasant full (not a disgusting I want to vomit kind of full).  It was already late in the afternoon so we made our way to Meiji Shrine which was just a short ways up the road.  Meiji Jingu is a Shinto shrine dedicated to Emperor Meiji and Empress Shoken. It was originally established in 1920 but the original shrine buildings burnt down in 1945.  The buildings that exist today were built in approximately 1958 (see their website for more info on the shrine at Meiji Jingu Website).  The shrine is located in a forest that covers approximately 175 acres and includes over 120,000 trees which were donated by people from all over Japan when the shrine was first established.  It is also consistently listed as one of the top spots to visit in Tokyo, so there is generally always a good amount of foot traffic in and out of the shrine grounds.

Literally as soon as we passed through the Torii gate (the main entrance) of the shrine, there was this really loud rumbling sound which turned out to be thunder.  We looked up and the skies had really darkened so we figured we should probably hurry it up.  Usually visitors come here to take a leisurely stroll through the grounds but the skies were dark and depressing and we didn't want to get caught in the rain so we did a quick tour of the grounds.  I had taken Japanese History in college which was, needless to say, a long time ago, but my memory was definitely refreshed as I read the information they had posted around the grounds on Emperor Meiji and the path the country took during his time as emperor (i.e., the Meiji Restoration).  We also got to see a wedding party right after they finished their ceremony, so that was pretty cool.  I ended my trip to Meiji Jingu by purchasing some charms and then practically sprinting back toward the exit (and Harajuku Station) just as the rain started coming down.

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