The time has come to finally say good bye to Japan. Staying in this wonderful country and saying good bye to it was a bittersweet moment. I had grown to love the country, all its quirks, its intrigue, and most definitely its allure. With only one full day left before our departure, we decided to focus on only one part of Tokyo: Shibuya and Harajuku.
Our day started early with what was suppose to be a tour of the Imperial Gardens in Chiyoda, unfortunately I wasn’t able to check the schedule of the gardens to see if it was closed or open on that day. With little else, we made our way to Shibuya to meet up with Tricia’s aunt for lunch. Over the past few days I have started getting used to traveling via train and I found Tokyo’s rail system very challenging. Unlike the rail lines of Kyoto and Osaka, where there were only 2-3 lines servicing the city, Tokyo’s was a hodgepodge of overlapping rail lines. They bisected, intersected, went this way and that, and if you aren’t paying attention you might actually get lost, which nearly happened to us.
With my wits at an end, we finally made it to Shibuya and its famous crossing. Our first stop? Exit number 8 to see the famous Hachiko statue. The moment we exited the station, we were greeted by a cacophony of tourists milling around the statue. Here I was expecting the statue to be barren and empty, but nope I was wrong. There was a line of tourists who wanted to have their pictures taken with the statue. Just beside it, the famous crossing. You can just imagine how many people were there. Since we were early, we got in line and waited, and the wait wasn’t so bad. Barely 5 minutes in it, we were at the front and ready with our cameras. A minute after, we had our solo and group pictures taken. One more check off the tourist trap bucket list and a quick sighting of Tricia’s tita and we were off to lunch.
After lunch, we were left to our own devices, I crossed Shibuya twice and I would have to say that the sea of people was overwhelming. It’s true that the videos and pictures I’ve seen do not do it justice. Being in that pack as we made our way from one end to the other made me wonder how people could manage to stop in the middle of the crossing and get their pictures taken. Then again, the crossing in itself is also a mystery to me, just like so many things in Japan.
Another experience satisfied, we continued our shopping and moved on to our next destination. Originally we were supposed to go to Yoyogi Park and view the Sakura blooming. In my tired and needing-a-siesta state, we totally missed our bus stop and ended somewhere. We were saved by the sign that pointed to Yoyogi and just walked on from there. When we finally reached what looked like Yoyogi was actually the entrance to the Meiji Shrine.
Yes that Meiji, the Meiji you know, read, and watched either in Samurai X or in The Last Samurai. In our bid to reach Yoyogi Park we had stumbled upon the shrine of the emperor who led Japan to modernity. But it wasn’t that fact that made me excited, it was seeing the huge torii gate that beckoned us to explore further. Beyond the torii gate was a long avenue lined with trees as high as the eye could see.
We were in a forest that was vast and I could barely see the sky, we walked on cobbled stones and reached a crossroads to enter the shrine or continue forging on. I had to ask permission from Tricia and Luisa if we could take a detour to see the emperor and empress’ shrine. I didn’t go inside anymore given the temperament of the weather and also because I was nearly temples out already from Kyoto and Osaka. Even from a distance, the shrine looked grand and befitting an emperor and empress, but I’ll leave that for another day and time.
Mocha Cat Cafe
Once we exited Meiji Shrine, we spotted a cat cafe just across the shrine. With only a few hours left in our Tokyo adventure, it was a no-brainer that we try out this unique Japanese dining experience. I’ve always heard about these places, where you get to spend long hours playing with various breeds of cats. Before entering the cafe, we were asked to remove our shoes, wear the house sandals that were provided, sanitize our hands, and place our bags and other belongings inside a locker.
Inside the cafe, there were cats everywhere, some were inside boxes, some inside baskets, and others hanging on platforms scattered all over the places. At that time, they were all bumming everywhere, lazily gazing up when we petted them, or just ambling around moving from ones corner to the next. When it seemed like we were not getting anywhere with the cats, it was time to take advantage of the cafe’s drink-all-you-can. We drank ourselves silly and I took a nap.
When everything was said and done, we called it a day and headed out to another part of Tokyo with the last few rays of the sun bowing out to the oncoming rain. Filled with sugary drinks, we stepped out into the steadily pouring rain and started walking to Tokyo’s trendiest district: Harajuku.
Due to the rains, I neither saw hide, hair, spiky sword, leather armor, chain mail, or the shiniest of lipsticks in Harajuku. There were no cosplayers in sight and everyone retreated, while we walked around the district taking in the numerous stores and quirky shops here and there. Because it was our last day, we decided to look for a conveyor sushi belt restaurant. Unfortunately we weren’t able to find one, instead we settled for a Genki Sushi-type restaurant called Sushi-Nova. For the first time in this entire trip, I had sushi and boy their sushi was good. Soft, satisfyingly good, and amazingly light. For about ¥1,100 or Php. 550, I had maybe five or six plates of sushi, each plate had around 4 or 5 pieces in it.
With our stomachs full, our legs tired from all the walking, and our bags filled with new stuff, we said good bye to Harajuku and Tokyo and made our way back to Motosumiyoshi, where we would stay for the night. Even though we only stayed in Tokyo for a full day, it was really nice seeing the differences among the three cities. For an express experiences, I think we were able to cover the most important parts of the two districts and with the really short stay, we now have even more reasons to come back and visit. Next time, I’ll make sure to drop by the Tintin Store, see Tsukiji Market, visit the Ghibli Museum, and go to most of the history museums in the city. For now, it’s time to close the chapter on this leg of the tour and remember all the fond memories I have of the place.