Monday, February 4, 2013

The Big City - Part 1

We made our first trip into the big city, Tokyo!  I bet it takes us our whole three years in country to explore this city, and I'm pretty sure we won't even see it all!  Wow!  BIG!!!

With our bag packed with snacks, water, LeapPads for the kids, maps, and a list of things to see, we headed to the Yokosuka-Chuo Station around 0930.  We hopped on the Keikyu Main Line Rapid Express at 1008 and set off on our way.  The first ride, roughly 45 minutes, went from Yokosuka to Shinagawa, where we got onto the JR Yamanote Line (outer loop), and rode a couple stations until we arrived at the Harajuku station a little after 1100 and the fare totaling around 980 Yen.

Entrance to Meiji Jingu
Here is where I learned my second lesson for this trip...(the first lesson - don't get separated from Kris on the train, especially since I wasn't sure which station to get off at and I had no wifi connection to get ahold of him on the phone)...bring better maps!  I found several maps online and printed a couple, but they weren't sufficient enough.  Next time, I need to make sure I know which direction to go once we leave the train station.  So, after a few minutes of looking at the maps we brought and the (Japanese) map outside the station, we figured out which direction to go.  Our first destination...the Meiji Shrine.

This is an imperial shrine built by the government and dedicated to the deified spirits of Emperor Meiji (1867-1912) and Empress Shoken.  Emperor Meiji was the first emperor of modern Japan....it was a combination of political and military efforts between Emperor Komei (Emperor Meiji's father) and Emperor Meiji that ended the Shogun rule in Japan and moved the country forward in respect to Western advances.  He was the first emperor to wear Western style clothes and promoted trade and education with outside countries.

It took about 10 minutes or so to walk from the entrance at Harajuku Station to the main shrine complex where Emperor Meiji is enshrined.   In the picture below of the torii:  gate marking the entrance to a shrine, you can see the three gold chrysanthemums across the horizontal board.  That is the Meiji family crest, that's how you know this is an imperial shrine.

 It was a nice walk under a beautiful canopy of trees.  Our only issue was keeping the kids from kicking the rocks and shuffling their feet in the dirt...makes for a dusty trek.  Garytt also had a very hard time not picking up every stick he saw and "hi-ya" the air all around him, whether there were people around or not!

Several yards into the walkway we came across the barrels in the first picture to the left and then the second picture of more barrels.  The sign beside them explained that the white barrels are full of sake and wrapped in straw.  Every year the Meiji Jingu Nationwide Sake Brewers Association makes an offering of a barrel of sake to the Emperor Meiji and Empress Shoken, these barrels are placed here as a showing of gratitude to the brewers who have donated their sake.  The brown barrels have been offered by wineries of Bourgogne in France as a gift toward the spirit of world peace and with a prayer that "France and Japan will enjoy many more fruitful years of friendship."


Main complex where the Emperor and Empress are enshrined

Torii:  gate marking entrance to shrine.
Torii with shrine building behind it and then the city buildings rising in the distance.
  We were lucky enough to catch the last few minutes of a wedding picture session.  The kimonos the ladies were wearing were fabulous!!  It got chaotic after I took this shot and people were in and out of my shots, so I didn't get good pictures of the ladies, or the bride (I also forgot to take pictures as I was gaping at the beautiful bride!)

Mackenzie loved the lady in the peach kimono.  The lady in the black kimono in the back has a beautiful fan on the bottom of her dress.



From here, we headed on to Yoyogi Park.   This park is one of the largest parks in Tokyo with lots of different kinds of trees.  In 1910, this was the site of the first powered flight in Japan.  And, in this is the site of Olympic Village for the 1964 games.

Map of Yoyogi Park.  We entered at Harajuku Gate and walked straight ahead to the big fountains.  From there, we went to the West Gate then decided we'd walk on the zig zag path to the Cradle of Airplanes (along the way we passed a tent city, which looked like permanent homeless shelters).  From here we exited through the South Gate, crossed the street and walked through the Olympic buildings - of which I couldn't get a good shot of the cool buildings because of the sporting nets all over the place.

Large billed crow sitting on the fountain nozzle.
Crape Myrtle. 

Garytt tried speaking to the birds.
 We took quite a long walk through the park.  We were hoping to see the weird people sightings we were told about, but maybe it was too cool (50 degrees) or maybe it was too early, it was just normal people.  I've heard that kids get dressed up in 50's attire (poodle skirts, leather pants and jackets...I pictured outfits from Grease) and they play 50's music and hang out all day at this park.  We just saw moms and dads and kids flying kites, having picnics and playing soccer.  We saw lots of people running, jogging, walking, and riding bikes.  We saw lots of different dogs...big dogs, little dogs, black and white dogs....

 On our walk we found a huge rose garden, nothing in bloom, of course.  Cherry trees are everywhere and the fountains in the middle of the park are probably pretty awesome when they are going.  They only sprayed a few inches out of their spouts while we were there.  Enough for the crows to get a drink.






Kris bought a sausage from a street vendor.  It looked yummy, but...ewwww....Garytt, the boy who will try anything, ate at least half of the foot long thing-on-a-stick.
First flight memorial.
 
Tokyo Olympic Stadium.  It was hard to get a good shot of this building because of all the soccer nets around the city.  Maybe next time we can walk around the block a little more, or find another bridge in the area to get another view. 

We left Yoyogi Park and headed for Shibuya Station.  We got off the train and headed out in search of something to eat.  What great restaurant did we try out??  TGI Fridays!  Geesh!  But, we needed to find something that we were sure the kids (read:  Mackenzie, the picky eater) would eat, so that we could continue to tour the city with everyone in good spirits.  The kids had chicken strips and fries and Kris and I split two appetizers.  Okay, now we set off for the famous intersection!

Shibuya is famous for its very busy train station, over 1 billion people per year - the second busiest station in the world.  And, this train station along with a dog named Hachiko, is a very famous story where a loyal dog waited every day for 12 years at the station for his master, who had died.  There is a statue of Hachiko at the station, but we didn't find it.

We walked aimlessly for a few blocks before we figured out which direction to go.  We did find a Disney store.  I'm surprised we made it out of there without spending one Yen.  Even though I really wanted to...

Entrance to the building. 
 The first floor had iPhone covers, keychains, mugs and small trinkets.  After a twisty walk up the spiral staircase, we found more mugs, a ticket counter for Tokyo Disney, a Winnie-the-Pooh section-the old timey kind of Pooh Bear, my favorite!

We found Rapunzel and Belle blankets and stuffed Perry's.  Then, up more twisty stairs (where Tinkerbell sat at the very top) on the third floor we found the best place!!!  Toy Story and Cars for Garytt and Princesses for Mackenzie!  There were dresses, shoes, crowns, purses, beautiful dolls, Buzz PJs, tons of Cars sets...I have to save some money and get back to that store!

After the Disney store, we arrived at Shibuya Crossing and waited amongst the mass of people for those little green-man lights to tell us to cross.  And, when it changed green...WOW!  People came from everywhere!  The intersection turned into a huge jumble of people.  In all the craziness, Garytt lost his shoe!  I grabbed it, Kris picked him up and we ran to the curb.  Ha ha!  We put the boy's shoe back on and then stood back just to watch the organized chaos wait, then walk, then wait, then walk!  We saw some pretty interesting outfits amongst the kids walking around.

Shibuya, waiting for the cars to stop

Mackenzie, after successfully crossing

WOW!  All those people!!!

From Shibuya, we decided to go back to Harajuku and look at the shopping streets.  The first one we came to, just outside of Shibuya Station, was Takeshita Dori (Takeshita street).  This is a 400 meter long shopping road.  There were a lot of clothing stores, we saw a three story 100 Yen shop!


Takeshita Dori....it's hard to see, but it's a solid form of people from entrance to exit.  It moved pretty easily up and down the street.  There were only a couple places where people got a little pushy and Mackenzie got whacked in the forehead by a shopping bag...and her super-sensitive highness laughed about it!  I guess she was just as happy about the all the stores to shop in as I was...nothing was going to get her down!  :)


We even found Waldo!!
I think we found our president here too...
 There were all kinds of boot shops, scarf shops, hat shops, crepe shops (smelled sooooo yummmyyyyy), and gourmet popcorn shops.  We didn't stop at the food shops because the lines went on forever!  At the end of Takeshita Dori we made a right onto Omotesando Dori (we should have made a left because that's where the stores I wanted to go were....Kiddy Land, with a Snoopy land inside it and a Hello Kitty land inside).  But, on our way back to the station we passed some pretty neat, and tall, stores.

Nike Store - three story Nike store, with shoes displayed in the windows.

Four story Forever 21

After we hopped on the train at Shibuya, then changed over to the Keikyo Line at Shinagawa, we were headed home.  It didn't take long for the boy to fall asleep.  It took Mackenzie a little longer, but she did pass out.  She had a spasm in her sleep where she kicked the guy standing in front of us in the knee and plopped her arm down on the lap of the lady sleeping next to us (everyone sleeps on the train, we even saw a lady almost fall on the floor because she was falling asleep standing up).