Family in Japan 02: Tokyo (part 1)

My mother was still sick at the beginning of the Tokyo leg of our journey, so it was a little slow off the ground. We left Matsuyama kind of late (at noon), so we didn’t get to our Ikebukuro hotel until after seven, at which point my sister and I just went out for food while our mum rested. So Monday was kind of a dead day. Also a stressful day for me because I was sort of in charge of everything and that’s a lot of responsibility.

Me and my sister in Ikebukuro (on Tuesday).

Moving on to Tuesday, then, we bopped around Ikebukuro in the morning, went into Seibu (bought nothing, of course, because Seibu is crazy expensive), checked out some of the cheaper shops (I bought a bracelet and a headband), and were crushed in the constant stream of people. My family was a little overwhelmed because Ikebukuro is so crowded and busy all the time, but it was still nice. I really like that part of Tokyo. It isn’t as famous among foreigners as other wards, but it has pretty much everything.

In the afternoon, we went out to Saitama to see my host family from when I was in JSP, but it was kind of disastrous because my mum’s stomach was still rebelling. They were really happy to meet her, and appreciated the visit, but it wasn’t as enjoyable as it should have been. If I manage to get the family in Japan again, we’ll give it another shot.

On the way to the Meiji Shrine.

Wednesday ended up being our biggest Tokyo day, though I will talk about what went down the other two days, as well, in the upcoming posts. Anyway, our first stop was Harajuku, which I’m actually not massively keen on, but my sister wanted to go and it’s sort of somewhere you should see in Tokyo. But, since we got there before the shops opened, we walked to the Meiji Shrine first to check it out. It was a lovely, sunny day and we took it pretty easy walking through the woodsy park that leads to the shrine. It wasn’t that busy, really, though there were two wedding parties there. One was in-progress, doing the formal procession (Shinto-style, with the kimono and red parasol and everything), the other was, I think, finished because they were getting professional portraits taken.

Such a beautiful day.

At the shrine, we looked around for a bit, I took a few pictures, and then we headed back to shop. They didn’t want to wait around until the stores got too crowded (not that being there right when the doors open actually helps in Harajuku), and I’d been to the shrine before, so that was fine by me. My sister wanted something Gothic Lolita, which is not my style at all, but she succeeded at Body Line. Body Line is basically a knock-off store, cheap and not very high-quality, but she was on a budget and it was the look she wanted, so she was happy and we were able to flee the crowds before succumbing to pedestrian road rage. Seriously, one of my biggest problems with Harajuku is how packed in you feel. It’s too small and tight for the volume of traffic, even compared to other parts of Tokyo. I feel way less claustrophobic in Shibuya or Shinjuku or Ikebukuro. It’s also not as cheap and edgy as people think it is; I think that image is kind of outdated now. My family thought the same thing: Harajuku as it’s described in travel guides, and the Harajuku you experience when you go, don’t really match.

After escaping the horrendous crowds of Takeshita Dori, we went to Shibuya. I ended up going back to Shibuya alone Friday evening to go to 109 and shop (I’m not Gal, nor do I aspire to be, but I wear some Gal brands), but my mum wanted to see the famous scramble crossing and whatnot. We also ate some of the most delicious Italian food ever. It was so good. Sinfully rich and probably horrifically unhealthy, but it was worth it. That pasta, man, such good stuff.

Then we were off on our most ill-fated venture: the gardens of the imperial palace.

This is as close as we got.

Clearly, this just wasn’t meant to be because we tried twice and failed both times. When we got there on Wednesday, it was about ten minutes to five. Guess when they close the gates for the night? Five. Apparently we aren’t very on top of things because it honestly never occurred to any of us to, you know, check that sort of thing. We found directions to get there, on the internet, but didn’t look at the open hours. Yeah, I know, it was dumb.

When we went back on Friday morning? They were closed for the day. Seriously.

In closing, this is on the sidewalk in Ikebukuro and I thought it was cute. I don’t know what it’s for, but, you know, I don’t even care.

So, yes, that was Wednesday! It was a good day, if exhausting. Coming up next: Tokyo Disney, more Tokyo general, and then I’ll be wrapping things up with Kansai. We covered a lot of ground in the 12 days they were here.

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