Japan Trip 2016 – Day 2

Day 2 was the “relax day” I put into our schedule because I wanted to give us a day where we didn’t have to be rushing around, getting in long lines or having stressful time constraints.

If you want to skip straight to the photo gallery go here for all my Day 2 photos!

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A familiar site waking up incredibly early while crazy jetlagged

I woke up before everyone else around 3AM so I just lay in bed until everyone was ready to shower up and get ready for the day. I wanted to stay off my phone as much as possible during the trip, but when you’re waiting around doing nothing there aren’t many options. Somehow it didn’t occur to me to turn on the TV and enjoy all the wonders that Japanese TV holds like endless programming about food, weird reaction videos, game shows and anime.

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Come on everyone. JAPAN!!!

We left the apartment around 7:00-8:00AM. The first thing we did was grab some small things to eat at the 7-Eleven by our apartment. I didn’t take pictures in there, but made sure to point out to everyone the sheer breadth of items you can buy at convenience stores in Japan. They’re even more convenient than bodegas in New York! A croquette sandwich for under $2? Sure, why not!?

JAPAN TRAVEL TIP: Don’t bother doing money exchanges at banks or the airport, you can use most ATM machines at convenience stores in Japan. The only one I wasn’t able to use was at the Lawson which I think wasn’t in the network for my Citbank card.

Our first stop was the Hachiko statue at Shibuya Station. The famous intersection next to it was decidedly not busy at that time of day. Shibuya is incredibly busy at night, but before 10:00AM there’s virtually nothing open. We ate our mini-breakfast by Hachiko, which I quickly realized wasn’t the ideal spot because a lot of people smoke in that area. In Japan there are are designated outdoor smoking areas which people use, but also just a lot of people smoke!

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Thinking of Hachiko’s story always makes me a bit teary eyed 😥

Since most places we wanted to eat or shop at wouldn’t be open until 10:00 we walked to the Meiji Shrine in Harajuku. After living in LA for a couple years I always enjoy being in a lush green environment, and the Meiji Shrine area was beautiful!

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Me taking a photo of them taking this photo.

Something else that was beautiful were its BATHROOMS. Holy crap, I walked in and felt like I had taken a portal into a nice restaurant. Public park bathrooms in the US are usually pretty dismal, but this one looked so brand spanking new I had to take a few pictures.

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I ❤ Japan and its (mostly) pristine bathrooms

I’d never been to the Meiji Shrine before, but there were some plaques written in English that gave a little bit of history. I dutifully took the advice of Roman Mars of the 99 Percent Invisible Podcast: “Always read the plaque.”  Otherwise I never would’ve known that this is the largest wood Torii gate in Japan/The World!

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It’s pretty darn big

After getting to the main shrine we sat down, and took a short break. I enjoyed watching the old men cleaning up leaves that accumulated on the stone path. They had great traditional brooms made of dried branches and twigs.

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Look how neatly he’s set up the row of fallen leaves
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Purification ritual before entering the shrine
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The main shrine area. Huge camphor trees like in My Neighbor Totoro!

It was still pretty early so we picked a path, and walked around some more. It was of course incredibly humid, but the overcast sky meant it didn’t get as hot as it could’ve. We stopped at some vending machines to get drinks.

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Take a note America, not everyone wants sugary drinks

It was around this time that my friends realized how amazing Japanese vending machines are just because of the sheer variety of drinks you can get. The problem with American vending machines is they each only have one type of drink whether it’s soda, juice or water. Japanese vending machines tend to be in groups so there’s always a selection of soda, water, green tea, coffee, energy drinks or juices. Just the option of non-sugary drinks makes them that much better.

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So beautiful, peaceful, and not at all Los Angeles

We circled back to the entrance, and headed towards the shopping areas of Harajuku to find something to eat. On the way we spotted a cat cafe on the 3th floor of a building, but unfortunately it didn’t permit children under 13 ;_;

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First cat cafe sighting! Another time perhaps.

I led everyone to Takeshita Street which is a famous street in Harajuku with lots of food, and a ton of clothing stores with unique Harajuku fashion designs.

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Takeshita Street entrance is a really good place to people watch

We were pretty hungry so we stopped at a cute cafe to have waffles. One of the best things about Japan is how nearly every single restaurant has photos of their food. The photos are always extremely well lit, and look absolutely delicious. In the U.S. if a restaurant has pictures of food it’s probably a cheap diner or fast food place. It’s so convenient that I don’t know why it’s not a more universal thing! I wonder what it’s like being from Japan, coming to the US and not having photos of any of the food at any restaurants.

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This is precisely what it looked like in the photo. Delicious!

I got a delicious tea, waffles with potato salad, almond sprinkles and strawberry sauce. It looked EXACTLY like the photo in the menu, and came on beautiful white dishes. The waffle was delightfully crispy on the outside, and fluffy on the inside.

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I can still remember the taste and mouthfeel. Soooooo good.
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Almond sprinkles, Strawberry sauce and whipped cream. Droooooool.

This was also the first time everyone tried to speak a little bit of Japanese. I wasn’t sure what was the most polite way to point and say something so I just taught everyone to say “This and this please.”

After we finished we walked down Takeshita street, and looked at clothes. I saw some funny T-shirts with cute characters, but the ones I wanted didn’t come in men’s style. There was a place called “Santa Monica Crepes” which was especially amusing since that’s where my friends live.

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I only buy clothes at ACDC Rag.
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Below the sign it said “Come on Sweet Girls”

We also stopped at an H&M so Heather could do some shopping. It was only fair since I knew we’d be going mostly to places that would more appeal to Mark and myself. Speaking of, afterwards we went to Kiddyland! Kiddyland is a store that has a TON of merchandise based on different popular Japanese (and American!) characters which of course included Studio Ghibli!!!

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Studio Ghibli heaven

You’d think previous visits to Japan would’ve prepared for the sheer amount of stuff, but for a good long while I just stood there not knowing what to do. Mark was completely beside himself in awe. The thing about finding Studio Ghibli stuff in Japan is that there’s SO MUCH STUFF that you wouldn’t even THINK to google for. I told Mark to just start shelf by shelf, and look at everything.

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I’ll admit I’m not the biggest Kiki fan, but owning black cats has changed the appeal.

I ended up getting an amazing Laputa business card holder, a Totoro hand fan, and also a handkerchief to help me through the humid weather.

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I got the last one in stock!
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If I’m going to have a hand fan, of COURSE it’s going to have Totoro on it.

JAPAN TRAVEL TIP: In the Summer it’s good to have a fan, and also at least one handkerchief. A lot of public bathrooms don’t have paper towels, so people carry handkerchiefs to dry their hands. Just stand outside any public restroom, and you’ll see a litany of people drying their hands on the way out.

After spending what felt like hours at Kiddyland we went back to Takeshita Street to eat lunch at La Pausa which had Japanese style Italian food. I got a spaghetti dish with salmon and a cream sauce. The other thing I love about eating in Japan is the portions are always well sized, and I never feel like a gross lump after I finish eating. Portion sizes in the U.S. can be disgustingly huge, and stuff you to the seams.

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Simple and delicious!

We walked back to Shibuya to drop off our stuff and take a short break before going to Tokyu Hands!

Tokyu Hands is an amazing department store in Shibuya that has just about anything and everything you need for anything! You can buy all sorts of crafty stuff, luggage, housewares, cooking stuff, pet stuff, hardware, toys, and pretty much anything you could imagine. It has a unique layout where the building is divided into thirds that are connected by short stairways that zig zag back and forth.

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For those times it’s difficult to put in eyedrops. Also, they put faces on it because OF COURSE THEY DID

I wanted to get some cooking stuff because Japan has a knack for making little things that have very specific use cases, but are very well designed. I got a little sink-mounted stand for aspatula or cooking instrument, and also a scoop/sifter. I also couldn’t resist getting a few Ghibli plush that I spotted in the toy department. Mark got a battery powered personal fan that you can wear around your neck.

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Kitchen utensil stand, so you don’t get surfaces messy
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Scoop with the spoon, close it up and sift away!
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I couldn’t resist these plushes

We finished off the day with dinner at a curry place. I got a “Keema curry” which I’d never heard of. I had to look it up later to find out what was in it, but it was something different than usual Japanese curry I’ve eaten.

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Keema Curry

Everyone was pretty tired after dinner, but Heather and I went out into Shibuya while Marked looked after JL.

We found a pub close to Shibuya station where we tried out some Japanese whiskys, and also went to the Starbucks that overlooked the Shibuya intersection. This is one of the best ways to get a bird’s eye view of everyone crossing at the same time, so there are always plenty of people there to watch and/or take photos.

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Just a bit more exploring before bed

The next day we were going bright and early to Tsukiji Fish Market for the best sushi ever!

On to day 3!

 

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