I saw so so much yesterday with my friends Maiko and Gabrielle and wanted to write it all down before my brain losesa the detail and order of things.
First up was Fuji Sun at Gallery 5610 by photographer Taishi Hirokawa. The show wowed me as I have great respect for Fuji and a love for all mountains, but I had the privilege of seeing Maiko’s baby Skye stand for the very first time.
My favourite piece at Fuji Sun
“Alas, poor Yorick! I knew him, Horatio, a fellow of infinite jest, of most excellent fancy.”
On the way to our second gallery in Omotesando we spotted my dream home.
This Shiba and Saru Painting was a gift for Maiko and Skye Chan as it represents their Astrological Signs.
Skye Chan is so photogenic. I took this little beauty at 246 Commune, an amazing little food cart space.
We also stopped off at Tokyo Cultuart by Beams to see Yugo’s “Girls”, but I didn’t get a picture. Afterwards we scooted over to one of my favourite spots, B-Side Label to snag some more stickers!!!! Once again, the shop girls were filled with exuberance and joy and kindness and left me wondering how they always maintain it at that level.
Tokyo Cultuart by Beams mural in Harajuku.
Gabrielle and I said farewell to Maiko and began our walk to my favourite coffee shop, but opted instead to check out an incredible garden cafe just next door. We had homemade ginger lemonade and ginger ale and a dessert that neither of us can recall the name of.
When I was last in Tokyo (this Spring) I had a half day all alone and I walked from Shinjuku through Yoyogi to Harajuku. It instantly became my favorite walk. I re-created it with Gabrielle in reverse yesterday. The walk takes you over a huge curved overpass, up a winding street littered with beautiful apartment buildings and fancy department stores. It curves under traintracks and through Yoyogi Park to Meiji Shrine. (Torii gate pictured above) We doubled back through Yoyogi Park to the winding road past a really cool Loréal corporate office building and Yoyogi station. And then we came to Shinjuku and my favourite hotel…
At this point my friend and I had barking dog feet, so we took a breather in the lobby of Century New Southern Hotel. This is the panoramic view from the 20th floor lobby.
After our refresher we jetted off in search of Hanazono Shrine because I remembered enjoying the summer festivals there last summer. The party was in full swing with Taiko drumming and everyone dancing. We stood mesmerized, especially…
When this amazing woman above started drumming. She seemed so powerful and fearless and I liked her Taiko skills best. After the drumming and dancing we hit the food stands and got bacon wrapped herbed cheese and giant mushrooms on sticks, but the food party was just beginning.
As I like to use Yoyogi station instead of Shinjuku we walked back towards that stop. On the way we spotted a couple packed curry and noodle houses, but down one alley stood this beautiful beacon and we did’nt even need to look at the menu to realize we found Nirvana. I had the best bowl of udon in my life filled with things I did and didn’t recognize. The noodle boss was sweet and handsome and Gabby got a free upgrade in size and her noodle bowl was the size of a German Sheppard. And we headed back to Bukuro with full hearts and bellies. The end.
It seems as though I will be returning to Japan each year with my college friend Kelly. I am currently smack dab in the middle of our second trip and this time we are squeezing much more in and staying a bit longer.
Day one was a half day, (if that) but we managed to settle in and head straight out to Shibuya and our beloved arcades. We also snagged some Om-Rice. Rice omlettes are one of my favorite things and I never get them at home. Day two found us heading to Ikibukuro to check out an Ace (One Piece) Popup shop in the P Parco shopping mall. Kelly also snagged some goods at the Evangelian shop while I walked around drooling over sweatshorts of all things. My hiking and recent workouts have gifted me with better legs and I may have only packed shorts and also picked up several new pairs while here. Seriously, there are shorts everywhere in our hotel room.
Next, we headed to Roppongi (my first time there as last time we sort of avoided the potential for fellow American sightings) and to the Studio Ghibli exhibit. It was gorgeous, but very, very jam packed with people. After a look around we headed up to the roof for a glorious 360 degree skyline view that I never thought I’d have the chance to take in and to top it off, no one else was there!
We followed this up with a pile of suck in the form of hedgehogs. I was told hedgehogs were cute and not porcupine rats. I pricked my finger, got a rash and my friend got bit, all while following the hedgehog holding rules. The little buggers are well taken care of, but their nocturnal nature combined with being over-stimlated might have worked against us. We high-tailed it out of there in 15 minutes and ten of those were spent frantically washing our arms.
Day three became another glorious day spent exhalting that which brought us closer together and part of why we come to Japan – One Piece! We went to The Tokyo One Piece Tower theme park and played some games, watched an updated live show and pigged out on campy, but amazing themed food! I had a sugar headache, but it was worth it.
Following a full day at the tower and after a brief rest – MIDNIGHT PREMIERE SHOWING OF THE ONE PIECE FILM GOLD MOVIE!! We watched without English subtitles, but fully understood and loved it the same. Also, experiencing a movie with a full theater with mostly only Japanese people is the best thing you could do for yourself. You see, they are there to watch the film and want to respect it and pay attention to it and want to respect your enjoyment of it as well. Imagine!
Day 4 found us rushing off to Harajuku for giggly pancakes after two friends on social media demanded that I go. They were amazing. Amazing. And pancakes aren’t really my thing. We chatted up some cute gay boys next to us and headed out for more shopping.
Cafe Gram’s specialty pancakes delight the senses.
After a full day spent mostly shopping and eating I went for a run around the goverment buildings in Shinjuku. I wasn’t entriely sure that I was allowed to be there, so I tread carefully and even ran slowly by some security guards, but they were unfazed. The early evening colors and the light rain had me on cloud nine and just as I was about to head home a large group of runners waved for me to join them. I was exhausted, but it felt cool, so I kept up with them for a bit before heading home with the biggest, dopiest grin on my face.
Day 5 – off to Odaiba! Kelly heard tell of a new Jump Shop as well as a One Piece attraction at Summer Festival, and we found both. Kelly got me a Sanji shirt and herself and her friends some awesome treats before we headed over to the Summer Festival. The One Piece stuff was cool, but the DMM Planets exhibit by TeamLab was incredible! You take your shoes off to enter and are given a waterproof pouch for your phone. At this point I had no idea what to expect, but was already so hype. We walked through some water to cleanse our feet before jumping into a black room with a bean bag-like floor. Immediately people were laughing and hopping around and it was like being a little kid again. After the black room came a room with mirrored floors and walls and thousands upon thousands of fiber optic light strands. They surround you and pulse with light to the beats of beautiful, almost other-worldly music and sounds. We enjoyed this for quite some time before heading through more dark hallways and to helpful staff ensuring that our pants are rolled up enough as we entered milky, knee-deep waters alive with colorful light koi that burst into flowers when you touch them. Like, What? Insane and beautiful. At this point I thought this must be the finalé so I lingered because I didn’t want it to end, but no! There was one more room! Another mirrored floor sits below a mirrored dome alive with falling plants and flower petals. The room seems to spin as I Iie on the floor against a kidney shaped bean bag. I’ve reached Nirvana.
At this point I get a little fuzzy. I know that I convinced Kelly to get off at the WRONG Shibuya stop and her gps is telling us conflicting things, but we find our way through a really cool Shibuya neighborhood that is much more quaint than the Shibuya I know, but it’s awesome and I like being lost. I also know that we went to see One Piece Film Gold again and met an awesome French girl, but it had subtitles and the Chinese and American audience was much louder. We went to Penguin park and to a Toy Fair on our last day and got to see all kinds of toys that will be released in the coming year. Honestly both of us lost our minds over some of the reveals, but I’ll spare you those details and leave you with images of my favorites.
That’s all for now. Part II will talk about Kyoto and Osaka and Part III will focus on my final days back in Tokyo.