Yoyogi Park, Meiji Shrine, Harajuku

After my failed visit to the pop-up cafe for Little Twin Stars, I had lunch at an Omelette Souffle Restaurant ふんわり卵 http://www.funwari-tamago.com/ in Shibuya. As it was a small restaurant, it was pretty comfortable to dine alone. They didn’t have an english menu so I ordered by pointing the pictures. The food here was pretty decent and the omelette souffle (Inside was lagsane) looks cute when it’s puff up. It was a pity that the souffle dessert failed to rise.

After my meal, I decided to walk to Meiji Shrine in an attempt to digest my lunch. Thankfully, the weather was not sunny (super humid) and my skin felt like it was constantly drenched with vapour/sweat.

At the turn of NHK Broadcasting Centre where there were a group of people having some sort of silent street protests, I spotted a flea market across the road and went in with the hope of discovering some cool things. There were many interesting items but most were antiques or display items which I couldn’t convince myself to buy.

As I walked on, the more organized tents became floor sales. Not sure if these store owners had to pay rent for using the space (like in Singapore) or maybe they just bring a cloth and display their goods for free. Towards the end of the flea, there was an area filled with food trucks. It somewhat looks like a carnival, selling various country cuisines (think Thai, Taiwanese food). Didn’t bought anything to try as my stomach couldn’t take it any more food =/

  

On the other side, there was a stage performance by 4 girls enthusiastically dancing and singing to lively hits. It wasn’t very crowded but there was a contingent of males with DSLRs/ video cameras and a small group of fan “boys/uncles” cheering and holding banners. I don’t get it, I can’t get it but.. I guess this is Japan.

At the end of the pathway, there was an overhead bridge which brought me into Yoyogi Park. On the map, Yoyogi Park was right beside Meiji Shrine and I had this crazy idea that I could just keep walking straight and reach Meiji Shrine eventually. Thus, I entered Yoyogi Park, even though it was not part of my original plan.

Yoyogi Park is a very interesting place to be, especially on a Saturday afternoon. There were many different groups of people were in the park for varying reasons:

1. Appreciating the flowers – blooming roses which smells as good as they look.


2. Busking and sharing their passion. This guy infused painting, dance and music into a (very long) performance. I was staring at him for 3 minutes and there was barely any difference to the painting.

This guy over here could play like more than 10 instruments at the same time; hoping to sell his CDs away.

 

3. This looks like a university activity (think freshman orientation or CCA orientation) whereby a big group of people were playing some sports or having tele-matches in the large green space available (pretty rare in capital cities).

4. Smaller cliques of friends gathering in the park perhaps for a birthday celebration or picnic? (Don’t understand why they can bother dressing so nice when they are going to a park on a wet day. With the amount of puddles and mud, their dress ain’t gonna stay white for long)

5. Practicing music (you can tell that they are practicing and not busking as these people will tend to find a quiet spot within the greens). This 5-piece ensemble was quite amazing. Wanted to walk forward but I was a little shy.

Even if it was just two person, anything is possible too – even a duet between a violin and a guitar.

6. Exercise/training; Saw this mother and 2 sons with a trainer. I’m not 100% certain but it seems like the trainer was teaching them to run and hop/jump.

There was a group of people playing around with a slackline too (balancing on a ribbon tied to two trees). Oh and there was a barricade area for dog run too.

Yoyogi park – Imagine the smell of nature, the smell of rain, the beauty of interactions (human to human), the sound of music, the sound of laughter and fun. I think I spent close to an hour in there, trying to find my way to Meiji temple, ignoring the instructions of Google Maps which directed me to get out of Yoyogi Park, walk along the main road and enter Meiji Shrine. I was somewhat in denial, trying to look for a secret gate which would bring me across.. until I saw this sign: “There are no ways from this park to Meiji Shrine directly.”

Since young, I never like the idea of back-trekking, even at the expense of walking more, but I didn’t have a choice this time round since “my magic gate” or “hole in the fence” could not be found. I had to exit Yoyogi Park, walk along the main road before entering from the Harajuku metro entrance.

The walk to Meiji Shrine (built in 1920, in memory of Emperor Meiji) was lined with tall green trees (providing good shelter from the sun) and rocky footpath (Don’t understand how people can walk the distance with heels). There were multiple Tori gates (kind of lost count on the numbers) along the way and the sighting of each gate made me excited as I thought I was nearing but there were a couple of empty surprises as I was not there yet. The walk felt really long (somewhere between 15 to 25 minutes) or I was simply tired from the night flight.

The wide passageway allows this shrine to cater to large crowds, especially during the festivals.

Sake wall (Not sure if the sake is still inside or if this is just for display).


Finally, the last tori which marks the real entrance to the shrine. Do note that there are multiple entrances to the shrine (Sangubashi/Yoyogi Station) but the most popular one is still the Harajuku Station entrance.

Before entering the shrine, you will be expected to cleanse your hands and mouth. Even though we are not Japanese, it is important that we obey and follow their rituals, respecting the sacredness of this shrine.

Instructions (in 3 languages) of the cleansing steps can be found. Pretty straightforward.

I entered the shrine and proceeded to the main area to throw a coin and pray. If I’m not wrong, Throw your coin first (there was no bell to ring in Meiji Shrine), bow twice, make a wish/prayer, clap twice and bow.

Read more rules from here.

I was lucky to catch a procession of a traditional shinto wedding ceremony whereby a couple and their family/friends walk through the temple. At that moment, I thought I was really lucky but shortly after, I overheard from a tour guide that theses weddings are so popular that they can be held at fifteen minute intervals. Since it was a Saturday, it was easy to witness one.

Similar to the shrines in Kyoto, I wanted to do the fortune-drawing thing. In Kyoto, there were two options, 1 for general luck and the other for love but in Meiji Shrine, there was only one for poem-drawing. Unlike the Kyoto one which tells you like very good, good, bad, very bad luck, this one only gives you a phrase in a poem and a food for thought advice.

My poem was ” If we but recall That we may go astray, We shall be most careful In every trifling act. – Empress Shoken-” The advice which follows was ” It is very easy to make mistakes in all areas of life. So never allow yourself to be hasty or careless, but instead weigh carefully your smallest acts and words.”

For the “luck-fortune” thing, if you receive a bad luck slip, you’re supposed to fold it and tie it in the temple before you leave but if it is a good luck slip, you can keep it with you. In this case, I can’t really tell if the poem signifies good or bad luck. I couldn’t really see anywhere to tie the slip and brought the slip home.

I went on the buy the lucky charm Omamori. Bought a traffic safety and general luck one for myself. Reminded myself time and again not to open the small pouch (I opened it for the one I bought in Kyoto before reading up online) as it is sacred and opening it might be disrespectful and its benefits may be lost.

I did not do the writing on wooden blocks thing as I still feel uncomfortable on writing my wishes out. Maybe next time, when I have something that I wish for really badly.

I took a short-cut and exited the Meiji Shrine by the road for vehicles. It was much shorter and more comfortable without the rocks. I found the road short-cut via the cafe/cultural-centre.

Harajuku Station, looking distinctively different from other stations was built in 1906, in a European style.

 

The most popular street of Harajuku was Takeshita Dori. It is hard to imagine that this huge crowd is probably a norm in this place. I think I only experience such crowds during big events in Singapore (e.g. National Day at city hall area or countdown or chinatown during CNY eve). Anyway, my main purpose here was to eat Calbee Plus.

No space in my stomach for crepes =( I guess this is one of the disadvantages of traveling alone, no one you could share food with.

Finally found Calbee Plus and excited to try freshly fried potato chips!

The queue was somewhat long (about 10+ people ahead of me) and the wait took more than fifteen minutes. I settled for an ice cream + chips + drink meal. I went up to the 2nd floor hoping that there would be seats to rest my tired feet but to my dismay, there were only stand-up tables. The ice cream was not too bad but the chips were a bit too salty and oily for my liking. Worth a try but doubt I‘ll be back for a second try. Nevertheless, I finished everything.

Met my Jap friend in this shop she brought me to shop around the area. We visited LlNE shop, Kiddy Land (bought a couple of items including my 3D crystal puzzles), affordable and quirky lifestyle shop – Flying Tiger (think Muji but it’s a Danish brand) and Onitsuka Tiger (Saw a somewhat affordable design – less than $100 but it was not made in Japan).

Took a break at “Island Vintage Coffee” which was beside Kiddy Land. I had been standing for 5 to 6 hours since lunchtime. My friend bought an Acai Bowl (some superfruit which is getting a lot of attention lately) while I settled for an icy drink.

The plan was to visit the Penguin Bar at Ikebukuro where my friend made a reservation at 21:30 but I was super tired at about 19:00 (Disadvantages of taking a night flight or perhaps it was the long walk at Yoyogi/Meiji which worn me out). Well there’s always next time!

http://www.penginbar.jp/en/

Img Cr: http://tokyoing.net/bar-penguins/

We settled for a tempura meal at Shinagawa Station before returning to my airbnb apartment.

Anyway, sharing a tip: Please do not forget to ask your host on how to turn on the water heater! We had a huge problem in our previous apartment in Osaka and it took us multiple tries before we got it right and my poor friend had her bath interrupted with cold water while we “test” the system.

For my night in Tokyo, I bathed entirely in freezing cold water because I have already stripped in the toilet before realizing that I did not know how to turn on the heater. I tried out countless permutations of switches and buttons but to no avail. I could have wrapped a towel and went out to ask for help but I was a little embarrassed and not certain if my host was still awake.

Well, I just had to bite my teeth and reminisce the Girl Guides/Chiangmai OCIP days where we never had a heater for shower. The difference was that I have aged a lot and not bathed in such conditions in a really long while. The water was really freezing cold and I was chattering throughout. Oh wells, an experience in exchange for a lesson learnt. ALWAYS ASK YOUR AIRBNB HOST ON HOW TO TURN OUT THE WATER HEATER.

That was it for my first and only day alone in Tokyo for this trip.

Vaguely remember that I woke up with the phone in my hands..


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