Tokyo Day 2 – Shibuya and Roppongi
Yes, it was pouring when I left the hotel. Ueno was out, as that is a parks and gardens area, so I had to make a quick change in the plans.
I was preparing to venture out into the wet, when the hotel lady caught me, breathing quickly and catching her breath, and smiled at me with an umbrella in hand. I couldnt say no, so few head shakes later I am out under the cover of my see through brella.
Its amazing how everyone had one. It was like a see of umbrellas out there and nobody forgot theirs. I didnt see one poor soul running around like a nut, thinking they can avoid getting wet. And all the umbrellas were moving like a symphony, trying to protect their owners from the rain coming from various directions – lean left, lean right…bring it lower. Professionals.
So in honor of my mortifying initial experience at Shinjuku Station, I decided it will be best if I go at peak hour – you know, getting back on the horse and all that! Haha!
I get down to the station and start composing myself, which is hard, as the place is like a mad house, people running around in droves, from left and right, I think a few from the top.
I find the machines and try to figure them out, which is proving hard as those same people come and go as fast as you can blink, buying their own tickets. I dont want to stay in the way of their obviously important business. But I need time to figure the unknown machine out!
I see a ticket office and figure I better buy a day ticket and save myself the machine with weird writings. I attempt to do so, but the man across me speaks not a word English. I give up and move to the next opening. That lovely man understood what I meant and I had in my hand a wonderful day ticket. I wanted to glue it to my hand.
Now the fun part – figuring out how to get to the right line (I think there are 4 running through and the place is like a termite mound, tunnels and levels and whatever your head can think of). The mounds of people are running around and you can barely slow down to figure out signs and think.
I find the line, get through and then whoosh with the people to the stop. There are lots of people! The trains are so long that when they arrive, they do it with full speed and only start to slow down a bit after that.
Doors open, piles of people coming out – pushing, shoving, whatever works. Then its time to get in. I am one of the last to step on and then I feel the push of the people behind me – we are squeezed like sardines (with no sauce). You cant fit a thing anymore – doors close. Complete silence! Air is fresh, mood is calm and you can just hear the lovely voice of the automatic announcer coming through. There are two screens on top of the door – one is TV, which has no sounds, but subtitles. The other is the information one, which is letting you know the next stop and gives updates of delays across the system and the reason for it, if there is one.
I am taking it all in. Wondering what happens at the next stop, whether I will be spit out or I will be able to continue on my way…
The train stops and people squeeze through one by one and more come in, but I somehow managed to stick around.
I make it through Shibuya Station and when I get out, I just wished I had my camera out of the bag, but just couldnt stop to do that. I tried standing next to a column, to be out of the way and not be swept with the crowds, but to no avail. Finally I find a spot next to the elevator and stayed there until the crowds were gone. Quickly got the camera out and waited for the next train – no more than 5min away.
You know you want some!
Shibuya – “ground zero for Tokyo youth culture”.
Its still early and almost nothing is opened yet, so I go in search of a coffee. I walked some and passed a Starbucks as I didnt want to go there, I was looking for a more traditional place, but since I wanted to keep under the roof of the mall I was in and couldnt find anything else opened I went back.
Sat down and flipped through my map and Lonely Planet guide, as I was not prepared for the area much. A bit of people watching too, as I sat right at the window.
Then I was off.
Just outside of the station is the Hatchiko statue, which is the name of the exit too. A very popular meeting spot of the locals.
“In the 1920s a professor who taught at what is now Tokyo University kept a small dog named Hachiko. Hachiko accompanied the professor to Shibuya station every morning, then returned in the afternoons to await the professor’s arrival. One spring day in 1925, the professor died of a stroke while at the university and never came home. Hachiko continued to turn up at the station daily until his own death 10 years later. The dog’s faithfulness touched the locals, who built a statue to honour his memory in the place where he died”
Then I walked a bit and found myself the Loft…where I spent some money on the first floor and then some more on the second. Bad place!
To avoid the dripping umbrella’s mess, the clever Japanese have provided people with this wet umbrella covering bag on the front step of the shops. You push your brella in the hole, which makes it push through a bag and when you pull it out, its nice and covered. Easy!
Walking down some more I see this girl pop out of one of those shops that go to who knows where under the ground. I decide to go and check it out. And take a sneaky picture for you…
You cant try everything in a shop. I was allowed to try a dress kind of top, but not the stretchy, t-shirt like ones. This was all explained in a half sign, half broken English kind of communication.
You take your shoes off to get into the dressing room and are given a head cover thing you put to avoid destroying the clothes with your makeup. Do they think of everything?!
I get away with one top.
More walking around and looking and I steer a bit away from the bustle of the main streets and find myself a small place for lunch. It has a little window for take away food too, but I am going in. Its pretty small, but impeccable as usual. Big stones walls, Japanese lamps and wood around. The place is full of suits and I am the only woman. I am seated and I point at one of the meals. While waiting I observe the dudes and what they do with those new sauces and condiments on the table.
My meal arrives – yummy miso soup with tiny opened muscles on the bottom, an eggy kind of concoction in a small bowl, which was the consistency of creme caramel, but savory with mushrooms and prawn, the pickled veggetables (eaten first) and my ‘cutlets’ with heap of shredded lettuce and rice.
I pour the sauces as guided by the strange men and then open a little suspicious bag with yellow stuff inside. It is very nice spicy, almost wasabi mixed with mustard sauce. I dunk my cutlet things in it. Yumm.
The battered things were – soft pork ones, two huge prawns and two very interesting extra soft ones, which fell apart as soon as I tried to pick them up. I liked them best. I wish I knew what they were.
Since I couldnt whip my big camera in the place, or at least I was not comfortable to, here is the meal as it appears in front, out of plastic:
More walking around. Went up to Tower Records bulding, which is 7 levels of music, record, book store. More walking. Walked through a few floors of 109-2, which is supposed to be one of those funky, Shibuya youth places. That is where I saw a blinged up Hello Kitty bicycle. And more bling for just about anything you can think of. The place is set up with numerous little shops, unlike department stores. I got another top here. Couldnt finish going through it, because time was running out and i wanted to make another stop for the day.
Just under the station was running the Tokyo Food Show! Of course, right after I ate. This was a feast for the senses. All kinds of food – french and whatnot, but I loved the Japanese ones the most.
Fancy some cute fruit?
How about $150+ for a box of cherries or $210 for two melons? But they look perfect, admit it!
How about some individually wrapped potatoes, carrots or anything else?
Oh, you are no fun.
Before I left I got a quick box of interesting looking rice things for a snack later. I just couldnt leave without anything. If my bag was not full of kid presents I would have been getting more things.
Just a flower shop in the underground subway area.
And back to my friend – the subway ;)
All goes smoothly. My trusty one day ticket saves me the machines and I go through as though I am a local. I need to go off to another station and catch another line from there.
No problems. I am in Ebisu and on my way to Hibiya line.
But wait! My ticket is a no go. Damn ticket. The dude behind the counter shakes a finger and points to my favorite ticket machine. Aparently the ticket is not as good as I thought, its only for the main JR line. Oh shunks! I try to look for help in him, but he just points to the machine and says “ticket!”. I have no choice, I go. I know the fare, I have figured it out by the limited amount of information provided on the boards, the problem is there are no guides how to get the ticket on the machine. I decide to plop the coins in and see what happens. The fare is in…nothing happens…I press “1 adult”…nope…some other button…nada…I press the thing on the screen that says 160 something…voila! My ticket is printed! I am so happy I want to jump around. Proud I go through and thank the uncaring dude for forcing me to deal with the machine.
Arrive at Roppongi, busting for the loo.
Here is what you get at the station.
Warmed up seat, the kid seat I mentioned before and few buttons for fun. My favorite is the “flushing sound”. LOL.
Off I go to see the Hills.
I go in that blobby building, buy myself a ticket for the Sky Deck, The Mori Art Museum and the exhibition of BMW’s painted by famous artists, like Roi Lichtenstein.
But suddenly I feel very light. I have forgotten the umbrella and my one great map at the fancy toilet. Run baby run! See this pregnant woman with a huge backpack on her back fly like a bird (well, in all honestly, I probably looked nothing like that).
They were there, and I was not all nice and sweaty.
Up I go on the elevator until my ears start popping.
There is also a photo exhibition at the place.
If you really really look…and imagine there were no clouds.. you will see in the background Mt.Fuji. Unfortunately the part of the mountain that is visible is not the top, but you get the idea.
I make a cheesy picture in one of those automated machines and visit the museum and the BMW exhibition.
By now I am wasted. My legs feel like lead will be a lovely weight if an option. I drag myself to the bottom floor and find the nearest place with coffee. I fancy looking French patisserie, where you get a special tray and your own tongs and pick your choices. I had my snack from the Food Show in Shibuya, but grabbed one thing and a coffee.
Got outside and collapsed on the chair.
That pastry was divine!
Then walked around Roppongi some more, but didnt enjoy it much. I guess it was too touristy and westernized for my liking. Plus all the stuff had English with it. What fun is that? ;)
Got back to the hotel without a hitch on the Oedo line. Rested and went on a quick explore and dinner in Shinjuku.
Too tired to finish the day for you. But I guess I wrote enough already. Enjoy while you can, cause I might fade.