Wednesday, 20 January 2016

Japan Day One: Harajuku, Shibuya Crossing, Meji shrine and Noodles

Konnichiwaaaa! This blog post is coming to you a few days late - apparently trying to stay up past 11pm is impossible here... so finally here is all about my first day in Tokyo:

It is currently almost half past midnight and having succumbed to the temptation of what turned out to be a very blissful 3 hour nap between 7.30 and 10.30 earlier this evening, I'm now (rather unsurprisingly) feeling very awake.  I arrived in Tokyo yesterday, where I will be staying for the next couple of weeks or so with my fabulously talented housemate Chiara - whose photos will more than likely be making up the best part of these posts - and her dad and brother who live here in the city.  Having finally got all my first-term assessments done and out the way, I feel so bloody lucky to be here.  Travelling is always such an eye-opening experience, and Japan so far is like nothing I've ever seen before.

Jet lag almost worked in our favour today.  I first woke up around 4am, and by some kind of miracle, managed to get to sleep again within an hour or so but by 6 it was time to get up - it already felt like lunchtime!  I was glad we woke up early, as we got up to a Tokyo covered in a frosty white blanket of thick, fresh snow.  It was quite something, for my first view in the daylight, to look out and see all the buildings and the parks with these little white hats on.  We swiftly planned an itinerary for the day, made some food to take with us and were out the house by 8.30, wrapped up in layers and layers of scarves and coats and hats and gloves.   

The weather started off snowy and beautiful and tranquil and freezing, but very quickly turned into a puddly, slushy, slippery frenzy.  The wind and rain kept us on our toes, too... I'm lying, I was very much caught off guard and was on the floor within 5 minutes of leaving the house.  Obviously I didn't think to bring any grippy shoes... or waterproof ones, for that matter, so I had no hope of surviving the first downhill descent.  Luckily I managed to stay on my feet the rest of the day!

First up was Harajuku, as we thought it would be best to check out somewhere with some bigger shops first to keep out of the rain as much as possible.  I love the tubes in Tokyo.  They're so fast, incredibly regular, really clean, and seem to go anywhere and everywhere.  You can be in a totally new part of the city with minutes!  Harajuku was great, with lots of different side streets that were like the Japanese version of the Brighton laines (only a lot bigger... and brighter).  We spent a bit of time meandering in and out of the streets and browsing a few different shops, and stopped to have a Lolita-style photo booth experience which was extremely exciting.

For 600 yen we got to hire (rather tiny) outfits of our choice, choose from the vast array of slightly scary looking hair tongs, and have a photo booth experience like no other - the entire shop is full of different booths.  You get to select what kind of poses you want to do and on what style background, what music you want to play, and then once you're finished 'shooting' you can add stickers to the photos, change your hair/eye/lip colour and even add on a nice set of spidery eyelashes or some little animal ears to complete the look if you so wish. 

Afterwards, we headed to Shibuya to see the crossing there, supposedly one of the busiest intersections in the whole world.  It was Monday daytime when we went, so unsurprisingly it wasn't particularly busy, but it was still great to go sit upstairs in the Starbucks with a big frothy cappuccino and watch the hordes of people swarm in all directions in 30 second intervals. 

Of course, we walked across it a few times too.

 After the crossing, as well as a little bit of shopping, we decided to check out the Meji shrine, which is also in Shibuya.

The Meji shrine was beautiful yet so simple, and very much a hidden treasure... I never would've thought I was in Tokyo if I hadn't walked there with my very own feet.  Mid-afternoon the sun finally started to make an appearance, which was such a relief after the morning's persistent rain and wind.  We got back on the tube and then popped over to Ebisu to meet Chiara's dad and brother for some noodles.

(After somehow getting caught up in the middle of some kind of political demonstration - to which no one was really paying any attention.)

And that was my first day in Tokyo!  Keep your eyes peeled as there's plenty more coming.  Thanks so much for reading, hope everybody's really well and let me know what you think!

Ruby x