Day 1 – Tokyo, Meiji Jingu Shrine, Shibuya, Crepes and Happy Drunks

We arrived in Tokyo late on Thursday evening, confused and tired from the travelling but had enough time to get a quick bite to eat. We found a couple of restaurants open in the local shopping mall and chose Ciao Curry.  Not surprisingly they served curry but surprisingly one of the best meals had in Japan. You could choose how hot you would like ranging from 1 mild to 10 very hot, or if you fancied melting your tongue of they also gave the option of increments of spiciness after 10 up to 100 which i am guessing they would just go and collect straight out of the nearest volcano!!

This was the first of many Japanese curries and wanting to enjoy the following day opted for a hotness factor of 3 which still packed a kick.

The following morning

Although it was xxx in England due to the travel and lack of sleep we seemed to adjust well to the time difference and fell straight to sleep. We did however wake up early.

The buffet breakfast was meat balls (not sure what meat), cabbage salad, egg (sort of, it was slices of something that resembled egg but slightly sweetened), bacon and pumpkin soup, Nori (the seaweed that wraps around sushi), , and of course the staple for any meal, breakfast lunch or dinner sticky rice. They also had a mysterious pot which at first appeared to be miniature pots of ice cream, unfortunately they weren’t serving ice cream for breakfast but fermented soy beans called xxxx which are a traditional item for japanese breakfasts to have with rice. These have the strangest consistency which appeared would make a good substitute for wallpaper paste. However they didn’t taste as bad as they looked.

Breakfast buffet was collected on flight trays with sections for each food type. I have to admit we did a lot of looking around to see what others were collecting and how each food type was being eaten. Most impressive was how some would pick up a mouthful of rice whilst wrapping a slice of nori around the mouthful in one quick yet elegant swoop of their chopsticks.

Meiji Jingu Shrine

We went to Meiji Jingu shrine. Located just beside the JR Yamanote Line‘s busy Harajuku Station, Meiji Shrine is dedicated to Emperor Meiji and the adjacent Yoyogi Park make up a large forested area within the densely built-up city. The spacious shrine grounds offer walking paths that are great for a relaxing stroll.

Emperor Meiji and Empress Shoken had great influence in forming the base of modern Japan. The Emperor died in 1912 

This is where saw one of the largest torii gates in japan. constructed from Japanese cypress These iconic structures are all around japan and mark the entrance to a shrine. Usually these are made from concrete but this magnificent xxxmeter strucuture was wooden. Into Kyoto which we went to later in our trip we saw the 10,000 torri gates at the xxxx shrine.

Tokyo’s largest and most famous Shinto shrine

As you walk around the park you get that same sense as when you are in central park in new York, the size of the area transports you from the hustle and bustle of Tokyo to a forest walk with wide avenues surrounded by forest areas either side. about 175 acres

Along the walk from the gate to the shrine youll find a large collection of decorated sake barrels called Kazaridaru, which have been donated to the shrine from Sake brewers around japan for shrine ceremoniesand festivals.

as xxxxx opposite which there is a display of wine barrels from the burgundy region of france which. The Japanese are getting into European wine. The Meiji Emperor started wearing Western clothes, sheared his topknot and began eating Western food. He particularly enjoyed wine with his meals. The barrels of wine that line the entrance road to Meiji Shrine were gifts to the Emperor from wineries in Bourgogne in France.

When we reached the shrine we found that part of the shrine is beign prepared for the shrine’s 100th anniversary in 2020, renovation works are carried out on some of the shrine’s buildings from spring 2016 to October 2019. Efforts are made to keep the impact on visitors very low. As part of this you can contribute to the renovation by donating and having your name engraved onto one of the many copper roof tiles. As they are part way through renovations you can see the stark difference between the golden new copper tiles and the equalley impressive oxidised green copper tiles on the rest of the roof.

At many of the larger shrines you can pay for a fortune

These are boxes filled with numbered stick, you shake the box and pull out a stick and get given the fortune or prayer which matches the number. My wife went first and chose number xxx her fortune read xxxxxxx which we thought could be interpreted as it is importantly to continually improve and look after your heart and mind or  alternatively you cant polish a turd, whereas mine read xxxx which was not the best of fortunes for a tourist  on there 2nd day in japan to receive knowing they were about to take over 20 train journeys and 2 flights and boat.

Whilst admiring the shrine and contemplating the fortunes we had selected we were lucky enough to witness a traditional Japanese wedding procession.

 

Opening Hours

Meiji Jingu Shrine is open from sunrise to sunset
There are no closing days

Entry Fee

Admission to the shrine precinct is free
The Inner Garden requires an entrance fee of 500 yen

How to Get There

From JR Tokyo Station get on the Yamanote Line and get off at Harajuku Station. It is about a 25 minute train ride. Meiji Jingu Shrine is a short 10 minute walk from Harajuku Station.

 

From Meiji Jingu Shrine we had a wander around harajuku district, the center of Japan’s most extreme teenage cultures and fashion styles, but also offers shopping for adults and some historic sights. The focal point of Harajuku’s teenage culture is Takeshita Dori (Takeshita Street) and its side streets, which are lined by many trendy shops, fashion boutiques, used clothes stores, crepe stands and fast food outlets geared towards the fashion and trend conscious teens.

We tried to keep mainly to the side streets which were quieter and less commericialised.

Referred to as Tokyo‘s Champs-Elysees, Omotesando is a one kilometer long, tree lined avenue, serving as the main approach to Meiji Shrine. Numerous stores, boutiques, cafes and restaurants, including several leading fashion brand shops, stand along the avenue. This area generally caters to an older and wealthier clientele than Takeshita Dori.

We stopped off in a Bic Camera to purchase a sim card so that we had mobile internet, until this point we had been using an offline map HERE Maps. To register the sim card you needed to be a tourist and therefore needed to enter your passport number.

From there we turned the corner to find the famous Shibuya Crossing aka scramble crossing. This is the busiest pedestrian crossing in the world with  up to a thousand people crossing which each chnge of the crossing lights. The corssing has featured in a number of films including Fast and Furious: Tokyo Drift.

After amazing at the craziness of the Shibuya Crossing Shibuya 109, a big shiny mall with more than 100 boutiques, for a look at the latest in Tokyo fashion.

 

Or duck back into Shibuya Station and down to the bustling Tokyu Food Show for an elegant array of gourmet eats and an education in local tastes: grilled eel, fried pork, tiny fish salad, octopus on a stick, seafood-and-rice seaweed wraps and much more. The prepared dishes and grocery items are all sold from immaculate counters amid a chorus of “Irashaimasen!” (“Welcome!”). There are aisles full of beautifully packaged treats — rice crackers, mochi cakes, jellied confections — but the pickle counter is my favorite.

 

Lunch in Shibuya

It was time for lunch so we walked down one of the side streets off of Shibuya and there were a huge range of restaurants including yakitori restaurants snack/street food huts. We opted for a grill restaurant donburi. Donburi meaning on a rice bowl dish. Youll find many restaurants similar to this where you use a ticket machine pay for your meal ticket at the entrance to the restaurant. You take a seat and pass your ticket to the staff and they get cooking.

These restaurants are tiny and they have no intention of being anything other than somewhere to eat good food. You sit around the kitchen and watch as the cooks dish out the sticky rice grill the meat

As with many restaurants their aren’t many options to each restaurant they tend to specialise in a small number of dishes but I feel this helps keep the quality of the food high and prices down. Also what you will notice is that drinks are not a big part of eating in these restaurants. Most have either jugs of water or ice cold rice tea (Genmaicha). You can usually order a beer in these restaurants but nothing else.

Cabbage salad miso soup rice and either thinly sliced grilled pork, beef or marinated beef. 2 meals came to the grand total of 800 yen (around £6) and they tasted delicious.

We had a wonder around Shibuya nad then headed back to our hotel around 2pm due to still being jet lagged.

Evening we walked to Daimon which is not far from our hotel which had plenty of restaruants to eat at. As it was a Friday evening these were all bustling with people who had just come from work. We found a restaurant that did gyoza and ramen, similar set up to lunch time, purchase a ticket take a seat. The gyoza were delicious as was the ramen. We wondered around Daimon and towards Tokyo tower which was all lit up and very much resembles the Eifel tower in Paris. We got a chocolate fudge cake and ice cream crepe and sat on a bench under Tokyo tower watching a group of business men who we could tell had had a very good night not only from the masses of empty glasses of whisky highballs but also from their beaming smiles. One thing that really interested me was that although these people were very drunk I did not feel at all unsafe being near them. Japanese people are the happiest drunks I have met and smiled and nodded at us as they walked past.

That concluded the first full day in Japan. Tokyo had not let us down.