Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Tokyo Trip, May 2014 - Omotesando Hills in Harajuku

Truly, I think Harajuku station is a place for many tourist will enjoy in Tokyo.

Doesn't matter if you are the culture finder, dream wisher, or simply a shopaholic, you can easily enjoy the serene Meiji Shrine, the colorful Takeshita Dori Art Street, and the hippy and sophisticated Omotesando Hills that are all within short walking distance to each other.

Omotesando Hills

Admiring the European Style Architectures

Giant Takoyaki Octopus Balls
The only "streetfood" stall  in the midst all the quaint little shop houses and rows of vending machines right in the middle of main street on Omotesando Hills. Even then, most Japanese do not walk and eat on the street.

Hot & Yummy Takoyaki
This should be the #1 most popular takoyaki on the menu. Nothing beats the piping hot octopus balls (or anything hot) in the cool weather.

2030 Shop
A hair salon 15 years ahead of time. Or more likely to give you a cut that makes you look like 20 to 30 years old other than a 20% to 30% discount.

Harajuku Moe Cat Street
The guy has this overall image that looks like he just walked out of the anime - to be precise, Captain Kyoraku from Bleach.

More Shops
In a way, this place really reminds me of Garogusil in Seoul.

Graffiti Street x Hello Kitty

Kimono or Yukata Anyone?

Mango Cha Cha
This seems to be really popular with the local - the queue to get to Mango Cha Cha goes all the way to the opposite street!

Burberry Blue Label
In the same area, you can find Burberry flagship store, Burberry Blue Label and Burberry Black label. Did you spot the rainbow?

Rainbow Spectrum
This rainbow building is just opposite Burberry Black label store in Omotesando. Did you find the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow?

Watch Out for the Sale
In one end of Omotesando Hill we come across this shop where they sell watches with good discount for both Japanese and other overseas brands. My sis in law got some limited edition Baby Gs which is priced close to 30% cheaper than in Singapore. The shop also pack up your purchase like a gift if you tell them so (I heard that it is a norm in many Japanese shops but we didn't really try).

We went to one of the Starbucks outlet in a quiet building in Omotesando for some rest, drink, cakes and WiFi. WiFi connection in all  Japan Starbucks are free but you will need to register for an account beforehand, and the barista are so friendly to help us set up one. And I couldn't say no to the seasonal special cookie crumble green tea frappucino.

The Brandless Branded Car
On our way to Takeshita Dori, we come across this exquisitely design car (checked out the floral prints, pink crystal rear lights and monogram head rest!) who drove by and the friendly driver even wave to us when he passed by. This is definitely one of the most eye catching cars I saw on the road to date.

Click on my "Travel to Japan" or my Tokyo Itinerary for more posts for my trip.


Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Tokyo Trip, May 2014 - Takeshita Dori in Harajuku

After our rejuvenating morning walk around Meiji Shrine, we venture out to the shopping areas around Harajuku station.

Without referring to any map or app (coz I have no data connection which until today, I am not sure why I did not to get a data card or wifi egg for 2 week trip), we decide to start from the left side after exiting the station.

Harajuku Station

Right in front of Harajuku station is a Gap multi-storey standalone store.

Takeshita Art Street 
After a short walk, we reached the vibrant Takesihita Art Street. It's not that hard to get there because many people were also walking towards this street. We didn't see any Cosplayers here in the street - we only spot less than 5 cosplayer for our 2 days nearer to Harajuku station. Perhaps the CosPlaying trend is fading off in Japan?

Daiso Store
Daiso shopping is another favourite hobby for le family. The Daiso store in Harajuku is huge - they had a basement and few storeys of goods - ranging from snacks to fashion and household accessories and everyone has something they like to look at. Most of the items are priced at 100 yen (or 108 yen with tax which is approximately less than S$1.40) and I grabbed lots of snacks and gummy bears.

Along the Street
Paris Kid's sells hair and fashion accessories kind of like the Aries/ Chameleon stores in Singapore but much nicer. The prices of goods around this street is also cheaper than other parts of Tokyo.

Calbee Store
Potato snacks anyone?

Lunch Place Tabasa
We take a break from all the shops and head down to this Japanese Italian fusion restaurant for our lunch. It turns out to be an hour long all-you-can-eat buffet for pizzas and pastas. Their pasta are nice but I think give me ramen anytime. Haha!

Vivienne Westwood
VW reminds me of my favorite manga at one time which is Nana. I totally love the manga and movie which Mika Nakashima acts as the lead actress Nana but the storyline stop for a long time (years, in actual life) after Ren dies. I didn't get anything because I have long graduated from the punk rock fashion phase. Attitude still remains though. Haha!

Kiddy Land
Kiddy Land is a multi-story theme shop house that sells a variety of soft toys and merchandise of many Japanese cartoon characters - such as Hello Kitty, Miffy, Little Twin Stars, Star Wars, Lego etc. A must visit place if you like collecting Hello Kitty (or other characters) merchandises.

Kyusu Jangara Tonkotsu Ramen Dinner
By now, the time is quite right for dinner. We went for ramen at Kyusu Jangara per the recommendation from the trusty Harajuku brochure (remember, no data connection) and we are definitely very satisfied. The ramen taste great and the place has family friendly seating arrangement.

Tonkotsu Ramen
We ordered their signature pork broth based ramen and we add on a flavored egg. Alright, the clear broth may not be the most flattering it really is the gem! They serves Hakata style ramen similiar to Ichiran and my mother and sis-in-law who prefers lighter broth prefers this. Highly recommended!

Ramen meal with gyoza is just like hamburger with french fries - the meal is not complete without the other.

Flavored Eggs (aka Soft-boiled egg with a taste)
I am not sure about you - but flavored eggs is one of my must haves whenever I order a ramen. Soft creamy egg yolk in hot ramen broth - heavenly!

More on Takeshita Dori
Exploring Takeshita Street can easily take a day or more - we return another day and discover that there are so many more shops and cafes on the sub-alleys of Takeshita Dori.

Otakara Ichiba
This is one of the interesting toy store that we see. They sell "lucky boxes" or pre-wrapped boxes of toys that ranges from 300 yen to 1000 yen and so you will not have an idea what you are paying for. Innovative, not?


Not Victoria Secret but just as worth checking out. They are pretty popular in Taiwan.

Crepes Anyone? 
We figure out that Marion Crepes Patisserie is one of the must try in Takeshita Dori since they had been around since 1976 (from the name of the shop) and that there is a longer queue there. They have easily more than 20 varieties - sweet, savoury or fruity for every palate. We shared 2 crepes and both are just as nice and not overly flour-ly! Angel Hearts is another popular store selling crepes too.

These is nice!
Another must try in the area!

Angel Hearts Harajuku Crepes

Also nearby in the Harajuku train station vincity is the high end and artsy Omotesando shopping district. I shall leave Omotesando for my next Japan post. Stay tuned!

It's mid week and weekend is nearing. Hang on folks!


Sunday, January 4, 2015

Tokyo Trip, May 2014 - Meiji Shrine (Meiji Jinggu) at Harajuku

After our breakfast, we took the train to Harajuku station and make our way to Meiji Shrine - our first stop for the day. Meiji Shrine is located next to the hustling Harajuku subway station.

Torri Gate to Meiji Shrine
This is the first time I saw a torri in real life, a traditional Japanese gate that is usually found in the entrance or premise of a Japanese shrine to mark the entrance to a sacred space. I'm a huge fan of the Japanese manga Bleach and the toori is a common occurrence in their anime.

Meiji Shrine is located in the middle of a lush green jungle and a 10 minute tranquil walk to from the gate. Despite the number of people making their way to and out of the shrine, the place feels quiet and peaceful.

Barrels of Sake Wrapped in Straws


Serene Walk to the Meiji Shrine

Signboards depicting the origin of Meiji Shrine

The Water Pavilion 
As we get closer to the main complex of the shrine, we pass by this pavilion where devotees and visitors are encouraged to clean their hands and mouth before entering the shrine premise.

Omamori Protection Charms
Near the entrance to the shrine is a small shop selling Omanari. Omamori is a omulet/ protective charm that is sold by the shrine with general blessings or protection and proceeds will go to the shrine. The benefits for the omamori lasted one year and you should bring back the omamori to the shrine where you get it to get a new one after a year or when you return. If I recall correctly, Meiji Shrine is especially well known for their gyakuro-joju charms to bless students or scholars with good grades.

Main Complex of Meiji Shrine

The Tree Guarding All The Wishes
For a contribution to the shrine, visitors can write their prayers and dreams in a wooden cardboard to be hang in the shrine area to be blessed.

Of Prayers & Dreams
We stayed around reading the wishes from  people all around the world - some are funny but most are direct and sincere. These are some of the wisest wishes I've seen.

Sacred Place of Worship
This is the main area of the shrine and people are encouraged not to enter the premise in order not to disrupt people who are receiving blessing or conducting their wedding ceremony. We are pretty lucky to see a your Japanese couple in their traditional costumes making their way to the shrine to receive blessing.

Souvenir Shop
After the visit to the shrine, we walk into the souvenir shop on our way back to the gate and the cafeteria for a break before we head out to Harajuku. The shop is packed with all kinds of cutely packaged merchandise and I got a cherry blossom umbrella here. Another one of my favorite buys is their umbrella - they are thin, lightweight and all very pretty and fit into small bags well. You will not want to get any umbrella from Singapore after which. Haha!

Fortune Cat
Isn't this fortune cat kawaii?

Work for Ice Cream
My lil' nephew wanted ice cream and so he has to pose next to the ice cream cone for me. Check out his initial reactions!

Pretty Please
Ok, you can have your Sakura Cherry Blossom ice cream.

Next, we head towards the bustling street of Harajuku and for the real shopping and people watching actions.