I know many of you are probably interested in comparisons between Korea and Japan, but I want to leave that for after our trip, as I think I"ll have a better perspective after more time. So, for now I'll just give day by days of our stories and pictures.
We meant to get up at 7 this morning, but we accidentally slept until 8:15. It didn't matter much, though. We headed out and stopped at a Western diner style cafe for coffee (tea in my case) and pastries, but they were pretty terrible. We figure we should have chosen better, but it was on the way. We hopped on the JR line and headed over to Harajuku. It's a pretty amazing place. Tons of shopping, eating and teenagers hoping to be seen in their extreme fashions. We also went to the Meiji Gardens, but when we came back for the Meiji Shrine (after getting a much needed meal at an Indian place) the gate was closed. There are other shrines and temples to see, so it's not too big a loss.
We headed over to the Shibuya district to continue shopping (I'm looking for a new purse and presents for people) and seeing the sights. Shibuya is a little less interesting than Harajuku if you're looking for offbeat Japanese subculture, but it's still a happening shopping district. It's home to the busiest intersection in Tokyo and you can sit in Starbucks (if you ever find a seat) and watch the foot traffic from their second story windows. We didn't get a seat, but we still watched out the windows. After exhausting our shopping options (not really, but we'd been at it forever) we headed back to the hostel to get jackets and make use of our internet connection to figure out what to do next.
We decided to go for sushi after finding the words for the vegetarian rolls. We were getting low on cash, so we thought we' stop by a cash machine. Four ATMs and two cash only restaurants later, we ate cup noodles and convenience food in our room. Our cards work for purchases, so we think there may be a curfew on the ATMs. Some ATMs in Korea don't work when the banks are closed. Tomorrow we will be in search of an answer, hopefully it was just the time. Sometimes it's easy to forget how much work travel can be and then something like that happens and reminds you. I think the difficult experiences can be some of the best, as they don't allow you to sit in your comfort zone at all. Problems force you to work within the society you're visiting.
We took many pictures, so I'll let them do the rest of the telling:
Our tv looks out for our well being when we turn it off.
The view of Takeshita Street (a famous market street) from Harajuku Station.
We found a Tamagotchi store:
There were a lot of people and a lot of shopping in Harajuku (mainly Takeshita Street).
Near a small shrine (temple?) not far from Takeshita Street. Lanterns symbolize many things in Japanese culture: enlightenment, commemoration, and guidance to a happy final resting place for the spirits of the deceased.
The shrine or temple. There were no English signs.
We then found the park where people gather to show off their outfits. It's actually the entrance to the Meiji Shrine (and the Meiji Gardens we visited). We went there twice, so here are photos from both experiences.
This wine symbolizes the modern friendship between Japan and France the began in the Meiji Period.
Strangely, the gardens reminded us a lot of home. The weather is more temperate here, so the weather, air, and plants are very much the same. There were a lot of birds singing and crying, too. It was nice to hear wildlife.
Giant koi! Wikipedia says they symbolize love and friendship.
(Outside the gift shop/snack area) Lucky cats are everywhere!
Indian food lunch of veggie curry, saffron rice and tandoori naan.
Shibuya shopping and business district.
That screen on the psynage building was playing YouTube videos.
Shibuya crossing from a Starbucks window.
A video for a better idea:
Well, we're in for the night since we have little access to our money. Wish us luck tomorrow! Good night!