Met up with our second Tokyo Free Guide on Saturday morning. Had a walk through the Imperial Gardens, a really tasty lunch of grilled pork and a stroll through another of Tokyo’s many lovely gardens. And though we enjoyed our tour, our guide was not as good as Takako-san – he wasn’t very organized, so the trip felt a little aimless. For instance, while at the Imperial Gardens, he didn’t bother to take us to the Meganebashi Bridge, a lovely spot with a view of the emperor’s residence – we found it on our own when we went back on Monday.
Anyhoo, we said our thank-yous and farewells at around 2PM and headed to Tokyu Hands and Uniqlo to pick up items for our Halloween costumes – which were Krispy Kreme donut makers. Our friend Skip had sent us Krispy Kreme hats last year and Chris brought them with us to Tokyo. Since there’s a Krispy Kreme right across from our hotel, he picked up a dozen donuts and an extra box to cut up and make our “uniforms” – and did an amazing job of it.
My friend Kenneth met us at our hotel and we took to the streets, donuts firmly in hand. And we were a huge hit everywhere we went – especially with the people who were lucky enought to get some of our donuts. The original plan was to head over to some big crazy dance club, but we had so much fun in Ni-Chome (home to a bunch of Tokyo’s gay bars) that Chris and I just bar-hopped around there, before stumbling home, happy and donut-less.
We didn’t get an especially early start on Sunday (I know – what a surprise… I think we made it out of the hotel at around 1PM). Grabbed some rice balls and fried shrimp from the food halls across the way at Takeshimaya which, along with copious amounts of fluids, revived us sufficiently to get on the train to Harajuku.
And what a lovely afternoon it was. Our first stop was the Meiji Jingu Shrine, set inside of a beautiful park right next to the craziness of Harajuku. The shrine itself is lovely – I think my favorite so far – and being a Sunday it was filled with families who were bringing their young children to the shrine for special blessing ceremonies… The moms in their best kimonos, the children adorable in their traditional garb. It was a great way to spend our afternoon.
We also ran into our guide Takako-san, who was showing a trio of Angelenos around. We told them how lucky they were to have her as a guide. Also ran into a couple of Brits we’d met during our Halloween escapades… They were even more hungover than we were. Really fun, though, bumping into people one knows in a city as large as Tokyo.
After the shrine, we headed into the heart of Harajuku. And it was insane – a narrow street mobbed with people, tiny shops crammed into every nook and cranny of every building, other narrower streets branching off in every direction, with more shops and more people. It was great… Chris and I bought some cute sweatshirts at a jeans shop – despite being about 20 years older than their usual demographic.
As we wandered toward Aoyama, the tone starts ramping up – first we hit La Foret, home to a bunch of trendy shops like Top Man; right next store is H&M; then comes Ralph Lauren; Louis Vuitton; Dior; a fancy-shmancy mall; Comme des Garçons; and the famous Prada store. The buildings are beautiful – tons of stunning and trendy architecture that, as Chris observed, makes Union Square look like downtown Dogpatch. And the streets were PACKED with people every step of the way.
We stopped for dinner at Maisen, famed for it’s tonkatsu – and it was delicious. I had a big slab of breaded, deep-fried pork loin – hard to go wrong there – and it was juicy, crispy and delightfully piggy (literally and figuratively). Wandered back to the train station for a little recharge back in our room before heading to our now-favorite haunts in Ni-Chome.
Met a Japanese fellow, Satoru-san, who used to live in SF and had a nice long chat with him. I also developed a crush on the super-cute bartender at Dragon Men… Though it sure made me feel old – he looked like he’d just gotten out of high school (ew, sorry – that sounded kinda pervy…)
Chris eventually dragged me home from Arty Farty, a little dance bar nearby… I’d gotten the opportunity to do some voguing, so the night was clearly a success.
Another late-ish start today. We went to re-visit the Imperial Gardens, only to find them closed – but we had a nice walk and enjoyed getting to see the residence. Then off to Shibuya, for more crowds, craziness and shopping. Going back to Shibuya shortly for dinner at a Western-style place – we’ve been doing pretty well with Japanese food, but after a long week here, we figure a little taste of home will help perk us up – and we’ll need perking up… Tomorrow’s a national holiday, so it’s a logical Friday night – meaning we have to go out and do another pub crawl… It’d be rude to stay in… Sayonara!