Saw a bizarre commercial for Crystal Geyser water featuring Beyonce this morning. She was all decked out like in a music video and splashing a bottle of water all over the empty set with a happy look on her face.
Today was the day for Harijuku – time to see what is hip and happening. That would have to wait, however, as we spent the morning with Stephen’s in-laws. They live right next to a park, and a rather nice one for that matter. I think they partly wanted to show us off to the neighborhood. In this park is a skateboard park, basket ball courts, and a wide path that wanders around in a circle for about a quarter of a mile.
Tokyo has a lot of green space, which is really nice, especially in the city where there are so many tall buildings crammed close up together. There is a huge respect for nature here that seems to be missing in America.
While some of the major destinations for cherry blossoms are not in full bloom yet, other areas have already started the down-turn in blossoms. I was told that some trees are groomed specifically to bloom earlier and some later so that the blossoms are assured for longer throughout the season. This is really only possible in the smaller parks.
Heading out, we found Harijuku, where all the teens hang out and look cool. I felt really out of place. Even the young men are more fashionable than you could imagine. No, not runway fashion, but much more “hip” and “street” fashion, and I’m not referring to that fake gangster style of crap that most kids in America have either. Yes, there is some of that, but without the criminal “gangsta” activities that we hear about in most rap music (there are no guns in Japan) it is a bit more muted and other things crop up.
Another way that kids set themselves apart here is with their costumes. Cosplay is popular in Japan, and so this is where those that do it hang out. I was surprised I didn’t see more, really. Still, it was fun to watch the kids acting just as ridiculous in Japan as they do all over the world, only here it’s culturally different.
Stephen and I met Daibo, a friend of Stephen’s wife, and he showed us around the area. He had lived in Seattle, and now is back in Tokyo. He was really great and I wish we could have spent more time with him. He wound up helping me quite a bit. After lunch the three of us headed to Akihabara, the big electronics district. There we wandered around, found a CD store, and I was lost – I couldn’t find what I wanted to save my life – because I don’t read Japanese and the stuff is not organizes the way we would do it. Daibo helped me find Shonen Knife, and I was able to purchase their latest CD which isn’t available in the United States. That made me really happy.
After we took a break at Starbucks (where the coffee tastes just like the Starbucks back home, which is actually a good thing) we went into one of the largest electronics stores To say that this place was huge would be rather silly. Imagine a Wall-mart, and stack a few more on top of that. Then fill the whole thing with nothing but electronics and you have an idea of what this place was like. I managed to find a present for my oldest son whose birthday is next week (a speaker dock for his Walkman MP3 player) and there was a huge toy section that I had to be dragged away from because I had already spent way too much money on stuff for my kids.
Next we headed to the Shibuya neighborhood – the one with the famous crosswalk that you see pictures of in guidebooks or whatever. It was big and crowded, which was cool, and nearly getting lost and disoriented simply seemed to be something that foreigners go through when passing through the crosswalk for the first time.
I have to say, I went up to the second floor of a building where a Starbucks was, and sat down to take a picture, and was told that I was not allowed to. There was no sign, so I was a little confused. The same person told some locals the same thing. I wandered around the store for a few minutes and when she wasn’t looking I snapped the picture. I’m not happy with how it turned out, but it was the only one I could get.
After Daibo brought us to Shibuya, he had to leave, but not before finding us a nice restaurant for dinner. Again, I want to mention how great and helpful he was. Stephen and I wandered around Shibuya for a while, and eventually landed ourselves in a “standing bar” which is a large room off the sidewalk where there are no chairs. A few tables are situated so that drinks can be placed down, as well as the Japanese equivalent of bar food. After a couple of beers, we left to go see what else we could find. Turns out not much, so we headed back to the same bar. Only now it was really crowded – and with foreigners. Talking with one of them, it turns out this was the popular neighborhood hangout for local girls to get picked up by gaijin.
After a few more beers we called it a night and headed back to the house. Tomorrow we have to get up and get going to a completely different part of Tokyo. We’re going to be staying in a hotel close to the concert as well as the airport, so we’ll need to pack up our stuff and go after waking up.