Japan Day 24 - Tokyo

We trekked over to Harajuku for brunch. They had an Eggs ’n Things there (a Hawaiian chain we had discovered early in the trip) and we were both in the mood for American breakfast.

Harajuku is an area in Tokyo known for its colorful street art and fashion scene. On the weekends, it is usually teaming with young people dressed up in cosplay and Lolita fashion (or so I remembered my high school Japanese teacher saying). Japan as a whole is a fairly conservative society. Women don’t typically show their shoulders, or any amount of chest. None of the everyday fashion is anything that Grandma wouldn’t approve of. And yet for some reason, a lot of non-Japanese people tend to associate Tokyo with funky, futuristic fashion trends. Those images all come from Harajuku.

After brunch we walked around in search of some good costumes and people-watching. It was a Sunday so I figured it should be prime time for such an activity. No one was dressed particularly outrageously though, and so I figured we must just be in the wrong area, and I had no idea how to go about finding the right area. In researching for this post though, I stumbled across an article about how Harajuku street fashion is now considered to be dead, mostly due to the growth of big chain corporations like Uniqlo. A well known photographer who used to put out a magazine of Harajuku fashion every month is no longer doing so, because there aren’t enough people left to photograph. Yet another piece of Japanese culture that had disappeared in the last ten years. If you are into fashion, the article is a fun read, or you may just want to see the photos of what I am talking about, since I obviously don't have any. That article can be found here.

Fletch took me to Pandora and bought me a charm of a girl in a kimono for my charm bracelet. He’s given me a charm to commemorate every place that we’ve been together; the perfect memento for someone who never wants anything that takes up any space in a backpack. And then we walked around a few knick-knack stores before hopping on the train back to Shibuya. For someone who really doesn't care to own much in the way of material possessions, I sure do love browsing knick-knacks.

That evening we met up with a friend of mine from high school who has been living in Japan for years now, making her practically a local. She brought us to her favorite seafood izakaya, and introduced us to some of her favorite menu items, in particular, tuna sashimi from parts of the fish that they don’t usually serve elsewhere. I wasn’t a huge fan of the meat from around the eye. The cheek meat was better, the forehead was my favorite, and yes, it was all raw of course. We drank and ate and ordered dozens of small dishes that were all delicious.

As we traded stories of our times in Japan, the bit I mentioned earlier about women not showing their shoulders came up, and she excitedly exclaimed, “Oh shoulders are actually in right now! See?” And sure enough, her sleeves each had a small peekaboo slit. Moral of the story, when you travel to Japan, ditch the tank tops and tube tops.

After dinner we headed over to a British pub. Apparently it was the place everyone would go to when they wanted to interact with English speakers. The pub was deceptively tiny from the front, but once we entered, the establishment kept extending backwards for quite some distance. The air inside was a giant cloud of smoke and people from every corner of the globe were congregated inside like sardines. We met a couple guys from Senegal of all places, and a Japanese guy who had just moved back to Japan after attending pilot school in Arizona.

A couple drinks later, we all walked back to the area where our hotel was located, as apparently there was a craft brewery across the street worth visiting. We arrived to find it closed though, and so did what we usually end up doing when drinking is involved. We bought some drinks at the conbini next door (in Japan there's always a conbini next door) and sat there on the steps into the early hours of the morning.