Thanks to our friend, Mr. Jet Lag, we started off this day quite early. Our train took us to the Meiji Jingu Shrine. There is a beautiful gravel path that leads you to the shrine. This is the most important Shinto Shrine in Tokyo, and it was built in 1920.
Before getting onto the shrine grounds, you need to cleanse your hands and mouth with water. There is a specific way of doing this: Grab the bamboo ladle full of water, pour water into your left hand, pour water into your right, pour water into your left and drink, tip the ladle heavenward and let the remaining ladle water cleanse the handle, and bow). You then walk through a huge Japanese cypress gate into a large courtyard. After strolling around the compound for a bit, we walked over to the main shrine to pay our respects. Here, you make an offering of a few coins, bow twice, clap twice, pray, and then bow. This is the same ritual throughout all the temples and shrines that we visited.
Our next stop was Harajuku. This area was made known to Americans by Gwen Stefani, however, it is one of those places that you really need to experience first hand. By weekday, it is just a narrow 8 blocks full of trendy shops and eateries. On the weekend (especially Sunday) it is THE SCENE for wild clothing, make-up, hairstyles, and what is in fashion for those 20yrs old and under. On this quiet Wednesday afternoon, it was the place for me to find one of the only inexpensive clothing shops. For about $20, I walked out with a tunic, and 2 shirts with “interesting” translated saying on them.
Just a side note: Japanese are not fans of used or vintage clothing. Sadly, I am a BIG fan of both. Tony found that there was a rare vintage/thrift store in Harajuku called Chicago. They are mostly known for American style clothing. I saw average thrift woolen sweaters from $50+. I wasn’t interested in that, I wanted to dig through their vintage kimonos, obis, and yakuta (short jackets that are worn over traditional Japanese kimonos). Honestly, I could’ve spent HOURS in this store. Thankfully for my family, I only spent about a hour. I walked out with one long robe and three short jackets for about $35. SCORE!!!
We headed back to the hotel after our shopping trip for a much needed nap. Waking up fully refreshed, we went around the corner for a bowl of noodles. One of the wonderful things about Japanese restaurants is that they display plastic replicas of their dishes in their front window. If you are not able to read their menu, you can SEE what you want to eat. Your server is happy to follow you outside so you can point to the meal you prefer. Where we chose to eat, was the equivalent of Japanese fast food. You decide on the meal you want and its designated number, walk just inside the restaurant and pay a vending machine for the meal, grab the ticket it gives, take it to the clerk, decide on the noodles you want, wait 5min or less, enjoy your meal. For about $8, you get: a large bowl of soba (buckwheat) noodles in broth, a bowl of rice topped with a crunchy pork cutlet covered in curry sauce, and glass of water. It is delicious, filling, and easy on your wallet. Honestly, it is one of my favorite meals here.
To finish off the evening, Tony treated us to a Japanese major league baseball game. On our way to the game, our train sat on the tracks for a 30min delay. Japanese trains are almost NEVER late. The reason for the delay? There was a “human accident”. Someone had committed suicide on the tracks. How sad.
When we got to the game, we bought our tickets right at the gate ($80 for 3 at the top of the Tokyo Dome). Let me just say that a major league game here is like going to the Super Bowl in the US. Games are filled with sexy cheerleaders, obnoxious mascots, crazed fans, ear-aching noise, junkfood, flashy Jumbotron images, and cute beer girls. Beer girls? That’s right. Dozens of petite, young women in vivid uniforms of every color RUN up and down the stadium steps to serve you beer at your seat. The crazy part is that each of them have a keg of beer strapped to their back. You signal to them, they fill a cup from their keg tap, serve you, take your money, and run away. I can’t even imagine how many calories those girls burn every game, not to mention how many steps they take. It is a marvel to witness.
We left the game before the 7th inning, as we needed to get up early to catch the Bullet Train (Shinkansen) to Kyoto. On our way out the door, I encouraged Tony to buy an EXTREMELY VIVID yellow baseball jersey for the Tigers. It will be a great reminder of our Japanese baseball game experience.