Lion & Goose
It’s not much of a culture shock, nor is it particularly ground breaking as far as creativity goes, but Harajuku still remains my favourite part of Japan. While Tokyo is unbreakably traditional Harajuku is just that little bit eccentric. The roads are paved with “designer” brands such as Gucci, Zara, and Apple, and while seemingly uninspiring it’s the burroughs that are the key. Perhaps because it reminds me of the way Melbourne has something to show for on a street level, but its brilliance is stashed in allies and cracks in the walls. Everyone who comes to Harajuku is smiling and having a great time, mostly astonishing given the volume of pedestrians everywhere - EVERYWHERE.
Goose and I exited Harajuku like horses out of the gates, only, imagine there are horses everywhere rushing out, and in all directions. We were immediately confronted with Takeshita Dori facing east. The top of the street dipping like a bowl into a swarm of pedestrians. It actually wouldn't have been so bad had it not been for the 35° temperatures that surrounded us. The strip is narrow enough that it allowed the air conditioning from inside the shops to protrude the pavement. While not much appealed Goose could not decide between lama or cat socks.
We continued on through the main streets of Harajuku, down Jingūmae. The streets here are maze-like, weaving in and out of each other. Like much of Harajuku and Shibuya it’s a festival around here. People are active, and happy to be here in summer. There was promotional activities for a sunglasses company allowing people to swing a baseball bat to a punching bag with their product attached. Smash them and get a free pair, so you get an idea of what the neighbourhood is like.
There are several exception stores around the area for food and beverages. A lack of coffee culture before midday is hard to come by so you can imagine my excitement when Goose and I stumbled upon The Roastery by Nozy Coffee. While not entirely hidden this incredible coffee roastery house is not exactly screaming come find me. Currently hidden to any iOS maps and most mobile hospitality applications unless you dig deep into Pinterest. Other cafes would be easier to locate, such as Omotesando Koffee, also strongly worth a visit. The brilliance behind the roastery is their attention to customer service and detail to the coffee experience. A next level cafe clearly outlining the cycle of beans from plantation to roastery, to consumables. It kind of brings to light why coffee in Japan is more of an afternoon and evening delicacy rather than the hit of energy westerner’s like myself usually feel entitled to.
But it would be rather absurd to come to Harajuku simply for the shopping district that it is. Once full of coffee and sweets Meiji Jingu is an exciting ten minute walk back through Jingūmae and Omotesando, the entrance visible from the south side of Harajuku Station. The Torii gates at Yoyogi are among some of the most beautiful in Japan. The westerly afternoon sun light creeps through the tree leaves to the left shining onto the beautiful structure. A path through this wonderful park leads by historical artefacts, and yes I do classify whiskey barrels as artefacts. They are after all a very important part of the history of any great nation. But honestly, the sake barrels are beautiful
Having just cleansed ourselves and payed our respects we entered Meiji Jingu late in the afternoon, far later than the closing times indicated from memory. It is so peaceful. There are people everywhere and yet everyone is so calm. I seem to recall a man trying to get a shot of the temple with no tourists in it, taking him a good twenty minutes or so. He was getting so frustrated, meanwhile I was getting frustrated with him and his ridiculously bright pink polo that was ruining all of my shots. But I digress, it’s hard to remain angry in a place as beautiful as this one. And also I did manage to get a shot with no tourists. It’s easier said than done given there are signs everywhere saying do not take close up photos of this temple, and so I stood back from the guard. Goose was meanwhile writing a prayer to attach to the thousands of other prayers that hang from the tree inside the temple. A Piece of tranquility, enough to forget the chaos that is going on around you.