Harajuku is probably one of my favorite places on earth. It is incredibly eccentric, horrifically crowded, and very tacky, but it is incredibly charming. From the colorful stores selling bootleg clothing, to the small candy and ice cream shops boasting bright and happy cartoon mascots. One of the things that surprised me was all of the West African immigrants who owned stores down Takeshita Street. Before coming to Japan I wasn’t expecting a lot of foreigners making a life there, and if there were any, I was expecting them to be Chinese or Korean or any country close by. But here there were many people owning stores from countries like Ghana and Senegal. The diversity of the stores may have to do with the diversity of the people who owned them. From weird niche clothing shops, like Gothic and ‘Hip-Hop Fashion,’ to strange unrecognizable candy and sweet shops that I didn’t recognize, Harajuku is bleeding what makes Tokyo unique.
Harajuku certainly lives up to all of the hype. As one of the most well known spots in Japan, our entire group had preconceived ideas about what it was and what it would be like. All of these preconceived notions flew out of the window once we arrived in this special spot in Tokyo. The streets and the people were all an exploration of different Tokyo styles and cultures and getting to see it all in one area is a dizzying experience.
One spot in particular, cat street, is an area that all of us had heard about through stories told on the internet and weird news articles that we would never admit to have actually read. The biggest attraction on cat street is the cat cafés. We were all excited to explore one for ourselves and jumped at the chance to go inside one. Once we entered the café, we were all shocked by the number of cats all over the café. We were also shocked by how calming the entire experience was, sitting on couches quietly talking and petting cats might sound like a really strange thing, but actually it was really calming and enjoyable. Although Ms. Parascandolo did run out of the café earlier than expected, we did have a great time visiting one of the newest parts of Harajuku.
My life in one place!
Harajuku was the most amazing shopping district ever! I don’t know why people will shop anywhere else! They literally had everything I could ever want for clothes. There are also great places to eat around there.
However there was one place in particular that stole my heart. The place was the Manga cafe! That place gave me life. I am not exaggerating. If I was by myself and didn’t need to go anywhere, I would have stayed there for hours and I could have. They had showers, a booth where I could sit (a lounge chair was there), a computer if I wanted to go on the Internet. They also brought me a blanket and I could drink an endless amount of drinks. The greatest thing however was the manga. There was a countless amount of manga. I almost cried in joy. My group mate Micah who is a fellow manga lover and I just had the time of our lives there. I will definitely be going there again when I come back to Japan.
Today we went to Harajuku. We had so much fun walking along Takeshita Street. It was very interesting to see the many subcultures housed in Harajuku. One includes Lolita, in which girls dress as if they were from the Victorian-era. Another subculture includes hip-hop, so we came across many stores selling many things considered to be a part of urban culture. We also saw many stores selling cosplay outfits and gothic outfits. Overall, I can now better understand why it is so popular among the youth. The street is full of things to do. You can shop, eat crepes, try on clothes, or even people watch. I had a great time visiting the must-see Harajuku district.
We visited the Meiji Jingu Shrine in Harajuku. At each gate we bow in front when entering and leaving to tell the Shinto Gods we are here. Once we arrived down the path to the Shrine Pavilion, we had to bathe our hands in water, then put it in our mouth and spit it out to cleanse ourselves. The Shrine Pavilion had two very beautiful trees to the right and left. One of them had prayers that you could hang up on wood.
We were even lucky enough to see a traditional wedding. The group walked in one line across. They walked very slowly with serious faces. The priest was in front, in the middle the married couple under an umbrella, and in the back are those invited to the wedding. Police officers made way for the group. We learned that shrines often host marriages and other celebratory occasions.
What I really like about Shintoism is their belief that god is in everything. Everything and everyone is part of one force. It was very interesting, and gave me insight into how some people in the Tohoku region could still have respect for nature even though it’s destroyed so many lives. Many Japanese people I ask make the point that no one can really tell if another is Buddhist or Shinto, but the religions are so imbedded in the culture that even if people were wrecked by nature and not at all religious, they can still forgive. This belief is part of the culture. Maybe not consciously, but it is there.