Return to the Rising Sun, Days 5-6: Wasting Away Again in Harajukuville or Fuji Gets Flushed or It’s Godzilla!!!

Day 5

It was a bright sunny Sunday morning as I knew it would be since I was carrying my umbrella.  But that’s OK because it also doubles as a fine walking stick.

Being in Japan, I realized it was highly unlikely that I would be finding a church to attend, but Mat supplied an event to touch on my spiritual needs when we visited Meiji Shrine.

The place was pretty much the same as the last time we visited, but there was a bit of excitement as we got to witness not one, but two, weddings that were taking place at the shrine that Monday.  It was a pair of moving ceremonies and I was glad to be part of it.

Then we went to Harajuku which I ranked as the blah moment of the trip.  Harajuku is known for its underground culture and for shopping.  I freely admit that shopping bores me to tears.  When I do it, it is a surgical strike as I know exactly what I want and I get it.  I don’t have much desire for knick-knacks or souvenirs and books are out in Japan since I can’t read the language.  So I spent three hours staying in the shade while other members of the party went on a shopping spree.

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On the other hand, Harajuku is also noted for its crepes and Dave paid his “fee” for my booking all the travel for us.  Unfortunately, he accidentally ordered the wrong crepes as I wanted cinnamon apple and gelato and got bananas and cream.  In his defense, he did order the number listed by my crepes, but it was a popularity list and not the number for the crepes I wanted.  I also only ended up eating half of it as it slipped out of my hand while I was tearing the paper.  Fiddlesticks.

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Banana and cream crepes.

From there we went to Mat’s favorite ramen restaurant, Tonkatsu Ramen, which I had eaten at during my last visit to Japan.  The ramen was as good as ever, even though the restaurant goofed by giving me a mild broth instead of the hot and spicy one I wanted.  Well, them are the perils of dealing with a language barrier when ordering food.

After filling our stomachs, Mat led us to his favorite shrine in Akasa.  It was still as peaceful as the last time and we got to watch the monks build a shrine for a festival.

We enjoyed a brief stay before heading off to Akihibara where more shopping was done before we closed the evening at Lion Ginza, a bar and restaurant where we took time to get to know each other better over drinks and food.

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Lion Ginza

Another exhausting day had ended, but the next day was to be filled with frustrations.

Day 6

When it rains, it pours.  Or did I say that once already?

Believe me, the rain that met us that Monday morning blew every other rainfall that we’d experienced out of the water (no pun intended).  Rain fell in sheets and would let up only for a few minutes before intensifying again.

This was meant to be a day for us to rest and recuperate as we were set to tackle Mt Fuji on Tuesday.  Then Mat hit us with the bad news.  We would be forced to pull the plug on the climb up Mt Fuji.

The horrible rain we were suffering through was supposed to continue for the next two days which would have made a climb miserable and difficult (well, more difficult at any rate).  Even worse, the winds were gusting so much that those who oversee the climbs were not allowing people to climb on Monday and Tuesday was set to be a repeat of Monday’s weather.  Sigh.

The good news is that we will be going to Mt Fuji’s 5th station to look around, eat lunch, and view the mountain, but it’s disappointing to lose out on what was to be the centerpiece of the trip.  On the other hand, I have gotten very fit training for the climb.

The rain finally let up enough around noon for us to leave the apartment and do something as we were going stir crazy.  We attempted to try an escape room in Akasaka which claims to be open nearly every day.  Monday was apparently not one of those days as the place was shut tight.  I suspect they are only open when people actually arrange for the tickets as neither the business nor its Facebook page list operating hours.

We hiked another 15 minutes to the Tokyo Skytree, the tallest tower in Europe and Asia.  We stopped for a quick lunch at McDonald’s where I had a Sudden Victory Chicken sandwich and it was delish.  We ended up going up to the observation desk even though the low clouds made it impossible to see very far.  But I did have a small dish of ice cream for dessert and there were a few new exhibits to look at.

From the Skytree we returned to Shinjuku to catch Shin (New) Godzilla or Godzilla:  Resurgence (as it will be known in America) at Toho Cinemas.  I don’t normally watch movies on vacation, but watching a Godzilla film in Japan should be a requirement.  And you don’t need to understand the language to enjoy a Godzilla flick.  Godzilla shows up and chaos reigns.  It’s a formula that’s worked for 31 films.

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Dave ordered the Mega bucket of popcorn. It could and did feed 5 people.

We hit the arcades for a brief spell after the movie before returning to the apartment to pack up our stuff for the next phase of our journey.

 

A Journey Beyond Imagination, Day 3: Of Shopping and Sushi

Day 3 of this expedition was an all day shopping tour.  Shortly after breakfast, our group of gaijin headed to the subway station and set on off to the Ginza district.

Our first stop was the Sony Building.  Sony was celebrating the 30th anniversary of Michael Jackson’s Bad album.  A life-sized cutout of Michael was set on a stage outside the building and people were encouraged to take pictures.  I got a photo of myself doing the moonwalk while Mat took a before picture of himself giving “Michael” the bunny ears followed by a photo of himself sprawled out on the ground, unconscious.  I guess “Michael” showed him who’s bad.

After perusing and purchasing various knickknacks in the Sony Building, Yukie took us outside the restaurant of a legendary sushi chef.  I don’t remember his name, but he had recently been the focus of a documentary.  His restaurant is incredibly small, but reservations must be made a month in advance in order to eat there.  There is also no menu.  The food is whatever the chef feels like preparing that day.  If you want to eat there, bring lots of money as the cost is a staggering $300 per person to sample this legend’s wares.

From there, it was off to the Shinjuku district where we visited the Square Enix store.  Square Enix is a video game company best known for creating the Final Fantasy series of games.  It was a very small shop, but it had lots of interesting models to look at.  I ended up picking up some mystery monster toys for my niece and nephew. 

After our visit to Square Enix, we headed over to Harajuku where we enjoyed a late lunch at a ramen restaurant.  I ordered a Kanoban (spicy) pork ramen.  Dave and Mat ordered similar dishes, but theirs had eggs in them.  When we received our meals, they inspired the classic Matism, “I can smell the porky goodness.”  And it was a delicious meal.

Once we had recharged our batteries with the food, we explored the market in Harajuku which has a more underground feel.  I bought a t-shirt for myself that had a kanji which translated to “I’m in Japan” and bought a Hello, Kitty thingamajig for my sister-in-law.  I also caved to peer pressure as I bought a crepe along with Mat and Dave.  I’m usually not much for sweets, but this was an excellent dessert.

Soon our time was up and our group of merry wanderers made its way to Shibuya where we stopped at a bazaar.  I did most of my souvenir shopping at this place as there were all sorts of items to choose from.  I chose several beautiful items made out of ceramics for my friends and family like fish, lotus blossoms, and a few interesting stones.

Afterwards, we headed back to our hotel for a little bit of down time before our group headed out to a kaiten (conveyor belt) sushi restaurant for dinner.  The name is just what it sounds like.  We sat around a giant centerpiece that had all kinds of sushi being moved by conveyor belt.  If something caught your interest, you grabbed it and enjoyed it.  When you were finished eating, the plates would be counted up and that’s what you would be charged.  I seem to recall that the price was 118 yen (a bit over $1) a plate.  Mat, who has a superhuman metabolism, said he had polished off 18 plates of sushi when he had eaten at this place 2 years previously.  Mind you, the plates are about the size of a tea saucer with a just a piece or two of sushi on each dish.

Once we had dined, it was back to the Hotel Tokyo Metropolitan where we took it easy for the rest of the night.  We were going to need all of our strength tomorrow as we were heading for the centerpiece of the Tokyo Maximum Tour. . .the Tokyo Game Show.