Today, I awoke comfortable. I felt used to Japan now. It wasn’t home, by any stretch, but it felt familiar.
My plan for today was simple: visit the Imperial Palace, then head over to the fashion disticts of Shibuya and Harajuku. And they were all on the same Yamanote Line.
First, the Imperial Palace. I had already visited a week prior, to discover the Palace was closed on that day. Today, I knew it would be open, and I already knew the way. So I stepped out of Tokyo Station, walked through the financial district, and walked through one of the gates.
I discovered that the Imperial Palace isn’t really there any more. Almost all of the buildings have burned down over the centuries. Only a few guard houses remain, plus the massive stone walls; the rest is acres of gardens and lawn. It’s beautiful, and historical, and well worth an hour or two of walking, but definitely not as striking as I expected.
So I headed back to Tokyo Station and took the train over to Shibuya. This is one of the two biggest fashion districts in Tokyo, and it turns out this is more the formal shopping area. Right outside the station is Shibuya Crossing, a massive intersection where all the pedestrian traffic gets a green light at once. (serial experiments lain fans will recognize it as the place where Mika, Lain’s sister, freaks out).
Shibuya is an experience. Imagine hundreds of people crowding the streets, all showing off their fashion sense. Imagine if about 10% of them have no fashion sense. It’s a carnival of trendy style.
It is also, however, exhausting. If you want to shop for fashion–and there are dozens of large and small stores nearby–it’s heaven. Otherwise, it gets old quickly.
So I walked back to Shibuya Station–passing the statue of Hachiko, a dog who waited patiently for his master at this station every day, even after his master passed away–and took the next stop. I wondered how it would be different.
Harajuku is absurd and insane and wonderful. This is the home of Japanese street fashion, of wild outfits and poofy hair and layers of makeup. Just outside the station, one long street provides two blocks that are absolutely chock full of outlandish fashion, from hot pink sweaters to six-inch platform shoes.
It’s also full of young men who proposition girls for “a little modelling work.” About a dozen of these guys prowled just this two-block stretch of streets.
Further down, the streets turn into quiet shopping districts, still offering the latest fashion but without quite the high pressure.