Japan, May 2014: Day Three

This will be a short one tonight. Jet lag and walking over 20 miles in the last three days means that we are in bed by 11pm.

Today we visited Shibuya and the surrounding area. Shibuya is Japan. Every time Japan is referenced on TV or in movies, the first image you will see is Shibuya crossing. The dramatic scene of an uncountable number of people streaming over pedestrian crossings that traverse the crossroads in all directions is indeed a powerful one. The wall of people heading towards you as the lights turn green conjures up images from every medieval battle ever shown on screen; however, despite the hype, it’s just a pedestrian crossing.

Before we jumped into tourist town, we headed off the beaten track and took a couple of local trains to our first destination. We were heading for Miyanosaka. It’s a tiny station in what feels like the middle of nowhere (still in Tokyo). The small, two-carriage train wobbled along and eventually arrived at our stop.

In all honesty, I’m sure the big shrines in Tokyo and Kyoto are wonderful to see; but we really weren’t fussed about visiting any – until we discovered one in Miyanosaka. Yes, it’s a Buddhist temple etc… but this one is said to be where the Maneki-Neko tale originated. The ‘Beckoning Cat’ as it translates, is a Japanese icon, also popular in Chinese culture. You’ll have to look the story up, but I’m sure you’ll have seen these around.

The temple grounds are as serene and peaceful as you’d expect. I was quietly going around snapping photos, enjoying the break from the constant buzz of Central Tokyo… until Emma’s laughter broke the silence like a clap of thunder. Apparently we weren’t the only foreigners in the village. A chap from London was visiting with his American and Japanese friends, all of whom were stereotypically friendly to the max. It was weird to be speaking English to someone other than ourselves – I know it’s only been a couple of days since we left.

We parted company and proceeded on our way, taking lots of photos of the Maneki-Neko shrine and Sumo shrine nearby. Then it was back on the local trains and onto Shibuya.

Greeted by a wall of people, it’s hard to imagine two places more different within a couple of miles of each other. After stopping at Starbucks to have a drink overlooking the Crossing, we headed to Shibuya 109. This is a (small by western standards) shopping mall set over 10 floors. You’ll find no high street brands here, just independent boutique designers with stores that rarely have more than two members of staff. One of the designers (who was featured in fashion magazine, Nylon) actually works in her own store apparently… Emma was once again a bit star struck.

But we were here for Fig & Viper. F&V is a kinda rebellious, punk/rock/cute label with just 6 stores throughout Japan and Emma has religiously worshiped their stuff for the last 12 months… However, as a Japanese brand that rarely releases anything larger than a size zero (most of their stuff is one size, ‘Small Child’ by the looks of it), we were only here for accessories – until she found a cool western fit top. Fortunately for my wallet, this was the only item in that size at the time. With a level of customer service that puts England to shame, we were accompanied to the doorway and waved off by the staff as we walked back down the mall – this was made more awkward by the fact that we went in the shop next door, still waving.

Nine floors later we headed out and grabbed a coffee at a café opposite. Sitting with the smokers (yes, you can still do that indoors here) we watched the world go by as we tucked into an amazing crepe cake.

A further walk around the town proved fruitless in my ongoing quest for some Reebok Pump Blacktop sneakers – however, Emma found a hat to match her hair, so everything was right with the world once again.

We’re both shopped out and have a train to catch at 6:30am, so despite this not being as short as I hoped, I will be off to bed with my bad self.