So, it was a slow start to the day. The intent was to meet John B around noon, but by 1p, we realized that wasn’t going to happen so we set out on our own. Prior to that point I did a Skype call with Susan, then to Sydney & Ella and a couple of Google Voice phone calls. I stepped downstairs for the hotel breakfast buffet where I grabbed some fish to start my day off with a quality protein.
We left the hotel around 130 headed for Harajuku, home of the famous Harajuku girls and the Rockbilly guys. We made a train switch with a high degree of success, albeit with a little bit of hesitation. When arrived at the station, took a few random right turns based primarily on my recollection of the videos I’d seen on YouTube 3 months ago, and we ended up in Yoyogi Park. As I’ve mentioned a couple of times already, today was a national holiday, and I suppose that meant a significant portion of people wanted to take the time to visit the Shinto shrine, Meiji, in the middle of Yoyogi. We wandered into and through the park until, unexpectedly, hitting the shrine.
We never did see any of the guys or girls we were seeking, and now that I read more about the area, it seems they would been impossible to miss as they gather on the bridge we turned right out onto… just as I thought from the looks of the videos! The shrine and the park were beautiful, and well worth the “accidental” trip. Photos are within the Flickr set.
From there we met John B and walked into Harajuku proper – meaning the shopping strip. You’ll find a photo in the set where you’re looking down an alley with a bright, cheery sign at the opening. We walked through there. Shoulder to shoulder, back to front people… and I really wasn’t put off by it. Most everyone was pleasant about the process, giving in to the idea that you’ll just move with the flow. I caught a rare bit of Engrish with the “No Smorking” sign – apparently they’ve improved their spelling a great deal, but occasionally things slip through.
We eventually got out of the flow and headed out to a main road (a dori) and walked for… ages. John B isn’t the best navigator and despite plenty of toys from Apple, there is no navigation tool that translates and guides, so we’re just along for the ride. We eventually walked from Harajuku into Shibuya… it was a full train stop away from one another… the train that John O and I had switched between. In Shibuya we went to the “Shibuya Crossing”, where you can find the world’s busiest Starbucks as well as some serious amounts of big / crazy / noisy advertising. We headed into the shopping area, then into a ramen shop John is familiar with.
The ramen ended up being a ‘splurge’ for me, as it’s not really got a place on my diet plan. (Given that it has no place in my diet, it is currently rejecting being in my stomach I think.) It was pretty interesting. As many places in Tokyo are, it was just a tiny door in the midst of dozens of shops… if you didn’t know what it was, you’d walk by without noticing. The seating was at a bar… about 10 seats, and there was just enough space between the barstool and the wall to walk by. To order, you get a ticket from a vending machine at the front where you select your dish from a picture and price. Yeah… I chose pretty randomly. It was a fine meal – noodles, broth, seaweed, and a bit of meat.
After the late lunch, it was off to the train station for me to get to Yokohama and meet Patrick. John B escorted me to the station, and lucky he did as Shibuya station is pretty darn complex. We drifted around the station for at least 15 minutes until we finally located the train line I needed. I had prepared my trip on the internet prior to leaving the hotel, but it didn’t make finding things in the station any easier – sometimes they’ve got a lot of good English signs, but other times, like this one, they simply don’t.
Finding the line was only the first step in the process… next I had to sort out which of the four trains to get on. They all had the same destination, but it wasn’t me ultimate destination and, given the lack of proper signage, I didn’t know if that was okay or not. (They may have been displayed the end of the line with my stop someplace in the middle.) The choices were between varieties of express trains and then a local. I chose the local, figuring it was the safe bet.
Oh yeah… it was safe. My destination was about 20 stops down the line and it was one of the major ones. I suffered through about 2/3 of the line before I finally made the jump to an express. I saw the express 1/3 of the way along, but it was really, really full and I didn’t want to deal with it. At the 2/3 mark it was full and I was really done with the concept of the local! At the Yokohama station, another train switch… and this time I had to ask for help in Japanese. My directions had me getting on a specific line, but that seemed to be going in the wrong direction, so I asked and confirmed my suspicions. I got on the correct train and made it to my final train station.
Then I walked out the wrong exit.
Again, I trotted out my basic Japanese to ask where Motomachi Avenue was, because I knew it was the landmark I required to get to the Yoga Studio. (Sumimasin, Motomachi-dori-wa doko des ka?) The guy was super nice, pointed me in the right direction and I was off again. As I sorted out how to get across the expressway and the canal, I got a phone call from a local that’s part of the peak condition project. He couldn’t offer me directions, but let me know he’d offer to translate if I continued to be lost. Within moments, though, I was on Motomachi-dori and around the corner to the studio.
The zazen sit was nice and quite intimate – only Patrick, myself and one other person (Jenna) were there. It was a 45 minute gig – 20 minutes of sitting, 5 minutes of walking, 20 minutes of sitting. I’ve never sat for anything near that long. I know I certainly drifted close to sleep a few times, but overall it was an extremely peaceful way to cleanse myself of the Tokyo bustle.
Patrick and I went out to dinner, and he guided me into some fantastic food, as you might expect. It was inexpensive and delicious. I had Saba (Mackerel) prepared… I don’t know how exactly. Then I had some rice, which was quite flavorful (I have to figure that the TV show guys had stuff that was even better than this), some spinach, some seaweed, some okra, and some tea. It was a huge amount of food that I managed to consume the majority of. We had some great conversation over dinner – Japanese culture, my work, his work, the project, etc. I was intrigued to find that the rockbilly guys that I mentioned above, despite their apparent separation from society are just as hierarchical and structured as the salaryman. Apparently a massive portion of the population goes with the flow – they pick their flow, but they go with it. The rockbilly guys wear their uniform just as the salaryman does. If rockbilly guy B were to show up with pink hair one day, he’d be out of uniform.
After dinner we walked through the Motomachi Shopping Street to a different train station, one that would be a little more convenient for my purposes. As we walked, we admired the staff beginning to set up all of the Christmas decorations. This area, both the shopping street and Yokohama as a whole, is quite Western with a significant portion of foreigners living in the vicinity. He dropped me off at the station with us making plans to meet at least on Sunday evening, if not sooner.
I boarded the express from Motomachi-Chukagai station to Shibuya along the Minatomirai line where I transferred to the Tokyo Metro Ginza Line and departed the train at Tameike-Sanno. And that all makes sense to me.
I left the station (remember this is the 1km one) at slightly the wrong exit – I was next to Roppongi-Dori, but not exactly where I expected. I was, however, next to something quite familiar to me, and to you if you’ve been looking at the pictures from my hotel window – the Komatsu building! I headed toward the hotel, dropped into a 7-Eleven (yes, that 7-Eleven) and bought a couple of hard boiled eggs (thanks Patrick for the tip), then on to the hotel.
I spoke with Olivia on the phone briefly just before she headed into school. She seemed rather depressed when speaking to me – she asked if I was “at her house,” and was disappointed when I told her no. She perked up though, and began singing Itsy Bitsy Spider before I said goodbye to her.
Now sleep. It’s 1145p.