Japan 2019 Day 2June 22, 2019
Japan 2019 Series
This was such a busy day I fell behind on my blogging!
Both Joel and I woke up early due to the jet lag and so we got out the door early and headed for Tokyo’s famous Rainbow Bridge, (un?)fortunately we got caught up in Tokyo’s 8am commuter rush. We passed on the first train that turned up, wanting to avoid being squashed up against the train doors but we quickly realised we’d be waiting a long time when the second train arrived looking similarly full.
The Rainbow Bridge itself is pretty terribly signposted - we found that to get there we had to enter the east exit (this is thankfully signposted) of Shibaura-futō station and then walk in faith in a straight line until we found the Rainbow Bridge welcome banner and sign. The Rainbow Bridge entrance has a little museum that is terribly uninformative, and then an escalator takes you to the bridge itself where you walk next to the traffic all the way to Odaiba. The views of Tokyo from the bridge itself were my first good look at Tokyo’s skyline. Although it was a hazy day it was nice to get a feel for the city and to see how busy Tokyo’s waterways were. The best bit of the view was catching the first glimpse of Odaiba, our destination.
I didn’t know a lot about Odaiba before we arrived and I’m quite glad the next few hours felt like a surprise! Odaiba isn’t quite like the rest of Tokyo, whilst most of Tokyo feels lived in, full of surprise small shops and eateries, Odaiba feels more like a Western amusement area. Odaiba was entirely man made and it shows! It’s full of arcades, American style restaurants, shopping complexes, and other Western influences. Our first experience of it though was a quiet and secluded adjoining island that we’d spotted from the bridge.
From there we moved onto the beach and ambled around the water front until we spotted the Statue of Liberty! A replica given to Japan as a sign of friendship - it’s also a great spot for a photo. We also hit up the ‘authentic’ Hawaiian burger spot nearby for some food before grabbing the train to Shibuya - Tokyo’s shopping centre.
Shibuya is famous for it’s large crossing - another photo magnet. In reality it’s actually one of the more boring districts. It’s mostly a lot of large multi-national chains but there is the odd independent Japanese gem thrown in. The main purpose of our trip here was to hit up a couple of Japanese denim makers and Loopwheeler, who make some of the best sweatshirts in the world. En route we popped into a couple of second hand clothes shops (something that Japan does way better than the UK) and Yo-Yo park.
Loopwheeler itself was possible one of the highlights of my trip. The sweatshirts were reasonably priced, beautifully arranged, and the staff there were just excellent. We picked up a few tips for our trip next week to Hiroshima and they bent over backwards to be helpful and respect us, including refusing to let us carry the bag containing our purchases right up until we left the store. I secretly want to go back again.
We decided to wander around a bit more and check out some of the smaller independent denim retailers before heading back to Shibuya to try and get a good view of the crossing. En route to our first stop we accidentally ran into an art gallery displaying sculptures of bears. It sounds really bad as a concept, and it felt pretty surreal whilst I was there, but I have to say it’s the most fun I’ve ever had at an art gallery.
Our first stop was Pure Blue Japan, whose prices scared me to death, and after which I decided to abandon the quest for finding cool Japanese denim. I’d already spent enough on my Holy Grail of sweatshirts and I wasn’t in the mood for spending twice as much on something I hadn’t researched! Instead, we wandered back through Harajuku, Shibuya’s fashion district. I have to say, people had said it was a cool area, and you could see the American influences in the fashion - but on the whole it was pretty underwhelming. Maybe we missed the good bits!
After getting back to Shibuya, we tried, for the second time, to sit in the Starbucks overlooking the crossing to get a good view but failed to get a seat. Instead, I spotted a cafe across the street with an equally good view that was pretty empty. It was a great spot to people watch and, despite the desserts being pretty pricey, we had a great time resting and plotting our next moves. I managed to use the time-lapse feature on my phone to capture a pretty neat video of the crossing.
Our final stop before catching up with our friends, Dan and Alice, was to head to the Pokemon store. where we shopped for presents for friends and family. We went to the newer (and bigger) Pokemon Store but if I get a chance I’d like to swing by the older more established one. Whilst they are basically just massive shops - it’s cool to see the little geeky Pokemon touches and it’d be nice to see what the original store had in that department.
We rounded off our day by grabbing some food and doing some karaoke. I ordered a massive bottle of wine by mistake at the restaurant - thankfully there were four of us there! The karaoke itself was definitely not something I’d want to do again. It highlighted just how bad I am at singing in front of all my friends!
From waking up to getting to bed - I think we were awake for twenty odd hours. By the end both Joel and I were falling asleep on the metro system. Hence, I didn’t get a chance to write this all up at the end of the day itself.