There’s nothing more than a pleasure to wander (but not lost) around the city you visit. Tokyo has so many hidden gems that you can’t just explore for a day or two. We enjoy some of the touristy (I use this term loosely because I’m on vacation, not backpacking for this trip).

25 June 2011 — Shibuya. Meiji Shrine. Harajuku

Yes. Between these districts: Shibuya, Harajuku (and Shinjuku), are within walking distance. Unfortunately, we didn’t really explore Shinjuku much.

You might found some places are overly crowded and yet fascinating, where you can observe the many types of people.

Shibuya (渋谷区 Shibuya-ku) is famous as one of the fashion shopping districts in Tokyo, where even the Shibuya Station is submerge with shopping malls in, above and surround it.

When we step out from the Station, we are drawn to the loyal dog statue, Hachikō (ハチ公), whom waited for his late master from 1923 to 1935 and become a local hero of loyalty and bravery. The statue become a meeting point with its strategic position by the Shibuya Station.

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Hachikō , Shibuya Station. Tokyo. Japan. The Hachikō bus to go around

Shibuya is also famous for the scramble crossing (Shibuya Crossing), where every direction of street has a street light system to stop all vehicle in all direction at the same time for people to cross in any direction desired.

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In a distance, there’s also the famous 109 Department Store. I tend to avoid malls, but this particular mall has the number 109. The number is a Japanese word play (ain’t Japan has many of those?) of  (10) + kyū (9) = kyū . Cute eh?

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The famous Shibuya stacked bread top with sweet toppings and ice cream. Hmmm, much taller than I imagine.

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Then we arrived at Meiji Shrine (明治神宮 Meiji Jingū) established November 1st, 1920, located at Meiji Jingu dense forest, adjoined with Yoyogi park. The shrine is dedicated to the souls of Emperor Meiji and Empress Shoken.  For the love of their sovereign, the people donated 100.000 trees for the 700.000 square metre.

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Provenance of the Bourgogne Wine for Consecration at Meiji Jingu

The wine collection in Meiji Jingu is an interesting display. As you know, Meiji period is the period where western influence and way of life is adapted to modern Japan. Among them, Emperor Meiji enjoyed western food with wine. The barrels of wine in Meiji Jingu is contributed by the wineries of Bourgogne in France in the spirit of world peace and amity.

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Sake barrels (飾り樽, Kazaridaru), symbolic presentation from the sake houses in Japan

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O-Torii (Grand Torii Gate) made of Hinoki (檜 or 桧, Japan Cypress) 

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Shinto water ablution – Temizuya (手水舎)

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How to: Left hand pick ladle, scoop water from water basin, pour to right hand and make sure water falls to earth (now basing). Switch hand and do the left hand. Switch again, curve right palm, form a cup and pour water into it. Sip. Rinse. Spit to ground. Make sure to cover your mouth (be polite). Hold ladle vertical and let the excess water trickle down the handle to purify it for the next person to use.

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Then proceed to main shrine building. Bow twice to pay respect. You may throw some coins, clap your hands twice and bow once more.

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Visitors may also offer prayers/wishes to the gods by writing them down on a small wooden plaques called Ema (絵馬 picture-horse). After writing the back, we can hang them on a rack around the divine tree. In Mikesai, morning ceremony, the priests will covered the offerings.

There’s also a Shinto wedding procession within the halls into the courtyard lead by the two priests and two shrine maidens in a Japanese traditional formal cloths, followed by the couple under the red umbrella, then the family and his/her close friends. We can offered them a congratulation or omedetou! for the happy couple.

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The Emperor Meiji and his wife, Empress Shoken, love to compose Waka (和歌, Japanese poem) or traditional poems in 31 syllable form and left around 100.000 of them, and the Empress Shoken composed 30.000 by her self alone! In Meiji shrine, there’s a Omikuji box in front of the main building (Gehaiden). We can draw a poem from 20 poems in Japanese with English translation and explanation. The white paper in particular is interesting. It’s made from thick paper stock and in certain light, the Emperor Meiji’s Imperial Seal, the Chrysanthemum Seal (菊紋 kikumon).

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Ozora ni sobiete miyuru takane nimo
Noboreba noboru michi wa arikeri

(Should you but resolve to climb
That peak towering to the heavens,
You will find there is a pathway
To its very summit)
It means: There is a way to the top of every mountain, if you are determined to make the climb.
“Where there’s a will, there’s a way,” as the proverb says.
– Emperor Meiji

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After walking, we work an appetite. We had a Japanese Western fusion style burger set at Jonathan’s Coffee & Restaurant with delicious rice, potato and gravy, sweet corn and miso soup. Yep. We’re famish! Don’t judge me. Thank you for our friend, Shun,for his treat with this wonderful meal!

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Harajuku Station (原宿駅 harajuku-eki)

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Walking along, we passed the Harajuku station to Harajuku from Takeshita Street (竹下通, Takeshita-dōri).

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Harajuku hosted  local and international brands, fusion cafe and restaurants catering to young and hip Japanese. Harajuku is also famous for cosplay in gothic and lolita (sometime anime-style) cloths. Gothic+Lolita is fascinating because the theme is centred in Victorian and Edwardian style, and fairy tales story like Alice in Wonderland.

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The fashion are often Asian-Western hybrid themed and mix-match layers, tops and bottoms.

27 June 2011 — Ginza, Ningyocho

Starting early, well~ not too early,  I stop over to have breakfast at Ginza (銀座), where all the leading high end fashion located. I remembered when I first came to Tokyo a couple years before and found Ginza stores’ window display unique. Nowadays they still have the flare but not as grand as before.

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Breakfast, petite sandwich and coffee at Le Cafe Doutor, Ginza for the View

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The view outside: Mitsukoshi Department Store

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Met a couple of Filipino and have a chat; Maria Jen and JHerlyn Arellano

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Ningyocho (水天宮)

From Ginza, taking the Tokyo Metro, Hibiya Line to Ningyocho. My first goal is to Suitengu Shrine to buy and pray for my two friends, one whom just lost her baby. The prayers are for their health. Second is to shop some sweets.

Ningyocho is a town famous for making dolls, puppeteers and puppet theaters since Edo era as a popular entertainment for the people.

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The mechanical figurine clock towers feature comic figurine and they moved every hour.

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Suitengu shrine (水天宮)

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Shinto water ablution – Temizuya (手水舎)

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The shrine is famous to bring fortune and safe childbirth and childrearing.

The building was in Gongen Tsukuri style and housed deities such as:
• Ame-no-minaka-nushi-no-ou-kami – The Lord of Creation
• The Emperor Antoku – God of the Sea
• Ken-rei-mon-in – Mother – Goddess of Childbirth
• Nii-no-ama – Grandmother – Goddess of Childbirth

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Kodakara-Inu (子宝いぬ)

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The shrine is famous for the Maternity belt of Suitengu and the Lucky Charm of Suitengu. It’s a custom to pull the rope (Suzu-no-o) to ring the bell and summon the deities for prayer in the main hall. The belt is changed every month. Interestingly, a mother-to-be may given an old Suzu-no-o for maternity belt for easy delivery. Once she had safe delivery, she may return to the shrine and make monetary offering as a token of gratitude. The lucky charm or Itsu-moji/Gofu is a sheet of paper with five Sanskrit characters in India ink with its own ritual for the mother-to-be.

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I went to a couple of candy stores and some stores are little sweet and lovely.

29 June 2011 — Asakusa

After Ghibli museum, we go to Sensō-ji (金龍山浅草寺, Kinryū-zan Sensō-ji), one of the oldest Buddhist temple in Tokyo. Housing the Bodhisatwa Kannon, founded by two fishermen, Hinokuma Hamanari and Takenari.

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Kaminarimon Gate (雷門, Thunder Gate)  with Buddhists deities Fūjin (風神, Wind God) and Raijin (雷神, Thunder God)

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The Nakamise-dōri Street (仲見世通り)

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The Hozōmon (宝蔵門 “Treasure-House Gate”) with 2 Niō (仁王) statues to guard the gateway.

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The Hozōmon’s back with 2 Waraji (草鞋, sandals)

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While the real Bodhisattva Kanon was hidden, the teaching and its representation of Bodhisattva remains with the people of Japan. In Senso-ji, the goddess teaches opening of ones’ heart and living merciful and give mercy to other people.

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Senso-ji Main Hall

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At the end of they day, a chilled Ramune (ラムネ) is the way to go. *G*

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Source: Wikipedia, Travelwiki, Tripadvisor, Lonely Planet,  www.jnto.go.jp, Tokyo Nihonbashi Ningyocho, Tokyo Metro, Senso-ji