I woke up at a reasonable time today which made me feel a bit more positive about my sleep pattern/jet lag conundrum. I then proceeded to procrastinate until almost midday. It was productive procrastination, honest, I was finding out about travel arrangements in Hong Kong!
Anyway, there were two destinations on the menu today; Harajuku, and Akihabara. Both are shopping districts; Harajuku for fashion, and Akihabara for electronics, games, and anime/manga. My first foray into the world of Japanese retail was certainly an interesting one, especially when you get shop fronts like these.
The thought of me investigating a fashion district is, I won't lie, quite peculiar. But Harajuku is one of those places I've heard about so wanted to explore and find out what it's like for myself. In addition to its fame for fashion, it is known by many as an area where the urban, teenagers of Tokyo tend to hang out, often times wearing clothing that to most would be considered quite strange. That and cosplay.
When I arrived at the station I made a decision to turn right, roughly followed some random signs, and ended up at Harajuku Street. This seemed appropriate. However, after wandering up and down Harajuku Street and feeling that it was decidedly emptier than I expected I came up with the genius idea of looking up Harajuku on Google.
It was at this point I discovered that Takeshita Street is generally considered the main focus point of the Harajuku area, and upon reaching the destination I could quite easily confirm that this was the case.
My word, the number of people was staggering!
I plodded slowly along the street, consistently in line with a horde of others on the left hand side of the street plodding in the same direction and snapped away at some of the shop fronts whilst trying not to let the vibrancy burn out my retinas. I was a tad disappointed that there weren't many cosplayers or crazy fashion kids out and about today, either they weren't in the mood or they don't actually exist. I'll try and find out whenever I return to Japan.
I actually plodded up, back down, and then back up Takeshita street, trying my hand at a bit of street photography. Alas, my efforts were mostly in vain. I did learn that crepes are popular with the teenage population of Tokyo though!
Once I was feeling simultaneously claustrophobic, and agoraphobic I decided to meander my way to Meiji Jingu Shrine which happens to be in the vicinity of Harajuku station. It may well be my favourite shrine; of all the shrines and temples I've seen on my trip, this is the first that seemed to use the natural colouring of the timber used to build it. And when set in its forest location it has an incredibly peaceful ambience to it. Also, all I could think of was that it was like the Forest Temple in Legend Of Zelda: Ocarina of Time!
I did take some photos of this place, but as I've posted loads of shrine pictures so far, you can go find my shots elsewhere! This post is for retail, so lets move on to Akihabara.
Akihabara is more my scene. It's commonly known as Electric City and that couldn't be closer to the truth. There are stores big and small, as well as absolutely huge, that stock all manner of electrical products from cameras and consoles, to deep fat fryers, TVs, and who knows what else.
In addition to all the electrical goods, there's a vast amount of building whose products and services cater to the Otaku culture in Tokyo. There are quite a few people who, once they learn what Otaku is, would consider me part of that culture. Before leaving England I had to sell a large number of collectible figurines, I read comics, graphic novels, manga, I watch anime and cartoons. I'm generally a geek. Being able to wander the streets and peruse the shops of Akihabara had my inner nerd absolutely screaming to spend huge amounts of money.
Resisting the manga from shops that stock nothing but was fairly simple; I wouldn't be able to read any of it without spending months learning Katakana, Hiragana, and Kanji (something I plan to do incidentally). Pulling myself away from the anime figurines and cameras was much more difficult, I even considered buying a Japanese New 3DS at one point because it was only £75 (and then the PS Vita for slightly less money!). My self discipline prevailed however, having incredibly limited space in my rucksack, and no idea of how reliable the postal service is in Japan, I persuaded myself not to buy anything.
There'll always be the next time I'm here though...