We left our Reiko's sister's house on Tuesday and made our way over to our final hotel in Nippori. It made sense to do a bit more sightseeing on the way.
We saw Mt Fuji in the far distance from the train going back into Tokyo, but every time I tried to get a photo, another apartment block got in the way! Shame, because it was a lovely clear sky and sunny weather, like almost all the time we have been in Toyko. I've started calling it our 'Winter sun' holiday.
There are very few luggage lockers at Harajuku station, so we left our bags at Shinjuku instead. My first time using the Suica card to use a locker. As it is such a big station, we thought it was a good idea to take a photo of the lockers' location too.
I'm often asked whether people are seen wearing kimono in Japan very often nowadays. Perhaps one reason why visitors don't spot people in kimono is that they are looking for something that is bolder and brighter than the more subdued kimono worn for events like tea ceremony or even just shopping. I spotted the lady above at Shinjuku station and the two below on Omotesando-dori near Harajuku. All were wearing michiyuki, douchugi or other coats over their kimono, which also makes it a bit less recognisable to most tourists.
People visiting Japan are probably expecting kimono to look more like this -
Meiji Jingu shrine, right next to Harajuku station. Although it is one of the most famous shrines in Japan and is in the centre of Tokyo, I'd never been there before. Stories of the huge crowds that visit at festival times probably put me off (friends mentioned that it was absolutely heaving with people on New Year's eve). The shrine has some very impressive torii gates.
We were very impressed by the designs on the sake barrels that are stacked up at the entrance.
There's a similar repository of French wines on the opposite side of the entrance. I wonder, given that they are stored outdoors in the Tokyo climate, just how much wine is still left in them and how much has evaporated over the years.
The garden was an unexpected treat.
The beautiful tea house was reconstructed in the 1950s.
Further into the garden is a jetty and a koi pond, where apparently the Meiji emperor and empress liked to fish. The koi were so friendly, catching them would have been too easy.
The patterns of ice forming on the surface, despite the sunny day, made very interesting effects.
There were a lot of photographers in the park. We saw some men feeding the birds from their hands and they gave us some peanuts and showed us how. The birds were so tame.
Inside the shrine's main compound, there was an exhibition of calligraphy by school children, plus the usual omamori (lucky charms) and shrine shop. I always bring back some charms and other items as souvenirs from shrines.
The approach to the shrine itself. Photography inside is not allowed. There were several large groups of very young children there, maybe kindergarten or first year of school age, all wearing matching hats for their group.
I bought a 'good luck in examinations' omamori - to help me with getting my Yuza Sashiko certificate!
We went to a Kyushu-style restaurant near to Harajuku station for lunch.
Glyn had really HOT noodles of course! I had gyoza and rice.
In the afternoon, we strolled around Omotesando-dori and the surrounding streets. The area is an interesting mixture of boutiquey shops, with the big designer stores out on Omotesando-dori itself, and a mixture of smaller shops, restaurants and houses in the nearby streets. This plum was in full bloom.
You don't see many old brick buildings in Japan, but Omotesando is quite hilly and maybe these predate the 1923 earthquake.
Takeshita-dori, where anyone over twenty five sticks out like a sore thumb! I went there with Emily in 2014. It was a convenient short cut back to the station.
We had planned to go to SouSou Kyoto near Omotesando-dori but, although I had marked it in my Tokyo street guide, we couldn't find it - not helped by it being slightly off one of the larger scale pages. When I checked on the internet later, we had missed the street because it didn't look like there were shops down it. So we went back on yesterday afternoon before leaving for the airport.
Glyn had seen some of their things online and wanted a top to go with his new carpenters' trousers. I love the style of this shop. They have lots of interesting fabric choices for the same design of top (including an amazing furry fleece top!) and eventually he went for this one, in black pinstripe with a dark blue deep V collar reminiscent of kimono collars. We liked the chartreuse and blue version too, which looks bit more green in real life, but they only had it in XL. Unusually, the men's clothes sizes seemed to be the same as UK ones, whereas more typically we have to buy one side larger in Japan for clothes sizes.
We finished off the afternoon with matcha in the little tea shop at the front of the main store. Delicious!