Day 3, Part 2: Harajuku, Aoyama & Shibuya, Here I Come!

Before I get into this installment, I thought you might be interested in the ad campaign that Patrick’s company was working on in Tokyo – Swazzle’s puppets are all over Subaru’s Japanese site.

Here’s one of the ads:

The behind-the-scenes videos aren’t on YouTube yet, but if you go to the official website and click the third pink tab from the left…

Then click in these 4 places for the 2 ads and the 2 behind-the-scenes features.

Back to the rest of Day 3…

After I sent Patrick off to the shoot, I took a break in the hotel room to photograph our loot and write a few letters and postcards. The post office was just a couple doors down from our hotel, so I mailed two letters and two postcards and bought three more letter stamps and three more postcard stamps. Holy cow, it cost me $17! Guess I shouldn’t complain about the US Postal Service’s prices anymore…

Then I took the subway to Harajuku and Aoyama to investigate more swanky shops. I started on Omotesando, a broad, tree-lined avenue that’s home to a large concentration of Tokyo’s most distinctive architecture, in the form of fashion designers’ flagship stores. Apparently it’s known as the “Champs Elysées of Tokyo,” and I think it an apt description in contrast with Chuo-dori in Ginza, which feels like 5th Avenue in New York. Otomesando definitely has a different vibe than Chuo-dori – the crowds surging toward me were younger and edgier (though not the outlandish characters of Takeshita-dori, the street where teenage Harajuku lovers parade around on the weekends).

After it crosses Aoyama-Dori, the boulevard narrows into a suburban-feeling avenue lined with more designer boutiques. This is where I found the a-friggin-mazing Prada boutique, which is super-difficult to photograph from across a slim two-lane road.

Even worse, they won’t let you take pictures of the inside or even looking out the window at other buildings from inside. The thing is an architectural marvel—picture-taking oughtta be mandatory! Once again, I am totally mystified by how often photography is prohibited in a culture that, at least to Western eyes, appears to be fanatical about photography. …Then again, maybe that’s why they have to prohibit it!

I made another Flickr set of some of the few good images I could find of the interior. Next door is another fabulous building, which houses Cartier and Chloe.

Down the street, the Yoku Moku butter cookie shop tempted me with a sleek courtyard café.

But Aoyama felt remote from the exciting hustle and bustle of Harajuku, so I went back up the boulevard to where the action was.

… And the action was at Kiddyland, another multi-level toy mecca!

At street level, they have a boutique devoted to Minnie Mouse, including what appears to be an attempt to replicate the success of the ultra-popular Duffy bear (more on that later!): rows of plush Minnies and a bunch different outfits to dress her in.

Inside, Kiddyland is a bit more cramped than Hakuhinkan Toy Park but better organized, with several of the six floors devoted to a single brand or company. They also offer Tokyo’s largest collection of choking hazards in a single display.

Festival of Choking Hazards!

"Yes, but do you have any Elmo dolls?"

I passed up yet another Totoro, but I think in this case you can’t blame me…

Another toy I saw all over Tokyo and yet remained strangely immune to was Kapibara-san—an adorable, limbless capybara stuffed into a doughnut. By all rights, my eyeballs should have exploded just gazing upon its cuteness, yet I never felt compelled to buy one.

Shield your eyeballs from its cuteness!

And then I spotted this:

SNOOPY TOWN?! My pal Jennifaerie adores Snoopy! I was immediately gripped by a compulsion to buy her the coolest, most Tokyo-fabulous Snoopy souvenir imaginable, which lead to about an hour spent down the rabbit hole (or would that be the “dog hole”?) that is Snoopy Town Harajuku.

Sleepy Snoopys

Slobby Snoopys

The coolest, most Tokyo-fabulous Snoopy souvenir turned out to be a pair of Converse Chuck Taylors—unfortunately, they only had kids’ sizes. Hope Jennifaerie likes toaru!

When I spotted this, I knew it was time for this grown woman to leave Kiddyland:

I totally had the original of this Barbie, AND the one pictured inside the box!

At the checkout counter is when I first began to notice the ubiquitous Japanese retail custom of perpetual dialogue. The cashier starts talking to you from the moment you reach the counter and doesn’t stop talking until the door is hitting you on the way out! Of course I had absolutely NO idea what she was talking about, so I just smiled and nodded and presented my credit card with two hands and accepted it back with two hands and tried to get a “domo arigato gozaimasu” in edgewise as I backed away from the counter.

What was she talking about the whole time? Was she describing everything she was doing? “Welcome to Kiddyland did you find everything you were looking for oh that’s nice would you like this wrapped I guess not how about I put an extra plastic bag in here for you ok I guess you want to pay by credit card whew it went through OK here it is back and OH MY GOD LOOK OUT IT’S MOTHRA yeah you totally don’t understand anything I’m saying here is your receipt have a nice day and don’t let the door hit you on the way out!”

After spending about 8 years in Kiddyland, I was hungry and it was getting to be dinnertime, so I set about looking for a restaurant with my new must-have-windows criterion.

Too small….

Just right!

I found a really stylish place inside Otomesando Hills shopping mall, another wedge of a building with endless corridors, but at least these just went around in a big loop so you couldn’t get lost.

I don't know what to call this – it's like a crystal curtain hanging above the entrance

I don’t usually go for Italian, but when you find a place in Tokyo with windows, stick with it! I had squid ink pasta with Japanese squid and aglio aiolio sauce – tasty!

… but not tasty-looking!

After dinner I stopped in at one of the swanky Jean-Paul Hevin chocolate shops I kept seeing all over town to see if their stuff was really as good as it looked. They actually let me take pictures!

I picked out a caramel-sea salt chocolate bar that turned out to be quite good. I love it when you can get sweet and salty all in one bite!

Next on my list was to take the subway to Shibuya to find the crossing you see in the movies – the one with all the buildings with neon signs, huge masses of crowds crossing diagonally every few minutes, and Kabuto’s ninjas chasing Tokyo Mater.

On the way, I caught my first glimpse of my fave anime character, Domo, in his native land. I was surprised how hard he was to find in Tokyo!

… I mean, besides being on the side of a bus

Another fave— I smelled it before I saw it…

It was crazy go nuts! Crossing the street there is like walking down Main Street, U.S.A. after the fireworks on New Year’s Eve. I tried to take a picture as I was actually crossing the street, which of course turned out like this:

Looking back across the street as the crowds subside

Views of Shibuya Crossing from a skybridge.

My next objective was to find the statue of Hachiko the dog. In the 1920s, he used to walk to the station with his master every morning and meet him there every night. After his master died while at work, Hachiko continued to come to the station to wait for his master’s return every day for 10 years. About a year before Haichiko died, the locals erected a bronze statue of him near Shibuya Station. The original was melted down for weapons during WWII, but a replica was installed in 1948.

It’s now the most popular place in Tokyo to meet – and smoke!

I went up in the Shibuya Mark City building to get a better view of the area and wound up in the swanky hotel restaurant on the 25th floor shooting pictures quickly before anyone threw me out.

Check it out – a playing field on the roof!

On the way back to the subway, I discovered that Coldstone Creamery has made its way across the Pacific!

What haven’t arrived yet are any of the mix-ins I like – no graham cracker crumbs and no peanut butter! Poop!

Finally I hopped the Ginza line back here and did all the collapsing and bathing mentioned waaaaay back at the beginning of Day 3—you know, like a week ago! However, you shall be rewarded for sticking it out this long, because up next is

Day 4: First Day at Tokyo Disney!

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8 Responses
  • matt
    September 2, 2012

    This is hilarious – I have visited Japan twice and am going again in a couple of weeks (in time for Halloween at Tokyo Disneyland – yay). I totally know what you mean about the contact chatter when you buy something in a shop – even in the 7-11. They must know you cannot understand them but the politness thing just takes over – I love Japan. The world would be a better place if we were all a bit more like the Japanese

    • Carrie
      September 2, 2012

      I totally agree!

  • Elizabeth
    May 2, 2011

    That playing field on the roof made my stomach flip just from looking at the picture! TOO HIGH! Wonder how many game balls they have lost up there!

    • lurkyloo
      May 2, 2011

      …And how many unsuspecting pedestrians they have beaned!

  • Diane
    February 11, 2011

    Thank you for such a superb travelogue. I’ve been thinking of visiting Japan for a long time and this has really inspired me to plan my trip.

    • lurkyloo
      February 11, 2011

      I’m so glad to hear that—I really tried to write the report in a way that would show how accessible Japan is to Westerners.

  • ShaeLee
    November 14, 2010

    In the Wii Game Raving Rabbids II, there is a game in Tokyo with a playing field on the roof.

    • lurkyloo
      November 16, 2010

      Wow – cool!

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