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Day 1.5: 16 March 2009 (Still)

When we last left our hero (me), he was running away from a group of children…  Ok, let’s ignore that fact…

Andrew, his parents and I headed back across Harajuku Girl Bridge (this time a bit fuller but still no really interesting costumes) towards the famous Takeshitadouri, the main pedestrian only shopping street in Harajuku.  On the way, I took a quick snap of the iconic Harajuku Train Station.

Also along the way, I stopped to take some photos of some t-shirts for sale.  From the looks of it, the store sold only t-shirts and they had this fun incongruity-themed series of shirts displayed outside.  My favorite of the bunch was this one:

We also stopped off at the Family Mart (another Japanese conbini chain) at the corner right outside the Takeshitadouri entrance in order to see if they had a particular sandwich we wanted.  They did!!

The wording next to the picture of the children playing with giant peanuts says: Ranchipakku Piinattsu (Lunch Pack Peanuts).  The pack contains two crustless sandwiches filled with peanut cream.  Despite what Deas might say in his review of Japanese peanut butter-like products, they are absolutely delicious!!  Admittedly, they might be even better toasted…

Having filled our tummies just a bit, it was time to head through the entrance to Takeshitadouri:

Please note that the crowd seen in this photo is so light as to be laughable.  We would end up visiting again on a day when you had to literally push your way through the crowds of people.  Anyway, our destination was this store:

This is the Harajuku location of Daiso.  Daiso is, for the most part, a large, multi-floored 100 yen shop, the Japanese version of the American dollar store.  My understanding is that it used to be strictly 100 yen for everything in the store.  Nowadays, though, almost everything is 100 yen but some things can be as much as 300 yen.  The point is that stuff is cheap!!  But also of fairly good quality.  Daiso is a great place to shop for stationary and paper products, craft supplies, small gifts and a random assortment of very Japanese items.  It turns out that this shopping trip would be one of my most expensive.  Because of the insanely low prices, this meant that I left with a lot of stuff.  So much stuff, in fact, that we had to find a locker to stash everything in so that I wouldn’t break my back having to carry everything around all day.  Don’t believe me?  Here is proof:

This is a scan of the receipt from that trip to Daiso.  What’s the total?  9765 JPY!!  That’s like spending $97 at a dollar store…  And you wouldn’t believe how insanely heavy paper can be…  I can, though, because I bought a lot of it.

Anywho, we ended up spending a good two hours shopping at Daiso.  I don’t really know how it happened; time just flew by…  Besides eating up a good chunk of the day, all that shopping made us hungry.  So, we headed out for lunch, to a destination Andrew had all picked out ahead of time: Shakey’s Pizza in Omotesando.  What is Shakey’s Pizza?  It is an all-you-can-eat pizza buffet!!!  But besides pizza, they also serve pasta, curry and rice and these wonderfully delicious fried potatoes that are simply delectable with some Tabasco sauce and ketchup.  This is what my very first (and most definitely not my last) plate of food from Shakey’s looked like:

Omotesando being the large shopping district that it is, we headed out for some more shopping fun after eating way too much food at lunch.  More specifically, we headed out to find la droguerie, the first craft store on a long list of ones I wanted to visit on this trip.  Along the way, I came upon this graffiti and simply had to photograph it to share with everyone:

What?  Where are they?  Over there?  Ok…  I can follow the sperm… … …

After a walk that took much longer that I thought it should given its relatively close location on the map, we finally made it to la droguerie!!  The heavens opened up and angels sang…  Or something like that…

la droguerie is a French craft store that has several locations in Japan but – unfortunate for me but fortunate for my bank account – no locations in the U.S..  They specialize in beads, buttons and yarn.  I was in heaven, albeit a somewhat expensive heaven.  The store was was open and airy, the colors were bright and everything screamed: “BUY ME!!! NOW!!!”  I fell in love with the yarn display at the front of the store.

Consequently, I ended up purchasing a few things – really, only a few.  What did I buy?  Well:

  • 50 grams of fingering weight 100% Alpaca in Elephant
  • 30 grams of fingering weight 100% Alpaca in Verveine
  • 30 grams of fingering weight 100% Alpaca in Garance Bis
  • 3 wonderfully colorful and etched buttons (I think they are made out of some sort of stone…)

The business cards for la droguerie were also lovely.  Below is the front of the one for the Omotesando branch.  Click on it to see the back that has the address, contact info and the handy map (ubiquitous and essential on all Japanese business cards):

Then we headed out on another very long walk to find the Hakusan Shop in Minato.  Hakusan sells porcelain goods.  Specifically they sell some bird figurines that we wanted to get for our neighbor because she couldn’t find them for sale on the internet anywhere.  After walking all the way to the location where Google Maps placed the shop, we almost missed it because it is hidden on a floor below ground level with its entrance not visible from the street.  After a bit of looking around and drooling over the beautiful pieces, we left with one black and one white bird as well as a bird bowl for our neighbor.  Are you sensing a theme yet?  I think we might just one day overload her sensibilities with bird themed gifts…  maybe…

I also liked the Hakusan Shop business card.  Same deal as the last:

After this we headed back into the shopping heart of Ometsando to visit Oriental Bazaar.  Yes; it is as tourist-oriented as it sounds.  I was in search of some specific souvenirs, some of which I found.  Oh well.  Then it was time for one of my favorite stores (chain of stores, really) in Japan: Kiddy Land!!  Kiddy Land carries many, many, many toys and character goods and, I must admit, I got lost in there for a couple hours searching every floor – all of them except for the pink Hello Kitty one…  My favorite purchase there was a small pouch emblazoned with edamameshiba (枝豆しば), literally translated as soybean dog.  Edamameshiba is one of a group of characters known collectively as mameshiba (豆しば), or bean dogs.  Mameshiba’s claim to fame are some very short films where a person is eating something, like a bowl of edamame (soybeans), in which a mameshiba shows up, strikes up a conversation and spouts some strangely inappropriate piece of trivia that causes the person to lose his or her appetite.  Currently there are ten videos staring mameshiba, one of which is in English:

I love these characters almost as much as Kogepan and friends…

Anyway, at some point during our adventures in Kiddy Land, Andrew’s parents decided to head back to the apartment and were kind enough to stop by the lockers, retrieve our stuff and take it home for us so that we wouldn’t have to deal with it later.  So sweet.

After spending way too much time playing with toys, Andrew and I stopped by the Snoopy themed crepe shop just outside the first floor of Kiddy Land.  I had a crepe filled with peanut butter and fresh whipped cream.  It was absolutely delicious.  It was also the first of an obscene quantity of crepes that I would consume while in Japan…

Then it was off to 無印良品 (Mujirushi Ryohin), popularly known as Muji, another one of my favorite Japanese stores (also a chain).  Muji sells household goods, clothing and stationary products that emphasize minimalist design.  As their name, translated as “no brand quality goods”, suggests, Muji’s products are not branded and the company operates on an anti-branding philosophy.  Arguably, however, many of their no-brand products are well known and instantly recognizable simply by their design.  Muji products are everywhere in Japan; I think that this is due to their utilitarian, no-frills design philosophy and low price point for high quality products.  I have an abiding fondness for Muji products and after wandering their store for about an hour – picking things up, debating my desire to have each particular product and ultimately putting things back – I walked out with one pen in every color they produce, .38 mm tip click-type design.  Muji now has stores in several different countries, including one store in the United States that is located in New York City.  If you’re ever in NYC and have an hour to kill, you should definitely check it out.

After Muji, Andrew and I wandered some of the back streets of Harajuku.  While wandering down one of those backstreets, we came across this bit of graffiti:

Just a random dragon on a wall.  No real reason that I could ascertain.  I love it.

Not surprisingly, I have a bit of an obsession with graffiti/wall art/murals.  I love them.  I just can’t help it.  If you too love graffiti, Tokyo is an excellent place to visit an explore.  During this trip I photographed some awesome pieces that I’ll share with you here.

Somewhere in our wanderings, we also came across Daiso again.  You remember that store, right?  I talked about it earlier in the post, about 300 pages back…  Well, anyway, we stopped in for a bit (read: another hour or so) and I purchased some craft supplies and a few more odds and ends.  Andrew and I also had some fun with the プリクラ (purikura) in the basement.  Purikura, for those of you who are unfamiliar with the term, are booths where, for a small fee, you and your friends cram into a tiny curtained off space to take a digital photograph of yourselves against a greenscreen or similar technology, digitally decorate said photograph with stamps and backgrounds and then have it printed on stickers that you cut up and distributed among the group.  The term purikura is also used to refer to the stickers produced by these machines.  Purikura are popular among the younger crowd and the sticker can be seen adorning all sorts of possessions from notebooks to bags to cell phones.

Well, after retaking our photos a couple of times to compensate for the fact that in the originals I looked like a floating head because the shirt I was wearing was green, Andrew and I produced these two purikura:

If you can’t tell from the pictures, purikura machines are usually made for shorter people than Andrew and I…

Walking around after our second trip to Daiso, I realized that the city is as beautiful by night as it is by day.  The beauty is different but still there.  I think that it may be the lights…

This is a photo of one of the big intersections in Omotesando that I took on our way back to the Harajuku Train Station.  We took the train from Harajuku Station to Tamachi Station (190 JPY).  Leaving Tamachi Station on our way back to the apartment, I was again struck by the beauty of the lights and took some photographs of the city from the station.  This is my favorite one:

Not having had dinner, we stopped by Lawson on the way back to pick up some food.

As you can see in the photo, I ended up with peach iced tea and theミックスサンド (mikkusu sando) for dinner.  Mikkusu sando is a pack of three half sandwiches, each of which contains different ingredients.  My set included one with tuna salad, one with egg salad and one with ham, lettuce and mayo.  Andrew won’t eat these because they all contain mayonnaise.  In fact, mayonnaise is a common addition to most prepared sandwiches in Japan; so, if you hate mayonnaise, stay away from prepared sandwiches.  I happen to love mayonnaise, especially the Kewpie variety that is the standard in Japan.  Delicious.

Finally, after a lengthy discussion regarding the plans for the next day, it was off to bed.  I slept like a log.