14th August 2019: The other side of Harajuku {Japan, summer 2019}

After a sweep around the V-kei shops in Shinjuku [新宿], I dropped by Shibuya [渋谷区] (finally) to go to the big Tsutaya there, along with the Mandarake and Tokyu Hands. And there, in the most random vending machine in a backstreet, I managed to find the Shibuya coke bottle (which I drank with glee as I had approached the vending machine as I was thirsty). Then I walked towards Harajuku [原宿], but instead of Takeshita Doori, this time I turned towards the other side. I wanted to see the LemonEd flagship shop, as the Nagoya one did not convince me. LemonEd is a brand created by the deceased X Japan’s guitarist Hide, known for his bright colour combinations and hearts. I wanted to see the shop at least once, I guess, even if “bright” is probably not my thing (≧▽≦). There were many items, T-shirts and so on and I sneaked a couple of pictures.

I went on a little and arrived at Tōgō Jinja [東郷神社], which I really liked. I got a shuuin there too, and almost lost my shuuincho there because the miko would not call my number to give it back (;¬_¬).

I walked from Harajuku back to Shinjuku via Yoyogi [代々木], and I pretty much went around the NTT Docomo Yoyogi Building [NTTドコモ代々木ビル] from all angles (and weather backgrounds).

When I arrived at Shinjuku station [新宿駅] though, I came across… the Salamander God in a Takashiyama Window… I’m not kidding you.

Once I was in Shinjuku I tried to find the Tokyo Coke bottle in another random vending machine… It did not work, but I found the Kabukichō Benzaiten [歌舞伎町弁財天], which I had seen in passing, and wanted to snoop around.

After kushikatsu dinner, we called it a day.

Walked distance: 19234 steps / 13.7 km.

30th August 2018: Loud Head {Japan, summer 2018}

I took the train to Shinjuku [新宿] and I walked from there to Shibuya [渋谷] to have a thought or two at life. In my walk I crossed Yoyogi Kōen [代々木公園] and visited Meiji Jingu [明治神宮].

Then I strolled down Harajuku [原宿] – I had recently found out that the station is going to be torn down, so I had to say goodbye before heading over to the shops.

I finally made it to Shibuya [渋谷]. I had some Starbucks chocolate drink with around ten million kilocalories (≧∇≦). I went into Tower Records, Mandarake, and then Tsutaya.

Ironically, I finally took a train back to Shinjuku [新宿] to meet D****e for dinner (guess what?! In the Shinjuku MyLord!), and we saw the lights on the Tōkyō Tochō [東京都庁] (Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building).

10th August 2018: Pretty Lights, Strike 1 {Japan, summer 2018}

I stayed in bed for most of the morning, and had conbini lunch at home. Mid-morning I received an email informing me that my things had arrived in Haneda and would be delivered the next morning. This confirmed what I suspected, that luggage had stayed in London due to the check-in issues, and left me free for the day, although I would have to fill an insurance claim or two.

Luggageless, and thus cameraless, I did not feel like going out to do tourism, though I did have a couple of places I wanted to visit, so what to do? Obviously the first hunting incursion of the day – first Shinjuku [新宿]’s Closet Child and Pure Sound, and then I headed off to Harajuku [原宿] and the Laforet Building, then I came up Takeshita Dori [竹下通り] where I bought a pair of sunglasses and fell in love with a couple of shoes (until I saw the price. It was an impossible love).

After that, D****e and I met up with M***chan at Meguro [目黒] to go to the Hotel Gajoen Tokyo [ホテル雅叙園東京] and dinner afterwards. Hotel Gajoen is a huge luxury complex in Meguro, with corridors that go on forever, fountains, bridges and jaw-dropping prices. That should give you a clue that dinner was not had there.

The hotel organises cultural events around their one-hundred step ladder, and this summer it was holding the WA NO AKARI × HYAKUDAN KAIDAN Illumination Festival 2018: Wa no Akari, The Aesthetics of Japanese Illumination [和のあかり×百段階段2018 ~日本の色彩、日本のかたち~]. This was an exhibition of interpretation of Japanese art using lights, and it was very beautiful.

Would you like to catch a glimpse of the luxuriousness of the place? These are the lobby toilets:

Since obviously we could not afford to have dinner there, we went for nikuzushi [肉寿司], which is basically sushi with meat, raw or cooked, instead of fish to a place called, of all things, Nikuzushi, in Ebisu [恵比寿] (albeit this is apparently a chain, so there are several of them around the city). This was unexpectedly yummy.

Afterwards we did an hour of karaoke and headed home.

29th July 2017: Shinjuku, Shibuya & Blended Fam {Japan, summer 2017}

D****e and I were going to have a relaxing weekend, not leaving Tokyo [東京] and stuff, but she wanted to do some shopping. We started off in Shinjuku [新宿], at the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building Tōkyō Tochō [東京都庁], which was as always great and on her subway line anyway.

Collage showing Tokyo from above - thousands of buildings that disappear in the background, and some forlone green parks

Afterwards, I wanted to check something in one of the Shinjuku fandom shops (it said to ask the shop assistant, and I can ask, but I was not sure I would have understood the answer, thus she offered to tag along with me). Unfortunately the item I wanted was already gone, life is tough.

Then we went to Shibuya [渋谷] for lunch, Tokyu Hands and Mandarake. Afterwards we walked in the rain towards Royal Flash to check Arly’s Jewellery Line – Blended Fam. Arimatsu, or Arly, is the drummer for Oblivion Dust, and used to play for VAMPS too. He also designs jewellery, and he makes very pretty stuff – unfortunately quite expensive. We chose to drop by this day because he was going to be in the shop greeting fans, and engraving his most affordable piece of jewellery, a pendant made from his used cymbals. Furthermore, if you got one while he was there, he would engrave your initials on it! Fun. I decided to get one, and he was mortified when “SD” was engraved upside-down, yielding to “DS”. He was mortified. Then I joked about it and I gave it a naughty meaning… making him choke with laughter. So… it was a win, I guess?

The artist engraving the pendant, and the material - old cymbals cut out in a heart-shape.

After the event, we headed off to the Tokyo SkyTree [東京スカイツリー]. We were going to see the nearby fireworks with a friend from there, and have dinner later, or have dinner with her if the rain did not stop. In the end only we had dinner – as it was raining very hard and we thought the fireworks would be cancelled, so we headed off to a nice Chinese restaurant at the SkyTree which had extra long gyoza.

Chinese food - dumplings, rice, sweet and sour pork, soup

When we were coming out we saw one last firework, as the show was not cancelled in the end. Live and learn.

Firework sparks behind the structure of the Tokyo Skytree

26th December 2016: Japan can be cold! {Japan, winter 16/17}

This was a discovery. Yes, I knew for a fact that Japan could be a cold country. I’ve seen he pictures and the snow, but it was the first time ever I was in winter Japan.

First of all, regarding the flight, Iberia is now flying Madrid Tokyo in a direct route, which is amazing. However, they charge you about 30 bucks for choosing a seat and the personnel is not the most helpful ever (^_^)”

After arriving in Narita, the first goal was setting the Internet on the phone. I was using Free Wifi at Narita and several stations among my route to meet D. for lunch and to get the keys to her apartment, because I keep forgetting that you have to go onto your browser and “register”.

Anyway, I met with D****e first for yakiniku in Roppongi [六本木], and I got the keys to her apartment as I was crashing with her. I was hungry and forgot to take pictures, so have a look at the ベリベリ (“very berry”) smoothy I got in Harajuku [原宿] with B****. later on (*^◇^)_旦. And after that we went to a place called “Cookie Time” which was amazing.

We also got to look at the winter illuminations between Harajuku and Shibuya [渋谷].

Finally, we went to eat sushi (*・∀・)_Ω. It is a common misconception that there can not be too much sushi, but it is actually a mistake. There is such a thing as too much sushi, but you won’t realise that until it is too late (*゚ー゚)ゞ.

30th July 2016: 。・゜・(ノД`)・゜・。 Last day {Japan, summer 2016}

I had set up my alarm at an insane time in the morning because I needed to take the trash out before 8am (between 7 and 8?! Seriously, Japan?). But in the end it was good – you see my contract said that I had to clean the apartment, wash and dry the sheets and vacuum the floors. Which was okay, until the fluffy cover sheet took an hour and a half to about 95% dry. Oh, and I packed. 23.1kg of suitcase (^◇^;).

Anyway, the previous day I had been unable to get the Gakucchi clearfile from the UFO catchers, but I still wanted to try again. As I had to be back at the apartment by 4pm to give the keys back and pass the inspection, I headed off to the nearest Taito station, the one in Ueno. Unfortunately, they did not even have the GACKT machines. So I decided to brace myself and go to Akihabara [秋葉原] to try to find an arcade. The first three – the Sega ones – were not successful at all. I was about to give up and go home very sad when I was finally victorious! I found the clearfiles in the Taito Station. The staff-San I approaches was not very helpful at first – probably my Japanese was not the most articulate at that point either – but when she realised what I was trying to tell her she got me the clearfiles (I had an order, aside from the one I wanted for myself) and placed the plush I wanted on the machine for me to try. Of course I was not successful but I have the clearfile and that makes me happy.

As I had a bit of time, I headed off to Yoyogi Kōen [代々木公園] and Meiji Jingu [明治神宮], as I wanted some omiyage. In the end, I offered an ema, and got some silly stuff. I also located the Like an Edison shop, but I stopped myself from going in because SUITCASE WEIGHT issues. I blame the Hyde is Dead photobook (; ̄ェ ̄). I got back and bought some suahi from the street stand down my block, ate, sneaked out the rest of the trash, and sat down to wait for the inspection. At this point I was feeling kind of sad. Okay, without the ‘kind of’.

But the inspection / cleaner guy was adorable and he was pretty early so I could do stuff in the evening that would keep me going. I went to Tokyo station so they kept my luggage and then I headed to Tokyo Tower [東京タワー]. I got up to the main observatory, and had been considering walking up, but I did not trust myself without seeing the stairs first. So I climbed up on the lift and took pictures and enjoyed myself. I also wrote a postcard to myself to get the special post stamp… yes I’m lame like that, but I had a message for my future self (・◇・)/~~~

I walked down, because I figured out that I could so that more easily and I enjoyed it immensely. Then I stayed for a bit in the Zojo-ji [増上寺] matsuri in Shiba Koen [芝公園] , retrieved my luggage and headed towards the airport.

On my way I got to say goodbye to the Rainbow Bridge [レインボーブリッジ] on the way. It might be worth mentioning at this point that I could not complete the check in, and that I has only registered until Frankfurt… whoops.

Fortunately, after a bit of haggling with the lady organising the check-in queue I managed to get through to talk to an actual assistant who could get me my final boarding pass. I found myself some karaage dinner before moving on.

29th July 2016: Trying not to think {Japan, summer 2016}

So I got home late the previous day and I did not really feel like studying, so this morning I had to do my homework and study for the exam ( ̄◇ ̄;). However, at around midmorning, I decided that I really did not care for a perfect grade anymore, that I was not going to get anyway because the teacher was not happy with my なければなりません and wanted なけれべいけません because that was what the book had. The other day when I was in Harajuku I’d seen something I really wanted, so I decided that screw everything, I would go buy it.

First, I stopped by Shibuya [渋谷], just because. I did a quick tour over Tsutaya, Book Off and Mandarake. In Tsutaya, I bugged a lady as I was looking for a specific manga and she did not look too happy to help (~_~;). Then I went to Harajuku [原宿] to buy the item I had fallen in love with, a 40cm high photobook (limited edition).

After class (and last exam, and saying bye bye and getting our pic taken with the certificate…) I met M. in Ikebukuro [池袋] as we were going to do fanstuff together. Well, let me rephrase that. First I went home because the photobook(s) was (were) heavy as hell and it would have been more expensive to find a coin locker for them than getting home and dropping them off. After that, I waited for her in the Book Off (and was self-restrained and did not buy anything else). We checked out the Ikebukuro Closet Child and then we had dinner together.

The plan was try and hunt the Gakkuchi. That is, some of the adorable plushes that GACKT makes. He had decided to put some as prices for the UFO catchers. I do know that getting them is next to impossible, but for 500Y try, you got a clearfile, and that was awesome…

So awesome that the clearfiles were “sold out” in all Ikebukuro. We tried one station over, a smaller one. No luck. We tried my station. Still no luck. Damn, what a way to finish the day (♯`∧´).

26th July 2016: Day and night {Japan, summer 2016}

In the morning I went off to Shimokitazawa [下北沢], which is a “commercial and entertaining district in Setagaya [世田谷], Tokyo [東京]” (according to Wikipedia, at least).

My first stop was Kitazawa Hachiman Jinja [北澤八幡神社], about 10 minutes away from the station. It is one of those not so hidden shrines that give you the impression that time has frozen.

Afterwards, I undid my way for lunch in Gyoza no Oshou, which I heard that was GACKT’s favourite gyoza place (ironically, this seems to be a franchise, I also found one in Ueno, later on). After that I slithered over to Harajuku [原宿] to find the Closet Child there (and buy things and get a discount card!) Because the fact that there were no more planned shopping sprees does not really mean… anything(≧∇≦).

In the evening (after class and homework), even if it was raining, I waltzed off to take pictures of the city at night. While Shibuya is bustling with neon, Shinjuku was a bit heart-wrenching as the homeless tend to gather around the station for cover, some of them read your palm for cash.

Shibuya [渋谷]:

Shinjuku [新宿]:

Cityscape from the Observatory of the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building, Tōkyō Tochō [東京都庁] (not alone in the lift this time…):

At night there was an earthquake. Not a big one, probably (3, maybe?), but it made my whole apartment creak with the strain. It was creepy enough to straighten me out of bed (◎_◎;)

4th July 2016: Scary, scary… aaaaaah {Japan, summer 2016}

After hitting for Gackt’s concert, I figured out that I would ballot for the insanely impossible birthday party – GACKT’s 43rd Birthday Party in ANA InterContinental Tokyo, located in Akasaka [赤坂]. And somehow – somehow – I hit. I might have been a little in histerics about the whole thing for a while, especially with how strict the dress code seemed to be.

Before that I organised a swift visit to Harajuku [原宿] and Meiji Jingu [明治神宮]. For starters, I wanted to catch Godzilla in Shinjuku [新宿], which I did not do last year – I had stolen a glimpse of him when I had picked my keys up.

Godzilla, a giant mutant iguana, peers throughout the building roofs, roaring

Then I headed over to Harajuku [原宿] and I had a stroll down Takeshita-dōri [竹下通り] (天気がいいから、さんぽしましょう、and so XD) and into Yoyogi Kōen [代々木公園] to show Meiji Jingu [明治神宮] to T**y. Then I headed back home to get ready because PANIC!(◎_◎;) I was ridiculously nervous about the event. Fortunately, it worked out almost perfectly.

The event itself consisted on a formal dinner, and a later appearance of the birthday boy himself and the band to… basically have a drinking game, a card game, and a talk show on stage. It was a lot of money to be honest, and I don’t think I’ll ever feel the need to do something like it again, but I am glad that I was crazy to do it at least once. I unfortunately had to leave before it finished in order to make it to the last train, so I missed the songs *sigh*. Nothing is perfect I guess.

Pictures I snuck at the party - flowers, the screen with the logo, my invitation, then the food - sausage entree, soup, salmon, fillet, and chocolate cake, along witht the shot glass we got as souvenir

1st September 2015: Downpour Shibuya {Japan, summer 2015}

D****e and I headed off to Harajuku [原宿] to check out the idol shops, but I wanted a quick visit to Meiji Jingu [明治神宮] to get the calligraphy from there. I had never been able to find out where they did it, and it was good to have some Japanese-speaking person around. We were surprised to walk into some kind of religious parade I still have got to research.

Afterwards, through a downpour, we had a look at Takeshita Doori shops. When it was almost noon we headed off towards Hachiko in Shibuya [渋谷] as we had agreed to meet a friend for lunch – shabu shabu in Shibuya’s Nabezo and then headed off to Cosmo Planetarium Shibuya [コスモプラネタリウム渋谷], which is a really neat place with very comfy chairs that lean back… yep, you guessed it, I zonked out. In my defence, I shall say that… all Japanese and a talk about gravity and I was getting dizzy with the 3D screen…

After a quick visit to Tower Records for a magazine I was looking for (and in the end got a wrong one, but oh well…) we had yet more karaoke (in a huge room) and eventually headed off home to have some CocoCurry.

11th August 2014: Microwaved bread is a thing {Japan, summer 2014}

The day started started late due to jet-lag and and on and off night and once again we set off to try and of a tea ceremony in Ginza [銀座]. However, for the second time it did not work out, due to the hotel we had selected had stopped doing it for the summer. Not fun.

We headed out for a late lunch and ended up at a place that tried to be a weird version of a British pub, called “The Ginza Lion” which had some nice set dishes that came with a choice of bread or rice. We both chose bread and we received a baguette piece with butter. Amusingly enough, the bread had been… microwaved. Not toasted but microwaved. I am guilty if having microwaved bread before when I was trying to defrost it. Jokes ensued, and I was there to write a blog post on why microwaved bread is a thing. It is, of course. Will mark trend, I am sure.

Afterwards we headed off to Harajuku [原宿] to cavort idol shops, which are always fun. However, there was an unusual crowd due to the release of Kanjani8 stuff, and some of the shops were too crowded to browse in peace.

From Harajuku we walked down to Shibuya [渋谷] for a couple of hours of karaoke (NEWS version of Weeeek is easier once you have gotten used to the GreeeN one, too). Then we went to The One Hundred Yen Yakiniku to eat barbecued meat and veggies and called it a day.

26th June 2013: Yokohama Cup Noodles Museum {Japan, summer 2013}

It was raining, raining, raining. We decided to do a museum day, but not just any museum. We went to Yokohama [横浜], to a very special one. The Yokohama Cup Noodles Museum (Andō Momofuku Hatsumei Kinenkan [安藤百福発明記念館]), might not look much from the outside, but it is quite very awesome in more ways than one.

For starters, this is their mascot, on top of the regular instant ramen cup.

For just a bit extra though, you can go around to design your very own ramen cup in the “Cup Noodle Factory”. It was endlessly fun:

Oh, yeah, and you get to see some ramen afterwards, along with some motivational stuff:

As it was still raining like hell when we were done, we went back to Tokyo [東京] for some karaoke, and a stroll down Harajuku [原宿], where pretty stuff was bought. And eventually it stopped raining, too!!

18th July 2012: Weeping Wallet {Japan, summer 2012}

The 18th was my last day and I was lucky I was able to spending it completely with D****e. I tagged along for her doing some immigration bureaucracy or another, which showed me that red tape sucks the same no matter the country. After she was done, we went to eat an okonomiyaki lunch with pretty waiter to make things nicer.

After that, we went to burn down our wallets, also know as shopping the idol shops in Harajuku [原宿]. This included Johnny’s Entertainment shop, which turned out to be a bit on the disappointing side. I kinda expected something more… grand. Thankfully other shops had enough to make up for it, especially considering my Nakano Broadway spree and the previous day Book Off day.

Leaving Harajuku with lots of Idol stuff and *some* money left. Wohoo:

The day ended with yet another visit to Shinjuku [新宿].

As a final activity we visited the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building, Tōkyō Tochō [東京都庁] for viewing Tokyo Tower lit up.

Shinjuku Skyscraper District. I discovered how to activate my camera’s slow shutter mode XD

And then it was over, and the following day I would be heading back home. But fear not because Jbinnacle is not done! There’ll be more. Monotheme posts! Reviews! Fangirling galore! To-do-the-next-time lists! Stay tuned!!

6th July 2012: 東京の雨(傘) {Japan, summer 2012}

On Friday I walked a lot but saw fewer things. I started with Yasukuni Jinja [靖国神社], which was preparing for a matsuri (festival), as you can see with all the lanterns. The lanterns had names in them and I have the chilling feeling that there’s one for each Japanese soldier who died in WWII – Yasukuni Shrine is dedicated to the fallen in that war.

A wall of yellow paper lamps being hung outdoors

A torii gate and a shrine behind it. The shrine is hanging the imperial banner. The building is made out of dark wood with golden decoration, and the roof is green-grey

The shrine visit was followed by a 30-minute stroll toward the Diet Building [国会, Kokkai] , which is something like the Parliament. Surprisingly enough, I got there without much trouble. I checked points with this because a) is cultural building b) is a barrier in X Clamp and c) is where the Shinigami in Yami no Matsuei are based. Risky picture in the middle of a crossing too! (pedestrian light was green, so not that impressive, to be honest.)

A severe looking building, closed off by fences and guarded by the police

As I was walking towards the Diet I found the National Theatre by chance. It was not in the plan, but i decided to check it out:

A shoebox-like building, in brown, with some reddish paper lanterns at the entrance

It started to rain and I was heading to Yoyogi Kōen [代々木公園], where I took a series of fun pictures through my (D****e’s) umbrella. It did not work as well as I hoped for though XD. Originally Yoyogi Park was conceived as a sacred forest around the Meiji Temple.

Trees through a transparent plastic umbrella

Thus, Meiji Jingu [明治神宮] was erected in the middle of the sacred forest of Yoyogi to honour the Meiji emperor and his wife. It is a very impressive complex, to be honest, and not even the bunch if tourists manage to break the spell of the place.

The entrance to Meiji Jingu, with a torii, and a small fountain to the left, and a lantern to the right

The main building of Meiji Jingu, in dark wood with a grey roof. A few people are approaching the building, all of them are carrying umbrellas

Finally I took a walk down Harajuku [原宿], where I, fortunately, did not buy anything. I swear, this country eats money way too fast…

A shopping street. The entrance is decorated with balloons strung together to look like a heart

Stay tuned for the tale if our trip to Nikko on Saturday and how we did not go to see the waterfall… the waterfall came to us. It was not the deluge… but almost. 大雨.

Title translation: Tokyo no Ame(gasa), it’s a pun on Tokyo’s rain and Tokyo’s umbrella. The Japnese word for rain is “ame”, and the word for umbrella is “amegasa”