Journey in Japan Part 62: Schindler’s Lift
My friend and I meet up at 10 am, and catch the Tokyo Metro Ginza Line to Shibuya. Today is once again warm, and all trace of Christmas day is gone. There are no longer decorations outside shops, and all the music of the festive season has been replaced by Taylor Swift, Oasis, and of course, AKB48. Inside Shibuya Station, we spot another random horse.
We head outside and into the scramble of people as we head over Shibuya Crossing. My opinion of the crossing remains unchanged. It is just a road. Many tourists are gathered here taking photographs of people walking along the intersection. This once again demonstrates the power of the guidebook. A simple mention of any place and the tourists flock there.
We wander through the chaos of Shibuya, passing bright lights and television screens that are practically shouting at us to buy things. There isn’t the usual post-Christmas shopping going on here though. This is just a normal day in Shibuya. We head into a building shaped like a castle, that turns out to be the Disney Store. The place is full of stuffed toys and Italian puppets. We take the escalator down, which provides me with amusement, and the title of this overdue blog post writes itself.
With nothing worth buying, we walk to Harajuku Station, and take a stroll down the trendy Takeshita Street, full of teen-fashion and creperies, before heading over to Meiji Shrine. As we wait to cross the road, the monk that tried to scam me almost six months ago is still here, trying to lure in the tourists. I just laugh at him and shake my head as he tries to hand me his gold Siddhārtha Gautama card.
We wander into Meiji Shrine, a Shinto shrine dedicated to the spirit of Emperor Meiji. As we walk along, a Japanese person begins to wave.
“Hello, welcome to Japan,” he says enthusiastically, “Are you American?”
“No, from England.”
“Ah, England, where in England?”
“Close to Manchester,” I tell him, to avoid having to explain the location of my unknown town.
“Ah, Manchester United,” he tells me. “Soccer.” He makes a kicking gesture just to reiterate that soccer does, in fact, mean football. The man modestly plays down my remarks about his English ability, before going on his merry way.
At the main shrine, the cleansing ritual has become second nature to me now, and my friend manages it perfectly; despite having only done it once before. We wander around looking for a place to get our fortune, hoping to put right her ‘Bad Fortune’ from Christmas Day, but there doesn’t appear to be this service on offer here.
We wander the length of the shrine and out the other side, and into the carnival that is Shinjuku. We wander through Shinjuku Park Tower, the building that houses the Park Hyatt Hotel; famous in its own right, but also well known as it was featured in the movie Lost in Translation.
We head to the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building and are attacked inside by a masked assailant.
The Oni, a demon in Japanese folklore known as a ‘Blue Devil’, lives in hell and works for the Japanese Government. He directs us to the lift, which we take at speed to the 45th floor of the building.
From the panoramic observation deck, I can see Mount Fuji in the distance; its snowy white peak blends seamlessly into the clouds, and if you didn’t know where mountain sits on the horizon, you would never know it was there. Huge office buildings sprawl in every direction, and Tokyo looks endless from here.
I check out the tacky souvenirs, and discover that my name in Japanese Kanji can mean, ‘Lapis Wings Eternal’. The problem though, is that Kanji can have multiple meanings, and I want a better name. Taking from the possibilities available to me, I decide that my name actually means, ‘Nine Immortal Dragons’.
We leave the government building and head over to Shinjuku Station. We have to queue at the ticket office for about ten minutes, before handing over the tickets from our Narita Express debacle from a few days ago. We manage to get ¥3800 of our ¥6780 refunded, a welcome bonus. We decide that the Japan Railway Company will be paying for our tempura lunch.
We wander through Shinjuku for a while, before deciding to head back to Asakusa. I consider buying a coffee but can’t decide whether I want black coffee, black coffee, or black coffee.
Back in Asakusa, we meet with some of the other people staying in the hostel. We head out as a group of four for a quick drink in Nui, before taking a taxi over to Ryōgoku. We go to a bar called ‘Popeye’, a pleasing place with seventy-four different craft beers on tap. After the bar, we head back into Asakusa for some cheap Chinese food, before ending the night with Karaoke and all-round merriment.