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Japan, March 2018



Tokyo

On Day 2 we started our tour of Tokyo in Harajuku

We used our JR Passes on JR rail lines in Tokyo city free of charge and this continued throughout our fourteen days in Japan. Harajuku is a good starting point for a day out in Tokyo as here you can see modern Japanese culture. This area is very popular with teens, eccentric fashion bazaars sitting alongside shops selling cute toys and many ice cream parlours, sweet shops and so on all along this famous street 'Takeshita dori'. Although we arrived soon after ten, the area was already packed with local teens and visitors. The place can become very crowded on weekends and special days. This street gives you some idea of what is modern Japan.

Behind the main street of Meiji dori there are quiet backstreets with lovely Japanese houses and boutique shops especially along Cat street. We walked around this quiet, pleasant and trendy neighbourhood, taking a coffee break at a local Japanese coffee shop drinking Japanese coffee, smooth and non-bitter. We had lunch at a local Japanese style 'lunch counter' eating house, sitting at the long counter facing the chef working busily in front of us. The meal set comes on a tray and often consists of a main dish of meat or fish or fried noodle or fried vegetables with a bowl of miso soup, a bowl of rice and some pickled vegetables. Ramen (noodle soup) is another popular option.

After lunch we headed toward the famous Shibuya Crossing. There are four 'zebra' crossings at a big crossroads plus extra diagonal crossings. When the pedestrian signal light changes to green there is a great wave of people walking in every direction. Luckily the Japanese people do not walk into other people they swing round you like fishes avoiding collisions. Photos of this junction have become famous as a metaphor for modern Japanese city life.

From Shibuya we walked back to Harajuku to visit the largest Shinto shrine, Meiji Jingu. We planned our visit so as to arrive just before two o'clock in the afternoon in time for their daily ceremonial activities. The shrine has an authentic old world feel hidden in a vast landscape of trees and gardens a world away from the busy city just outside the gate. Next we visited one of the oldest shrines in Japan, Nezu Jinja. This shrine is regarded as the most beautiful with lovely courtyards, gardens, trees and streams among several attractive religious buildings. The most stunning decorative structure is the long corridor of orange/red torii. This shrine is in a more peaceful residential district amongst Japanese houses.

From there a walk brought us to Ueno park in late afternoon, where we sat on a bench by the Shinobazu lake like the local families enjoying the sunny Sunday afternoon. We ended the day with a Japanese meal of grilled fish and meat dishes at one of the restaurants in the shopping centre near our hotel.

On Day 3 we met a tour guide, Mr Kawabe, who joined us for the day.

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