After a morning at Sengakuji temple I still had some time to kill before meeting up with my friend, so I decided to head up to Harajuku and start exploring around there while waiting. However as the mornings rain had intensified it probably wasn’t the best day to go, as it meant none of the street entertainers or crazy fashion wearing people had ventured out.
Arriving in Harajuku there were a few main and backstreets which were full of various clothes shops, coffee shops and a few department stores. Takeshita Street is generally regarded as the main street to see here, however venturing down that revealed mostly crepe shops, cloth shops and some touristy looking stuff, overall it disappointingly felt like quite a tourist trap area. It’s possible a sunny day might add something more to it, but I’m not convinced of that, could though just be that this area wasn’t really my sort of thing.
Meiji Shrine Park
A good thing going through Takeshita Street was that I emerged on the edge of the Meiji Shrine Park, a huge park containing Meiji Jingu, The Meiji Shrine. There are several main paths leading through the park toward the shrine, each one with a giant wooden torii gate at the start of it.
Each one really impressive, standing tall, towering over the pathway. Getting up close and studying the grain and seeing the splits in the wood gives some indications just how long these have stood here. Seeing the rain drip off the top of them is also strangely therapeutic.
The wide paths cut through the tall green trees of the park, along the way from the Harajuku side there is a huge wall of sake barrels on one side, with a row of wine barrels on the other.
As you near the shrine there is the option to take a side path and pay 500 yen to enter the Meiji Shrine Inner Gardens, this is something I recommend doing, as to me I found it the highlight of the park, and the advantage being here in the rain was I was pretty much the only person there. On sunny days it’s usually a very busy and crowded place!
Meiji Shrine Inner Gardens
There’s a few trails you can follow through the trees, eventually merging and meeting up at the top of a clearing that overlooks the large lake.
The paths split again, following it to the left leads towards one edge of the lake, a viewing area with a tightly packed straw roof provided me a break from the rain while overlooking the lake.
Heading back along the trail led through more trees and plants, the path lined with magnificent thick bamboo fences which shone in the rain. Eventually the lake filtered into a narrow channel, which had been divided into various sections for things to be planted in it, It looked like some sort of small rice field, but I don’t think the plants were rice.
Pressing on a bit more and taking a slight detour from the main route revealed the true gem of this garden to me, in the form of Kiyomasa’s Well. In a the murky water of the river lies a circular well that retains perfectly clear water, constantly bringing more to the surface.
Seeing the contrast between the well water against the muddy river water is just magical! It’s been said that this well is a place of power, and there are various stories and rumours about it increasing luck.
You could use the stepping stones to go into the river and get up close to examine the well, which with the ripples from the rain drops was mesmerizing. However you are not allowed to drink from it or put your hands in it, I have to admit as there wasn’t anyone else around I was tempted, but in the end I decided to respect the sacred place and was content to just see it. (Had I been anywhere else other than Japan I probably wouldn’t have minded breaking the rules on it).
I’m told on sunny days queues of people actually form to see this well (as it’s on a narrow section at the end of the river with only one access point), so being here in the rain gave me the chance to appreciate it without another soul around. Honestly this well is so impressive that it makes visiting the Meiji Shrine worth it just to come and see this.
Heading back from the well I picked back up the main trails through a few impressive flowers, and back to the main park.
The Meiji Shrine itself actually kind of snuck up on me a bit, I didn’t actually realise I was approaching it until I was in the main courtyard of it! The gates leading into the courtyard are quite large, but somehow discreet enough that I didn’t clock they were the main entrance gates.
The main courtyard was quite large, inside the corners were large sacred trees, while around the outside the covered walkways held some elegant flower displays. Large sections of the shrine were covered in scaffolding and sheets while they undergo renovations for the shrines 100th anniversary in 2020. I believe the renovations are due to continue into 2019. On a cleaver note though the sheets covering the sections they are working on have a scale picture of what the building section should look like, so although it’s not the same you can get an idea.
I managed to link back up with my friend at Shibuya station, somehow finding each other in a station the size of small city. From there we decided to head onto Nakano, as it was a place tipped for being great for anime and manga related items. (It didn’t disappoint!)
The main shopping street of Nakano links straight up with the station exit (or one of them at least), making it easy to avoid the rain and get straight into the under cover shopping arcade. After a quick pit stop for some dinner we headed on toward the area at the end of the shopping street, Nakano Broadway.
Nakano Broadway is a shopping area at the back of the main shopping street which spans a few floors, starting in the basement level you have various foods and groceries, on the first level general shops, floors 2 & 3 however are full of anime and manga merchandise stores! Absolute heaven!
There are so many shops, large and small selling anime and video game figures, model kits and merchandise here! Best of all most of them sell preowned items at crazy low prices! Shelves are packed with boxes of various anime figures and items to look through, and storage boxes on the floor full of smaller anime items to sort through. You can find so many gems here it’s just insane!
We spent a fair bit of time looking around, but the shops here close at 8pm, as we’d arrived about 6.30pm it didn’t leave us long to look around and get things, this led to frantic speed searching and scanning through looking for key bargains and items we that caught our eyes, making notes to try and come back for some things. This turned into literally running around the corridors of the anime floors trying to get back to places to buy some things while shop shutters were flying down around us!
We didn’t manage to get around to all the stores, but both end up with some cool stuff by the end of it.
Amongst my finds were this really cool Konata Izumi model for only about 1000 yen.
And this bargain Asuka model from Neon Genesis for only 300 yen! The prices in Nakano are just amazingly cheap, cheaper than Akihabara! I regret that I didn’t go to this place sooner, and that I didn’t get a chance to get back there for some of the other cheap stuff I saw that I wanted. Next time in Tokyo I’m defieintly allowing more time to stop by here!
After the mad adventure and speed run at Nakano we headed back to the Roppongi apartment, using the system of pick a train that looks like it’s going vaguely in the right direction, a system that never fails in Tokyo.
Bonus pic: this really cute shiba I saw on the way back, look how cute!!!