Shibuya: History and beauty

Shibuya, one of the most cosmopolitan districts of Tokyo, is everything you would expect from a modern city: cheeky, entertaining and provocative.

 

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But it wasn’t always this way. In fact, Hachiko could tell the story better than anybody else. He could tell you about the war days and how the bombs took his beloved master, how he bravely kept waiting for years until death came for him, too.

He let Shibuya be at night with the condition to restore its well-mannered behavior during the day.

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Shibuya, has come a long way since the days of WWII and has become, along with its little sister Harajuku, the center of the Japanese fashion world.

 

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In Shibuya time is ethereal

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Shibuya is in another dimension, where bad memories can become sweet and precious. If you don’t believe me, you can ask Hachiko yourself.

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Tokyo Station: The rebirth of a giant

Tokyo station  resembles  the scenery of a film set from the 1920s. With its inspired European architecture, lighting and breeze atmosphere, it invites you to dream of a Japan that no longer exist but that we all yearn for.

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Bombed during WWII it wasn’t until 2012 that it will be restored to its former glory to commemorate the 100th anniversary of its existence.

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And the surroundings  of the Tokyo station do not disappoint.

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At my arrival to the Imperial Palace I saw the merge of the new and old. All in one

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The Imperial palace guarded by thousand samurai souls

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Everything in Tokyo glows mystery.

Odawara: Its treasures and pinky ninja

The first time I visited Odawara, I didn’t know what to expect, but as soon as I saw it,  I fell in love, metaphorically and literally.  And even now after so many years, it still speaking to me.

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And to many people, because even the samurais stop to take photos in front of it (Odawara castle)

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Its solid wooden gates welcomed me as it has welcomed thousands of people before me.  And will continue to do so until the end of times. Perhaps.

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And with the brave “pink” ninja who kindly posed  for my camera before I left, I said goodbye to Odawara castle once more.

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Meiji shrine: Where the Gods meet

Tokyo is a place of contradictions, where you can find glamour in one corner and tradition and culture in another one (another corner). When visiting Harajuku, Shibuya’s cheeky little sister, one find eccentricity, and it (Harajuku) never disappoints, with its vibrant colors, rare stores, and beautiful people, you navigate through its small allies in a trancelike state. At least that’s how I feel every time I go there (Harajuku)

But just around Harajuku station (Omotesando exit), you will find one of its most precious treasures: Meiji Shrine (明治神宮 Meiji jingū) a place that has survived modernity until now. And still bring people together, local and visitors, we can feel the Gods and their spirits whisper in the trees when they ruffle the leaves, which some confuse with the wind. But I know it’s them who met in the trees’ top to talk about us, to make fun of us, to help us, to listen and to remind us that this is not the only life we will live.

The entrance of this enchanted place

Barrels of sake

Barrels of wine

We do like spirits here, what can I say?😉

 

 

Isn’t it breathtaking?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

That’s Meiji jingū, a place not only to worship but to talk to the Gods and to meet them.

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Life at 19: Life at 38

 

 

Getting into the little Italian restaurant, I used to visit many years ago, brought back memories. 

I was happy to be back. 

When the waitress came to take my order, I couldn’t help making conversation, so I told her I was going to tell her a tiny little secret.

She was so curious. It was adorable. 

“I haven’t been here in 5 years” I confessed “ssshhhh…keep the secret” I cheekily asked her. 

“Of course, I’ll keep your secret” she said, and I could see the sparkle of delightful complicity in her eyes.

She brought my food and this time I confess my age. 

“I am 38 years old. How old are you?” I asked her. 

“I am 19” she innocently replied

“Wow, I am twice your age” I said

We both laughed.

And I couldn’t but to think of myself at 19 years old. And I wished there was a time machine, so I could travel in time and tell the “19 years old” me that in 19 years time, she will be okay. 

Everything will be just fine

That some of the things we feared the most, never happened. Some happened, but we knew how to deal with those terrible oracles. And some other things that we never imagined happening happened. Some were great, some were good, and some were terrible.

But that we will be fine. Because one way or another, we would always find out way back.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ramen: Its mommy, daddy and museum

 

The arrival of instant ramen in 1958 to the world marked a milestone in ramen history. 

 

                                                                            Instant ramen advertisement-1963

 

 

It was a game changer..! Just imagine….! Japanese housewives didn’t have to slave over a hot stove to prepare one of the most emblematic and delicious dishes ever been born in Japan. But have you ever wondered if Ramen is Japanese?

 

Well according to the ramen museum in Shin-Yokohama, ramen is hafu (a mixed race child) 

 

 

                                                        In summary, Chinese daddy, and Japanese mommy

 

                                                                                                      

See..? I never lie 😉 

 

 

And once we finish researching about the origins of ramen, we entered the museum, and this beautiful view welcomed us, 1958 was a magical year indeed. 

 

And it is in 1958 that the ramen museum is set up, as it time had stopped forever in its alleys.

 

The experience was amazing, I mean ramen is a unique experience in its own right. But walking, feeling, touching and “living” 1958 Japan was a sort of a dream come true as if someone would have opened a “time portal” for us. I just loved it..!

 

It was just simply lovely 😊

 

The Empress: Her tea house, her lake and her garden

As soon as you step into the garden, something changes in the atmosphere, I don’t know if it is the temperature, the cicadas that sing in unison with the wind. Or the voices of visitors that become a mere whisper in the distance. I have no idea, what it is, but something changes. Or maybe it is the Empress Shōken herself welcoming you to her garden.

I see the lights on in Empress Shōken’s tea house, and I can’t help but feel naughty, as if I were spying on someone. But I imagine that if Empress Shōken discovered me outside her tea house, instead of getting upset, she would invite me to drink tea with her. Because I think she was indeed a generous soul.

I just imagine her (Empress Shōken) sitting there in her tea house, looking at the little lake in front of it (the tea house), letting her maids entertain her, and ask them to leave as soon her husband arrives. Of course, nothing of this is written anywhere. I just like to imagine it.

A few shots of the empress’s lake little lake, where the water lilies imperceptibly move with the soft afternoon breeze.

A shot of the tea house from the little lake

I distractedly (without paying attention) walk through the garden and, as always, my feet take somewhere I didn’t mean to go and I arrive to Kiyomasa-Ido well, which is famous for the purity of its water.

But I am afraid it’s time to leave, because I am the only person  in the garden now.  Or maybe I’ll just stay a little bit longer so I can make Empress Shōken company, at least for a little bit longer.

NOTE: Although, Meiji jingū gyoen (Meiji jingū inner garden) existed before the construction of Meiji Shrine, according to the Meiji Jingū gyoen brochure, I always think of the garden, as Empress Shōken’s garden, because the tea house that adorns this secret garden was built especially for her.

Harajuku: Shibuya’s cheeky little sister

 

Shibuya and Harajuku, together, are the heart of the Japanese fashion world. And although, they are sisters, Harajuku is cheeky and always rebellious.

In Harajuku, people are free not only to be themselves but to become someone else without being asked questions.

Beautiful creatures, imagination and creativity get together to welcome locals and tourists who are in search of Harajuku’s uniqueness, which starts at Takeshita street.

 

 

 

If you don’t fancy drinking your coffee alone, please feel free to go to “cat cafe” where you will enjoy the company of these delightful creatures for only 200 yen/10 minutes

Do you need socks? You shall no worry, here we have a kutsushita = socks’ store, a store that sells socks exclusively.

 

 

What about ninja clothes for children? It is never too soon to help our children choosing a career, isn’t it?

 

And close from there, my favorite shop in Japan, the 100 yen store.

 

And on my way back to the station, I found this mural that reflects the dark and yet sweet uniqueness that is Harajuku.

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Kagurazaka: Gods in summer

During the Obon holidays, which are the holidays, where most Japanese people go back to their hometowns to visit their families and to honor their ancestors, Tokyo opens its secret dens for you.  And following the summer breeze one Sunday afternoon, I discovered: Akagi jinja (Akagi shrine)

When I saw this torii (entrance to a sacred place), I knew I had arrived at an extraordinary place.


Akagi jinja (Akagi shrine) was redesigned by Kengo Kuma in 2010, and he made of it (Akagi shrine) a master piece.

Those kanji above can be read as 蛍雪天神(keisetsu tenjin) The God of the diligent study

As always my enthusiasm took the best of me and I gave my offerings a little bit too loud. I think I might have woken up the God in its day off. I should leave now, but if the God wakes up, please do not speak of me. You haven’t seen me. Shhhh…!!

Candy crafting: When candy dances

 

As children we all enjoy playing with dough and mud, we love dressing their ordinary appearance into whatever our innocent imagination tells us.

But when we grow up, sadly,  we forget that once we were all artists, that we could create dragons, castles and kill them all at the end of the game to just start it all over again later.

Lucky for me, I have good friends, who don’t let me forget the joy of playing and who are willing to experiment with me what the city has to offer.

And going around town with these good friends, we found a charming little store, and soon as we got in, we were hooked, because we had found an “Amezaiku” (飴細工) shop.

Amezaiku, candy crafting, lets you shape candy into whatever shape you might like. Amezaiku’s origins could be traced back to 796AD when Amezaiku masters gave their first offering to the Doji-temple, which was built when Emperor Karmu moved the capital from Nara to Kyoto.

But you have to be quick, though, candy wants to be given an identity, and waits for no one.

 And even your hand temperature will play against you, so you have to be quick.

There were enchanted roses, sleeping mermaids waiting to be freed, dancing bears, who would love to go home with you. And something primitive and familiar awoken inside me. I just simply had to try it (Amezaiku).

 

And I did

 

 

I almost immediately registered for a workshop. And It was a nice class indeed, where a young master, Mr. Yamamoto, would guide us step by step into the process of making candy dance. And through this dance wake up the spirit within it (the candy) to reveal it (candy’s the spirit) before the world.

 

 

※If you wish more information about the lessons, call 03-6323-3319 website: http://ame-yoshihara.com

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