Sunday, September 29, 2013

Land of Many Neighborhoods. Tokyo, Japan, Part 2.

Post 10. 

The past few days have been jam packed with Tokyo exploration. Braving the typhoon, groups of four to six bused, walked, and trained to our assigned neighborhoods. As part of our seminar course while studying in East Asia we were required to observe different neighborhoods of Tokyo. My group was assigned a neighborhood within walking distance of our hostel, Harajuku. Known for its bizarre fashions, I was super excited to visit on Sunday September 15th. 
Those pants....
Notice the crazy black outfit on the girl on the right.
Sundays are publicized as fashion parade days. Visitors are often able to view teens walking the streets in frilly dresses or bold patterns, unfortunately I think the rain kept most people off the streets that day and we only saw a few in typical Harajuku attire. I hope the fashion trends I saw don't catch on in the US, because there were some crazy get ups!
Fashion forward thinking was also applied to their architecture.
Lots of Western influence as well! We also saw a Volcom and Chicago store.
The rest of our day was filled with exploring large underground shopping malls, witnesses a few low key protests and hanging out on a rooftop garden outside Starbucks. 
Huge ritzy underground mall
Outdoor rooftop garden
Harajuku wasn't the only neighborhood I visited while in Tokyo. I also visited Shibuya, as I mentioned in my last post, and Shinjuku. Both were within walking distance and had plenty to see and experience. After dinner at a DELICIOUS curry place near our hostel, Aaron and I explored Shinjuku which was located just north of Harajuku. 
Delicious garlic non and chicken curry!
This area had tons of tall buildings and we were able to see many of the same buildings we drove past during our bus tour on our first day in Tokyo. We went down a few side streets and stumbled upon a large mass of people; what had we discovered?! The group of people had a portable shrine that they hoisted on their shoulders and paraded around the streets of Shinjuku. 
Where we started following the shrine parade.
Shrine carriers getting people to clap and chant along.
We believe that that day was a holiday in Japan to celebrate the elder population and that's why they were toting around this heavy shrine. The paraders made periodic stops to fuel up on drinks and meat skewers until they made their final stop at a local temple. 
Parade entering the temple.
We literally followed the parade until that final stop just to see what they would do and observe this culture. They were chanting and dancing as they carried the shrine and looked like they were having a great time celebrating! At one point an elderly man approached us because he had noticed that we had been following the parade, unfortunately he spoke little to no English and we didn't know Japanese well enough to talk to him about the events we were watching. That was one moment where I was so upset that I didn't have better language skills. I felt that I would have had a more comprehensive understanding and appreciation for what I was seeing if I had been able to speak to this man. Other members of the parade noticed we were following the parade and gave us some free beers to celebrate, but made no signals that they spoke any English. It was an exciting night of stumbling upon a bit of Japanese culture that I will never forget!

Another famous neighborhood I was able to visit was Akihabara, the famous technology district. Literally every building in this neighborhood is either an arcade, maid cafe, or technology store. Neon lights made each street feel like it was day time and cute video game characters were plastered on every sign. 
Bright streets of Akihabara
Japan has some of the most phenomenal multi-story building arcades I've ever seen in my life. From claw games to multi-player shooting games to music games, these arcades have everything! Most of the time we had no idea what to expect when we put coins in the machines. I think my favorite part was to watch the locals play. Many of the gamers were dressed in suits and had briefcases making me think they came in right after work and had been feverishly trying to beat their best score all night. And boy were they GOOD! Their fingers moved lightning fast over the buttons as the screen graphics zoomed by. 

Also it appears that I need to be better about taking pictures with Spot.....I'll try harder I swear! Thanks for reading anyways.

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