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Tokyo (Shibuya) [Part III – The Path Less Ventured] November 24, 2009

Posted by Dru in Japan, Kanto, Tokyo, Travel.
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Author’s Note:  Dru’s Misadventures has moved to HinoMaple.  Please venture on over there to read “Tokyo (Shibuya) [Part III – The Path Less Ventured]” complete with photos.  http://wp.me/p2liAm-fN

For people who want a more traditional experience, especially shopping, staying at the station, or heading north is the best way to go.  The Tokyu department store is located above and below Shibuya station.  Heading north from Shibuya crossing will lead you to Seibu and Marui department stores.  All of these shops provide a typical Japanese department store experience.  You can find them in every major centre of Tokyo, and almost every major city in Japan.  However, be sure to explore all of the side streets.  I have visited Shibuya countless times and every corner, every back street, changes constantly.  Many of the old shops have left the northern areas, in favour of more traditional fashion boutiques.  However, if you walk around enough, you’re sure to find a lot of nice shops that even residents who have lived their whole lives have never even found.

If you are feeling more adventurous, or you just have too much time on your hands, the areas to the south and east provide a very different feel for Shibuya compared to the north and west areas.  Directly to the east, people tend to associate it with Omotesando.  To the north east, it’s more Harajuku.  To the south, it feels more like Ebisu.  Omotesando is an upscale area that is very akin to Ginza.  The main difference is the affluence.  While Ginza is for people to be seen, and you’ll see a large variety of classes, Omotesando tends to be one class only, rich.  Harajuku was talked a lot by Gwen Stefani for its fashion and need to break away from the normal culture.  The north east corner of Shibuya borders Harajuku, and hence has more in common with that style of fashion.  It is also a location of an infamous park where homeless people tend to live, and rows of yakitori shops similar to the small shops in Shinjuku.  Again, like in Shinjku, I would not recommend them as they tend to be a little expensive, and they may not be so friendly to foreigners.  It’s better to go to Shinjuku.  The south region will see things be more food oriented.  Ebisu tends to have more food shops than anything.  You can also see some interesting fashion outlets, but people tend not to shop here.  There are more apartments than shops, but if you want to go for a nice walk, this area is a nice area.

All in all, Shibuya is a place to visit.  It’s noisy, bustling 24 hours a day, and willing to show you new insights into Japan.  Is it a true picture of Japan?  No.  Will you be amazed by the crazy lights, strange people, and wonderful shopping?  Yes.  Make sure you visit during the day and night.  In the day, do your shopping in the north.  At night, return to Centre Gai and take a stroll around the Love Hotel Hill.  Don’t be surprised when you pass expensive cars with blacked out windows parked in front of a sex toy shop

This is the end of a 3 part series on Shibuya.  To read more on Shibuya, please continue reading Part I and Part II.

Shibuya Information:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shibuya,_Tokyo
http://wikitravel.org/en/Shibuya
http://www.japan-guide.com/e/e3007.html

このblogは英語のblog。もし私の英語は難しい、日本語のquestionは大丈夫。

Tokyo (Shibuya) [Part II – Subcultures and Fashion] November 17, 2009

Posted by Dru in Japan, Kanto, Tokyo, Travel.
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Author’s Note:  Dru’s Misadventures has moved to HinoMaple.  Please venture on over there to read “Tokyo (Shibuya) [Part II – Subcultures and Fashion]” complete with pictures.  http://wp.me/p2liAm-fL

One of the more interesting places to venture is up Centre Gai.  This small street and the small streets surrounding it, provides you with a glimpse of Shibuya’s fashion.  This is not to be confused with Harajuku.  Here, you’ll see the infamous Yamamba.  This has been literally translated to be “Mountain Hag”.  It is a subculture of Tokyo and consists mainly of teens coming from the rural areas surrounding Tokyo.  They tend to wear pajamas or anything in a pastel type colour.  Guys tend to do the same, but they also include gray clothes.  The biggest shock is their skin, make-up, and hair.  First, they usually go to tanning salons until their skin has such a dark tan, it looks brown.  Their hair tends to be bleached blonde, and then they add various pastel colours like pink or baby blue.  As for make-up, both men and women wear white make-up that goes around the eyes and white lipstick.  This is to give an image similar to a reverse panda.  They can usually be seen around the Centre Gai entrance to HMV.

As you continue to head up Centre Gai, you go from the Yamamba hang out near HMV to the shoe outlets, and on to the hip hop centre of Shibuya.  The closer you get to the NHK studios, the more the influences from Hip Hop fashion and music becomes apparent.  You can find lots of shops selling Rastafarian style clothes and some Japanese style Hip Hop clothing.  You can also see NYC Records, which is one of the more famous places for DJs to pick up vinyl.

Probably the most well known place in Shibuya, especially for women, is 109 (ichi maru kyu).  This building can easily be seen from Shibuya crossing when looking west.  This is where all of the young teens and early 20 year old women go to get the latest fashion.  It is also popular for the gyaru fashion.  Gyaru is a broad term for various young women’s fashion.  It can range from a princess look with big hair to the Yamamba’s that I mentioned earlier.  While I would say the majority of gyarus in this building would tend to be more of a princess variety, it isn’t impossible for you to see almost any type of young girl entering and exiting this building.  You can also see many of their boyfriends happily in tow as they cruise looking for the next big thing in fashion.  I have heard that Madonna and Gwen Stefani enjoy visiting 109, and various other celebrities have been known to drop by.  It’s unlikely that any of the girls here would care though.  For guys, there is 109-2, which is just north of Shibuya station.

Heading towards 109 leads to a fork in the road.  Head left and turn right at the second street.  This will take you to Shibuya’s, Love Hotel Hill.  This area is called Dogenzaka, but in reality, it’s a compact area where every street has a love hotel.  If you don’t know what a love hotel is, it’s basically a hotel where you can stay for one or two hours.  The rooms tend to be large and each hotel works hard to protect your privacy.  The main purpose of a love hotel is for young couples to have a place to enjoy some personal time together in a private bedroom (a.k.a. sex).  To the untrained eye, you may easily skip over one of these hotels.  However, there are several easy signs to spot one.  First, look for a tacky looking building.  They can be built to look like a Romanesque mansion, like a castle, or some other crazy theme.  Many of them just occupy a plain building, but all the windows are tinted or mirrored.  Another sign that it’s a love hotel is to look, or listen, for a fountain.  Traditional hotels would never put a fountain in front of the hotel.  The entrances for the hotels are almost always hidden to protect the couples’ privacy, and if there is a sign out front, they’ll have two prices, rest or stay.  If you search the internet, you can find a lot of crazy love hotel rooms.  Some are themed after Hello Kitty, Anime scenes, trains, buses, planes, and almost any fantasy you could want.  From what I heard, all you have to do is enter the building, select a room from a picture by pressing a button, and enter the room.  To get out, you just put money into a machine on the wall and the door opens to let you out.  You will never see a single person while you are there.

Shibuya Information:

http://japanlinked.com/Japanese-Culture/Gyaru-Gal-Styles.html (Gyaru pictures)
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/109_(department_store)

This is Part II of a III part series.  To continue reading about Shibuya, please continue on to Part III.  You can also read more about Shibuya in Part I of this series.

このblogは英語のblog。もし私の英語は難しい、日本語のquestionは大丈夫。

Tokyo (Shibuya) [Part I – Hachiko] November 10, 2009

Posted by Dru in Japan, Kanto, Tokyo, Travel.
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Author’s Note:  Dru’s Misadventures has moved to HinoMaple.  Please venture on over there to read “Tokyo (Shibuya) [Part I – Hachiko]” complete with pictures.  http://wp.me/p2liAm-fE

Shibuya is one of the most iconic places in Japan.  It was predominantly popularized by the movie “Lost in Translation” and “Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift”.  Both of these movies showed sections of what some people call, the busiest intersection of the world.  Unfortunately, neither of these movies truly tells of the real character, or life of Shibuya.  The modern reality is that a lot of people hate Shibuya because it is mainly a high school and college hang out.  However, Shibuya is definitely one of the places that tourists should visit in order to understand the various subcultures of Tokyo itself.

The first thing that must be done in Shibuya is to find an exit, or to find a meeting spot.  The Hachiko Exit and the Hachiko statue is the most famous meeting spot in Shibuya.  In October 2009, the movie Hachiko: A Dog’s Story, staring Richard Gere will be released, retelling the story of Hachiko.

In 1924, Hachiko was brought to Tokyo by his owner, Hidesaburo Ueno, a professor in the agriculture department at the University of Tokyo. During his owner’s life Hachiko saw him off from the front door and greeted him at the end of the day at the nearby Shibuya Station. The pair continued their daily routine until May 1925, when Professor Ueno did not return on the usual train one evening. The professor had suffered a stroke at the university that day. He died and never returned to the train station where his friend was waiting.

Hachiko was given away after his master’s death, but he routinely escaped, showing up again and again at his old home. Eventually, Hachiko apparently realized that Professor Ueno no longer lived at the house. So he went to look for his master at the train station where he had accompanied him so many times before. Each day, Hachiko waited for Professor Ueno to return. And each day he did not see his friend among the commuters at the station.

The permanent fixture at the train station that was Hachiko attracted the attention of other commuters. Many of the people who frequented the Shibuya train station had seen Hachiko and Professor Ueno together each day. They brought Hachiko treats and food to nourish him during his wait.

This continued for 10 years, with Hachiko appearing only in the evening time, precisely when the train was due at the station.

Commemorating this real story, there is a statue of Hachiko just outside the train station.  If you want to see Hachiko himself, you can go to the National Science Museum of Japan in Ueno where his body was stuffed and put on display.  The other major meeting spot is at the West Bus Loop where there is a statue of the “Moyai”.  It is a gift from the island of Nijima that resembles the Moai of Easter Island.  This is generally an easier place to meet people, but it isn’t as convenient.

The Hachiko exit not only provides a quick look at the statue of Hachiko himself, but you can also board an old style train car, and see one of the most famous spots in Japan, Shibuya Crossing.  This is a typical scramble crossing, but what you don’t realize is how busy it is.  During the day, it is busy, but manageable.  At night, once the bars start opening up, the crossing becomes a chaotic sprint to get from A to B.  Many tourists will head through taking video of this crossing.  It’s not something people enjoy doing everyday.  One of the best vantage points of the crossing is at Starbucks, situated in the Tsutaya building on the North West corner of the intersection.  Do beware that this Starbucks is extremely popular and always crowded.  Finding a window seat can be a challenge in itself.  The good thing about this building is that it provides a great way to start exploring Shibuya.  Whichever way you go from here, you’ll see different sides of the city, and different cultures.

This is Part I of a III part series.  To continue reading about Shibuya, please continue on to Part II and Part III.

Shibuya Information:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hachikō

このblogは英語のblog。もし私の英語は難しい、日本語のquestionは大丈夫。

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