I’m back to chronicle my recent trip to Japan! I already shared with you the gorgeous cherry blossoms, a sky view of Tokyo, and a festive temple. On day 3, I experienced some truly eccentric, peculiar Japanese experiences that will be truly hard to explain, but I will try! I got such a neat taste of the varied culture of Japan all in one day.
When I woke up the next day, I had the beginnings of a cough and sore throat. I thought it was from the champagne-induced karaoke singing in the high-rise Tokyo apartment from the night before, but it progressed into full-blown sick by the next day. Argh! Of course. I wouldn’t let it stop my from fully experiencing Japan, so I powered through.
The Meiji Shrine, a Shinto shrine dedicated to Emperor Meiji and Empress Shōken of the late 19th century, was such a different experience than the Senso-ji Buddhist Temple we visited the day before. The Meiji Shrine was in a large park with big tall trees. The structures were huge and brown. It was quiet and serene and was a stark contrast to the festive, colorful Senso-ji.
One thing I noticed about all of the temples and shrines I visited on my trip was how they were full sensory experiences. In addition to viewing the stunning art and architecture, I also experienced the crunch of the rocks under my feet, the cherry blossoms blowing down onto my face, the sound of the water being poured by worshippers cleansing themselves before entering the temple, the smell of incense and candles being burned, the clang of the gongs, and the chanting of monks. It was really quite amazing to notice.
We even got to witness a wedding at the Meiji Shrine. It was definitely my favorite part of our visit to the Meiji Shrine. The bride was stunning in her kimono. I felt super awkward photographing and spying on someone’s wedding, but I did it anyway. 🙂
Kawaii Monster Cafe
When my sister asked me what I wanted to do in Japan, one of the things I mentioned was that I wanted to see some weird Japanese stuff. The weirder the better. I couldn’t have been more delighted by the rest of the day, because it was weird. Awesomely strange.
It was lunchtime by the time we finished at the Meiji Shrine, so we headed for the newly opened Kawaii Monster Cafe. Kawaii is a big thing in Japan. It basically means “super cute.” Cute is EVERYWHERE in Japan. Each place we went to from the art museum to the train station had their own cartoon character.
This place. It was amazing. I can’t even describe how amazing the decor was. So cool.
The food was mediocre (with some scary but tasty brightly colored sauces) and upset my stomach a bit, but it didn’t matter at all, because the actual experience was so cool.
Midway through our meal, they gathered everyone in the restaurant around for a kawaii show on the “Sweets Go Round,” a huge spinning cake. A man and a women totally dressed up in Kawaii Harajuku style performed on the spinning cake while the “Monster Girls” waitresses clapped and danced around it.
We’ve all heard of the Harajuku girl made famous by Gwen Stefani. The Kawaii Monster Cafe is located in the Harajuku neighborhood.
We wandered down Takeshita Street and then visited La Foret Harajuku where the Harajuku girls buy all their kawaii clothes and accessories. It was fun to ponder what type of Harajuku girl we would be if the clothes were large enough to fit our American bodies.
Shibuya Crossing is one of the world’s busiest intersections. It is called the Times Square of Tokyo, but I felt the vibe was very different from Times Square.
On a somewhat related note, I was really stunned at how orderly Tokyo was compared with New York City. People follow rules, wait for lights to change, don’t honk at each other, and wait in neat lines for buses and trains.
Just like with the Kawaii Monster Cafe, I honestly don’t think I could even describe this experience to do it justice. It was a show, with robots. And dancers. And singers. And crazy costumes. And lights. It was so insanely wacky, and exactly the type of thing I wanted to experience in Japan.
We started outside where the outside of the show was a seizure-inducing array of lights and music. You could pose with the giant lady robots, and of course I did.
After you get your ticket, you visit the gaudy lounge/bar where a man in a robot costume played calming piano. Then, you head down several dizzying flights of stairs to the show.
And it only gets weirder.
I really have too much to say that I can’t think of a way to sum this up. There was a battle between the animals of the peaceful forest and the robot aliens who wanted to wreck it.
Sharks, eagles, fish, mermaids, snakes, fish, and more fought and eventually beat the mean robots.
Animator dancers danced in the darks with lights and lasers.
Girls dressed as rainbow dash pounded on drums.
And then things went wild with robots of all types, lights, singers, and dancers in an amazingly dizzying finale that has to be seen to believed.
We planned to visit the Golden Gai bar district after the show, but my sicknesses was really bringing me down, so we went back home to get some rest before our trip to Kyoto in the morning.
Wow, having written all of that out, it’s crazy that that was all in one day! Stay tuned for more about my trip to Japan. It is so fun writing this all out to remember! 🙂