Day 2 in Tokyo (Vlog) | Hanazono, Gotokuji, Meiji Shrine

Here's a snapshot of what I did throughout these four days:

*Day 2 is marked in bold
  • Shrines: Nezu Shrine (Nezu), Hanazono Shrine (Shinjuku), Gotokuji Temple (Gotokuji), Sensoji Temple (Asakusa), Togo Shrine (Harajuku), and      Meijijingu Shrine (Harajuku)
  • Shopping: Harajuku's Takeshita Street, Shibuya's 109, Asakusa Area, Tokyo JR Underground Shopping Street, and Mitsui Outlet Park Tama-Minami Osawa Branch
  • Sight Seeing: Tokyo Tower, Tokyo Sky Tree Tower (from Asakusa)
  • Targeted food items: Japanese curry, Sashimi, Yakitori, Ikayaki, Tonkatsu, any kind of Don (Rice bowls) and Green Tea/Red Bean desserts.
  • Special Agenda: Owl Cafe

French Toast, I was looking for French Toast in Japan.

Last time I visited Japan, I was running around the Kansai area visiting Osaka, Nara, Kobe, and Kyoto. I was staying in a business hotel in Osaka near Kitahama station, and right across the street to the left side was “St Marc Café”. I had breakfast there 6 days in a row, trying all the different croissants and toast and sandwiches they had. I was determined to find this café in Tokyo as well, and there was one on the other side of Ikebukuro station from where I was staying. It was a 10 minute walk from exit C6, cross the JR railway station all the way to exit 42. I ordered a French toast and hot royal milk tea. I had forgotten how good the French toast tasted, it was the most satisfying breakfast I’ve had in a while. Sitting next to me were two girls from the Kansai area, they were chit chatting away in the Kansaiben Dialect which brought me back to when I was in Osaka.

Today’s agenda is to go to the suburbs out towards the west of Tokyo to visit a special shrine (Gotokuji) and to do some shopping at an outlet mall. The railway I was taking both entered into the city via Shinjuku Station, so before heading out, I visited Hanazono Shrine. It’s located right outside of Shinjuku Sanchomei Station exit E1/E2, which is one stop east from Shinjuku and within walking distance. “Hanazono” literally means flower garden. In summer this shrine blooms with flowers of many colors. Unlike the royal feeling that Nezu Shrine gives off with its gold and maroon colors, Hanazono Shrine is a traditional bright red and white color, similar to Fushimi Inari Shrine in Kyoto. Hanazono was built back in the Edo period around the 1600’s but the grounds were kept really well. They even have a National Mochi Tournament Festival in February every year!

I got my first Omikuji of the trip at Hanazono Shrine.

An Omikuji おみくじis a Japanese fortune telling paper strip that you can get from most temples with ¥100. In some temples you draw from a box, in others you shake a can filled with bamboo sticks that have numbers written on it, and then you open a drawer with the matching number from the stick you get from shaking the can. At the bigger touristy temples such as Meijijingu Shrine and Sensoji Temple you can get English Omikuji. The rank of fortune ranges from great blessing 大吉 to a great curse 大凶. If you do get any of the unlucky ones () it is tradition to tie it on the bars or branches of trees within the grounds of the temples so you can leave your back luck behind. For the good luck ones () you are supposed to keep it close to you, for example keep it in your purse or wallet. These fortune strips usually have a short poem and explains your luck for any few combinations of the following: travel, work, learning, relationships, lost items, one’s wish and so on. My vlog for Tokyo Day 3 will bring you to Sensoji, where I will show you the steps of how to draw an Omikuji.

Back at Shinjuku Station, I head for the Odakyu Railway which will take me to Gotokuji station. On some of the station’s walkway tunnels, they were actually playing bird sounds in the speaker systems. It was really relaxing and calming.

So… how the heck do you read this complicated map? Okay, step 1 look for the station you’re at now, in my case Shinjuku. Step 2, look for the station you are trying to go to, which is Gotokuji in my case. Step 3, look for the final stop along the line, so I can take the train going towards the right direction but in this case Shinjukuis the end so it wouldn’t matter. Step 4, before boarding a train, make sure the type of train will stop at Gotokuji. In this case I can only take either the Section Semi Express (light blue) or the Local (dark blue) trains. The light grey dots on the lines indicate whether or not the trains stop at those stations. So you can see that the orange Rapid Express is the fastest train. Those usually only come every 30 minutes though.

Gotokuji was small town suburb Japan. People were riding on bikes everywhere, the train platform was running on the street right next to houses, and there were a lot of elderly residents of the area just strolling around doing their daily shopping. Gotokuji Temple was a good 15 minute walk from the station. There were definitely no tourists in this area. In fact there weren’t that many locals either! But Gotokuji Temple was a must do on my list, because it has an area filled with hundreds of Manekineko (lucky cat) Statues from miniature to palm size. Because the grounds of Gotokuji was right in the middle of the forest, this also resulted a “feed the mosquitoes” session, sponsored by my legs. I took count, 16. I was wearing stockings; it did not help at all. Still, I really enjoyed it. They also had a garden filled with traditional Japanese pine trees. Every picture I took it looked like it came out of a post card or painting.

Now, time to strangle my credit card again, off to “Mitsui Outlet Park – Tama Minami Osawa Branch”.

Every time I visit Japan, I always schedule a trip to an outlet mall. They have outlet malls really similar to in the US where they sell major brands on discount, such as Coach, Burberry, Kate Spade, Tommy Hilfiger etc. You can’t really find large outlet malls in Hong Kong. So in order to get there from Gotokuji, I have to do this:

               Odakyu towards Odawara
Gotokuji ---------------------------------> (get off and transfer at Shin Yugarioka if you happen to get on a train that’s not bound for Karakida 唐木田)

Get off at “Odakyu Tama Center”, walk out the transfer gate to the other platform “Keio Tama Center” for the Keio Line. 

On the Keio line, I just take 2 more stops further towards the same direction and get off at Minami Osawa, and the outlet park is just on the right hand side of the exit after crossing a bridge.             

I am now around 40 minutes south west of Tokyo.

I didn’t end up shopping for too much since this Outlet wasn’t massive and didn’t carry all the brands I was looking for. I ended up getting a Coach all leather clutch/cross body bag for around $100 US. Upon entering they give me a 15% discount card and then the item itself was 50% off already. I also bought a pair of comfortable shoes from a Japanese brand. I’ve been walking a lot since arriving in Seoul and my feet were killing me, so I immediately changed my shoes after sitting down for lunch.

From Minami-Osawa to Shinjuku was a straight shot on the Keio railway’s Sagamihara Line. Also you can take any speed of train since both stations are large transfer stations. I managed to get on the orange Semi-Special Express. 40 minutes of train definitely made me doze off on a little nap. I hurried off the train in Shinjuku and made my way towards the Shinjuku Sanchomei Station in order to take the train towards Meijijingu-mae. Just as you might’ve guessed, I was absolutely lost in the Shinjuku Station. (3.64 million daily passengers, 51 platforms, 200 exits… come on, how am I supposed to not get lost?) This forced me to go on ground level, but that allowed me to enjoy the business district of Tokyo. It’s very different from 6 years ago. The buildings are much more modern now with all glass windows tinted in various bronze, gold, and blue colors. No more boring all grey concrete buildings. 

Major tourist temple – Meijijingu

Meijijingu and Sensoji combined are the 2 must see temples for first time visitors to Tokyo, which means that the grounds are filled with tourists. As much as it’s filled with tourists, I haven’t been there in 6 years. And the walk through the grounds to the main temple is very pretty. The whole pebble pathway is probably around 10 meters wide and takes 15 minutes to get to the actual shrine. It was built in 1920 in honor of Emperor Meji and his wife Empress Shoken. The whole area is in a forest of 70 hectares (170 acres) with around 120,000 trees. It is definitely feels very grand and sacred when you walk through the forest.

6 years ago in Meji temple, I also wrote an Ema (wooden wish plate). This time round I just bought 2 Omamori, which are amulets or charms you can find in all temples in Japan. Some temples specialize in providing different kinds of Omamori. Usually they come in the form of charms for work, school, money, health, and safe transportation. I got one which keeps bad luck away and another one that gives good luck for winning.

“Hi there, we are looking for pretty girls for this new tv show, would you like to join?” – Japanese celebrity Scout, Harajuku.

It’s a very distinctive neighborhood in Tokyo with very distinctive fashion. Usually it comes in very bright candy colors mixed with a little bit of punk and Lolita. Kind of like how you’d imagine someone to walk out of a Japanese anime or video game. Takeshita street is the most famous street, directly across the exit of JR Harajuku station. It is filled with stores that sell cute accessories, clothing, as well as souvenirs that are less touristy and more creative. This is the perfect place for me to buy accessories like rings, necklaces, bracelets, charms and all that. I stumbled upon a Disney Store that was full of Disney Princess products, and I got stuck in there.

About Disney in Japan, I need to separate this into a dedicated paragraph.
Disney in Japan isn’t really targeted for children; in fact it’s more targeted towards young women anywhere from teenagers up to women in their late 20s. An idea date would be to take a girl to Disneyland Tokyo, they will love you forever. And all of the Disney themed products are intended for women to use so it’s often girly things like earrings, dainty necklaces, phone cases, umbrellas, schedule diaries, mugs, and other household items etc. Most of the products are of much higher quality than what you find in the US. Often products aren’t made with anything plastic, but instead are made of metal like silver with very fine decoration gem stones.

Back to the Disney store, they were playing music videos from the movie Frozen. So I was shopping while singing. I ended up buying a very gorgeous key shaped key chain with the tip as a letter A and the main part was a carving of Ariel the little mermaid. One of the most satisfying purchases of this entire trip.

For the first Tonkatsu (deep-fried pork cutlet) of the trip, I was back at Sunshine City in Ikebukuro. It was a place called Tonkatsu Wako, recommended by my very much so “Asian guide book”. They had so many mouthwatering displays inside their windows; I just wanted to order all the things. It was definitely good quality Tonkatsu. 

I was very happy to rest my feet in a long hot bath. I wanted to know how much I’ve actually walked, but it must’ve been a good 10-15km today. While I sit on the bed deciding where else I need to visit, I can hear the jazz playing outside my door in the hallway. Because jazz playing on every floor all day & night and having a vending machine on every floor but no wifi on any floor except for the lobby was more important. Maybe they think a business hotel needs to stop people from working so hard with wifi in the rooms, so they should play jazz instead. All in all, every Tokyo subway station has free wifi, so there’s no need to worry.

Tokyo Day 3 will cover: Sensoji, Skytree Tower, Togo Shrine, Tokyo Tower, and Roppongi.

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