Everything is Awesome
Alex: Olly, after your first full day in Tokyo, what are some big differences between Japan and the United States?
Olly: It has more fish… Tokyo is much much bigger than Oakland—and more crowded. It’s also cleaner. Everyone has black hair. And then there’s the fast bullet train. Oh, and the toilets have a button that sprays water on your bottom (giggle).
Becca: I like the little musical noises coming from unexpected places—vending machines, doorways, elevators. I also love how much this culture likes fashion trends—especially the girls dressed up like dolls outside of La Foret in Harajuku. There is a lovely attention to detail.
Alex: What was your first impression of the subway?
Olly: It’s like a huge maze.
Becca: I remember how confusing the subway was the last time we were here. I had many Monument Valley moments—you’re in a maze with stairs going up and down, you’re given little clues as to where you’re supposed to go, doorways appear and disappear and then finally, miraculously, you make it to the next level—your train. And it’s all in Japanese!
Alex: Do you miss anything about the United States?
Olly: Ok, I miss my sister.
If Lola were here, what would have been her favorite thing so far?
Olly: Eating wagashi.
We tried lots of food today. Do you have a favorite thing you ate? Mine was the tonkatsu for lunch.
Becca: Tankatsu, spicy rice crackers, matcha soft serve ice cream, and the rice porridge we had for breakfast.
Do you have a favorite moment from today? Mine is watching Olly choose the “Fish Extravaganza” at the Isetan depachika.
Olly: When dad said “no” to getting the “Fish Extravaganza”! (giggle) But then we got it.
Becca: I really liked walking around Shinjuku at dusk—it felt like the city lit up and came to life. I loved exploring the little alleyways—Omoide Yochiko and the Golden Gai district—and visiting the tranquil Hanazono Shrine hidden amidst the bustle of Shinjuku.
Our hotel had thoughtfully filled our room with kid-sized items—bathrobes, pajamas, and toiletries (quite possibly the smallest tube of toothpaste we’ve every seen). First thing in the morning, Oliver immediately donned the robe.
Land of the Rising Sun. Taking in the morning view from the 49th floor at 5am
Rice porridge with salmon and seaweed.
The 41st floor.
Olly thought the building in the distance looked like a rocket ship.
Our first vending machine purchase.
Navigating the subway maze in Japanese.
Riding the subway from Shinjuku to Harajuku.
Crepes. Crepes. Crepes.
Takeshita–dōri in Harajuku.
Who cares that we just had breakfast…
We read somewhere that Japan is not a culture of walking and eating. But this crepe was devoured pretty quickly, so walking and eating didn’t last long.
Harajuku girls lined up outside La Foret for the doors to open.
Beautiful clean crosswalks.
We got to Kiddyland as it was opening. The line of people waiting to get in—ironically adults—poured in as they opened the doors. We made it up to the second floor where there was a lot of Finn Family Moomintroll, Miffy, and Totoro. Bought some great gifts. Olly used some of his own yen to buy a toy Shinkansen (bullet train) and a kendama. Lots of fun Japanese characters. A favorite: a banana named “Elite Banana” who wears a tie and glasses and has his own TV show. Intrigued…
Back on the street walking from Omotesando to Aoyama.
We stopped to stop and rest at the Prada store in Aoyama. There were benches outside, so we sat down and sketched in Olly’s journal. The Prada building has beautiful geometric windows that made for fun drawing. Olly loved how the windows looked flat from the front, but they were actually curved as seen from the side.
Even though it was Saturday, we saw lots of school kids. These girls looked like Olly’s age. We really liked their matching backpacks and hats. We saw lots of students with this style backpack all day.
Bamboo at the Nezu Museum.
We stopped at a lovely little store—Higashiya Man—that sold intricately wrapped wagashi behind sliding wood doors. Outside the store, there was a window that sold gooey rice balls on a stick. Not to be missed. Our first order dropped on the ground because the stick was so sticky.
This is our second order.
On our way to lunch back in Omotesando, we hit the rice cracker jackpot. This store sold probably 200 different types of sembei. Can’t get enough of these salty little treats.
We had lunch at Maisen—known for it’s pork tonkatsu. This meal was incredible. Crispy panko-crusted pork with sweet and sour dipping sauce. Served with thinly sliced cabbage, pickled vegetables, rice and miso soup.
We got a seat at the counter where we could watch it all go down.
Or you could always get your tonkatsu on a stick…
The first of hopefully many matcha soft serve.
We went back to the hotel to rest. Olly fell fast asleep with Finn.
Lots of Japanese business people at our hotel.
Back out on the street. Exploring the bustling neon of Shinjuku. We ducked off the main road to a small dark alleyway—Omoide Yochiko (below)—where locals dined on yakitori in small stalls that sat 3 or 4 people. Smoke wafted from the small grills—it smelled incredible. We walked up and down the alleyway twice just taking it all in.
Back on the busy Shinjuku streets, we made our way through thick crowds of people in search of the Hanazono Shrine. It seemed crazy that a quiet temple would be located amidst this bustle.
Run! It’s Godzilla! No, really, it is. See him?
Finally, we found the shrine, literally tucked away behind tall buildings.
More tiny dark alleyways—this time the Golden Gai district next to the temple.
We ended our day with a culinary adventure at the depachika in the basement of Isetan. We filled our basket with goodies for dinner.
Everything is it’s right place.
A tired Olly.
Olly was feeling very adventurous and chose this “Fish Extravaganza” for dinner. He gobbled up the fish eggs first!