Saturday, April 02, 2016

Shelby x Tokyo: Meiji Harajuku Omotesando


Vintage kimono gems at Chicago.


Come together all over the world
From the hoods of Japan Harajuku girls
What? It's all love
What?
.. Gwen Stefani, Rich Girl ...

EAT / DRINK

Japanese theme restaurants are a must for those seeking a novel kitschy experience such as your truly. I mean... I'm that girl who came to Tokyo 12 years ago because of Sanrio Puroland! I learnt that Sebastian Masuda, of DokiDoki 6% (this Jap label that was once my obsession) fame, was behind the Kawaii Monster Cafe piquing my intrigue immediately. Alas, despite the (what I thought was) early arrival, the queue snaked all the way down their corridor and the subsequent 2 flight of stairs! I couldn't subject le mother to such a wait so no pastel coloured pasta for me this time.


All we need in this world of sin is a tranquil moment with a Cafe Kitsune matcha latte. Tucked away in one of the bourgeois streets of Omotesando is a bamboo-walled enclosure housing fine coffee beans and attractive baristas to boot: hubba hubba. We had hot beverages to go but hope to return one day for a more discerning experience here.


SEE / DO

Almost surreal to find that this (sizable) pocket of zen could exist in the middle of the city. How do you do it Tokyo? Trudging across the pebbled path towards the Meiji Shrine beneath the shade of gargantuan lush trees (probably older than my great grandparents) through the grand Torii made of Japanese cypress, one can't help but be mindful. This Shinto-Buddhist shrine, dedicated to Emperor Meiji, marks the Meiji era / point of enlightenment when Japan opened their doors after 300 years to adopt the 'Japanese spirit and Western knowledge'. One cannot miss the barrels of wine gifted to the Emperor by Bourgogne wineries in France. Whether you're there to pray or gawk at the 'power' trees, do educate yourself with the general ways of the shrine:

First, the Torii (gates) are meant to be passage ways for the gods so do NOT walk in the centre of the gate. As you approach a torii, bow slightly and enter through the side of the gates.

Second, chozuya (purify before the shrine)!
- Hold the ladle with the right hand and pour the water on the left hand to clean it
- Pass the ladle in the left hand and clean the right hand the same way
- Passing the ladle back to the right hand, pour water into cupped left hand and rinse the mouth with that water
- Do NOT touch the ladle with mouth
- Rinse left hand again

Third, the two-Reiji applause bow at the altar.
- Ring the bell upon approaching if there is one
- Nod at the offering box and throw in a coin
- Bow deeply twice
- Do the kashiwade by clapping twice
- Lower the head once

Being there on a Sunday meant having to put up with the weekend crowd but a perk, if you're lucky, is to be bestowed the opportunity of witnessing a Japanese wedding procession. We did and it was an awesome sight to behold, as fleeting as it was.

There is a station to write and deposit prayers with offerings which we did. As I scribbled my thoughts, for some bizarre reason I suddenly felt profoundly moved. Something came over me and I felt some form of emotional pain detach from the fibres of my heart and floated like dandelion petals into the air. It was melancholic but comforting at the same time. I also took a moment to go through the numerous ema (wooden prayer / wishing plaques) that hung around the 'power' tree. One of them struck me deeply in the chord. Almost like a spiritual awakening or something close to that. At the o-mikuji (shaking a bamboo container filled with sticks until one falls out) station, I drew a number which led to a 'fortune' that was really more of an advice from Emperor Meiji. Suffice to say that his wise words were pretty spot on for le mother, sister and I. This led to a haul of omamori (lucky charms / protective amulets). I mean, whoah, only in Japan (I'm exaggerating but you get my drift) can one find luck for purchase and I am going to take full advantage of it. Read more about my omamori haul here (post to come).


There is no strolling down Takeshita Dori on a weekend with the hoards of tourists and locals alike scurrying to queue at their favourite themed cafes or shopping for gyaru and lolita accessories. Instead it's a slow hustle pass creperies and independent shops. Le sister lost her Holga camera lens in the crowd so you can imagine how tight the space was. She did, however, find the loveliest hat at Wonder Rocket so that helped lighten her mood up a wee bit.


We shopped up a storm at Daiso 'cos it's cheaper in Japan as ¥100 = RM3.61 (depending on currency exchange, not inclusive tax... err and no tax-free shopping in Daiso unfortunately) vs RM5.30 (including GST) here. I bought truckloadsa spring exclusives like their sakura themed paper plates, origami paper, Japanese print koi pouches, Hello Kitty plastic bowls, matcha biscuits, kitchen sponges and envelopes. One thing though, do beware of their phone cables. My mobile died at Meiji (which explains the lack of images in between) and I had left my lightning cable at the hotel. Desperate, I bought what appeared to be a lightning cable at Daiso which turned out to be a cable specifically for data transfer as I did not understand kanji. I had to buy another cable which fortunately turned out to be a charging one. Hardly a loss at RM3.80 each.


Had a good browse of vintage kimonos that Chicago had to offer. The selection was quite meh when I was there presumably because spring is a peak travel period and the good ones must have all been snapped up. I did, though, score a couple of above average (to my standard.. at the time) pieces. Contrary to my mother, I find vintage kimonos quintessentially charming and curious. I like to think the pieces I bought were past possessions of Geishas and the like (even though reality wise they were probably worn to graduations or relatives weddings heh).


Multi-coloured sake barrels: annual offerings of the Meiji Jingu Nationwide Sake Brewers.

So lucky to have been at the right place and the right time to witness a traditional Japanese wedding procession. The bride is gorgeous!



Don't forget your shrine etiquette!

Vintage wedding kimonos. Be still my heart.

Clockwise from top Right: 'Depositing' our enveloped prayers into the collection box. This torii, made of 1500 year old cypress wood, stands tall till today. The Kiyomasa Well is said to be a strong 'power' spot and Japanese girls and ladies use pictures of this well as their mobile screen savers for luck.

Le Sister all cool as a cat.

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