Apologies for the late recap you guys. After coming back from my annual vacation, it was about to be the Hajj vacation and we had to fly to Morocco (which will soon be written about too) and well, it got busy. 🙂 Anyway, before my Tokyo flame dies out, let me continue where we left off from the my Tokyo Diaries Part 1.
After a morning of discovering how the Tokyo Metro system works and visiting some sights in Akihabara, Asakusa, touring around with Japan’s shafus (rickshaw pullers) and hefty, having an authentic bento box for lunch, it was time to move along and continue with our journey. Our next stop: the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building also known as Tocho, for short.
Tocho is located in what I would describe as the “Makati District”/”Wall Street” version of Tokyo. The area is surrounded by tall, business-like buildings garnished with some greenery on every sidewalk. Visiting this place is one of the free, tourist-y things that you can do while in Tokyo as it offers an observatory on the 45th floor that is open for the public and gives a great panoramic view of the city.
From the view, you can see how elaborate the city’s planning was — considering that they have this huge garden in the middle of all those tall buildings. That, by the way, is where the Meiji Shrine is located. From there you can also spot other famous landmarks such as the Tokyo Tower, Shinjuku National Garden and the Yoyogi National Gymnasium (where the Olympics Tokyo 2020 will be held).
The floor also hosts a bazaar of local items for sale. Most of them were tea, noodles, sauces and other novelty food stuff that you could only find in Japan.
After taking enough photos of the view, we left and headed on to our next destination. For those who’d like to visit the Tocho in Japan, they are located in Shinjuku District, open from 8:00AM to 6:45PM only. Admission is free of charge.
We hopped back into the Tokyo Metro and made our way into one of the most popular sights in Tokyo: the Shibuya Crossing! I’ve always seen it in movies and read about it in magazines but to finally get to see this mega crossing site excited me as I wanted to get lost in the midst of the madding crowd. What makes this grand intersection memorable is that all the junctions will turn red at the same time allowing the pool of people to cross all at the same time for a full minute or so.
We exit the Metro through what they call the “Hachiko” Exit of Shibuya, aptly named since the stop welcomes you with a statue of Japan’s beloved dog, Hachiko — now an ultimate symbol of loyalty in Japanese culture. It is a popular meeting place and the small park that surrounds the statue is filled with people…apart from those who are about to cross the streets though.
“The Scramble,” as the Shibuya Crossing is also known as, was only a few meters away from where I was standing and I could feel the force of the crowd drawing me in to join the hustle. I gauged the rotation of which I was going for and happily stood amidst the crowd as we waited for the junction lights to turn red and the walk sign to go green. Here it is…!
What an exhilarating feeling! So far, it’s the closest I could come to feeling what is described as “concrete jungle where dreams are made of” considering the bright and colorful billboards, the sounds of the people and cars, everyone going about their own way…ahhh, the city girl in me palpitated with delight! I felt like Julie Andrews on the hill in the movie “The Sound of Music” only instead of being surrounded by nature, I was surrounded by the cosmopolitan vibe I grew up dreaming of.
I did another bout of the crossing after my first one in order to film a Facebook Live for all our followers on Facebook. And it was so much fun! Even though all I did was walk around in one big, full circle…really. Haha.
After my second bout at The Scramble, my mom and Tito decided that we should walk a little further away from the crossing and look at the other buildings within Shibuya. And lo and behold, the cherubims started to sing as my mother saw one of the few sights that can take her breath away: the Apple Store/Genius Bar of Shibuya. My mom, being the Apple “purist” that she is, was giddy with excitement to go in. (Of course, she did a good Kodak moment outside of it too. Kulang na lang magtatalon si Mamita sa tuwa!)
It’s been my habit that whenever I visit a computer or Apple store that I’d always open The Pink Tarha page and I did so on one of their iPhones. Interestingly enough, one of the latest articles at that time was the Muji store in Riyadh (as Muji is a Japanese brand).
After browsing and ogling over the iPad Pro, we moved on and walked back to the station. Along the way, I also found this mecca of shopping enthusiasts: a five-story Zara shop! I immediately messaged Shoegarfreeruby (previous Pink Tarha and Zara loyalist) showing her this sweet, desirable sight:
Shibuya is known to be a fashion district so it’s no surprise that many of the mainstream fashion retail brands are to be found here. Also, you can also expect that the people you’d find in Shibuya would be…well…more fashionable! 🙂
Before finally heading back to our hotel (this was just Day One still, mind you), our Tito Roger took us to one last stop: Harajuku Station. This was because he knew that visiting an Owl Cafe was one of the things on our to-do list and since he would have to go back to work the next day, he wanted to make sure that we got all our bases covered and that we’d know how to get there on our own the next day. So we basically just made a pit stop in Harajuku station, checked out where we needed to be and went on home to rest.
Day One is done! Let’s move on to Day Two!
It’s Day Two in Japan and well quite frankly, I’m about to bombard you with a lotttttt of photos! If you remember how I talked about it Part 1 how this whole trip was supposed to be for my brother in the first place? Well, since he wasn’t able to come, he gave us a bucketlist of things to do for him instead and one of them was to visit an Owl Cafe.
Animal cafes have grown in popularity in Tokyo over the years with the rise of puppy cafes, cat cafes and now even an owl cafe! Basically, it is a space where you can sit down have a drink of coffee or tea while in the company of some furry friends. Now my brother believes that his ‘spirit animal’ is an owl therefore he has an affinity towards them. Therefore, our first agenda on Day Two was to visit an Owl Cafe. We found one in the Harajuku District (as mentioned earlier) and we had already booked our reservations then. Unplanned visits to these cafes won’t guarantee you a seat inside since there is a limited time frame for each visit so I suggest you book yours ahead.
Welcome to Harajuku District first! It is the center of Japanese youth culture and fashion…if you’re a Gwen Stefani fan, you’ve probably heard of her group of stylish “Harajuku Girls”.
We booked our visit at 11AM and arrived there promptly. We were scheduled along with three more groups of two and we waited our turn while ordering our drinks.
The staff member hardly spoke a word of English but he managed to convey his message by simple hand gestures. He told us which birds were alright to touch and which were not and how to handle them properly while on our arms. The room where they kept the birds was separate from the dining area by the way, so you can be assured that you don’t contaminate your food with any of the bird’s feathers or what-nots.
They also gave us this guide before entering the owl’s room:
There were seven owls: Schola, a white-faced scops owl; Bob, a Eurasian eagle owl; Wasabi, a great horned owl (who was not to be touched as he is not used domesticated); Kukku, a rock eagle owl; Canon and Haku, a barn owl and Ohagi, a little owl, respectively.
Once all was settled, we were finally able to hold some of the owls. I started with the largest one…Bob! He had big bright eyes and I was surprised to see the owls awake knowing that these were nocturnal creatures.
His feathers were majestic, to say the least. As I slowly caressed his back to feel his feathers, he breathed deeply and I was a bit scared that he might flap them and slap my face with it. Fortunately, he seemed to like the light rub.
I moved on to the next birds to see them up close. Canon and Haku were cute barn owls who appeared sleepy at first contact but when the food was around for them, their eyes suddenly became wide and round. Just like me when I’m ‘hangry’. Haha!
Ohagi was the smallest owl in the coop. We’re not allowed to carry him in our arms though and we had to veer him away from the bigger owls as they can possibly be their prey too.
Before leaving, I had to take one last look at Bob, who was the most amazing bird I have yet to come close to. So Bob, I bid you adieu!
Knowing how rare it would have been for me to ever hold an owl, let alone be amidst seven of them was an unbelievable experience. A 30-minute visit inclusive of a drink and a souvenir would cost you around 1,500 Japanese Yen or 55 SAR. Not bad for a once-in-a-lifetime experience!
Now we’re getting close to some photo flooding as the next few stops of ours can only be told mostly in pictures.
Nearby the Owl Cafe that we visited was Takeshi Street. It is a famous shopping street for local and tourists alike for various fashion and beauty items. We were told that a lot of Filipino celebrities hit this street for some retail therapy. Here, have a look see:
We first stopped at this big pharmacy to look for some beauty products and herbal medicines. My mom was able to score some collagen cream here that she really liked.
Next we chanced upon this fashion store that had all these fancy knock knacks and accessories. So much fun to browse!
After our brief stint in Harajuku, we decided to head on back to our hotel to beat the rush hour in the train. Along the way, our Tito Roger told us over the phone about this big food court down by Kawasaki Station (a stop away from where our hotel is) so we decided to check it out as well. Man oh man, did we not regret it!
Get ready for some real Japanese food (photo) attack:
After seeing all that, I honestly felt a bit dizzy eh. So many options, so hard to choose! We ended up taking some dumplings, takoyaki and a couple of tempura items for our dinner. By the way, this particular food court is found at the Lazona Kawasaki Plaza, a mall that is adjoining the JR Line’s Kawasaki Station.
That’s it for Part 2 folks! I know it’s been lengthy but there is just so much to see and do in Japan that I just have to show it all to you. On the last entry for my Tokyo Diaries, I’ll be featuring the Ueno Zoo and the giant pandas I found there, plus a trip to the Daibutsu Buddha in Kamakura and a visit to the Pokemon Center in Yokohama.