Our first expedition through the maze of the Tokyo Metro. Our hotel is only a hop away from the nearest line, the Maranouchi line – which proves handy for our trip to Tokyo station tomorrow.
Today we have decided to go to Shibuya, reputed for it’s teeny bop culture. I might find some fluffy legwarmers, or gold spangled shoes. Fashion sense here is optional.
Before that, though, we undertake a more sober visit to Meiji Shrine, where the Emperor Meiji was enshrined. It sits in a massive park, with meandering paths through it. The shrine itself is impressive, a series of sober, copper-roofed buildings set about a square courtyard. Inside is a registry office where people can have their children blessed (christened?) or get married – the adults, not the children.
We are treated to the sight of kimono-clad women and men wandering about after their ceremonies. Particularly arresting was the sight of a bridal couple getting into their limo.
The bride was dressed in an elaborate kimono with the most incredible hair construction – geisha style. First the couple was escorted to the boot of the limo, which funnily enough looked like a London black cab. The boot was full of gifts, so the couple could check them out. Next, the groom ascended relatively easily into the car, not really needing the opening in the roof for his hair. We watched fascinated as an attendant readied the bride to enter the vehicle. First off, a few plastic aerials were placed in her hair – early warning signs for collision with the roof. I guess it’s a bit like the chains they hang before tunnels to warn drivers of oversize trucks. Anyway, I digress.
Next a tissue is conjured out of the attendant’s kimono sleeve, to be draped around the neckline of the bride, presumably to protect the bridal kimono from make-up as she drops her chin to enter the vehicle. Finally the long sleeves of the kimono are tucked up higher, and she is ready to ascend into her carriage, taking extreme care to a) look elegant, and not to b) trip, c) hit her hair on the roof. Finally we can all breathe again – she’s made it, and kept her hair on. Whew!
On our way out, I spot a cat cafe opposite – MUST visit. I’ve heard of these cafes where one can pet cats – for a fee of course. We take the lift up to the 4th floor, where an attendant greets us with a menu of options. Thinking we’ll have an espresso, I sign up for the drinks – mistake: it’s out of a vending machine. We must remove our shoes and wash our feet first, put on our slippers then put our various items into a locker, and finally we may enter the cat domain.
There must be up to 20 cats in here, of various types and colours, inhabiting a cat-zone of climbing frames, lamps with sleeping areas cleverly stepped so the cats can enter low down and make their way across ever increasing heights. Lying about are cat toys to entertain the cats, though most of them are not in the slightest bit interested in the humans, barely registering our existence. I guess they must get bored witless with the people constantly wanting to pet them. We are told that we are not allowed to chase or carry the cats, and entrance is restricted to over 12 years old. It’s wildly amusing, though I don’t think to check the cats for claws – I can’t imagine people would be happy with being scratched, but surely they wouldn’t, would they? Maybe cats in Japan are just as polite and well behaved as the people here?
We tear ourselves away from the felines to explore more of Shibuya – Oh, gosh! More shops! More neon! More people! We do find a little Soba-Udon noodle place to have lunch. Selection is via a vending machine – put your money in, make your selection, get your ticket, sit and wait. The cheerful chef speaks enough English, so we know what we are doing. We try soba and udon, and both are delicious; mine accompanied by a small bowl of rice, chicken pieces and an egg over the top.
Fortified, we continue into the thick of Shibuya, but it’s not long before we head back – it’s not like we need to buy anything, and frankly with the plethora of options in front of me, I am at risk of an aneurism.
We do have a BIG treat for tonight. Tucked away in the bright lights of Shinjuku is the ROBOT RESTAURANT, and we’ve booked a table…. I have some notion that it will be a restaurant where we are served by robot waiters and maitre’d, but the truth is vastly different, and VERY japanese.
After obtaining our Japan Rail pass, and our ticket to the next destination, we manage to get lost within 30 meters, but I drag out google and off we go.
We have booked a dinner for 1500 Y, and when we get our ticket, the cover charge is 8000Y, about $100. Ah well, this better be good. We are shown down three flights of stairs, surrounded on all six sides by bright garish decorations into a cavern below the ground. We are ushered to two seats right at the front, equipped with an airline-style food tray, on which our hostess puts two boxes, whips out a couple of strings and said boxes start to smoke. Caution – don’t open the box for 10 minutes: our food is being cooked.
To the sound of (nearly) ear shattering music, laser lighting and strobes, we are entertained. It’s a combination of dance, story and small wifi-operated floats which move around the stage. The ladies are dressed in Vegas-style gear; I’ve decided that the Japanese are not blessed with a sense of rhythm: they do well enough, but it’s all terribly twee.
One of our skits is Avatar style: harmonious peaceful green planet is invaded by evil robots which seek to destroy. It looks bad until the chief baddies are defeated by a giant shark and snake respectively. Wild round of applause and cheers for the goodies. After a sake, it feels like fun. Interestingly, each of the staff make a bow to the room before they leave each time.
Unfortunately we have to go back up the four flights of stairs, so by the time I am out of the place, I feel decidedly hot, and relieved to be in the cold again. We’re not sure we’d find our way back to our karaoke friends again, and there is no adequate encore to tonight’s spectacle, so we head ‘home’ to ready ourselves for our trip to see the snow monkeys tomorrow.