Harajuku, Aoyama and Shibuya

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November 10th 2013
Published: November 10th 2013
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Harajuku and Aoyama

Slept in this morning and woke up with Diana shaking my bed ...... Stop snoring! No, that wasn't Diana, it was an earthquake.

I suppose a Tokyo way to start your day.

We took the train to Harajuku this morning. On the train there was a short explanation on a screen, also in English, that the Yamanote line had a delay of 1 minute. The explanation was also given below: earthquake. I think that might be the only reason why you wouldn't be able to set your watch to the timing of the Japanese train system.

Omotesando boulevard is a straight tree lined axis that runs away from Harajuku station. It is one of the few really beautiful tree lined streets in a city where trees struggle to survive. The trees are quite large: they have been there for a long time. To the sides are all the major design houses, cafés and a beautiful shopping complex from Tadao Ando: Dior by SANAA, Prada by Herzog and de Meuron, Louis Vuitton, Gucci, Commes de Garçon, etc, etc. Each store has a building to itself. Many are absolute gems of architectural design. Real magazine and book material. Architecture offices make their names on these store designs, and the major design houses look for the big name architects to make their stores. The architecture styles of the street could not be any more diverse. And somehow it all works because of those big beautiful trees.


On the other side of Harajuku station is Meiji Jingu complex. A small forest of giant old trees and broad gravel paths leading to Tokyo's largest Shinto shrine. Many small girls were dressed in Kimonos walking around with their parents. What is the celebration, Diana asked a man working on the grounds. This month is a celebration of children who turn 3, 5, or 7. Parents bring their children to the temple to pray that they grow up healthy. It was also a day of 22 weddings, the man said. This is why we saw at least 4 processions walking in front of the temple. The brides were all dressed in traditional Japanese wedding gowns and sandals. They took small steps walking across the square and were followed by a man carrying a large coral red paper umbrella. The rest of the wedding party followed dutifully behind. The whole scene and place could not have had a larger contrast with the street where we had just been.

And now I write this in an izakaya ( bar/ restaurant: think yakitori) in Shibuya. A place of beautiful electric neon consumerist vulgarity. The narrow streets at night are so brightly lit with commercial signs I don't need a flash to photograph. Buildings have a different function on each floor. The first and second are shops, the third is a bar, the fourth is a restaurant, the fifth is another bar, the sixth is karaoke bar. An elevator becomes a vertical street, taking you to where you want. And in the building next that begins again.

That is Tokyo, I believe. It's is a place of absolute contrasts. Freeways run through the middle of the city over alleys 2 meters wide selling sushi. Neon streets with loud music exist beside age old forests with Shinto Shrines. It has a fractal beauty of scale and a contrasting beauty of vulgarity and silent simplicity.

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13th November 2013

good texts Cyrus, Ton ..... and nice pictures ...and say hello to Diana......

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