After a full week of clouds and rain, the sun finally came out in Tokyo. This is great considering my first week was filled with a potential strong typhoon that veered away from Tokyo rather late and an earthquake that scared the hell out of me after I just went to sleep on Friday night. Sunday was a great day to just relax and roam Yoyogi Park and the Meiji Shrine. Fortunately, I didn’t have to navigate much of the Tokyo train system to get there as the Odakyu line by my apartment goes right to the park (I only had to change from the local to the express and back to local to save about 15 minutes of travel time).
Yoyogi Park was once the Olympic village in 1964, and the opposite side of the street from the park is still used for sports–you can even see the Yoyogi National Gymnasium. I started out on this side of the street because I wasn’t paying attention to the tourist maps (also, tourist maps are not always oriented with north up top, which confused me at first).
Yoyogi National Gymnasium
I arrived on Sunday with an event–there were bands and plenty of organizations around a band shell. Then I noticed a pedestrian mall with an organic farmers market. As I was just starting my day of walking, I decided not to buy anything I couldn’t immediately eat.
Unlike in the US, this farmers market also served alcohol. I found a stall selling Rhum, organic rum and liqueur made in the Mekong Delta region of Laos. The company owners spoke enough English to explain what their product was and how they started. And they gave me a few samples, which were impressive. For an organic spirit, they weren’t too expensive at a little more than $30. If I planned on staying in Japan long term, I would probably buy a bottle.
As I crossed into Yoyogi Park, I encountered some sights that I was told I might encounter. In front of some large murals by the stairs were Japanese youths dressed in costumes posing and dancing in front of cameras. There were others without costumes dancing throughout the park as well. The first girl I saw dancing was only wearing lingerie.
Is it just before Halloween or is this just Japan?
Throughout the park I saw various groups of people–some playing guitars or drums, singers, joggers, yoga groups, etc. It’s a great place for people watching.
I made my way through the park rather quickly so I could head for the Meiji Shrine. This Shinto shrine is dedicated to Emperor Meiji and Empress Shoken who passed away in 1912 and 1914, respectively. Emperor Meiji is credited with opening Japan to the outside world and introducing some western concepts and technology to the country.
100,000 trees were donated from around Japan and abroad to establish this lush forest that surrounds the shrine. The shrine was opened November 1, 1920.
Sake jars on the path to the shrine
Along the walk I saw a lot of Japanese families dressed for the occasion of visiting the shrine. Most of the children were dressed in traditional kimonos; some of the women were also in kimonos.
The shrine and surrounding area was beautiful and would make for great photos if there weren’t so many people around. However, even with the large crowd, the atmosphere is quiet and polite–no need to fight one’s way through the crowd.
Inside Meiji Shrine
At the main shrine, I was fortunate enough to witness a wedding procession. Unfortunately, I’m not the type to crash a wedding–it doesn’t help that I’d have a hard time convincing everyone that I somehow know the bride and/or groom.
After visiting the shrine, I walked along the paths to the Treasure Museum. The museum was not as impressive as the building itself, and photos are not allowed inside.
Of course, as I wasn’t paying attention to directions, I found myself on the opposite side of the park that I wanted to be on. After walking for almost four hours, I was tempted to just find the nearest train station and hang out for lunch in that area, but I decided to just head back through Yoyogi Park.
Is that meerkat on a leash?
As I re-entered the park, I came across these little uncommon household pets (are they meerkats?). It wasn’t just one person with one of these critters; there were three people and at least five of the animals–two of them were in a baby carriage. I was told by an Australian tourist who also stopped for a photo that someone in the park had dogs dressed up as Mario and Luigi (I never found them).
I’m not sure what this was
I had planned to stay in the Shibuya area for dinner after my walk, but I was exhausted from a lot of walking, especially after my previous day’s journey of getting lost for five hours in narrow streets (that story will come soon). Visiting the restaurants and bars of Shibuya will have to wait for another day.