Sunday, March 25, 2012

A Forest in the Midst of the City

After Sty and I parted in Shibuya, I went to Harajuku to visit Meijijingu (Meiji Shrine).

It's a Shinto Shrine dedicated to Emperor Meiji and his consort Empress Shoken. Located right beside the Harajuku JR Station, indeed, Meijijingu, a shrine in a man-made forest provides contrast to the very modern Harajuku.

During History class in high school, I can barely keep myself attentive. Plus, my low grades are always in History. I tell you, I'm really bad at memorizing things. However, I had this certain appreciation for Japanese History (the shogunate and then the Meiji era) and Japanese culture as well. That's why I was very excited to see the Meijijingu.

Just seeing the torii (shrine gate) at the entrance made my heart flutter. In my mind, "I still can't believe I'm in Japan right now."

It was a long walk to the shrine (well, not really if you're from UP) and then I saw the temizuya:

Every visitor, without discrimination for religion, is expected to rinse their hands and mouth here. And I did so even though my hands were freezing (the water was freezing too). Afterall, I'm just an "intruder". It wouldn't hurt to respect other people's "territory". Unfortunately, I was traveling alone so I have no photos of myself at the temizuya.

And then the main shrine. It was simple but very beautiful.

Not much visitors because of the rain. But during New Year, this place gets really crowded!

I also paid respects since they expect every visitor to do so. Again, without discrimination for religion. Bow twice. Clap twice. Bow once.

sacred tree

ema boards where people write their prayers

I also saw shrine maidens! I'd usually see cosplayers in the Philippines dressed up as shrine maidens. But here, I finally saw real shrine maidens.

shrine maiden selling omikuji and souvenir

I was able to buy a few souvenirs from the shop near the exit: a cellphone swing for my collection (JPY370) and a porcelain magnet (JPY400) for my mom's collection.

Did I ever mention that I love sakura a lot (even though I haven't seen one bloom yet)? 

I had to hurry up in getting out since the shrine was already closing. And while exiting, I took this photo...

...and then I realized "HEY!! This is the bridge where cosplayers hang out during Sundays!! This is the place I see on the internet!" You know that moment where you suddenly start imagining objects (in my case, people) on an empty space? That's it! It was just weird because I didn't realize it while entering the shrine.

And then I went to Takeshita Dori to go window shopping. Unfortunately, I was starting to feel really bad. To be honest, that day was the most difficult day for me because the rain never stopped the whole day and my hands and feet were TOTALLY freezing (despite my gloves, boots and two pairs of socks). Rainwater entered the stitches of my boots so my feet were practically drenched the whole afternoon until night. I also forgot to bring my hat so the cold made my head hurt so much.

And so I decided to go back to the hotel no matter how much I wanted to wander around. I'm just thankful that I was able to ride the trains back to the hotel without fainting and that I didn't get sick.

It was unfortunate that the rain and the cold made my adventure less enjoyable. I wasn't able to read the exhibits in Meijijingu anymore. But in any case, it was still a great experience. I hope that I'll be able to go back to Japan. And if I do, I'll make sure to go back to Meijijingu on a sunny day and with companions (to take photos with)!

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Where is Paradise?

After the last day of the conference (Thursday), I stuck around Tokyo for two more days. Since if I went home the day after (Friday), I still won't be able to attend my class so I decided to go home on Sunday instead and to spend two days wandering around one of my dream destinations.

During my Friday stay, I met up with Sty-chan again. We went to Shibuya to have early lunch at Sweets Paradise.

CAKE HEAVEN!!!! Indeed my paradise!
The labels of the cakes were mostly written in katakana! Good thing I can read them (if I need to).

They offer a buffet of sweets and some savory food (like pasta and curry). You pay JPY1480 (~PhP780) and then you can stay to eat anything you want for 70 minutes. It may seem expensive if you convert it to peso (you can eat buffet at Yakimix or Sambokojin for ~PhP600 and they don't have a time limit nor are they limited to sweets, pasta and curry) but it's actually a pretty reasonable price considering that Tokyo is one of the most expensive cities in the world.

Going there at 10am (opening time) on a weekday was great because the cakes are still whole (not yet murdered, LOL) and there's not much people yet.

Pretty interiors

I was giggling the whole time because I've always wanted to eat at Sweets Paradise! And indeed, it was my paradise because I really love cake! (I don't eat cake all the time. I just feel happy whenever I eat cake!)

Happy cake-loving girl is happy.

Sweets Paradise actually mostly caters to girls but as if Sty-chan cares. He just wants his food. :))

Logicom bonding LOL!

It was a great experience. The time limit actually helped in reducing the calorie-intake. I also like the fact that they serve curry and pasta so that if you're hungry (as I was), you can put something on your tummy first before digging into the cakes.

Pasta and curry were actually good!

Coffee, many kinds of tea, soda, ginger ale. You can make snow cone with the red machine (ice cube slicer) there!

Overall, I love Sweets Paradise. Their cakes were mostly sponge cakes with not-so-sweet whipped cream. There also have pudding, cheesecakes, snow-cone, soft ice cream and frozen yogurt. Not much variety but it's pretty much reasonable. 

Blunder: Sty-chan and I left our plates on the table. We both forgot that in Japan (and in other countries too), you clean up your own plates. Oh well, gaijin (Japanese word for "foreigners"). Haha.

Suntory melon pop (soda). It tastes good except I don't really like soda. We placed them in colored cups. They look like aliens! :)) I still prefer Suntory ginger ale.

We also went to Shibuya 109, a very famous department store. Small land area but it had eight floors. Totally different from the malls here in the Philippines (huge land area with usually three floors). A lot of boutiques and almost everything was expensive! Well, except for the winter clothes which were on sale because winter was ending (but it's not like I can use those winter clothes when I get back home).

I just don't understand myself why I didn't buy that pretty gray satchel on sale (JPY2000, it was actually cheap!) Maybe my kuripot self was kicking in. Also, maybe, I was too concerned with my [already big and heavy] luggage. Or, maybe because I forgot my most of my money at the hotel haha.

And then we went to H&M where I got three shirts as pasalubong for my brothers and for my dad. Apparently, in Japan, imported stuff like H&M and Forever21 are cheaper than their local brands. But I think that's understandable because F21 and H&M clothes are made in China, in Vietnam or in the Philippines, where labor and materials are cheap. On the other hand, clothes made in Japan (labor and materials) must be very expensive! But for me, that's still reasonable considering how Japanese brand clothes are so unique. F21 and H&M stuff are just too common. (This is the reason why I came out of the six-floor F21 and the four-floor H&M stores without buying anything for myself.)

Unfortunately, Sty had to go because he had part-time work so I just went to Harajuku (AGAIN!) But here are some of my last shots of the world's largest pedestrian crossing at around 4pm on a weekday.

This is not yet rush hour. It's honestly difficult NOT to bump into anyone while crossing the street!

Does anyone remember the Resident Evil 4 movie? The first scene was shot here. Mika Nakashima played the role of the first zombie (which created a zombie outbreak). It was also raining during that scene! Haha!

Sunday, March 18, 2012

The things we lose have a way of coming back to us in the end

I remember mentioning about losing my camera during the conference. Yes, I lost my camera during the first day. It's a not an expensive camera and I've been planning to buy another but I still could not afford to lose my old camera because (1) dad gave it to me, (2) I have photos with Ali in there and (3) I have great photos of plum blossoms against the blue sky which I'm sure I cannot replicate because of the lack of sunlight during that week.

I've heard stories of people who left their belongings somewhere in Tokyo but are able to retrieve it. I went back to all the rooms I've gone to during the conference but I could not find it. So I decided to ask for help from the staff. They asked for my name and what my camera looks like if ever they see it but unfortunately, they also had other things to do (there was a welcome party) so they cannot spend so much time helping me.

In the evening, I was very anxious and not feeling well. It wasn't the best feeling during that time because I was going to present my paper the next day and I still had to prepare! But for some reason, I suddenly remembered that I wasn't able to check out this certain room in TokyoTech. So I decided to stay cool and then the next day, I went to TokyoTech a little early to check that room.

And yes, I found my camera there, on the chair where I sat.

So unlike the Philippines, right? I mean, if it were in the Philippines, someone will surely take it. But if you're very lucky, someone will still take it but will try to find ways to return it to you. In this country, it's not like you leave something somewhere and the next day you still find it there.

During the last day of the conference, I tried to find the person who helped me to thank him (I could not find him the day I found my camera). After all, he still bothered for me. But before I could say anything, he immediately asked me if I already found my camera.

And it seemed pretty normal to him that I found my camera. Maybe because it's a normal thing in Japan? I told him that I'm not used to it because "in my country, once you lose it, you lose it forever" and he had this shocked face. Oh, first-world and third-world differences!

My favorite shot of plum blossoms from the once-lost camera. The [rare] sunlight made it possible for me to take a really pretty photo.


During the last day of the conference, I made plans with my former co-instructor Ma'am Sandy and my AME orgmate Stychen to meet at Akihabara. Both Ma'am Sandy and Stychen are students from the University of Tokyo. While Ma'am Sandy is doing Masters studies, Stychen is an undergraduate exchange student. The last time I saw both of them was in October so I was very thrilled to see them again... in Japan, no less!

However, Ma'am Sandy decided to go to the last day of the conference I was attending so we got to meet there! I also met Ann who's a PhD student in TokyoTech.

And then we took photos under the ume trees.

Ah, plum blossoms are not just pretty. They're very fragrant too! During lunch breaks, I'd spend a few minutes under these trees just to take photos and to smell the flowers hahahaha.

And then we went to Akihabara to meet Stychen. I miss Sty-chan a lot! He's like a younger brother to me. I've known him since he was a freshman and I've seen him grow up!

At Akihabara JR Station

We went to a maid cafe. Taking photos is not allowed in maid cafes (for the safety of their employees, most probably) but I got this photo before I discovered that rule.

Sty-chan was actually Ma'am Sandy's student in ES 11 so they know each other. ^_^

Ma'am Sandy also treated us to taiyaki from the Gundam Cafe. I got the custard. It was soooooo good.

Just looking at this photo makes me hungry huhu... they taste so goood.

The line outside was long! We didn't bother. LOL.

We also went to Yodobashi (one of the big electronic stores in Akiba) and then went back to our respective hotel/dorm/apartment.

Until next time, Akiba!
(Thank you Ma'am Sandy for taking my photos hahaha)

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Hello Hachi, We Finally Meet

Ever since my professor in Transportation Engineering told us that Shibuya Crossing is the world's biggest pedestrian crossing, I've always wanted to see the place (I'm such a nerd).

Two Wednesdays ago, after my conference presentation, I went back to the hotel, prepped myself and loaded some maps to go to Shibuya. This time, I did not have anyone who can speak Japanese with me but I was ready to take on the world!

Upon exiting the Shibuya JR Station, I was seriously in awe. It's just like how I see it in movies and in pictures.

The world's largest pedestrian crossing

Shibuya JR Station

Of course I immediately went to find Hachiko.

We finally meet, Hachi!!

And then I went near the pedestrian crossing. The initial plan was to capture a photo of myself while everyone is crossing the street so that everything in the background would be blurred except for the buildings. Apparently, it was impossible to do with the amount of people crossing the street in a hurry. Surely, someone is bound to hit me if I just stay still in the world's busiest pedestrian crossing. And it's not just for Shibuya. Tokyo is such a busy place. It's difficult to take photos in the middle of places (without being hit by someone or without someone blocking your camera's view)!

Try to find the lady wearing sunglasses. Yes, some people in Tokyo wear sunglasses even at night. T_T

So I just went to find the so-called Spain Slope or Supeinzaka (a small alley filled with shops). I got myself a pair of gloves for JPY735 (because I lost one of my gloves, LOL). There was also an accessory shop which sells accessories for cheap but I did not find anything I liked so I went away with nothing.

Spain Slope. It was difficult to get this photo with all the people passing!

I was hungry so I looked for a place to eat. Eventually, I ended up in this small ramen shop at the basement of a building. There was a barker outside the shop and I asked him

"Ramen ga arimasu ka?" (Do you have ramen?)
"Hai, hai ramen!" (Yes, yes, ramen!)

 But then I could no longer hold the conversation in Japanese so I asked,

"Eego wa hanashimasu ka?" (Do you speak English?)
"Yes, yes, English!"

I think his English was pretty okay. I actually wonder now if he's a university student on a part-time job.

I had miso ramen for JPY800 (~PhP400). Indeed, expensive. To think that it's not really a big restaurant. But it's Tokyo, so it's just normal.

I also entered Forever21. Six floors of Forever 21. I know a lot of girls who would go on a rampage if they set their feet on such a store.

Six floors of Forever21.

I scoured the whole place trying to find something I'd like but I ended up with nothing. I liked a pair of shoes which costs less than JPY2000 but I have a student who has the exact pair of shoes so I dissed it. I also liked a royal blue satchel which costs a little above JPY2000 but when I scrutinized the item, I knew that it wasn't going to last long because of the not-so-great quality. Not worth the money. I also found a few clothes that I liked but I knew that they're also not worth the money because of the quality. Plus, the clothes in F21 are too common here in the Philippines and I don't exactly want to be a clone.

Oh, I actually wanted to buy a basic V-neck shirt which only costs JPY500 but I was too lazy to fit it! I was wearing a coat plus two more layers of clothes. I mean, it's not worth the hassle because I can easily find V-neck shirts here in the Philippines.

So I guess I'm not meant for Forever21? Haha.

I still wanted to go around Shibuya but I felt the need to go to the comfort room and silly me, why did I not try to find one inside the department stores (ugh)? So I ended up going inside the train station to find one and then had to go back to the hotel.

Friday, March 16, 2012


The semester is ending and it's been very busy with all the exam-formulating, exam-checking, etc.

But anyway, since it's a Friday night and I don't have class tomorrow, I will write about Harajuku. (Sorry for not being able to think of a better title... my mind is in shambles with all the workload haha.)

When I arrived in Tokyo two Mondays ago, my AME buddy, Ali invited me to hang out somewhere. I was supposed to prepare for my presentation but since I don't see my buddy a lot because she doesn't live in the Philippines anymore, I still wanted to go! Besides, I still had another night to prepare for my presentation.

We went to Harajuku. I was excited even though I barely got sleep the night before. Why not? I've always wanted to go to Harajuku!

Harajuku JR Station looks so cool! Yes, that's a train station!

We went to the famous Takeshita Dori.

Takeshita Dori! Something I only used to see in photos. /emotional

Buddy treated me to crepe. Yay~

Crepe. Nomnomnom. Honestly, being able to read katakana (and hiragana and very few kanji) helps.

And then did some shopping.

Heh heh. XD

Super cool rings. Ali got the parachute.

Trying on fascinators.

For dinner, we had takoyaki. FINALLY. I got to eat REAL takoyaki. As in with octopus inside! 8 pieces for 500 yen. Expensive if you try to convert to peso. But it's actually cheap for dinner. LOL.

Takoyaki!!! Hey, I didn't eat everything! Ali and I shared. LOL.

I'm so glad to go around Harajuku with Ali! Because seriously, I can't remember the last time we had a buddy date!


I was looking at my old blog posts when I saw this. Maaaaaan, who would have thought that two months after going to Ximending (the so-called "Harajuku of Taipei") I'd be able to go to the actual Harajuku in Tokyo. To be honest, I think Harajuku and Ximending has a lot of differences. I mean, Harajuku felt totally different from Ximending. But perhaps the main similarity is that it's a place where young people hang out.

Oh, I actually went to Harajuku FOUR times haha. But I'll write about the other trips next time. ^_^