We’ve added another mode of transportation to our long list of conveyances: Shinkansen. That’s ‘bullet train’ for you Westerners. It’s a wonderful experience to be zipping along at 200+ MPH, though it’s a little unnerving at first to see the landscape moving so quickly yet not feel the train moving. It took us about three hours to travel from Osaka to Tokyo.
Once we arrived, we got our bearings and took the train to Yoyogi Park. Indi singled out this location as it’s known as the ‘place to be seen’ by the fashionable youth and a place where many dance groups practice their routines on Sundays. Our first walk wasn’t to the park, however; it was to the Meiji Shrine just behind the train station. We had a peaceful walk through the woods on a wide gravel path and walked underneath several giant wooden Tori Gates. Several children were in full traditional garb (kimonos and the like) as they walked with their parents towards the expansive shrine complex. Once we actually arrived at the shrine, there were way more people than I expected. I saw more white faces here than I’d seen anywhere in Asia. The architecture was simple, yet beautiful, and we spent a few minutes looking at the prayer cards and observing people when a line began to form near one of the entrances. I walked over and saw what everyone was looking at; a wedding procession was entering the shrine. Lead by a Shinto priest and tailed by their entire wedding party, an immaculately dressed bride and groom walked by under a giant red umbrella. They continued their slow walk into the shrine for a private ceremony. I felt lucky to have seen such a solemn sight.
Once we finished there, we walked to Yoyogi Park. Unfortunately, it was quite empty due to the cold and rainy weather. We had a nice walk around and spent a few minutes in a dog run (I’ll take any opportunity to pet and play with dogs!) but the cold weather convinced us to get some lunch and perhaps sit indoors for awhile. On our way out of the park, we saw some AMAZINGLY dressed ladies. At first glance, they looked like costumes but it’s actual Japanese fashion. They were only too happy to have their pictures taken. We had a brief lunch and went back into the park before heading to another part of town, hoping to see some more people…which we did! At the entrance of the park, a group of Japanese men were wearing leather jackets and had some RIDICULOUS feathered hair; they were taking turns dancing to 50’s and 60’s music. Right next to them was a group of Japanese women in poodle skirts dancing similarly to music. They all had quite a crowd gathered and, yes, it was bizarre to see.
Once we had our fill of strange dancing Japanese folk, we headed to the Shibuya district. Shibuya is known for a few things, one of which being one of the busiest crosswalks in the world. Another is a statue of a dog named Hachiko. In the 1930s this dog accompanied his owner to the station every day, and met him every evening. One day, the owner had a heart attack at work and died and never came home. The dog came to the station EVERY DAY in the hopes of his master returning. This went on for years, and the locals heralded the dog for his loyalty and built a statue for him. It’s now a famous landmark and a popular meeting place. We saw that, used the extremely busy crosswalk, and did some light shopping before we had to head back to the central station and get back on the Shinkansen for our ride home.
It was a long day, but very worthwhile. We’re going to Kyoto today, I believe, as the weather is a bit nicer and it’s only 15 minutes away, not three hours. We’re heading back to Tokyo in a few days to see more of the sights.