It’s Harajuku and Shimokitazawa

Stephen: In the past few days we’ve ticked a bunch of things off of our lists. We headed over to the Meiji shrine first, where we were lucky enough to spot a couple of weddings.

There was a bunch of people dressed in their traditional wedding gear, and a few even asked us to take their picture for them.

We spent some time in Harajuku after that… Wandering down streets that are apparently famous for the wildly colourful fashion sub-cultures. We saw a lot of young people, but not really anything too crazy, so I wonder if we were just there at the wrong time, or if it’s more of a bygone phenomenon.

I had some octopus balls, that were good, but something I probably won’t touch again. I find eating tentacles a bit odd.

On the way back, we took in the city lights.

We said we would have a relatively early night, which didn’t happen. We ended up having a fair few drinks at one of the tiny bars in Shibuya’s ‘Drunkard’s Alley’, which only seated four people at a time.

The following day we slept in late again, which is mostly my fault. I think that not getting on to a regular schedule from day one has screwed us up. We decided to check out the Shimokitazawa are, which is known as ‘Tokyo’s Williamsburg’ – a hipster haven in other words.

We opted to walk the two miles from Shibuya rather than getting the train, which took us through some tiny, quiet residential areas… Before eventually opening up into a busy area filled with different shops and plenty of neon lights. We spent a good while there shooting pictures, and it’s the most fun I’ve had taking street shots in ages. So many interesting things to see. Most of it was on film though, so it will be a while before I get anything back.

Grace and I went looking for ramen but ended up eating some kind of Japanese BBQ instead called Yakiniku, where you cook your own food. The menu was all in Japanese and we were a bit concerned at first as Google Translate was coming up with things like pig cartilage and so on… Eventually though, we ended up with some incredibly tasty beef, and we didn’t even get thrown out when Grace nearly set the entire restaurant on fire. The Japanese were very polite and ignored the whole thing, with the exception of one waiter who ran over with ice, waving his arms about. What was really cool was that they spray you with some stuff when you leave so you don’t smell of smoke. There was an amusing moment at the start where the guy sprayed some on his hand for us to smell, and Grace stroked it, misunderstanding. Lost in translation indeed haha.

The area that was supposedly hipster really didn’t seem that way at all. There was a bunch of small independent shops, but it was quiet – despite being a Saturday night- and there wasn’t anybody dressed eccentricly, so one suspects that it’s just a case of the hipster brush being spread far too liberally to describe anything that attracts relatively young, creative minded adults.


Al: Regular (!) readers will note that patterns emerge when viewing a photo record of a holiday where multiple people upload within the same blogpost – you’ll see multiple instances of the same subjects, from different angles, all processed to differing tastes – it’s natural when multiple people contribute after walking the same streets all day. I was worried about how this would come across within the blog; would it be repetitive? Would the similarities in the chronology of the feed mean that there’d be no need to plead further than a third down? It’s been good to see how different each of our contributions have been, both in perspective and even down to the individual way we process our photos – it makes for an interesting wee ‘hook’ for the blog. Anyway…

The last couple of days have seen us spend a significant amount of time in bed (both jet-lag related & self inflicted – ugh), but we’ve managed to squeeze a lot into these days – my highlights below.

The visit to the Meiji Shrine was remarkable due to the two weddings taking place on the grounds, and the livery on show – the shrine itself was disappointing. The wedding parties had a respectful, almost sombre mood – a far cry from the lewd booze-fests I’m used to back home – the attire adorning the bridal parties was beautiful.

What’s notable is that the parents of the children in these photos weren’t only proud of how their offspring looked, but positively encouraged the throng of tourists to fill our boots with pictures

After the shrine, we headed up to Harajuku to people watch – the whole place reminded me more of Miami, with low rise, stucco buildings and a more laissez-faire atmosphere that we had experienced elsewhere in Tokyo.

The place was so laid back, the kids would dance in the street

The area had some pretty sweet architecture, too;

The place runs late into the night;

To finish, we ended up drinking ‘drunkards alley’, in a bar with 5 seats – the alley consists of huts with sliding doors, and no room to swing a newborn kitten – we got very drunk, and wandered home back through Shibuya

And to today – this was at a much more leisurely pace, due to hangovers & colds – so here are (in the main) people walking about and looking interesting;


Grace: We’ve started to check some sightseeing locations off of our lists, and one of the places we were all interested in paying a visit to was the Meiji Shinto shrine.

This place was unbelievably beautiful, and even the huge amount of tourists that were there couldn’t detract from that.

We have a couple friends who’ve visited Japan previously, and mentioned that they saw weddings taking place at some of the shrines they visited. I had this in the back of my mind once we got there, but wasn’t going to get my hopes up to avoid being let down if we didn’t see one.

It felt incredibly special to be surprised with getting to see not just one, but two weddings! I’m not regularly the biggest outpourer of emotions, but I think I got a little choked up. Everyone went completely silent as the wedding parties walked by. The brides looked gorgeous. We were so lucky to see it.

Everyone was fawning over this little girl. Easy to see why. I didn’t manage to get a picture of it – but she was carrying around a little stuffed animal Pikachu at certain points. It was one of the sweetest things I’ve ever seen.

There were a few other little kids dressed in traditional clothing getting their pictures taken (by hired photographers and tourists). It put huge smiles on our faces.

Other than our particular points of interest to visit, we’ve mostly been wandering around to various neighborhoods to just get a sense of what Tokyo is like, and try to take in as much as we can. You’ve seen from previous posts how amazing the lights, and signs are here – and that continues to amaze all of us.

Its only been three full days that we’ve been here, and it’s safe to say we are awestruck by Tokyo . I can’t wait to see what the upcoming days have in store for us.

4 thoughts on “It’s Harajuku and Shimokitazawa

  1. Great post! Thanks for sharing all this!

    @Al I noticed that you have some great candid shots with strangers. How did you manage that? Do you keep your camera on your side, and shoot blindly while walking?

    It made me wonder if you three feel like you’re standing out as tourists, of if there are many other people taking pictures / being tourists everywhere you go?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Jeremy, thanks for reading. Re your question about the candid shots; about a third are taken the traditional way (camera to eye) – they tend to be the ones where there’s eye contact between the subject & myself. The majority however, are shot ‘from the hip’ as you’ve guessed, but rather than shooting blindly, I’m taking advantage of technology – I’m tripping the camera wirelessly from my phone, where there’s a real time feed from the lens via the app – makes candid shots truly candid. There’s a school of thought that classes this as cheating, but I’m only interested in the end result, not the method – it’s a fabulous way to shoot.

      As to your point re standing out, what’s fascinating is the lack of westerners we’ve encountered thus far – despite this portion of the trip being based in Shibuya, where I expected the tourists to be. It’s been a wonderfully disorientating experience!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Al: I’m really enjoying these posts and all these pictures! I definitely read the whole thing; all of these pictures are even starting to inspire me to figure out how to do street photography like this. I guess the first step is, just shoot some pictures!

    Thanks to all three of you for sharing your experience! Now, though, one important question: were there four or five stools at the bar? hahaha!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’ll be frank, Richard – I’m beginning to question whether it’s four or five seats myself! Glad to hear you’re reading the whole blog (and not just the first third), as it tends to be Stephen who opens proceedings 😀


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