Verena came to visit: for 10 days!

Posted on 15.09.2016

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This is how behind I am on my blog posts: Verena was here from August 2-12, and I am just getting to writing about it now. I feel really bad about it, but I’ve been so busy since she left!

I actually did a LOAD of planning before she came: she’s wanted to come to Japan for a long time, and it took a lot to get her here. So I wanted to make sure she had a full and fun experience while she was here!

She said she wanted to try on kimonos while she was here, and maybe go to a Rabbit or Cat cafe. She also wanted to see the Ghibli museum. It was closed for repairs, but I was able to make that happen, thanks to the show going on at the Mori.

I wanted to make sure she saw a lot of shrines and temples, cool Japanese stuff like Purikura and underground shopping malls (like at Tokyo Station), and also all of the Otaku stuff she could handle.

Oh, and we had to get tattoos.

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With all of that in mind, I made a plan that included days off with Mark, excursions out of the city, and a lot of time spent walking all over the city. We walked SO MUCH.

I wanted to try to go slow for the first few days, in case she had any jet lag. Just about everyone gets jet lag in some form or another when they fly east. So on the first day, we just took it easy and went to Nakano Broadway. I say ‘take it easy’, but we definitely didn’t, since this is basically Otaku heaven and she likes a lot of Otaku things. So we went kind of wild with the shopping on her first day, and she bought a bunch of gifts for her family, and for herself. I mean, I also went apeshit the first time I went there, and continue to do so just about every time. I just cannot contain myself, and I know that if I see something there, I need to buy it, since it won’t be there next time (for proof, see the EWOK-gate post from a while back).

The second day was also pretty light, to allow for jet lag. So we just spent that strolling around Ikebukuro near home, shopping and looking at clothes. Then we had dinner with Rika and the girls, and went home to relax.

On day 3dsc_3965, we finally got going and went all the way down to Kamakura. We got off the train at KitaKamakura and proceeded to visit a few temples, stopping at favorites like Jochiji on our walk down. Then we got back on the train and went down to Kamakura proper, where we rented bikes, had Mexican for lunch as we tend to do, and laid on the beach for an hour or so.

Then we returned the bikes at the station and jumped back on the train to head over to Enoshima, where we walked across the bridge and up to the temple. Mark and I have never walked past the temple before, so we did it this time and walked all the way around the island, right down to the beach where the Ferry drops off. I didn’t make it all the way, but Mark went down and took some photos for us.

Then we headed back across the bridge to try to catch the sun setting behind My Fuji, but there were too many clouds, and Fuji was hidden. It was too bad, but it was still a lovely day!

dsc_3970I really wore myself out with the walking, but it was a lot of fun to go to places I hadn’t been before, as well. We stopped a lot to eat snacks or get drinks, and Verena had some Anpan bread and we all had some ice cream. We washed our money at the pool at the shrine and tried to throw it in to the box, got our fortunes and Verena bought some omamori for her family and friends back home.

So it was a productive day, I think:)

Day 4 was also a big day: Mark was back to work, which meant we were free to go to Asakusa. Since Verena had said she’d wanted to rent a kimono, I’d done the research and found out that you basically can’t rent kimono in summer: it’s too hot and no one could wear them! You can rent Yukata in summer from the rental places, but the prices are kind of high, and you have to give them back. The lowest price I could find for a rental was actually Y5,000 for 2-3 hours.

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doing Senso-ji RIGHT!

Instead of doing that and wasting the money Verena had left, we opted to buy our Yukata from UNIQLO. UNIQLO offers a few modern versions that you can buy that are only Y3,000 each. And you can keep them, so there’s that.

The design I bought isn’t my favorite, but it’s cute and worked for the day, and so what? (Note: in the days following, we found a TON of great, used Yukata on sale for Y3,000 in multiple vintage shops in Harajuku. So I will definitely be buying another one next year;) So we did the Japanese summer thing and bought Yukata to wear to Senso-ji temple. This all worked out perfectly, actually, since this was also the day of the Edogawa-ku Fireworks, and most people in Japan will wear Yukata to go to the fireworks displays.

I have to say I was a bit wary of wearing the Yukata all day, but it was surprisingly cool and easy to rock! And also, a LOT of people asked to take photos with us, so that was cool, too🙂

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So we met up with my friend Parya from work, and we all went to the Fireworks together. It was a first for all of us, and something I’d wanted to do for a while. The issue for me is that they are usually held on Weekend nights, and I normally work on the weekends. But thanks to some planning help from a student of mine, I was able to find a fireworks display that was going on while Verena was here. I’m so glad we got to do it, and it was actually a lot of fun, barring all of the people and the issues getting on to the train at the end of the night.

As a note todsc_4212 anyone who wants to do the fireworks while in Tokyo in the summer: maybe consider getting a hotel room near the venue for the evening, as trying to get back on the train afterward, or on a bus to get to the train station is such a hassle, and the crowds are SO big.

We tried to catch a bus to get back to the station, and every bus was already full and basically passed us. We also tried to catch a taxi to get back, and again, all full. So we just followed the crowd of people wearing Yukata back, since we knew they were going to the same place.

It was like being a part of a herd. I drank my chu-hi on the way back just to stay cool! But I got some nice photos and it gave me a chance to secretly stare at all of the cool Yukata that the girls were wearing. I am DEFINITELY buying another one next year!

Day 5 wdsc_4215as equally awesome, as we were still without Mark and went to Harajuku and Omotesando.

The first stop was, as always, Meiji Shrine in order to see one of the best parts of Tokyo: so many people go to Harajuku just to see the fashion and shopping district and have NO IDEA that this popular shrine is basically right next to the train station.

So we stopped in and had a nice walk around, and it was perfect timing. The middle of the day, way too hot to be outside, so let’s go stand in the shade for a bit before we go walking through the hot streets in full sun.

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Oh and it was a Sunday, so there was a wedding.

TWO weddings. We got to see 2 pairs of brides and grooms doing the march and taking photos. I sometimes feel bad being one of those tourists who takes photos of a passing wedding, but I think this must be something that people are prepared for or consider might happen when they get married, on a weekend, and the most popular shrine in the city, right?

Right?

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After spending a good hour lazily walking around the shrine and taking photos in the nature (and buying more omamori and getting English fortunes, of course), we went out to hit Takeshita Dori. I had a feeling Verena would really like this, and I think she did:)

We walked it twice that day, and then once on another day as well. It’s definitely always got something good. And we did Purikura here as well, since I found a machine that worked in English. We got a bit confused about what to do with it, but eventually got our strip of cute photos out.

We then proceeded to walk all around the back streets of Harajuku, down Harajuku street behind Tokyu Plaza and down to Omotesando and the Omotesando Hills area. On the way back we stopped in Kiddie Land on then walked down toward Shibuya in the other back streets, so I could swing into the Billabong shop and buy a rash guard to wear at the beach (to cover all of my tattoos).

We were basically dead after all of that walking around, and jumped on the train to go home and relax.

Day 6 was even more awesome, since we went and got tattoos!

I don’t want to go and write about all of it again, so you can check this link to read what I already wrote!

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Studio Muscat is an amazing shop, and the work that Haruka and Asao did on me and Verena respectively was excellent.

Verena got a Koi fish on her forearm, and I got matching origami cranes on mine. We’re both completely happy with them, and Haruka and Asao are both really nice!

After that, we went out into Shibuya and walked around, had some pizza for lunch and played in some arcades. Then we just went home, because we were actually really tired! We just stayed in and watched Nausicaa that evening.

We were planning to go to Takao for a hike on day 7, but it was like 34 degrees even in the shade. So we decided NOT to do that and instead hung out at home, watching more Ghibli fims and eating. And you know what, I think we really needed that. We’d been going pretty hard for about 5 days, and we needed the down time, I think.

I was a little sad that we didn’t get a chance to take Verena back out of the city to see more nature and open spaces, but you really can’t argue with the weather. Just like that time we tried to take Jav to Nikko, and got a typhoon. Shit happens sometimes.

But on daydsc_4266 8, we did a LOT. It was my friend Hitomi’s birthday, so we made plans to hang out with her and her daughter, Haruka. We met them at Dome City where we rode a carousel with them, and then went over to Odaiba for the DMM Planets Exhibition, which was a part of a larger show going on at the Exhibition center.

I’ve wanted to see TeamLab’s work since last year, when they put on a similar show in Shinjuku, which I missed. So this coming around at this time was pretty perfect!

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I really can’t properly describe how excellent this was. But I absolutely hope that I’ll have the chance to see it again, because it was so beautiful and such a great experience.

Each of the rooms was unique and you could probably spend hours in them. And you were allowed to, if you wanted, but once you left one room, you couldn’t go back, which was a bit sad.

If I ever get the chance to walk through these rooms again, or something similar to them, I’m going in prepared with NO other plans and lots of SIM cards with me so I can shoot short videos of each space. Because the photos I took really don’t do this any justice. But if you ever happen to see that TeamLab is putting on a show, do your best to go and walk through the spaces.

Their ‘Falling Universe of Flowers’ is what I want to imagine that death is like.

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We finished off the evening with a walk along the water, and dinner sushi from Lawson on the boardwalk.

There are so many things to see and do on Odaiba, and I really don’t bother getting out there a lot. The view from the water looking back on Tokyo is so lovely at night.

I need to stop being so lazy!

It was a nice way to finish a lovely day with friends.

Day 9 was a national holiday, and we made a bit of a mistake trying to spend it in Roppongi at the Mori Museum. But what can you do?

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I did my best to swallow my fears and anxiety (again, more on that in another post) to go back up into this building for the second time, this time during the day, to see the show.

I’m always happy to see Ghibli work, and it was the best we could do since the Ghibli museum was closed for repairs all month. I think the museum might be less scary for me at night, and I have to get over it already.

We wedsc_4592re in, out, bought the merch, and then back down to the ground to seek out a Rabbit Cafe I’d read about, called Ms Bunny. It was easy enough to find, and we paid for 30 minutes each, in which we were allowed to hold 2 rabbits each, for 15 minutes, tops.

What I will say about this place is that I don’t really like it as much as others that I’ve been to. There isn’t any space for the rabbits to run around or play together, and they spend their time in cages. I am sure that after hours, maybe they are allowed out, but during the day they’re all just in the cages.

I think it was a little expensive for 10-15 minutes just forcing a rabbit to sit on your lap. I would have liked to see them running around a little bit more, and maybe playing with each other. Lesson learned.

Day 10 was the final full day, and we did it in style by going down to Yokohama to witness the annual Pikachu InvasionI wasn’t sure if she was a fan, but even when you’re not this is still one of those things that you definitely SHOULD see if and when you go to Tokyo. Even though it’s technically in Yokohama🙂

We colored in Pikacdsc_4610hu stickers and saw several Pikachu parades and statues and shows, and went to see the Mary Cassatt show that was on at the Yokohama Museum of Art. It was great, and HUGE. I was definitely glad to go!

And we had perfect weather on that last day, so it was easy to walk around, eat ice cream and sit on the hill for a few hours before heading back to Tokyo proper.

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On the way back, we did one final swing through Harajuku to pick up my rash guard and walk once more down Takshita Dori, before heading home.

We spent her final half-day packing and trying to arrange and organize things into the suitcase: you will always bring home too much! Then we tried to take our time getting over to Shinjuku to get her on the train back to Narita airport. It was sad to see her leave, but I think we did a lot while she was here!

It was so great to have Verena in Tokyo, finally! If she comes back next year, it’ll just be added awesome:)

Posted in: friends, Japan, life, travel