So this trip has been a mind-numbing shopping experience – mind you, I am not complaining because it is thoroughly enjoyable in its own way, but gosh, one can only take so much. To max out shopping money, we decided to eat light and cheap today, and so embarked on a Yoshinoya riot. And it was a riot. As I sat at the counter, the “chef” scooped a bunch of meat into a plastic bowl and popped it into a microwave. At the beep, he removed it, and dumped the contents into a steaming bowl of rice. He then proceeded to serve it to me. Fabulous. That is exactly why I paid $3.50 for rice and sickly strands of chicken. But like I said, the point was to save not spend. So at least we accomplished that much.
Harajuku Station is home to the famous Takeshita Dori, Jingu Bridge, and the Meiji Jingu Shrine. The latter is a beautiful shrine where a diverse array of people visit to pray. The pebble path leading to the main shrine cuts through a lush green forest, and in the background, there is a faint trinkle of a playful stream. Despite being near the madness of Takeshita Dori, the Meiji shrine is the epitome of serenity [well- sans the tourists]. Shroud under the protective tree branches, a visit to the shrine is an urban escape. The shrine welcomes visitors with tall wooden tori gates. Traditional of most Japanese shrines, the prayerful process begins with a cleansing ritual.
Supplicants then proceed into the main shrine to dedicate prayers in the form of writing.
Further into the shrine, silent meditation is initiated with tossing of a coin into the offering box, followed by 2 bows and 2 claps. The prayer is ended with another bow. Exeunt.
I found all this so fascinating. The procession to the shrine is just long enough that it puts you in the somber, respective mood. I even saw several women dressed in traditional costumes making their way to the shrine. It is so lovely.
And how do I follow something so beautiful? Just on the other side of the Harajuku station lies the shopping district. Lined with streets of little stands and shops, Takeshita is the teenage haven. And where do they go to show off their jaw-dropping outfits? Why on the Jingu Bridge of course. And when they’re done buying clothes, they head out to look for cutesy things like Sanrio or Snoopy labeled everything.
Did I mention this city runs on commercialism? Well it’s true. All the stops at train stations just reinforce my theory on how much shopping and commercialism has become a sub (supra?) culture here. Some people shop out of necessity. Here it is an exercise in freedom of expression… and wallet.