Tuesday was going to be spent investigating more of Tokyo’s shops, but little did we know our day would be cut short.
In the morning we headed to Tokyo’s Harajuku area – and you couldn’t get a stranger of mix of shops only streets away. The main street in the area, Omotesando is sometimes referred to as Tokyo’s Champs-Elysées. It’s lined with expensive shopping malls, and high end stores like Chanel and Gucci. But just a couple of minutes walk away, parallel to Omotesando is Takeshita Dori. On weekends in particular, it’s home to Tokyo’s most extreme teenage cultures – with girls dressed as just about anything you could think of, including cos-play and anime inspired outfits.
We started on Omotesando. I knew my favourite chef Bill Granger had a restaurant in the area. My friend Jill and I ate in one of his restaurants in Sydney, and I’ve got most of his books, and even met the man himself in London. We stumbled across it quite by accident in Tokyo – finding places is never easy as most streets aren’t named. It was in the mall shown in the picture above.
Next up was experiencing another thing quite particular to Tokyo – queues to get into restaurants. We saw enormous queues of people waiting to get into Eggs & Things, and also Cafe Kaila – both Hawaiian restaurants. We also saw queues to get into popcorn shops. Bill’s doesn’t taking bookings, but operated a kind of ticket system, so we got a ticket for 2.15pm (two hours after we arrived) and headed off to explore more of the avenue.
A Tokyo legendary shop is Kiddyland – it’s a big shop which specialises in character goods. And the Japanese have a lot of characters. Inside, it offers five (I think) floors stocked with every piece of merchandise you can think of for every Japanese character you can think of (think Hello Kitty and so on). I managed to get a birthday present for my niece which I’ve no idea how I’m going to get back in my suitcase, and Ailse picked up a new phone cover featuring Rilakkuma which she’s particularly proud of.
We walked further up the street laden down with Kiddyland bags, and before we knew it, it was time to return to Bill’s for lunch. A bit of a language barrier with out waiter meant Ailsa’s salad arrived as a starter, but that was soon sorted out and the delicious wagyu beefburger I ordered arrived. It wasn’t big by any means, but was absolutely delicious. I washed it down with a kiwi, apple and mint smoothie. Delicious!
And at about £20 a head, it was pretty reasonable as well. Next we continued to explore some shops and malls, before we headed for a coffee. Highly recommended, we wanted to check out Streamer Coffee Company. As we started walking towards it (navigating with Google Maps as always), the heavens opened and the rain became torrential. Wind was lashing around us as well. Soaked, we found Streamer just half an hour before it closed at 4.30pm.
Poor Ailsa was suffering from visual overload by this point – everything in Japan is so crowded, and everything screams for your attention so much that it can be a bit overwhelming, and she said her brain and eyes hurt from looking at so many different things at once. I knew the feeling!
We were the only people in Streamer when we arrived, and although my mocha really deep and delicious, the atmosphere wasn’t quite what we were expecting. But that was maybe down to the time of day and the rain.
Walking back towards Takeshita Dori I stumbled across a limited edition t-shirt store from the Japanese retailer Beams. Going in, little did I realise I was to come out about £120 lighter as I bought three t-shirts, including a Kitsuné Tokyo one I’m particularly proud of. I got chatting to the guy that served us and said we were planning to go shopping (yet again!) tomorrow, but he warned us that there was a typhoon coming our way – not the first one I’d nearly encountered on my trip, and that the shops may actually close.
Putting two and two together, we realised the horrendous weather was actually the oncoming typhoon making its presence known, and decided to head back to the hotel before it got any worse.
We kind of sped-walked up Takeshita Dori and saw some really weird outfits, but because it was a school day, unfortunately we didn’t see any live models wearing the unusual get-up. We may come back on Saturday morning to see that if we have time.
We grabbed a quick sushi dinner and an amazing dog shaped chocolate mousse (above) at Shinjuku station (I did anyway, Ailsa couldn’t work out what didn’t have fish or duck in it so went with room service again), and headed back to the hotel. By now the weather had deteriorated even more. A quick swim in the pool on the hotel’s 47th floor, and a glass of wine later, I was in bed – after reassuring Mum that we were safe from the typhoon. Apparently the worst was to come tomorrow……