So, you shall never guess who I saw today as my small field trip party finished our fabulous lunch of 'Chakko Nabe,' which is the dish sumo wrestlers eat every day, in a shop that is owned by a retired sumo wrestler. Yes, it tasted mostly of chicken soup with cabbage in it, with a side of eggplant and rice and it truly was delicious, and worth every cent of the $8.20 I paid for it. But first, let me preface the following encounter with the fact that we'd tried to go to the one, the older one, across the street but were sent away to the one we ended up going to, though it was lunch time and the place seemed entirely empty, though I thought I'd caught a whiff of English being mumbled inside. So, after paying our small bill, we all piled out into the rainy street and saw that a heavy set man and a second man carrying a very large, very expensive camera, were just coming out of the restaurant opposite. We all gathered together on our side of the street to oogle and gape at the camera, and finally, when we'd seen enough, we turned to leave. It was only as I cast a lazy, backwards glance that I noticed that, in fact, the heavyset man with the cameraman was in fact our very own Travel Channel Star, Bizarre Foods' Andrew Zimmer.
A few days ago, we went to the Meiji Jingu, aka the Meiji Shrine and Harajuku. As we got off the subway and started to cross the bridge to the shrine (where all the cosplay people supposedly hang out, though it was a disappointment again at this time, and it was 2PM), there was what looked to be a Visual Kei street band just finished with their concert. I was sad I missed it, but...it was all good, because my host family took me through the shrine and explained a few things to me as best they can. It was a special day too. I forget the name in Japanese, but the signs in English said Thanks Dolls Festival Day, and my host mom explained that, rather than throwing old, beloved stuffed animals or dolls away, on this day, people from all around bring their dolls/toys there (pay a fee I'm sure), and line them up together along the front corners of the inner courtyard of the Shrine; then, they offer thanks to the god, I think, for the doll (for being a loyal friend I guess). My host mom was too creeped out to go near them, but my dad took me over and we looked, and there were all kinds: Hello Kitty, expensive-looking geisha dolls, those wish face things, regular kid's dolls. Quite a sight. Also, there were three weddings going on while we were there, and we got to see the procession of one of them. Evidentally, the close relations of the bride, for the wedding, wear these long black kimonos with either a koi fish, or a dragon or some golden design on them, and of course the bride wears a white kimono with this weird pocket thing that goes over her head, and her makeup is done like a geisha's, and the groom wears a certain traditional black and gray kimono-outfit thing with a fuzzy white ball on the front. Evidentally, when 'Erika-sama', aka Erika Sawajiri, aka the girl from 1 Liter of Tears, got married, she got married at the Meiji Shrine. She's been on the news a lot lately because her company nulled her contract, supposedly over questions of drugs, though she's been a bit of a bi-atch to the media all along, so she's always been a thorn in their side. But, anyways, I also found out that there's a thing that when boys are 3, 5 and 7 years old, and when girls are 3 and 7 (I think it is), they dress up in a certain kimono outfit and go to a shrine and there's a ceremony. Dunno why though.
So, after we went to the Meiji Shrine, we backtracked and my host mom wanted to go to some of the big, popular stores. I don't have the faintest clue why, but yet again this time, when I went with them, the place was PACKED. I mean, it was nuts. It was all I could do to keep up with them in the crowd (and that's saying something, seeing as I'm like, a foot taller than everyone else). We went to Kitson, which is the newest brand, and the one my host mom most wanted to see, but it was packed and crazy expensive, so we left fairly quickly. We went next to H&M, which was even more packed, but a much larger store. And then we went to Forever 21, and you've never seen real madness until you've seen that place. For anyone who even remotely likes to shop, I suggest you try this 'shopping in a popular Harajuku store' thing at least once. It is an experience.
Also, worthy of mention...if you're into Japanese TV and stuff, some places to go are FujiTV studios in Odaiba, NHK studios which is on the main road in Shibuya (the road on the right of the Starbucks at the crosswalk), Ameba (the online music site), which is located on the right side of the Omote-Sando in Harajuku (they sometimes have guests), and J-Wave radio, which is in the fifth floor (I think) of the HMV store in Shibuya, same street as above. If I find anywhere else, I'll put that up. NHK is big for kids' shows and jidaigeki (period dramas), but I HIGHLY recommend FujiTV's place. It was a lot of fun when I went.
Oh, we also went to the Edo museum today, as a field trip, but I'd say, unless you really love Japanese history, it's a pass. I mean, it was really neat to see, but I wouldn't have gone that far out of my way to see it. It does cost, and most of the explanations are only in Japanese (only the labels are in English). I forgot to mention that Tokyo Tower and Rainbow Bridge were lit up the Olympic colors the other day, when the city still hadn't been decided, so, that was cool. I've uploaded some more pics in the general First Few Days file, so check those out when you can. Well then, talk to everyone later!