Vegan food, clothes shopping, Harajuku girls and some Japanese pro wrestlers
April 5, 2015
Today was the first day since we arrived in Japan that we haven’t needed to set an early alarm. Stu was excited as he thought this meant that we could eat breakfast (a meal we’ve not had yet in Japan). Unfortunately, we were both so tired that we slept until 10:30am and could quite happily have turned over and slept some more. By the time we had both showered and dressed it was 11:30, so we decided not to bother with breakfast, and to aim for a vegan brunch instead.
Visiting a vegan cafe
On our walk to the Sky Tower yesterday, we found a vegan cafe in the park. I was quite excited as this meant that I would be able to order anything off the menu and even if I didn’t like it, there would be no reason that I couldn’t eat it!
We walked up to the vegan restaurant, where I spent a few minutes trying to decipher the menu. I wasn’t too worried about what I ordered as I knew I could eat anything, but I didn’t want to order 2 side dishes or something stupid like that. Then I noticed a large menu in English. Hallelujah! I was so happy 🙂
I placed an order for deep fried tempeh, white rice and coffee for Stuart and vegetable curry, tempeh, brown rice and orange juice for me.
The cafe was an enormous room with very few tables. In England, I would expect a cafe of this size to have twice as many seats!
When the food arrived, it was accompanied by a delicious salad, and Stu also had a small cup of miso soup. It was really nice to have a delicious meal that I knew was vegetarian.
Uniqlo at Solamachi shopping centre
After lunch, we walked to the Sky Tower again. It was raining and the clouds were hanging low. We couldn’t see the top of the tower, so the view must be disappointing today.
We went into the shopping centre and headed for Uniqlo. My in-laws very kindly gave me some Yen for my birthday, and I knew what I wanted to spend them on. I selected two skirts, two tunics and a t-shirt.
The changing rooms are different from English changing rooms. Clothes have to be placed in a basket outside, you then remove your shoes and step onto a platform inside. Only two items can be tried at a time. I decided to try on the skirts first. They were both above-the-knee, flared skirts with elasticated waistbands. I was relieved that a large was big enough for me, as they did not have XL available. (They had also sold out of S!)
I liked the slightly pleated red and navy striped skirt, but I preferred the navy and white patterned skirt with cerise accents. It looks like a typical Japanese pattern and is loose enough that I should be able to cycle to work in it (with thick tights or shorts for modesty!!!)
The t-shirt and tunics were a special kabuki collection, utilising traditional Japanese designs. Although I liked the t-shirt which had a row of women wearing kimonos on it, the cut was a little loose. The tunics were navy with white patterns on them. A braver/shorter person might be able to wear them as a dress, but I think I’m too tall! I was pleased that the M was big enough for me, so I didn’t try on the L. I think I will wear it with skinny jeans or leggings.
Experiencing Japanese department stores
We then made our way to the subway station. It was a little confusing, so we ended up changing to another line, before changing to a JR train.
When we got to Shinjuku, it was raining, so we went to Takashimaya department store. I love department stores, but Stuart does not. We browsed the Japanese exhibition hall, where there were lots of food samples, and also went up to admire the beautiful kimonos. I had a quick look at the stationery before we went to look at the bicycles on offer. There were several models of Tokyo Bike, a Felt, a Cinelli and a whole selection of Giant bikes. There were several models of Giant Escape (my work bike), as well as a few Giant Defys!
We then decided to stop for a drink, so we wandered across the street to St. Marc Cafe (chococro). Stuart had a black coffee and I had a delicious Belgian hot chocolate. It was the best hot chocolate that I have had for a long time – far better than Starbucks, which is not good. We also shared a mango ice cream, before heading back outside.
We thought it would be good to visit the nearby park, where most of the cherry blossoms are in full bloom. Unfortunately, we checked the information boards and discovered that the park closes at 4:30pm and it was already 5pm.
Harajuku girls (and boys)
We walked around for a bit and then caught a train to the (in)famous Harajuku area, which is renowned for being the centre of Tokyo’s youth subculture.
For the first time since arriving in Japan, we witnessed huge crowds… And also quite a few westerners. Japan can be a little disconcerting, as it has a relatively homogenous population, and most immigrants blend in to western eyes, as they are from Korea and China. I’ve heard that there are also a lot of Indian immigrants, but have only seen two Indian families since we have been here.
Shinjuku is Tokyo’s equivalent to the Lanes in Brighton. Outlandish hair and fashion are the norm, and many of the shops have names that are strange combinations of English or French words.
Shinjuku is also famous for its crepes. They are often filled with ice-cream and rolled up like cones. They looked delicious, but Stu and I decided not to try them.
Ordering a traditional Japanese dinner
For our evening meal, we decided to try a restaurant that is near to the Edo Museum. It advertised the fact that it has English menus.
When we arrived, we were surprised to find a faux traditional interior. There was clearly some sort of event going on as people were watching something and we could hear the sound of drums.
We were shown to a table and given a large picture menu to browse. We chose: grated yam on deep-fried tofu; nakasatsunai edamame; smoked squid tempura (for Stu) and although I was tempted by chips, we selected a rice ball each. We also ordered Chinese tea and were surprised to be given iced tea!
The meal was delicious, although it was very strange to be seated in a restaurant where people were smoking. This seems to be one of the biggest changes since we were last here. We have seen very few smokers, and although there are smoking booths on some streets, they are rarely in use. There was a smoking room at the. Shopping centre yesterday, and the cafe we went to earlier today had a smoking room. However, in the restaurant that we went to this evening, the woman at the table next to us seemed to light up after every few mouthfuls, which was a little off-putting.
Seeing some pro-wrestlers
When we left the restaurant, there were crowds of people outside. It was only as we got to the museum and convention centre that we realised why… There had been a large pro wrestling match on. There were still crowds of people lining the exit, as the stars were just getting on their bus. I took a couple of snaps, but I can’t remember what names were being shouted!
Stuart was a little cold, so he came back to the hotel to put the kettle on. Meanwhile, I went in search of dessert. The delicious bakery was closed, so I went to the 7-11 and bought some snacks. I bought us each a tiny cherry chocolate and then a small pot of cheesecake ice cream and a chocolate cake to share.
Tomorrow is our last day in Tokyo. It will be sad to leave, but I’m excited to get on my bike 🙂