Japan Day 12 – NEW YEAR’S DAY 2013

After little sleep, we all got up early, got ready, and headed down to the hotel restaurant for breakfast. We had forgotten to buy some extra food for today.  With our bellies full of deliciousness (the buffet was HUGE with a great mix of Western and Japanese cuisine…Mom had Brioche french toast…that had been soaked in maple syrup) we made the trek to the train station. The streets were eerily quiet with only a few people scampering past. Even though we had previously visited Meiji Shrine, today of all days was the day to go. The sun was out and there was only the faintest chill to the air.

The train ride seemed shorted today and were back in Harajuku before we knew it. The quiet of Ikebukuro was shattered with the hustle and bustle of Harajuku. The shrine entrance is literally right off the train station so the walk isn’t far. We re-traced our steps from our earlier visit…this time with Mom following us every inch of the way. The only exception was at the well, as the steps are too big for her to manage. Mom finally got to see the whimsical faces of the koi as they slurped up the surface of the water. Some of the koi living in the pond are HUGE! Finally, the labyrinth path of the gardens led us back to the main path headed toward to the Main Shrine.

I have never seen that many people in one place! We had to be three amongst a sea of at least a couple thousand. Thankfully we were all swimming up stream! As we patiently took five to fifteen steps at a time I noticed that not a single person surrounding us was impatient as we waited to enter the shrine. A make shift font had been set up just to the south of the actual font to accommodate the thousands of visitors. The slow low drum beats could be heard over the cacophony of countless languages and jovial laughter. This is what I had written during our wait:

I wish I could put into words the everything of waiting to get near the Meiji Shrine. The sun is shining so bright. There’s a gentle breeze. The temp is around 50 degrees. The smell of incense, perfume, and humans fill the air. Loud speakers boom out directions in Japanese. People from all over the world wait so patiently to offer up a few coins to the deities along with their prayers for a prosperous and healthy year. The echo of drums is felt deep in the chest. I get teary eyed just writing this.

And then finally, we were inside the main area. We aren’t permitted into the Shrine building itself, but I was able to capture a few photos of the drums behind the thin veils. We each threw three coins across the ‘barrier’ and onto the white tarp that covered the stairs. I had found another coin on the ground which I included in my offering. Prayers were said, quietly and squeezed our way out of the crowd. There were some tables set up to the left of the Shrine and I was curious as to what they were for. I accidentally confused a young guy….a Shinto monk maybe. He informed me that the paperwork was for ‘admission’ to beat the shrine drum once and for specific prayers. The ‘admission’  cost was 10,000 Yen…which I did not have on me at the time. The confusion came in when we started to fill out the paperwork after I told him that I didn’t have that much money on me at the time. I feel bad for confusing him and taking up so much of his time. He didn’t seemed annoyed with me when we left, so I don’t feel all that bad.

Our next stop was the food area as we were all starving! We all shared some soba and melon soda before venturing into the gift shop area to see what they all had. We bought a few bags of really good crispy ginger cookies before leaving the shops.

On our walk back to the  hustle and bustle of Harajuku, we came across two very kawaii girls dressed in amazing kimonos. They were gracious enough to let us take of picture of them and then I took a picture for them….they were having a hard time trying to take a picture of themselves. They were so nice…as was everyone that we’ve met so far.

Back on the train again….and heading in the opposite direction. Yup, we got on the wrong train…well it was the right train, just going all the way around and not the 15 minutes it takes from Harajuku to Ikebukuro. Monkey was so tired that she fell asleep on my mom’s shoulder while I looked at all the sights that we hadn’t seen. Tokyo is HUGE and every small section is so different. I was so wrapped up in looking around that I forgot to take pictuers!

After a short 30 minute train ride, we were back at Ikebukuro. I wanted to get some more pictures of Fuji-san and also have a drink in the Lounge. The view was stunning, Monkey’s ice cream soda was awesome, Mom’s tea was delicious, and my sake was intoxicating….a little more than what I had anticipated. It took me a while to finish the mini bottle and when I did…yeah…a little tipsy. We were all hungry…and I needed the food, but there wasn’t anything at the hotel that we wanted. We set off for Italian Tomato Cafe Jr. a little restaurant a block away from the restaurant. Mom sent me to order the food…so I pointed at the menu in hopes that I ordered good! Apparently I ordered the Japanese version of Mac and Cheese…it was GREAT, spaghetti with shrimp and mushrooms, and rice with a white sauce and mushrooms and shrimp….all very delicious.

The food helped me considerably and as Mom went back to the hotel, Monkey and I headed to Lawsons to get foods for tomorrow morning breakfast. Mom wanted to hang out in the lobby and wait for us to return with the goods. We bought the usual fare and as soon as we got back to the hotel we retrieved Mom and headed to the second floor. As I had promised Monkey that we would have coffee/hot chocolate/tea at the hotel before we left I thought what better time than now.

The hot chocolate and coffee were good, but the mini cakes were even better! Mom had a slice of apple pie, Monkey had a mini strawberry cake, and I had a chocolate owl. All very delicious! We sat there weighed down with the days food barely able to move. Finally we unglued ourselves from the seats and made our way back to the hotel room to pass out~

 

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