Monday, August 13, 2012

Fashion Gone Wild

On Friday we decided to go to Shibuya, which is one of the fashion hubs of Tokyo.  The district includes one of the world’s largest and busiest pedestrian crossings and you may have seen in it movies or on TV.  We arrived in Shibuya and the square was very crowded.  We crossed the street and it was like swimming into a group of people.  We wandered around a little bit and eventually ended up in Shibuya 109.  I think I mentioned in a previous post that in Japan, the railway companies seemingly own everything.  The stations are filled with restaurants and stands all renting space from the train corporations, and the department stores that are attached to the train stations are also operated by the railway corporations and competition is fierce.  With a name like Shibuya 109 I didn’t think for a moment that a train company was involved, but I was wrong – the company is owned by the Tokyu railway company, which also owns Tokyu Hands and Tokyu department stores.

Anyways, Shibuya 109 has 10 floors and over 100 shops and restaurants.  Each shop is more like a mini store – each one caters to a particular fashion style and some are very very specific.  Unfortunately no pictures are allowed, but we saw some of the craziest fashions imaginable in that store.  Neon overalls, 3 inch neon platform sneakers, and a hoodie with a skull and angel wings cutout were just a few of the odd items of clothing we ran into.  With every floor we stepped onto it seemed like the fashion kept getting crazier and crazier.  M was able to find a cool black and white dress at one of the shops which we bought.  Shibuya 109 also has a men’s store called 109 Men’s, but I didn’t find much for me there.  I was looking for something unique to wear from Japan, but I wasn’t about to get a crystal studded no sleeve pink hoodie just to say it came from Japan…

Near Shibuya is a shrine called the Meiji Shrine.  It features some large unpainted torii gates and a nice temple complex and grounds.  The shrine is dedicated to Emperor Meiji who is credited with beginning Japan’s modernization.

After visiting the shrine we briefly walked around Harajuku a district known for extreme teenage fashion, but at this point we had to leave for the baseball game!  The game we had tickets to was the Tokyo Youmuri Giants vs the Tokyo Yakult Swallows.  I think Chicago and New York take pride in the fact that they have 2 baseball teams.  Well, the Tokyo metropolitan area has 5.  The rules are very similar to American baseball, but one of the main differences is overtime – there are a maximum of 2 overtime innings, that way everyone can catch the last train home.  We got to the stadium, found our entrance gate, and then our seats.  Then the madness began.  We arrived about the time that the game started and the fans were cheering, that part was normal.  What we didn’t expect was the bands, the opposing cheering sections, and how organized all the fans were.  When their team was up to bat, the fans would cheer – continuously.  The bands would play and the fans would chant.  We expected this to go on maybe an inning or 2, maybe 3.  Around the 7th inning we realized that they were going to keep going all game, it was amazing.  Eventually we got tired just listening to them, we’re not sure how they kept it up all game.  For food they had the standard ballpark fare – hot dogs, hamburgers, churros, French fries, etc.  So we did what anyone would do we got a soft pretzel, a churro, and the American ballpark classic – a hot dog tonkatsu sandwich.  There were also other Japanese options such as ramen, udon, and rice as well.  One thing we were looking forward to was what would happen during the 7th inning stretch.  Would they sing the same song as us?  Do they even have a 7th inning stretch?  As it turns out, they do something special during the 7th inning, but it isn’t anything close to what we do.  Each team has their cheerleaders and mascot come out before they come up to bat and they sing their fight song.  It was pretty neat to see all of the differences between their version of baseball and ours.  After the game we headed home on the subway for another nice night of sleep at the Conrad.

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