Japan: Being kids in Roppongi, Shibuya & Harajuku
Reliving childhood is a wonderful thing.
When I come to Tokyo, there are certain areas I always pay a visit – the Shibuya/Harajuku/Omotesando Triangle and also the Roppongi/Midtown Combo.
Shibuya and Harajuku is a mecca for youngster fashion where lolita culture runs rife and it never fails to amaze me just how these sub-cultures survive and further sub divide to create fundamental layers that make up the tapestry of Japanese culture.
But first, I went to catch up with a friend in Roppongi, a more Westerner-friendly part of Tokyo (mainly because it houses Goldman Sachs and Barclays in Roppongi Hills), has all the big international brand stores and also my favourite Joel Robuchon!
My friend had told me to meet me at the Roppongi Plaza for a Doraemon extravaganza. I had no idea what she had meant by this. Doraemon, for those not familiar, is an anime character of a long-running Japanese comic, that was always on daytime television for the little kids, and I remember watching it when I was 6 years old with my mini-pot of yoghurt in hand, mesmerised at how this talking blue cat could produce anything and everything from his pouch and have incredible super powers.
After all these years, Doraemon continues to appeal to children and adults alike, and in celebration of its upcoming new movie, they are doing an exhibit of 66 different Doraemon figurines. I am not going to lie… I did have my reservations of not wanting to be seen, let alone be seen taking photos there. It’s an equivalent of going to Madame Tussauds and nervously hovering over Kylie Minogue whether or not to take a cheeky selfie. You know that you would get so much slack from your mates if they found out, yet secretly, you know you want to!
Anyway, I turned up and emerged up the escalator to ground level from Roppongi Station to be met by a sea of blue Doraemon characters… I had never seen anything like it! We shyly asked people to take photos for us and I did actually find it mildly amusing. Am I allowed to admit that?! Ahh *hides* Look how happy we look! To my fellow British friends, do not fret, believe it or not, Doraemon is coming your way… Boomerang channel will be airing episodes on its cable tv from August!
Once we had marvelled at the various cute Doraemon, we scurried away and headed into Midtown for dinner, a short 5 minute stroll away. It was another heavy hot evening, where we were met by this delightfully very summery display of wind-chimes twinkling in the breeze… so pretty.
Suju Dining is famous for using exceptional miso paste in its cooking. Miso is a high-protein, fermented paste made of soy beans, grains and seasoning used to flavour food. Suju have several branches dotted across Tokyo, and well-worth checking out if you want to try some very good Japanese food with wonderful views to boost!
In search for pudding, in specific, green tea pudding, but having had no success in locating one nearby, we ventured out downstairs of the Midtown complex and headed into Toshi Yoroizuka, a beautiful dessert-only place with a gorgeous marble counter where you can watch your dish being made right before your eyes!
Peach is perfectly in season right now in Japan, and it’s everywhere. I opted for the peach mound pudding with silky creme anglaise in the middle, and my friend went all out for the watermelon mille-feuille, which was amazing!!
The next morning, not having had my green tea fix the night before and still craving it, I knew just the place to make a bee-line for. If you, like me, are a BIG fan of matcha, make a note of this place.
Hayashi-ya at the top of Yokohama’s SOGO department. This cafe is a matcha-dedicated dessert only place, always with a queue 20 people deep outside, but definitely DEFINITELY worth the wait! They use green tea from a merchant in Kyoto and serve parfait, shaved-ice, and tea in traditional ceramics.
There’s nothing better than cold, refreshing Japanese sweets for breakfast!!
Subways in Tokyo are the most efficient and safe. I hopped on the women only carriage… hehe. Is there any other country that has this?? Please comment below if there are!
I totally LOVE Starbucks in Japan. They have Matcha Frappuccino to start – WIN! They also have these various other flavours like Coffee Jelly Frappuccino and Royal Tea Frappuccino… this Summer’s special was Peach Jelly Frappuccino consisting of peach pieces, soft peach jelly and juice with whipped cream on top. An absolutely refreshing delight! If you’re in Japan right now, and haven’t had it yet… YOU MUST GO GET ONE RIGHT NOW!
Harajuku is a funny place.
Takeshita-Dori is the most Harajuku-eque place, where you will find crazy shops filled with screaming teenage gals, topping up on the latest fashion trends to hit the magazines, and tourists mesmerised and not knowing what had hit them.
Purikura (photo booths) has been a part of popular young culture since the early 2000s, and I remember it being one of those things that just had to be done when meeting up with friends! My friend who accompanied me to my annual pilgrimage to Harajuku this time remarked how she had not been to purikura for a decade. I took it as this is reserved for teenage girls only… of which we neither qualified! Oh wells, it was SO much fun having your little photoshoot session in our booth, and the editing process was so fun. These machine makes your eyes look ridiculously big, nose narrowed, and body so much slimmer, it’s almost hilarious how different we look!
Shibuya is a good spot for a bite of lunch and Hikarie is a department store above the station which has pretty much everything you need. Food option is one of them. They have a great food court, which I frequently visit, and Papaya Leaf is an Asian/Vietnamese restaurant that offers great lunch sets, if you, like me then, craved some spicy and sour quick bite. For approx. JPY 1500 (£7.70 equivalent), you can get a lunch set with a starter platter and an option of a main. We opted for a pad thai and green curry pho. Pho was super spicy, very unlike me to have chosen that (!!), and definitely not something I would order on a date , but it just hit the spot and was utterly tasty. Pad Thai was moreish and exactly what it should taste like, and I had wished I could have had another plate of it!
Once hunger was satiated, I skipped into Shibuya 109, an infamous girl mecca shopping mall. 7-floor high, and packed to the brim with screaming (and incredibly attractive) shop assistants, showcasing the latest Tokyo fashion, and young Japanese girl draining their pocket money on mini flared skirts and funny shoes..
Shibuya outside at around 6pm is heaving with commuters heading home/going out… I even came across a Corona beer live advert, with a guy cycling around with a truck load of ice-cold bottled beers and another carrying lime… How cool is that!
To escape the heat, I sought refuge in this hidden place within Shibuya that my friend took me to, with a secret pool and gorgeous twinkling lights. Chilling at the end of a long day with an iced latte or a glass of vino is perfection, and even though they were playing Justin Bieber in the background, somehow that did not deter from the ambience. Going to have to come back here again…!!