As the title says…my final day in Japan and I’m back in Tokyo for the flight home. It wasn’t too easy getting back in time from Sapporo and so I really want a memorable day, as if to make it all worthwhile (obviously, missing my flight home would be pretty memorable too, but I’d like a good memorable day).
Some ideas I had when last I was here:
- trek out to Mount Fuji
- travel up to Sendai
- wander down Omatesando
These ideas hail from a time that seems so distant now. I’ve done “all” the beauty spots and “all” the temples, seen some odd things like breweries and travelled on a lot of trains. I’m too tired for Mount Fuji and my feet are too knackered; I’m too fed up of trains to get to Sendai (two hours on the shinkansen). What I haven’t done is a serious day of shopping. This I had notions of leaving towards the end, when I wouldn’t have to carry all of the purchases too far…
The obvious choice is Omatesando. The guide book treats it as a sort of Grafton Street of Tokyo (ergo, Japan?; the world?!?!); a tree-lined avenue with all the pretty aspirational shops such as Prada and Gucci, it looked very promising when I got here late one night earlier in my trip. A damn nice place to wander around during the day for a tired tourist and perhaps good t-shirt hunting ground, too. When the sun goes down, there’s Tower Records in Shibuya.
First, I take the Yamanote from Tokyo to Shinjuku to see Yodobashi Camera, allegedly the biggest camera shop in the world. I’m not convinced, however: it’s clearly smaller than the Osaka branch and – with its kanji-only signs – not particularly geared for tourists (no tax-free section, either). I don’t stay here very long but Shinjuku is still an awesome place to wander around for a little while – the tiny little streets around the station I completely ignored last time are fascinating.
After this, it’s onto the main business of Omatesando. Harajuku is the relevant stop on the Yamanote; this is just two stops from Shinjuku, in the hip south-western part of the city. Looking like something from the countryside, it’s an odd station for Tokyo. You wouldn’t think is just two minutes walk from one of the biggest shopping districts on the planet.
Once here, it’s mostly window shopping, with some notable exceptions that make it all worthwhile:
- I pick up a wonderful super-fun-happy Japanese-English t-shirt declaring “lets all in fun”.
- I discover on one of the side-streets the best t-shirt shop in the entire world: the floor contains racks with just one example of each design whilst the walls are covered floor to ceiling with tubes containing the same designs in each size. This sweet shop-style store is the single most efficient route to t-shirt hipness I can imagine and I buy out half the shop, earning me a free t-shirt book and a wonderful problem for packing later tonight in the process.
- In one of the few places in the whole of Japan with no English-speaking staff, the Kawai shop have great trouble understanding the word “trumpet”. I mime playing such an instrument and some bright spark figures it out – “trumpeto!”. A completely different word, obviously. Anyway, this initial confusion notwithstanding, they have a brilliant selection of sheet music and I finally pick up the complete trumpet orchestral repertoire for a song, at just 2200¥. The only problem is that, soon, I will know how to write all the great composers’ names in kanji.
All these Trev-friendly shops are clustered at the southern end of the street. After this I just admire the funky shop fronts.
Finally, at the very very top of Omatesando (and just after a brief visit to Starbucks to collect their Tokyo mug) is the architectural highlight, the Prada store.
You cannot but go in and investigate, but this place makes Brown Thomas look like a 100¥ shop. I become dangerously attached to a spectacular woolly jumper which the shop assistant describes as “very cute”. At 80,000¥ (almost €500), I can’t disagree. Similarly attractive t-shirts priced at €150 stay similarly on the rack.
Thus ends my trek up Omatesando and my last daylight in Japan; with t-shirts, music and weird and wonderful buildings it was more or less exactly what I wanted.
Next destination is Tower Records, Shibuya, but I pause briefly in Spiral Records which is just full of funk and soul records. They allows you to try most of them on their Denon CD player listening posts. This I do and I make a souveneir purchase before descending down towards the subway.