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gin and tonics with justin at harajuku

Day 4 - Nezu Station to Omote-Sando to Shinjuku

Today is shopping day. I've beaten the jetlag. I eat a really big breakfast, and for the first time, I feel a hundred percent. At Omote-Sando, we start at H&M. We're from New Zealand. H&M is as foreign exciting to us as the Warehouse is to, for example, my Auntie Carol who's a sworn Manhattanite but when in New Zealand, claps her hands when a trip to The Warehouse is on the horizon.  Rob says, "I'll got to the men's floor. Meet me back here in thirty minutes." I reply, "Now you're not really being fair. Because I've got three floors to go to but you've only got one." I think that's a stunning argument, sure to win him over. But no. Thirty minutes it is.


It occurs to me that, mere metres away from Takeshita Street and Harajuku Girls, I am buying the blandest things possible, in the blandest shop possible. Rob takes one home for the team too by going next door to TopMan inside Laforet and coming out with a plain white t-shirt.

I lose my mind inside Tokyu Plaza. In a store called Humor, the shop assistant serve us like a maid at a maids' cafe, all bowing and giggling and dimples. It is the opposite of my experience at Roppongi Hills six years earlier, when the shop assistant actually forced a garment out of my hands, briskly said "Won't fit", and put it firmly back on the rack. A t-shirt with a hand-drawn pattern of chubby men parachuting down with large gemstones comes home with me, and we're escorted to the boundary between the shop floor and the public walkway and bowed out. "I would buy anything from that woman," I say to Rob.


Then there's hands be (motto? "fulfilling your wish to become a girl"). Here, I really really lose my mind. Kawaii stationery, soap, key chains, kawaii everything. Nearly buy earrings shaped like octopus. Remember I'm thirty and should stop wearing such things. Fail at this kind of logic when it comes to justifying purchases of rabbit-themed stationery and stickers of chubby French men doing French things. Even Rob caves in this store and buys a tiny measuring cup you can grow basil in and magnets shaped like dogs.

We're shellshocked and need to sit and regroup. I see a sign that says "Beer Forest". I turn to point it out to Rob but he's already disappeared in that direction. Disappointingly, "Beer Forest" is actually just the roof top garden bit of a Starbucks. "Beer Forest" only becomes a "Beer Forest" on Fridays and Sundays. Anyway, the roof top garden is lovely. Definitely something you'll never get in Wellington because of its shockingly bad weather so we enjoy it as much as possible. I drink a green tea matcha frappucino. I really dislike Starbucks food and drink, but whenever I'm overseas, I always seem to end up there. It's like a mild flu that you can't avoid. Everyone keeps sneezing it your way.


Stroll down Omote-sando. Observe the Japanese standing in enormous lines for the following: a chocolate bar, the Iphone 6, gourmet popcorn. Rob says, "I don't know whether people are homeless or if they're just standing in line."


From the street, I see a pile of stuffed toys shaped like salmon steaks. My brain seizes. How do the Japanese make a salmon steak look cute?! The store is called Kiddy Land. We barely make it out of the store alive. I insist on buying a massager in the shape of a cat's paw and teeny tiny hamburgers and sushi you make yourself. Rob clutches a USB-powered humping dog and a Robot fish that swims in water. The salmon steaks get me and while I can't justify the plushy due to its luggage space wastage, I somehow rationalise a melamine salmon steak cup. WTF. We need to get out of kiddy land.

Rush outside. Bags are bulging. Walk a couple of metres. My spidey senses spark. There is candy nearby. Rob is left in the dust as I hightail it into Candy Show Time. We watch the demonstration of how the candy is made and truly, the mind boggles. All I know is that the young lady stabs Hello Kitty numerous times with silver scissors the size of my forearm. Get two free candies. Buy two packs of candies. Those are definitely not free.


Honestly, by this time, Takeshita Street was always going to be a come down, especially because it's a Thursday. There's no Harajuku girls in sight. There are three crepe stands right next to each other but only one has the enormous line. I'm gonna take a guess and say it was this one.


Rob has had enough kawaii for the day. We slavishly follow Google Maps to Atmos, a sneaker store. We're searching for New Balances with Japanese writing on them. Google Maps takes us to back streets and a big garage with one lone man ripping boxes apart. There are Nike boxes and other sneaker brands so we know it's sneaker-related, but where's the store? We circle the block a couple of times. No luck. That's okay because we're in the most hipster part of Tokyo that we've encountered so far and that's kind of our spiritual home when we're not hiding out in gaming arcades or shopping in Kiddy Land.

At a steampunk place overlooking an overpass, there's a place called Justin where the alcohol is served in copper vessels. We drink and eat to our heart's content. So much so, that when Rob says, "I think the Robot Cafe is at 5.55 pm? Or 7.55 pm?", I barely glance at the screen he's showing me and continue drinking my gin and tonic and gawking at the people on the overpass.


In Shinjuku, we show up at 7 at the Robot Cafe. Only to be told we were booked for 5.55 pm. Alcohol is bad for you, people. It leads you astray. To think, instead of downing beers and gin and tonics, tacos and tortilla chips, we could have been watching robots and girls in holographic bikinis gogo dancing!


We're deeply disappointed and make a pact to organise it for another night. We argue over the best subway/JR/transfer routes. In the end, we go with the one closest to us and wander back home. At 9 pm, we buy fried chicken and sushi from a street corner. It's delicious.


sumo at the ryogoku & night time senso-ji in asakusa

otaku times in akihabara and through to shibuya