Category Archives: harajuku

Save the Pride

Save the Pride
Pride parades by the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community (LGBT) are common in the west and have been held in Tokyo since 1994. There were no parades held in the years 2008, 2009 and 2011, due to a dispute between organisers. This year two parades were held: Tokyo Rainbow Pride on April 29 and Save the Pride in August 11. I went to the latter one. But why were there two parades?

The Japan Times asked the organizers of both parades and they told a slightly different story. Hiroteru Inui of the Rainbow Pride states that the Tokyo Pride organizers weren’t sure whether they would do a pride event in 2012 while Daisuke Monko of the Tokyo Pride Parade claims that another candidate wanted to take over his position as organizer. He is ok with anyone holding a parade but asked TRP to change their name (which they didn’t). I guess that most people were happy to participate in both.

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In another twist, the Tokyo Pride in August was cancelled, prompting members of the LGBT community to quickly organize a replacement called “Save the Pride”. The notice of cancellation was published on August 6 – to organize a replacement including show acts and sponsors in such a short time is amazing.

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Like the Rainbow Parade, Save the Pride was held at the event stage/square next to Yoyogi Park. Lots of events are held there from international food events to anti-nuclear demonstrations. I arrived to see the pride parade heading back to Yoyogi. The parade was small to say the least and although I like Lady Gaga, hearing only “Born this way” gets kind of annoying. It wouldn’t have hurt to add Madonna to the mix 🙂 Read the rest of this entry

Iris Flowers at the Meiji Shrine Inner Garden

Iris flowers
On a lighter note, I managed to visit the inner garden of the Meiji Shrine yesterday. Most of the events in Juni are related to hydrangea and iris flowers. Probably the most accessible iris flower festival is at the small inner garden of Meiji Shrine. “Inner garden” doesn’t mean that it’s in the middle of the shrine. In fact, the garden is on the way to the shrine and can be easily overlooked.

Unlike the shrine, there’s an admission fee of 500 Yen for the garden. Usually in mid-June, iris flowers are in full bloom. There are no traditional dances, Japanese music etc. scheduled to be performed at the garden, it’s just a nice walk with lots of pretty iris flowers.

I received a ticket with a time on it but I could immediately enter. I guess they limit the number of people. There is not much space, not enough to set up a tripod, I think. Of course with broad daylight, who would need one anyway?

Iris flower field

Hundreds of Iris flowers were blooming giving an excellent view even in rainy season. In fact the rain drops on the petals look interesting on close-ups. I had to rush through the garden because I had a meetup afterwards, but the garden is not big anyway.

How to get there: JR Harajuku or subway station Meiji-Jingumae station.

Lomography Party in Tokyo: La Sardina


Rainy season is in full swing and June is not the month with many festivals. But there’s still lots of things happening in Tokyo! Today I went to the release party of a new Lomography camera at their gallery store in Shibuya. Lomography is one of the major companies producing toy cameras. Unlike Superheadz (the other big company), they specialize on film cameras and have a great range of unique if a bit pricey cameras. I’m not a Lomo shooter although I do own film cameras: A Fujifilm Instax instant film camera and a “panda” camera that’s even smaller than the film that it uses. I brought my Panasonic GH2 and the Digital Harinezumi 2 to the party.

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The store has two floors, and is quite tiny. Unlike Camera Cabaret, it’s easy to find since the store is not located in a small side street. Besides the Lomo cameras, films and gear, they sell various Russian cameras. They also did a Fukubukuro promotion: Pay 10000 Yen and you get a lucky bag (or as they called it: happy bag) containing one camera. I bought one and will write about it in the next blog post. Unlike in other countries, where stores will put stuff in those bags that doesn’t sell, Japanese lucky bags are usually good quality. They are sold in early January but I’ve never got around buying one of them.

There was ample time to take photos of the various cameras:
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And the cameras people brought:
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And photograph people taking photos
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The mystery product was in a big box, the only hints being some naval-themed goods:

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And here is the mystery product, La Sardinia!

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Oops, sorry:
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More pictures after the break… Read the rest of this entry

Starbucks Tokyo – A place to study

Starbucks Omotesando
Way back when I came to Japan to study Japanese, I often went to Starbucks to study. I’m not coming for the coffee (I always order cocoa), but Starbucks seems to be much quieter that other coffee shops. One thing that’s immediately obvious when looking around is that Starbucks is a popular place to study.

These costumers should be really unpopular because those who study tend to stay longer without consuming much coffee/food. However, I think that Starbucks embraced the idea of being just a place to study. At least the coffee shops in Harajuku/Omotesando (near the former place of Kiddy Land) and Nakano Station have long and well-lit tables which are perfect to study. Usually coffee shops are designed to make you fall asleep (warm colors, smooth music).

One thing that Starbucks lacks though is ordering study aids along with your Grande Latte Macchiato: “Latte Macchiato and an English teacher, please” – I wouldn’t be surprised if Starbucks would offer the latter ones in three sizes too 😉

Gunpei Yokoi Exhibition

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Gunpei Yokoi was one of the most famous game designers of all time. An incredibly creative man who not only created many toys, but also the Game and Watch series and the GameBoy. He was the producer of Donkey Kong, Fire Emblem, the three Super Mario Land tiles. I owned two of his creations, the GameBoy and the VirtualBoy. Of course I had to go to the Gunpei Yokoi exhibition in Harajuku.

Vacant is a small venue hidden in the side streets near Omotesando street. Entrance fee was 300 Yen. They had a Famicom (Japanese NES) and a VirtualBoy for people to play with, unfortunately most items were either in glas cases or you weren’t allowed to touch them.

Ruby Christmas

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One year ago I was visiting Seoul’s equivalent to Akihabara (Yongsan), spend some time at Deoksugung Palace and Seodaemun Prison, found out about traditional homes in Namsangol Hanok Village and concluded the day in Insadong.

This year, with me staying home in Tokyo, I went to another illumination event: “Ruby Christmas” in Omotesando Hills. Omotesando Hills is a window shopping paradise – I doubt there’s a bargain somewhere. Of course they had to choose something classy for their christmas decoration: Two big chandeliers and a “ruby” with a mirror ball inside it. Sometimes the light would change and everyone would stand still to watch.

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It was over soon enough and they obviously didn’t want to distract the customers too much.

Freezing meet-ups in shorts

Last study meet-up! And it could well be the last JLPT meet-up ever. While there are regularly new people registering for the meet-up at the Meetup.com website, it’s always the same three, four people showing up. And more than once it was just me and Wye-Khe.

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Today, we were four and met at Starbucks Omotesando. Everyone practised something else – I concentrated on grammar, while Wye-Khe studied Kanji (even the writing, although the JLPT is a multiple-choice test). After about four or five hours we left and these two young women passed by:

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Now guess who was freezing? Yes, of course the left one! The one wearing the shorts didn’t complain about the temperature (or maybe she was just good at hiding it). Just can still see girls and women in short skirts or shirts without stockings in December. But it’s always the ones who are wearing suitable winter clothes who complain about the temperature.

So if “seeing is believing” maybe “freezing is believing” is valid too? Some economists say that companies should invest during a crisis and less in good times. Maybe one should wear light clothes in winter and pants and pullover in summer? As another proof for my theory, we were all freezing – in winter clothes. 😉

Needless to say that we went to the nearby Thai restaurant to warm up…
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Octopussy 2

Makers of pachinko machines are no longer contend using manga/anime franchises such as “Evangelion” as a theme for their machines. Instead they created “Winter Sonata 2”, the pachinko sequel to the Korean TV drama that led to a greater interest in everything Korean, and more recently pachinko adaptions of “Ghost” and “Star Wars”. Yes, Darth Vader is encouraging people to play this pinball/slot machine mix.

In Harajuku I could see the on-going production of “Octopussy 2”.

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Less Bond, more Japanese – works for me 😉

A slim production budget led to this building, which is – quite literally – a piece of cake:

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And just across the “cake” is this hair dresser which reminds me that I’m due for a hair cut.

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Returning to study roots

The rest of the study meet-ups will be held in Harajuku at the Omotesando Starbucks. I asked for this switch because it’s simply quieter than Segafredo in Shibuya (which is hardly surprising as the latter one is located in a busy shopping street). Obviously they don’t want their customers to stay too long, so they work with tricks such as dimming the light, playing smooth music and so on. The trick is to find a good seat and hear the right music. Although I’m not a big fan of Morning Musume and Mini Moni, they surely keep you awake!

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Harajuku is also the place where cool slogans are made: “No, ego. Yes, eco!” is brilliant in my opinion and was used just below the neon sign for the “Happy Factory”. Yes, you can manufacture happiness although if you happen to be male, walking in with eyes closed and shouting: “Make me happy!”, might not make you happy with their idea of happiness.

Obviously the location of the “Happy Factory” (which is actually only a fashion brand) right next to a condom shop is something that various people already blogged about.

Last but not least one of the most delicious christmas trees:
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Harajuku Evening

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Although I felt a little ill, I took a short walk today. My “walk” led me to Harajuku, a part of Shibuya governed by Gwen Stefanie a Japanese politician I’ve never heard of. First I went to the Peace Festival which was already ending, with only a few food stands remaining.

Then I walked down Takeshita street, a pedestrian-only street with young, sometimes bizarre clothing stores. Like almost everywhere in Japan, stores can be found on the second and third floor as well. So only looking at the first floor will give you just a tiny glimpse of what Harajuku has to offer.

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With christmas approaching, some stores already switched to matching accessories. Pet Paradise sold santa costumes for little dogs – those little doggies that are treated like a bag by their owners and seem to be more acceptable for landlords than a real dog. The funny thing is, that most of these dogs are more appropriately dressed for winter than their owners are.

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The other store that caught my eye was Takenoko. The boutique’s name has its origin in the dance/cultural trend of the same name in the 80’s. The rockabilly dancers near Yoyogi park are the last remnants of this once popular trend. The store sells specifically designed costumes and probably also know capable plastic surgeons to make you fit into the dress 😉
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