This time we went into the "private garden" which emperor Meiji had built for his empress. We paid the entrance fee, and we even got to set a huge stamp (round, with a diameter of at least 7 centimeters) of the garden with the date on our entrance leaflet. Pretty cool concept for a travel book! We walked around, and saw things like the tea pavillion, the fishing spot and a well that gave clear water all through the year. Very nice spot.
Then we went on towards the shrine. Apparently the Meiji Festival had just been, so there were a lot of offerings (mostly from commercial producers of food items) artfully set on long tables. One offering was a ship carrying rice bales, folded from rice straw. Very nice. There was also a crystantemum exhibition in front of the shrine gate -- including some bonsai chrystantemums and some mini-dioramas using them instead of trees... And there were a lot of people out in kimono -- including a lot of little girls and boys. It must have been an early version of the shichi-go-san, because there were a lot of kids out in their kimono and hakama. The girls were all pink and sakura blossoms, the boys had things like samurai helmets and eagles on their haori. It was really quite a spectacle. And to top it all off, we also witnessed two wedding processions...
When we went back across the bridge across the train tracks, we did see quite a bit of cosplayers, but it didn't live up to the hype. Perhaps we came on the wrong day.
We walked around Harajuku for a bit. It was lunchtime, so the first queues for popular food places were already forming. And it is as they say: every style does come together in Harajuku, and you can mix and match to create your own identity. We saw shops with 'heavy metal'-clothing (spikes and all), but also shops specialising in prink frilly dresses. Also a shop with stockings in every dessin and color -- to round out your perfect outfit. The number of stalls selling ice-cream filled crepes was striking.
After that, we wanted to get away from the hustle, so we took the train to Shimbashi station because we wanted to check out the 'detached palace garden'. When we exited the station, I spotted a small stall with another two huge stamps! One round, the stamp of the station itself (featuring a steam locomotive motif) and one square, featuring a view from the detached palace garden! Quite an interesting find -- and I'll be sure to look around every train station now, to see if they have the stamps there too!
The route from the station to the park ran through a rather typical complex. Large skyscrapers (some reaching 47 stories tall) joined by plazas (some underground) featuring small cafés and shops with enough space to relax for bit. Really an urban environment for people to work and live in.
We crossed a few busy roads to get to the park. It turned out that the Tokyo Grand Tea Ceremony. was in operation at the park for this weekend. In short, they were running a non-stop tea ceremony at various spots in the park, which you could buy tickets for. And so this also meant that, once again, people had donned their kimono for the event. It was very pleasant to stroll through the elegant park, watching the ladies in kimono stroll by, and enjoy the views. We didn't join in on any ceremony, but we did watch for a bit at one. Also, we sought out the grave that had been erected for the ducks that had been killed in the various hunts there (the grounds used to be the hunting grounds of the shogun) -- it was pretty small, especially if you take into account the number of ducks that have ended up on the shogun's table!
All in all, a quite enjoyable day. We saw a lot of interesting things (just our luck with the festival and the tea ceremony!), but the pace was pretty laid-back.
Tomorrow, we leave for Kyoto. We don't have internet in our hotel room there, so don't expect regular updates. I will write an entry for every day, and just post them in bulk when I have the opportunity to!