Meiji Jingu

After exploring Harajuku and walking down Takeshita Street, I headed to Meiji Jingu, the shrine dedicated to the spirits of Emperor Meiji and his wife Empress Shoken. The entrance to the shrine can easily be found right next to Harajuku Station.

Outside Meiji Shrine area

The shrine is located in a large forest area, with a huge torii gate marking the entrance. There is a long main road you can walk down to see the actual shrine, and there is also a side path with a kept garden are and pond, where you must pay for entry. The shrine itself is free to visit though.

Torii gate entrance to Meiji Shrine

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Takeshita Dori on a Harajuku Sunday

Harajuku is the area in Shibuya ward near Harajuku Station known for several things: numerous high school girls, occasional cosplayers, and shopping on the crowded Takeshita Dori (Takeshita Street). Sunday is the day known for attracting cosplayers to the area, so I chose that day to visit. Unfortunately, there were very few to be found, possibly due to the cloudy conditions that morning, and rain later in the day. However, great people watching still took place, as Harajuku attracts all kinds of fashionable and trendy people to the area.

outside Harajuku Station

Cosplayers aside, the main attractions for me at Harajuku were taking a stroll down Takeshita Dori and visiting Meiji Jingu (Meiji Shrine). Takeshita Dori is a pedestrian only street which becomes absolutely packed on the weekends, and is also popular in the afternoon once school gets out. The street is filled with filled with cafes and restaurants, fashion and accessory stores, and idol goods.

GAP store in Harajuku

Shopping is one of the main attractions to visit Harajuku, even outside of Takeshita Dori. Popular stores include Kiddy Land, which is one of the largest toy stores in Tokyo, Louis Vuitton, Tokyu Plaza, and more.

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Exploring Akihabara and Visiting a Maid Cafe

Prior to my trip to Japan, while I was still planning and trying to figure out where to stay, I decided to try CouchSurfing. If you’re not familiar with the site, it is essentially a community of international travelers who let other travelers stay with them during their trip for free. Sometimes the host will also take the couchsurfer around their hometown or hang out with them as well, but it is not required. I did not have any luck finding a host in Tokyo, but I was lucky in another way for using the site. Because I had my trip plans posted publicly, others were able to browse and see that I would be in Tokyo during these certain dates.

Satoshi, one of the leaders of a Facebook and Meetup group called Japanize!, saw that I would be in Tokyo and invited me to their event, which was to take place on the first full day of my stay in Japan. There were two events that day they were hosting, the first of which was exploring the area of Tokyo called Akihabara, and going to a “maid cafe“. Akihabara, sometimes labeled the “electric city” on the train system in Japan, is the gaming, electronics, anime, and “otaku” sector of Tokyo. If you are interested in any of those things, Akihabara will be quite a sight for you. The other event that Japanize! was holding was going to a beer garden, another uniquely Japanese event which I will get into later. Continue reading Exploring Akihabara and Visiting a Maid Cafe

Dinosaur Bones at the Chicago Field Museum

During the summer, the Chicago Field Museum of Natural History featured an exhibit on Ghengis Khan as the main attraction. It had a lot of interesting history that was not well known as well as various replicas of historic artifacts from various collectors. The other featured exhibit we saw was the Extreme Mammals exhibit, which is still being shown until early 2013. Unfortunately, photos were not allowed in these exhibits. I was even asked to put my cell phone away when I was just checking the time! There are many exhibits at the museum though and it’s definitely worth checking out if you’re in the area. I would like to go back again, as I had a lot to see that day and wasn’t able to spend all day inside. Most of the photos I took were of the dinosaur skeletons, as I have had a long-time interest in dinosaurs and so they were definitely a main attraction for me. The other exhibit I particularly liked was the one on ancient Egypt. Photos were allowed, but due to the exhibit being dark, they weren’t worth taking. Enjoy what I do have below!

Here is the T-rex called Sue. It is the largest complete skeleton of a Tyrannosaurus Rex currently discovered. Continue reading Dinosaur Bones at the Chicago Field Museum