What we need is a great big melting pot.

Entrance to Kitchen-Town

Being an urban gent and married to a hospitality diva, it was necessary for us to visit Kappabashi today. Kappabashi is a district that is the source of that plastic food that Japanese restaurants have out front. It’s also an amazing strip of shops that sells everything a restaurant or cafe could ever want. From theming your 1950’s American diner to chopstick rests. From lacquer wear to giant lobsters holding blackboards, this area has it all in truckloads. Even though a lot of shops closed for the New Year holidays today, we were left with hours of entertainment up and down a street that starts at the 8 storey building with the huge chef’s head on top.

Domo arigato, Mr Roboto

Our original plan had been to return to the hotel for a rest before heading out to Harajuku for dinner, but on the way back to the station we wandered a little further down the road for Eams to introduce himself to Mr Donut and happened to spy a little street that looked interesting. The little street turned out to be Alice’s Rabbit Hole and we were once again left standing slack-jawed in the street in the middle of a huge market. Tiny stalls had artisans making rice crackers over open fires, people queuing for fried, mincey, garlicky dumplings (a bit like a piroshki) and eating in public! (apparently OK within a certain radius of a street food outlet). There were Rickshaws, kimono shops, kabuki theatres, a brush shop, cake shops and who knows what else spread over the 6 or 7 blocks of the Kappabashi Markets. We roamed the markets and followed the flow of people down a hill and into the amazing Sensoji Temple

Cookie Cutters

Lunch – Tempura set

A beautiful place in a beautiful setting. This place features a couple of particularly big things. There’s the big Japanese lantern, the big rope sandal and the two big and savage looking gods who guard the gate. The thing to do here, so we heard on a video on the plane, is the smoke. In the middle of the courtyard, there’s a large cauldron that looks a bit like a well that smokes a lot. It smokes because thousands of pilgrims purchase bundles of incense, light them then stick them in the sand in the cauldron to burn. Consequently, the cauldron is full of burning incense and smokes profusely. Once the incense is placed in the sand the idea is to wave the smoke over whatever part of you requires fixing or blessing. We reverently joined in, purchasing our incense and lighting it, placing it in the sand, waving the smoke, then retreating to the fountain to scoop cups of water over our hands for a ritual cleansing before entering the huge temple. It’s throw-some-money-in-the-pit and clap kind of temple, so it’s quite noisy. After this bout of amazement, and given it was around 4:30pm and getting dark, we headed back to the subway and off to Harajuku.

This town is one amazement after another. Here was another disappearing up the hill and out of sight wide avenue with fairy lit trees and thousands of people. More Chanels, Ralph Laurens and Ferragamos. Eamon fell at the first hurdle and bundled out of the Puma store with a new t-shirt before realising that next door was a four level Nike Shop of outstanding design and appeal. Naturally, round the corner were equally impressive Adidas and Kamo stores. Fortunately, we also happened upon a groovy young man in a tiny temporary cafe on an intersection who had an espresso machine and knew how to use it. Short blacks all around to prepare us for another 5km before dinner. Visited the Kangol shop and the MOMA Design Store, ogled a number of French and Austrian cake shops and then turned off the main drag at the Ralph Lauren building. Now the side streets were really interesting. These were where the young funky ones obviously came – I mean the young AND the funky ones came. Sneaker shops, retro and used fashions, tiny little bars and skate board shops, a smattering of graffiti – very cool place. Wandered these streets for a while and wound our way back up to near the station, sadly seeing only one of the famous Harajuku Girls. We chose a non-Japanese restaurant for dinner which was prob’ly a mistake, … 

A chain restaurant (never seen or heard of another though) called Wolfgang Puck Express – a kind of burgers and pasta and pizza place. We were very tired after that and still had to navigate home. Our twelve hour walking day was over – it was back to Shinjuku and back to the hotel shuttle and home to bed.
Incense placement

Rice cracker manufactur

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