Today was a Beautiful crisp winter day in Tokyo. We spent the day with Kara from Context Travel. We use Context Travel in many cities and they always help you really dig into a place and understand the culture.
Today we started with a trip to the Meiji Shrine. Fascinating to learn about the Shinto Shrine created in honor of Emperor Meiji in 1920. Emperor Meiji is credited with turning Japan to the West (after 250 years of isolation). I also understand he loved French wine which is why you see not only sake offerings (which is typical) but also barrels of French wine at this Shrine.
Kara helped us navigate the significance of the different Shinto Amulets that were for sale just outside of the Shrine. We each chose an amulet that will bring us luck or protection in the year to come. While the setting itself is beautiful, Kara's insight helped us appreciate the importance of the customs and rituals.
Following the morning at the Shrine, we took things in a completely different direction and headed to Takeshita Street. The street is filled with trendy shops, inexpensive fashion boutiques and different sweet shops - all geared towards the fashion conscious teen. Two things we never would have discovered on our own. First, animal cafes - these are places where you can go to pet a particular animal - cat cafes, owl cafe or the most popular at the moment - Hedgehog cafe. Second, shops that are filled with photo booths where friends can take different poses and then edit the photos with different effects. Super cool insight into popular tween culture in Japan for sure.
We had traditional Tonkatsu for lunch - pork cutlets but taken to a much higher art form. Kara described Japanese culture as a Connoisseur's culture. This idea that you have one thing and you do it 110%. The restaurant Maison offers Tonkatsu or Pork Cutlets with incredible thoughtfulness. You choose the type of pig (a pig that only eats purple yams) and then the part of the animal (rump) for your cutlet. Loved it.
Nice walk back to our hotel through Yoyogi Park and a cool neighborhood in Sangubashi. Great first day in Tokyo!