The next day the family was here was New Year's Eve. I had been planning to take them to Senso-ji Temple at night so we had a whole morning empty. Since some of the things I wanted to do were closed for New Year's we decided to go over to 荻窪 (Ogikubo) and check out one of the parks there. However, when we got there it was also closed. Who knew they even closed parks for New Year's! We decided just to wander around Ogikubo and see what the area had to offer. We went through a more residential area and everyone was surprised by how narrow the streets are! Most people don't drive around the city, so unless it is a major road, the streets are all narrow. Maybe 1-2 cars can fit down at a time. When we got back to the station area we went into one of the big department stores connected to Ogikubo station. We wandered some of the floors and looked at the adorable things for sale. My dad was a little bummed that almost all of the stores only sell items for girls. There are only a few stores in big malls that have items for girls and boys or boys exclusively. Otherwise it is all stuff for girls ^_^ After a little lunch we were ready to head over to 浅草 (Asakusa). Our first stop was to see 隅田川 (Sumida River). There is a nice walk and park area along the river and it offers some good views.
The Asahi Beer building
New Year's Lanterns
After seeing the river we got some dinner and wandered around Asakusa a little bit more. We had some time before we were going to meet my friend Elena and her family, so we decided to try to do some souvenir shopping. Finally it was time to head to the temple!
Cool dragon fountain
We drew our fortunes and Ian was sad because his fortune was "bad fortune"
The temple area was pretty crowded with people but we got there a little earlier so it wasn't too bad. A lot of people go closer to midnight, but we decided to beat the rush. We had lots of fun looking at the temple, eating delicious food from the stalls, and chatting with Elena and her family. I am used to seeing her every day since we live in the same dorm, so it was great to see her after about a week apart! When we got home we just hung out until it was midnight, then we had a little champagne toast to bring in the New Year. Everyone was pretty tired though, so we just went to bed right after that. Overall I think it was the most memorable New Year's Eve I have had!
The next day was another busy day. We headed over to Meiji Shrine in the morning. I didn't really think it would be that busy, but it was PACKED!
The gate all done up for New Year's
Meiji is one of my favorite places here in Tokyo, so I was super excited to bring my family there. However, it was so busy you couldn't see the shrine properly, and it was hard to get a look at the charms that were for sale. If you are just going for sightseeing, New Year's Day is not the best time to head to Meiji since it is so busy. However, it was still a cool experience seeing what all the Japanese people do on New Year's and it was fun being at one of the biggest shrines on such a popular day. (For a more in depth look at the shrine I wrote a blog about it here) Our next stop was right around the corner to 代々木公園 (Yoyogi Park). It is one of the biggest parks in Tokyo. It was pretty busy with people spending time with family and friends on their day off. It was also full of crows, which kind of creeped me out. They would come right up to you and squawk!
The next stop was Takeshita St, a big shopping area in Harajuku. It was as busy as always, and it was fun walking down the street and seeing some of the strange things that they have for sale. We stopped and ate some crepes, which everyone thought were very tasty ^^ I got sidetracked in the K-pop store, but didn't end up buying anything because I couldn't decide what I wanted and I felt like I was taking a lot of time. So, if anyone is in the Tokyo area and wants to go to the K-pop store in Harajuku just let me know! I definitely want to go back. The last stop on our list was Shibuya. We just wandered the streets and looked in at some of the shops. My dad was shocked at all the flashing neon lights, and kept wondering about how big the electricity bill for the area must be. I made sure to take them through the Shibuya scramble, a big crossing where all the walk lights turn green at the same time and you have to push through people to get to the other side before the light changes again. They all thought it was pretty crazy but fun! Finally, we saw Hachiko at the station on our way out. Hachiko was a dog who would wait for his owner at a certain exit of the station every day, but one day the owner died and thus did not return to the station. However, Hachiko would still wait for him every day, just in case he came back. I'm pretty sure my mom almost cried when I told her the story ^_^ It was another busy day, but everyone really enjoyed it!
I have one more post coming soon about our last day together in Japan!
P.S. The tea of the day is rosehip-hibiscus!