Japan Part 17: Hachiko and the Shibuya Crossing

This morning, Taylor, Amy, Brian, and I decided to head out on our own for a more relaxed day. I only had two things that I wanted to do, and both were very easy (and in the same place) – see the Hachi statue and go up in a Starbucks to watch Shibuya crossing. All Brian wanted was to find a Phiten, which is a sports store. He said he even had a plan for how to do it. Cool.

On our way to Shibuya, our first destination, Brian asked me to teach him how to use the train system. Since he’d never traveled alone before, I was more than happy to show him the ins and outs of using public transportation. Once we got to Shibuya, it was pretty simple to find the statue of Hachi and snap a quick picture.

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The previous night, Taylor (who is a vegan) had had a pretty horrific dream about slaughterhouses and all sorts of animal death stuff. When she asked me what the significance of the dog statue was, I apparently only made her animal sadness for the day worse.

So, who is Hachi? Well, it’s actually a true story. Hachi was an abandoned dog (an akita) rescued by a Japanese college teacher. Hachi and his master bonded so deeply that, every day, Hachi would follow his master to the train station. When his master was due to return, he’d go to meet him at the station. This routine continued for years.

Then one day, the teacher had a heart attack while teaching at his college and died in the hospital. Hachi went to meet him at the station, but his master never returned. So, Hachi remained in front of Shibuya station for seven years, waiting for his master to return. People got to know who Hachi was, so they fed him and he survived by himself for those years. The statue of Hachi, a popular meeting place in Tokyo, was erected in the spot where Hachi died, still waiting for his master.

I strongly suggest that you watch this movie about Hachi (it’s GREAT): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mhEHr7B1QiU

After seeing the statue, I suggested that we go across the street to head up into the Starbucks and get a picture of the famous Shibuya Crossing from above. As it turned out, we were getting pictures of it during a pretty SLOW time. Go figure.Image

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Since my day’s goals had been completed in about 10 minutes, I was cool to go wherever everyone else wanted to for the rest of the day. Brian said that he looked up Phiten locations the night before and knew there was one in Shibuya.

“Great!” I said. “Where is it?”

He shrugged. “It’s near the station.”

One does not simply walk into Shibuya. Its busy streets are confusing to more than just foreigners. It is a hectic metropolis, riddled with cars, and people, and smog. The very air you breathe is a muggy fume. You expect to find one store among thousands easily with no map or directions in Shibuya? Not with ten thousand men could you do this. It is folly.

Yeah. Only the Lord of the Rings nerds will care about what just happened there.

Needless to say, the prospects of finding said Phiten were completely hopeless. So, since Brian needed to exchange money, we stopped into a bank and then agreed to go back to the station to at least find a map. Unfortunately, Phiten wasn’t on it. Brian was a good sport, though, and said that it was okay if we didn’t find it. We didn’t really know where to go next, but just then, Sensei texted Taylor to say that we’d left before she gave us our stipend money for the day.

Oops. We thought yesterday’s stipend was all we got. Cool.

In order to make it easier on her, we went to where she was in Shinjuku to grab our money. While we were standing by the west exit waiting, a random Japanese person with a cheerful grin walked up to Brian.

“Where are you from?” the Japanese man asked.

“Michigan,” Brian replied. The Japanese man practically jumped for joy.

“Oh, great! Great state!”

As I was watching the Japanese man act…strangely, Sensei sneaked up behind me and pinched me on the arm.

Since when did she become mischievous like that?

We had a quick laugh, but we didn’t want to keep her for too long – she was going to visit her father’s grave and needed to meet up with her mom. She cautioned us that Shinjuku can be a kind of sketchy place, so we should stick to the main streets and shopping centers.

We were all famished by this point, so we agreed to just wander outside the station and find a place to eat. On the way out, I was asking Brian what was up with the Japanese guy he was talking to. Just as I kind of ducked around Amy so that I could see his answer, I accidentally slammed right into a little Japanese boy with a backpack.

Eh, I suppose “body tackled” is more appropriate, considering that he went flying and ended up plastered against a glass pillar. Oops. For the rest of the day, everyone kept teasing me, saying, “Wow, there’s a big crowd! Better let Carrie in the front, she’ll just tackle people out of the way!” and “I know your fortune said you should go for people younger than you, but come on!”

One long, dark tunnel under the train station led us out to a main street where we quickly found a ramen restaurant. I ordered some udon, totally unprepared for just how BIG those stinking noodles would be! Needless to say I couldn’t come close to finishing it all.

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As we were sitting and eating, we were talking about where we should go next. We kind of just wanted some sort of shopping mall. I suggested Roppongi, though I had never been there and didn’t know what we would find. Since no one really had any plans, we agreed that somewhere unique like Roppongi would be more fun than somewhere more typical like Harajuku.

Once we were at Roppongi, we kind of wandered around for a while before Brian popped into an Ipad store to use Google Maps on one of their display models and find us a mall. He was having some trouble, and it took multiple attempts before I finally convinced him just to ask the clerk for directions to the nearest mall.

Ugh. Men and asking for directions.

Thankfully, with the Japanese directions, the mall wasn’t hard to find. It was an eclectic place full of strange but cool statues and water fountains.

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We went inside for a bit and wandered around before we found a movie theater. We’d all kind of agreed the day before that, if we found a theater with good movies, we’d go see one. Considering how worn out our feet were feeling from our fruitless quest in Mordor…err, I mean Shibuya…we were definitely ready to sit down.

They had movies in multiple languages, but we figured that it would be cool to see one in English with Japanese subtitles. Originally, we were going to see Maniac, but we missed the showing for it, so we chose Oblivion instead. The theater was cool, and they even filter out all the old air in between movies so it’s fresh when you go in.

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After the movie, we only wandered around for a little bit (and accidentally found a Phiten!) before we headed back to the train station and then to our hostel.

We took a break for a short bit, but Taylor and Brian were planning on going out again. Why not, I figured. I’ll go too.

Right near the hostel was a cute little soup place, so I just ordered a really tiny bowl of miso since I wasn’t really hungry and then grabbed a little milkshake from the convenience store. I should have remembered that Japan is famous for never having garbage cans in public (reduces the bomb threat, I guess), so I had to carry around my empty container for about an hour.

Around one corner, we found an arcade and knew we’d be set for the rest of the night (AKA until we ran out of spare change). We went and got a purikura real quick, then spent most of our time on those claw games. Of course, Taylor was winning virtually everything.

She won a rug, for heaven’s sake.

Once we’d spent our change, Taylor went to play one last game – the table flipping game. Kind of reminds me of Money Making Game in Zelda….

Anyway, the entire goal is to flip the table as hard as you can and destroy as much stuff in the room as you can. Taylor flipped with all her might (a picture that my camera unfortunately deleted, along with many others), and the people in the room went flying.

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Then we got an epic replay of the people going flying and knocking over glasses and chairs and each other.

Then we got an epic replay of the epic replay of people going flying and knocking over glasses and chairs and each other.

Then we got an epic replay of another angle of the epic replay that showed the disco ball falling from the ceiling and the angry Japanese mother shouting.

It was, overall, pretty awesome. 🙂 A random tourist watching us had so much fun seeing us do it that he had to try afterward.

Our spare change spent and our feet tired, we went the few blocks back to the hostel to finally relax on this, our last day in Japan.

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