What I thought was a shower turned into 24 hours of steady rain- something my travel light philosophy wasn’t prepared for. So first stop was to buy an umbrella before heading off to find the Meiji Shrine in the Shibuya district. This proved slightly more difficult than I thought and I ended up mistakenly walking up and down Takeshita Street, which is like Portobello Rd without the veg or antiques (er well so basically full of clothes), before stumbling upon the entrance to the shrine :: below
This is a Shinto shrine, which is a separate and older religion in Japan than Buddhism. Shinto teaches that everything contains a kami or spiritual essence. The kami reside in all things and some natural spots are considered to have an unusually sacred spirit about them – these are usually where the shrines are found. The distinctive torii gates separate the common and sacred space. This particular shrine is dedicated to the late Emperor Meiji and his wife. It was built around 1920 but was destroyed in the air raids of WWII and rebuilt in 1958. The accompanying garden is well worth a visit too.
On exiting the shrine I came across The Yoyogi National Gymnastium designed by Kenzo Tange for the 1964 Olympics. It’s famous for its suspension roof design – in one word huge. They are people standing out front!
The Yoyogi Park is also home to the Elvis impersonators who unfortunately only surface on Sundays – maybe next time.
From here I wandered down Omotesando which is the shopping street in Tokyo – if you are a serious fashion house then this is where you have your architecturally designed flagship store, and there are plenty of them!
The first one I saw was Dior but by far the most interesting was Omotesando Hills by Ando – it’s more a mall than a shop. Shops on each floor are accessed from ramps in much the same way the Guggenheim in NYC works. However there are also escalators which take you directly to the floor you need. A much more interesting way to shop, and the concrete form work is beautiful as you would expect :: below
I also thought Tod’s was very interesting :: below
Then off to find the 21_21 Design Site in Roppongi. This was a collaboration between Issey Miyake, Tadao Ando and sculptor Noguchi who agreed there needed to be a place where Japanese art could be promoted and shared. A majority of the building is set below ground level and is vast.
My final destination for the day was to see the National Art Center which is just across the road from 21_21. And my god this place is just mad. Once inside I had to sit down for a while just to take it all in. It’s scale was breathtaking.
And that rounded off day 2 – tomorrow is all about Formula One.
Directions on how to visit
View tokyo in a larger map
Above is the map I used to navigate around and plan my days in Tokyo. The map includes several locations I just didn’t have time to visit.
One of the great joys of a large city such as Tokyo is the beauty of public transport. The Meiji Shrine, the Yoyogi National Gymnasium and Omotesando can all be found within the Shibuya district which has it’s own underground station stop. 21_21 Design Site can be found in Roppongi which is a short stop away from Shibuya- the National Art Center is immediately opposite 21_21. Be sure to check opening times on their websites.