The sun finally came out on day 9 of our Japan trip, which was perfect as we made our way on foot from the hotel to Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden. The admission fee was the best Y200 I ever spent. You can ask for an English map at the gate, which is helpful in planning your walking route through the vast grounds.
The garden consisted of a traditional Japanese garden complete with tea house, an English landscape garden and a French formal garden. You could easily spend hours meandering around the beautifully set out grounds. It was hard to believe that such tranquil greenery lay in the middle of a busy, densely populated area.
It was still a little early in the cherry blossom season, but there were plenty of other flowers in bloom.
The garden also had a number of ponds complete with fish, ducks and turtles.
The Taiwan Pavilion had an veranda to gaze out from for impressive views of the garden.
Unfortunately the French garden rose beds and sycamore trees weren’t in bloom, but still made for an impressive sight.
It was also a great place to watch the myriad of people who stroll through the grounds, including many aspiring artists (who were pretty good!).
After we’d taken in our fill of nature’s beauty, we headed to the station to catch a train to Harajuku. They say to try avoiding going on weekends and they were right. This was the stream of people flocking into Takeshita-dori on a Sunday… yikes!
We were headed for some crepes at a place called Sweet Box. Luckily it wasn’t too far past the entrance. It was just a takeaway shop front, which meant that there was a queue that snaked down the stairs of the store next door.
That gave us more time to make up our minds about what to pick from the delicious looking displays.
We decided on the Double Chocolate, Cheesecake and Cream, and the Mixed Fruit and Cream crepes and watched them make it right in front of our eyes…
The crepes were nice and thin, which was great. The Mixed Fruits was the pick of the fillings. The Chocolate and Cheesecake was good too, but it would have been better with more cheesecake than cream. We followed Japanese etiquette, standing at the side of the street to finish our crepes before we continued on our way.
Our next stop was Meiji Shrine, which was located right next to Harajuku train station. It was like stepping out of the city and right into fhe middle of a forest.
After a few minutes, we reached the main building of the shrine.
To our (and many other tourists’) excitement, there was a traditional wedding happening on the shrine grounds.
It was lunchtime when we headed down Omotesando street to find a restaurant called Harajuku Gyozaro. After a little difficulty, we stumbled across it in a small alley just off the side street before Kiddyland. We joined the wrong queue first (for a Thai restaurant next door) before realising our mistake and hopping at the end of the right queue.
TripAdvisor has to take a lot of credit for the abundance of tourists to be found in good, hard-to-find restaurants!
The seating was counter style, although there were a couple of tables to the side of the restaurant.
We ordered the bean sprout with mince, 6 garlic and chives fried gyoza, 6 fried normal and 6 steamed gyoza. The food was pretty good, especially the steamed dumplings. The skin was thin and firm, and the filling tasty and well-seasoned.
After that we popped into Kiddyland for some souvenir shopping. They have levels of character goods including Snoopy, Studio Ghibli and Hello Kitty. Light up lightsabre chopsticks, anyone?
We walked down towards Shibuya past Yoyogi park, where there were a group of Elvis impersonators performing for the crowd.
At Shibuya, we stopped by Parco department store craving a snack and ended up at Gelato Pique café, which was on the 2nd floor. The crepes seemed popular, so we ordered the butter crepe with pistachio gelato. It was light, sugary, buttery and nutty… simply divine.
On the 6th floor were shops with Japanese animation merchandise. We took the One Piece elevator up for a browse.
We had a quick look in Seibu then headed back to Shinjuku, stopping by Isetan to buy some bentos for dinner. They also had a great selection of sweets.