Today, I met up with my old host sister from my high school days. At the time, I really couldn’t speak much more than very, very basic Japanese. Like my listening comprehension was pretty much nonexistent. I had been studying in high school for three years, but I really did not pay attention senior year due to being focused on other things (college apps) and becoming generally disillusioned with the language.
Then I had my homestay and everything changed (when the fire nation attacked. And by fire nation I mean humidity and heat wave.)
I took a lot of cute pictures during today’s outing, so I felt the need to post about them. This is clearly the key to consistency in posting.
So, to honor that timeless week-long bond, my host sister and I decided to meet up in Harajuku for some food and fun. First, we made a stop at Guzman y Gomez, Australia’s answer to Chipotle. I had a delicious burrito bowl that I wolfed down rather than take a picture of. I had been introduced to the location by another Wellesley student who is interning in Harajuku right now, so it was a pretty safe bet, but I am happy my host sister (who had never had Mexican food) enjoyed it.
After this, we decided to walk around and explore. When I think “Harajuku” I tend to think about the crowded shopping streets and crepes. However if you turn left out of Harajuku Station as opposed to right, there are also a number of shops (of course), but also a little garden! It was incredibly adorable and I took zero pictures of it because it felt magical. Yoyogi Kouen Park (which is the dumbest romanization ever because 代々木公園 means Yoyogi Park so why would you – never mind. This coming from people who translate 富士山 as Mt. Fujiyama when Yama means mountain) is also pretty spectacular because it is in the middle of one of the busiest areas of Tokyo and is just BAM! Greenery. But this little garden area probably only took up the footprint of a mid-sized building. You were still very much aware you were in the center of the city, and yet it was calm. Peaceful. Like a magic bubble.
We found another magic bubble by complete accident. We were supposed to go to Ice Monster of kakigori fame, but we both ate a little too much at lunch and I was recovering from a cold so we couldn’t share the monstrosity. Instead, we were tantalized by Starbucks Japan’s CANTALOUPE FRAPPUCCINO.
We ended up not being able to the first Starbucks we saw at ground level because there were so many people (mostly tourists, interestingly enough.) So we took another loop around and ended up at a pretty cool looking building with a Starbucks on the 7th floor.
However it wasn’t JUST a Starbucks. First of all they had a store specific Tea Cream Frappuccino, which if you don’t know about my absolute obsession with Royal Milk Tea you do now because I paid 6 dollars for a Frappuccino version of it.
Secondly it had an absolutely massive garden. The garden itself was pretty quiet, since it was on the 7th floor, so noise from traffic had really died down. It was also super pretty, well and landscaped, and had calming music playing in the background.
There were an interesting mix of people there. About half were couples (I saw the most PDA I have ever seen in Japan in that one location, and by the most I mean any at all), a quarter were parents with kids, and then the rest were friends meeting up.
It was great falling into that category and chatting with Sanako for about two hours about everything from parents wanting grandchildren to youth voting. It was actually really fun, and really comforting that even after 3 years we can still chat about whatever. Or really that we could talk at all – I was a little worried about that since last time we met I was reduced to taking 30 minutes to explain that root beer is not beer because I lacked literally all of the vocabulary necessary for the conversation.
So we sat, and we chatted, in what felt like a secret hideout. Everyone below was so small, and so busy. I can only imagine what the view would look like on a normal Harajuku day. We were there at 2 p.m. on a Monday, so even though it looks as though there are a lot of people, that’s actually not a lot by Harajuku standards.
For today’s Japanese lesson, we are going to learn a little bit of kanji. 原宿. はらじゅく. Hara. Juku. The name of a pretty awesome place that I have been to several times before, and yet still manages to spit out secret fun things to do every time I visit. The place where I…
- Reconnected with an old friend not once but twice
- Got lost in a shrine and a park on accident
- Got lost on purpose
- Bought cheap scarves (one of which I have since lost)
- Found a taste of home (#Garret’s popcorn)
And, last but not least, tasted some pretty excellent guac. All in three years work.