Yoyogi Park

Yoyogi Park is one of the main parks in Tokyo and I wanted to visit it to see two things; the Meiji Shrine and the Harajuku crossing. With the itinerary sending us to Yomiuriland I decided to do some sight-seeing first thing in the morning.

So I got up at the crack of dawn and made my way to Shirokanedai station. I took this picture for two main reasons; firstly to show how clean the station is but more importantly to show the ridiculous hour that I was up at. A short train ride and I was at Harajuku station.

Exiting the station and I was faced with this monstrosity of a shop. I guess if you ever wanted to visit a place with more Snoopy merchandising than you could ever want, under one roof, then this is clearly the place to go to. It was about 5.30 in the morning and there was no way it was going to be open at this time.

In the centre of Yoyogi park is the Meiji Shrine and marking it's entrance is the largest torii gate in Japan standing 11 metres tall and constructed from 1600 year old trees imported from Taiwan. The guy walking beneath it would be returning from morning prayers.

Following the path through the gate and you soon arrive at the main compound. The prayer ritual involves people washing their hands and mouths before entering the main shrine. The little building to the left contained the water with which to do that.

Another torii gate leading to the centre of the compound. Whilst impressive it is nothing compared to the one that I walked through earlier.

This is the centre of the compound. The tree in the corner contains hundreds of individually written prayers, the monks remove on a daily basis and take into the main shrine. I am unsure what they do with them once they have them there, but I'm sure it's good.

This is the Odaiko (big drum) found within the shrine. I think during some of the rituals drums like these will be beaten by the monks. It must be pretty physical; imagine how big the sticks have to be if the drum is this big, and they'd have to swing them from behind their backs and over their heads. It makes you wonder how good the monks would be at the bemani version of the game I'd played a few days earlier at La Qua.

This is the actual shrine itself and is dedicated to Emperor Meiji, who reigned between 1860 and 1912. Opened in 1920 it is used as shrine and not a tourist attraction, which is great! Shinto weddings take place here throughout the year and at New Year crowds can hit a million as people come here to celebrate. I'm glad I managed to take pictures that show the solace, rather than the herd.

This is the gate you pass through to reach the main shrine. Brings back memories of all the Kung Fu games I played as a kid; IK+, Way of the Exploding Fist and Yie Ar Kung Fu. At this point I had seen all I wanted to see of the shrine, again taking no pictures inside the temple itself.

Knowing that the crowds can become huge I fully understand why the paths are so wide. This is the walk back to the main torii gate and the Harajuku crossing that I had also wanted to see.

And here it is, not very exciting admittedly. If I had been here on Sunday this place would have been full of Japanese kids dressed in ridiculous outfits dancing to techno music and just showing the extroverted side to their otherwise restrained personality.

This is what I might have seen had I not been flying into the country on Sunday. Picture courtesy of another website where someone else was able to make it here

Before opening to the public Yoyogi Park was used by the US Military to house their troops then in 1964 it became the Olympic Village, the stadium not too far away (but too far for me to walk to on this occasion). The architecture around the park was littered with references to the Olympics, I couldn't find any reference to it's former use though.

A strange no-smoking sign painted onto the floor near Harajuku. You're not allowed to smoke cigarettes bigger than you I guess.

This is the one Olympic building I could see from the little bit of Yoyogi I walked about. This wonderful structure houses the main Gymnasium in the city. When not housing tumblers and vaulters, the venue is also used as an ice hockey stadium.

The large structure here is Roppongi Tower, in the heart of the Ex-Pat playground that is Roppongi Hills. This building is designed to be a city in a building containing living, shopping, eating and entertainment places all under within a single complex. Opened in 2003 the complex has 100,000 visitors per day rising to around 3 times that at the weekend. I didn't add to that number as I stayed away from that area completely.

Roppongi Tower dominates the skyline to the South, to the North the Sunshine 60 building in the Ikebukuro district does the same. This building has one of the fastest lifts in the city taking you to the top floor in a little over 30 seconds. I didn't actually visit this place as it was quite far out. Toshimaen is nearby however, so I did visit the area.

Here is another shot of the Harajuku crossing with the park in the background and the Meiji Shrine hidden off to the right. The bridge crosses the trainline I had travelled in on and was just about to ride on to Shinagawa, another place I wanted to visit.


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