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Wacky Japanese stuff from Japan
Japan is great. I've been there three times. Each time I go back I find something new, something wacky, something I did not expect!
Here are some of the wacky things I found on my latest visit to Japan. I hope you can visit there some time as well!
Wacky Japanese Food
I love Japanese food. If you ask someone to name Japanese food then they will of course come up with sushi. Someone more knowledgeable might know ramen noodles.
But if you go to Japan you'll quickly realise that sushi really isn't that a big deal in Japan. Heck, I am pretty certain that London now has more sushi restaurants than Tokyo!
A good place to find wacky food in Japan is in one of the many convenience stores. Examples of these are 7-11, New Days, Lawsons, Family Mart and many others. Here's a photo of some wacky Japanese food.
This haul from a local convenience store includes a strawberries and cream sandwich, and a sushi sandwich!
Other wacky Japanese food I've spotted include potato salad sandwiches, and cheese curry flavor cup noodles.
There are loads of temples in Tokyo. Each district usually has two or three temples. Some are large and are must see's on every Westerner's visit to Japan. Examples include the Sensoji temple in Asakusa, as well as the Meiji Jingu shrine in Western Tokyo. Both temples are crammed with tourists, especially weekends.
More informed tourists will ignore these and head for some of the least well known temples. My favourite temple is the Gotokuji temple in the Setagaya district of Western Tokyo. This is a large temple complex with many fine buildings. But it is probably best known for the Beckoning Cat shrine and is said to be the origins for those lucky cats with raised paws that you'll no doubt come across if you ever visit a Chinese or Japanese store.
In one corner of the Gotokuji temple is a wooden structure containing hundreds of porcelain figures of maneki neko beckoning cats.
The Gotokuji temple also has a small souvenir shop where you can buy your own versions of these red and white cats - they come in 8 different sizes, from the 300 yen teenie cats to the 5000 yen big cats.
If you're ever planning to visit Tokyo then be sure to visit the Gotokuji temple - it's a short train ride from Shinjuku station on the Odaku private rail line. It's also reachable via the Tokyu line from Shibuya (although this requires a change of trains).
Other wacky temples include the Sougenji Kappa temple - this is a temple that celebrates the Kappa water monsters that were said to inhabit the swamps before they were drained in order to build modern Tokyo! It's found in a small suburban street just off the famous Kappabashi cookery street in Asakusa.
The huge numbers of shops in Tokyo sell all kinds of strange goods. One of my favourite shops in Tokyo is Tokyu Hands - a homewear store that sells pretty much everything that is cool! There are several branches of Tokyu Hands in Tokyo, one of the largest being in Shinjuku, just opposite the famous train station.
But there's also another branch of Tokyu Hands in Ikebukuro. This Tokyu Hands has a very special feature - on the top floor in the pets department is a place called Nekobukuro - the cat's house. For a few hundred yen you can enter Nekobukuro and play with the resident cats! Nekobukuro is a lot of fun, even if most of the residents spend most of their time sleeping...
By the way, if you want to buy wacky stuff from Japan then check out the TokyoToys online store.
Wacky Dress Sense
One strange thing about Japan is the large number of school girls in anywhere but school! There are school girls in school uniforms everywhere, even at weekends when there is no school! I've done a little research on this, and apparently not all the school girls are really school girls. Many shops actually sell fake school uniforms! How wacky is that? Schoolgirl chic is alive and well in Japan - here's more information about Japanese school uniform outfits and Japanese sock wearing.
As well as school girl chic, Tokyo's young women love to dress outrageously. Long knee socks are incredible popular in Japan - I guess this stems from the Chinese beliefs that it's important to preserve the body's energy by keeping the feet warm. As well as long knee socks and thigh highs, it's not uncommon to see young ladies wearing stockings and suspenders to go shopping. Wow!
By the way, if you are ever lucky enough to have a vacation in Japan then good places to spot people in wacky outfits are:
- Shibuya - especially on Saturdays.
- Harajuku. This district of Japan is famous for the teen goth, gothic lolita and other fashions. Sunday afternoons are particularly good for spotting people dressed in wacky outfits. Sadly Harajuku gets immensely crowded at weekends, and the overexposure has meant that the wackily dressed are now more likely to be found in other districts such as Akihabara.
- Akihabara - especially on weekend afternoons, although there is usually something going on. Akihabara is the electronics district, and it is packed with geeks looking for computer parts, computer games, character merchandise like Domo Kun goods and general geek goods like anime and stuff.