My second morning involved more exploring as my friend had work that day as well but I finally had the chance to meet up with Ayami, a friend I had not seen for a few years. She had invited me to a local event in Ebisu Garden Center which was basically a lighting ceremony for a gorgeous Chandelier hanging in the center of the park. She was a part of a choir group which was involved with singing at the ceremony with around 1000 other people.
I spent the morning exploring Meiji Jingu in Harajuku as well as the Harajuku area as well. Meiji Jingu had a martial arts de,onstration as well as a number of other ceremonies that day which were all rather interesting. I actually really enjoyed the atmosphere in the place, even though it was filled with people. Being surrounded by large beautiful tries on either side of the path and seeing no shortage of parents with their kids dressed up in traditional outfits for the temple made for some wonderful sights and cultural experiences.
Harajuku itself was a bit of an odd experience even for me. The cosplay and idol culture in Takeshita st was very....intense, for lack of a better word. It's something you see around Japan quite a bit sometimes. I will likely go back there to spend some actual time there with my camera later next week so I can better document it. To be honest I really felt out of my element shooting there at the time.
Speaking of which, day one in Japan, although I shot a lot, I felt really out of place trying to get the right shots. You quickly come to realize the cultural differences about respecting people's spaces, even more so when you're a foreigner in the country and initially it clashes to ones approach about doing what you have to do as a photographer to get the shot you want. I had not yet found my comfort zone but that started to change on day two.
Actually, running around Tokyo I really didn't feel too much like an outsider, aside from the fact I wanted to become more comfortable with the subtleties of interacting with some of the people there.
It was something that started to change during the actual lighting ceremony mentioned earlier. Ayami introduced me to some of her friends before the ceremony as well as took me to the preparation room before the actual performance to meet the rest of the people. Everyone there was see kind and it made a big impact on my comfort levels. While running around Tokyo, as mentioned earlier, you don't exactly feel too much like a foreigner, at least not to the level I was expecting. More so you don't get regarded much . People sit next to you on the train, they don't really pay any attention to you either though. Infact, strangely enough the only people I actually caught looking at me were the younger generation.
I guess what I mean is not that I expected attention but before the trip you'd always hear about being avoided to an extent. Small things like that. I really didn't get that impression at all, if anything it was all very passive. However, at the same time you still kind of feel like you don't belong to a degree.
Meeting those individuals started to change that and made me feel like a part. Following the ceremony, which was something a step above anything I've seen locally in Edmonton, everyone went out for drinks together. The evening was spent meeting new friends, speaking Japanese and having lots of drinks and snacks at a rather small Izakaya filled with about 30 people. At a few points in the evening the whole place broke out into a few songs which spilled out into the street around the Izakaya and attracted a few outsiders. The atmosphere of that is hard to put into words. It's an incredibly strong sense of community and it's something that is rarely seen if ever at all back home. It was definitely a strong sample of the level of culture and community here and one of the reasons I find such an interest in it all.
Following that it was running a bit late and I ended up leaving to catch one of the last trains home. My route involved taking the JR line from Ebisu to Ueno and then switching to the Keisei line to get back to Keisei Koiwa. The first trip is about 30 min but as soon as I sat down I fell asleep right after leaving Ebisu station. That particular line travels in a circle around the city and is about a 1hr ride all the way around. When I woke up the train conductor was announcing the arrival of the next stop.....Ebisu. I made a complete circle around and then had another 30 min trip to get to Ueno again. When I got off and got to the Keisei line station it was already closed. I had to flag down a taxi and get him to take me back to the Keisei Koiwa station so I could walk backhome from there.
It ended up closing about ¥5500. Expensive but funny and good lesson learned.