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Pink shit and pretty lights: Harajuku and Teamlabs

Another day of sleeping through alarms, but actually was well worth the extra rest, we've been getting in around 11pm-12am most evenings, my feet and legs are in shreds and I've a hefty suspicion that I've strained my achilles (and have been ignoring it for the last month) having made itself painfully present as the days of trekking have continued. Just as well I was mistaken about today being Mount Takao day, woop! 

The plan was to hit the shrines and temples in Ueno, but then also to have a cheeky gander in Harajuku to whet the appetite for our free day on Sunday. In reality, feeling absolutely fucked from far more than a lass like me is used to, and even less sleep, I've made peace with the idea that we could just hit the Kawaii Kingdom, as we need to be a fair trek away in Toyosu for 6pm. Started the day by opening this morning's gachapon, naturally. 

You know something? I haven't seen anyone have a coughing fit yet, which makes me all the more keenly aware of how covid savvy Japan is in comparison to home. For example, bought a new type of mask to try today, one that gives me the opportunity to actually circulate some air beneath it rather than sticking to me, a little bit of the softer inner caught as I yawned in my mask- I am both pre food and pre coffee still by this point- and away I went. 

I'd like to call this chapter of our day 'How to clear an entire carriage on a busy subway in 5 minutes'. I'm trying to discreetly yet effectively regurgitate the tiny bit of mask fluff that's lurking somewhere around my trachea, the more I'm trying not to be seen/heard and subdue my efforts the worse it's getting. I'm getting angry stares from all angles, am dry-heaving and eyes streaming and only taking the tiniest of breaths for fear of reinitiating yet another respiratory buckaroo. I'm not certain that I haven't pissed myself a little too if I'm honest, snazzy. Japan is the most health aware country I've been to, especially covid considered, and I wish there was a way to show many onlookers how many covid hoops I had to jump through just to get through the airport and I am in fact not patient zero, but have just eaten my mask.

There's been lots of chat about etiquette today, and the rules and ways of the Japanese culture that mean that no, she cannot gallivant on the station and must not wander off. I explained the electrocution risks of the subway were she to knock someone off-balance and explained that children can get 'arrested'..... Going off her recent memory of being chased down for forgetting to put back up her mask after a slurp of the horrendously overpriced Mickey lolly, she quickly quietens down. 

Harajuku has the cutest station jingle, I really think I'll miss that when we're home, every station playing a slightly different jingle to aid the blind in getting around (there's also a dedicated ridged path along every pavement/intersection made purposefully for this reason), it's so heartwarming. I'll miss that -and coffee jelly- sorely. 

Stepping out, Takeshita Street right in from of me and we're met with a cherry-print platform, mini skirt and crop-top wearing bloke with the most garish faux pigtails and scrunchies I've seen. He's yodeling away (badly) to a speaker on his shoulder with such sparkle that it's impossible not to feel cheerful, and he reminds me somewhat of a cross between the Sheffield cyber pixie and one of the gay bar's most infamous drag queens when murdering nearly every song. 

We're in kawaii kingdom here alright, everything is pink, shiny, oversized and gloriously wacky. Small is salivating with excited and she's gone, there's no getting to her. She needs to look in every shop, every little nik-nak place, everything is exciting. It's true sensory overload, the sparkles, the colours- I'm doing alright with it surprisingly- but she's like a whirling dervish and eventually settles to her normal frenzy after a stern reminder that whilst we can buy a few bits, we're just having a nosy before we come back properly. 

The purikura halls, so many of them! So many selfie booths, opportunities for aaaalllllll the modifications. Turned out we chose one that automatically changed our faces, we're all of a sudden slimmer facially, our ginger skin is even paler and our eyes are as big as dinner plates, Small is less than pleased that it changed her face without permission, and was still harping on about it a good half hour later. 

Exploring Takeshita Street was all going so well until she saw the dog cafe, the upper floor scattered with poodles, terriers the lot and she's gone again. Placating her with a crepe, my genius idea to cancel out two crazies, she's happy enough just looking. There are pig, otter, hedgehog, cat and dog cafe's that I've seen thus far, and I know it's only a matter of time before I give in. Bag crammed with goodies and having visited all the shops advised by the Japan loving content creators that I follow, we go for a gander. Headed into a shop we'd been looking for called ACDC Rag for the weird and wonderful (they put my most colourful dungarees to shame), bumped into a lovely American lady who gladly took photos of us outside and in we went. Who doesn't need a cat hoodie? -(mine). Small picked up a pair of dayglo macro-shot sweetie shorts, having trudged away from the one size t-shirts that were too big even for the growing up box, and I'm well on my way to bankruptcy. She tried to convince me to try on the same cherry platforms our cheerful mate from earlier had on, took a lot of convincing her that I wasn't prepared to break my neck for, using the excuse of her ridiculous amount of plushies to bring home as reasoning. 

The sights alone, the cosplay and lolita outfits were so beautifully worn by most folk that we felt oddly underdressed. And I'm usually the one that looks like a confused rainbow the minute I've ticked off coffee and underwear from the daily list. 

Lots of teenage school kids around though, why the fuck aren't they in lessons? I wish I'd have been granted permission to go shopping as a teenager. I imagine Harajuku is the same as Saturday morning Meadowhall for our rough 'uns. Small's still in raptures that her Rikka Takenashi uniform is a direct mirror for the real thing, and I'm thrilled that the real things are all below the knee and then some. 

That is, until one saunters past, hoiked up almost to underwear territory, much much older than a schoolgirl would be- fairly certain it's a chap and it's only when he passes that I see absolute arse cheeks rolling down the back of his very wrinkled thighs. I guess people have kinks for everything, just this one that creeped me out a touch, a touch too brave/brazen day for even my parameters, and I'm left yet again trying to explain all of this to 7 year old Small. 

She gets stopped a fair bit to be told she is very kawaii which she is thrilled to bits with, and appears to be a common theme now. I just let her dress herself l and I reckon she's going to inherit my what-the-fuckery fashion sense. 

I never thought I'd say the words "I've been far to busy to schedule time in to eat properly", but here we are, two huge crepes each in after I devoutly refused to agree to the mountain of rainbow candyfloss for lunch, on principle that she had another illegal wall-sandwich en route to the station. I can deal with a tired/grumpy/willful kid, but a hungry one to boost is just asking for shit to hit the fan.

After a short but very sweet time (by the second filled crepe, this time in Harajuku's first ever crepe joint), we're hot-footing it to the station to make our way across the city to Toyosu to visit Teamlabs' musical light and sound extraordinaire. I was a bit dubious after hearing how it's big brother Teamlabs Borderless had closed down recently, but actually it was almost beyond words. But as is well known I could talk a glass eye to sleep, so I'll share some anyway. 

After a wee wander through Toyosu, 20-something me without a kid could easily have spent a whole day at Teamlabs, each installation calling on all the senses with squashy floors, digital fish in knee-deep water that turned into flowers on touching the people wading through it. If anyone has played the games Flower and Flow, it might come close to describing the whole-body immersion felt with that kind of setup. Wading through knee deep water however wasn't Small's greatest as she clumsily dipped her rear in the warm fishy water whilst spinning around with all the coordination of a drunken octopus. 

There were gigantic spherical balls in a mirrored room that changed colour on touch as you walked through them, a waterfall that required walking up it to get to the next installation, and living moss ovoids that changed colour and sound with all the whimsy of fairies on acid. In fact, I imagine for those that way inclined, being an acid might be an outer body experience at a place like this. 

Meandering through thousands of orchids hanging upside down from the ceiling moving up and down and constantly changing the space you moved through was rather special. The notion was that when you really close to the flowers and smile at them, they begin to smile back as you become aware of their presence more and more (too fucking cute to serve it justice on recall alone). 

I found myself getting angry at the yob-like behaviour if those around us, knocking all the flower heads off and talking far too loudly. Maybe I've finally acclimatised to the culture of Japan, if that means wanting to boil alive those who were spoiling the environment for others then so be it. But then, I also got massively irked at the dickheads waltzing through rather around the huge light strip installation that took me by body and mind to an entirely different plane, if I'm honest. Maybe I was just tired. 

My favourite part was the soundscape light installation, mirrored walls and open spaces to juat sit and be, gave a nod towards the infinite whilst just soaking it all in. I reckon even Small got it, especially as she came to report all the wrongdoers that were refusing to wear masks and dicking around, no surprises being that they were the same amoebas that were rattling around the delicate suspended lights, walking in front of other people's photos and being so insta-fuckhead-y that it was impossible to get back into it. So we waited. That wait resulted in a more than pleasant 5 minutes sat on the floor, I felt so calm, and at peace, it was like a sensory massage. She got a bit pissed off at the wait however and used my little anecdote back at me with a twist- "mummy there's having a calm head and heart, and feeling at peace, and then there's enough now, let's go", so off we trudged into a flower garden, a giant dome inviting you to lay on the floor and watch the depths of floating flowers and twisting leaves fly by you. It was so good that I couldn't walk in a straight line on leaving. Or maybe that's just me being too knackered and old to hack taking a hyperactive kid across the globe and trying to fit in more than humanly possible thinking I'm fucking superwoman. 

A beautiful scenic route back observing the glittering night lights in the surrounding skyscrapers and some emergency tempura prawns, and we're home. I fancy planning the day tomorrow but the Asahi decides for me, and I'm eventually asleep at 2.30am.


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