After church yesterday afternoon we went into Tokyo again to Harajuku and nearby Yoyogi Park. What a kaleidescope of images! We emerged from the train station into a small area outside the park that is a gathering area every Sunday afternoon for the cos-play-zoku, the costume play gang! These are teenage girls, many from the outlying suburbs, who leave behind their high pressure, often bullied, high school lives for a few hours and find release in their temporary weekend identities. Decked out in elaborate and outlandish costumes ranging from the very dark gothic to virginal little girl frills, they mix and mingle while hordes of tourists try to get pictures. Some primp and pose while others clearly try to avoid the cameras.
Upon entering the park, we walked through dark forest to the Meiji Shrine, an authentic reconstruction of the original which was destroyed in the bombing at the end of World War II. The shrine was built in memory of Emperor Meiji and Empress Shoken, great-grandparents of the present emperor. Emperor Meiji was known for promoting friendship with other countries and introducing western civilization and modern technology to Japan while at the same time preserving it’s unique identity.
We arrived at the shrine just in time to watch a traditionally clad bridal party having their pictures taken. From outside a cordoned off area, we were also allowed to take photographs, something we considered a rare privilege. Also, within the shrine area, we discovered a display of Japanese bonsai, miniature trees grown in containers using techniques that result in full grown trees only inches in height.
Within Yoyogi Park, we also took a quiet pathway through a peaceful garden area where we sat for a few minutes beside a beautiful pond watching the carp swim by. It absolutely amazes me that such a tranquil oasis can be found in the middle of a bustling city like Tokyo. In one part of the garden irises, known as a rainy season flower, were just coming into bloom.
Constant contrast – old and new