Finding Beauty with Imperfection

Category: Harajuku

Family Day

On Monday, 10/15, I had the wonderful opportunity to greet my Uncle and Aunts and their friend during the Yokohama port visit of their cruise. Their ship docked at Osanbashi Pier in Yokohama. I took an early train up to meet them. Even on a cloudy day, it wasn’t hard to spot the ship!

After joining up, we set out for a one-day Julia Tour of Tokyo. Here is a picture of me with my Aunt Merrily, Aunt Eileen, and Uncle Jay. Throughout the day, we attempted to recall the last time we saw each other. It’s been at least 20 years since I saw my Aunt Merrily and probably closer to 30 since I saw my Uncle Jay and Aunt Eileen. Regardless of the time, it didn’t take long to quickly fall into step and reminisce of days past.

The cute blue elephants at the Yokohama pier were too cute to pass up a picture opportunity. Pictured here are my Aunts and Uncle and their friend, Nan, who was cruising with them.

Our first stop in Tokyo was the Tokyo Metropolitan Building. It provides a great birds eye view of Tokyo. The best part, it’s free! I joked that by taking them to the top of the building, I could show them ALL of Tokyo!

On one of our numerous train rides, Aunt Merrily asked me to take a picture of the Tokyo Subway map. It looks like a big bowl of colorful ramen.

After our trip to the top of the Tokyo Metropolitan Building, we took a break for lunch. A delicious bowl of ramen filled our bellies and fueled us for the rest of the afternoon. I know I’ve mentioned how much I love Japanese eggs. The ones in ramen are smoked. Oishi desu!

After lunch, we headed to Harajuku. We walked and shopped our way down Takeshita Street. It’s one of my favorites in Tokyo. As long as it’s not too crowded!!

During our shopping, we stopped for a break. We thought we were just getting flavored tea. To our surprise, it had little balls of tapioca at the bottom. Needless to say, the first sip was quite a surprise. We all had different strategies for enjoying the drink. It provided a humorous highlight to our tour. Sometimes you just don’t know. Now that I do, I might not stop there again.

After a little more shopping, we took the train one stop to Shibuya. First stop in Shibuya is always at the Hachiko Statue. Hachiko is remembered for his loyalty. He walked everyday with his person to Shibuya Station. One day his person never came back. He had died of a heart attack. Hachiko lived the rest of his life at Shibuya Station waiting for his person to return.

No trip to Tokyo is complete without walking through Shibuya Crossing several times.

We stopped for an afternoon coffee at Starbucks for a chance to watch the scramble. We were lucky to see an almost poo brown bus pass through.

By this point, it was time to return my family to the cruise ship. One last train ride!

It wasn’t without a little bit of humor at the end. Nan’s train card didn’t have sufficient funds to exit. Unfortunately, I had already exited. She had to request the assistance of the station master. We were laughing so hard when he popped out of the wall!!

It was a a great day filled with laughs and adventure. It was great to share one of my favorite cities with my family. Simultaneously, it was really fun to reconnect and reminisce. Hearing stories of their travels and retelling stories about my grandparents warmed my heart. It was such a grand and special day. I couldn’t have asked for more – well, maybe a little bit more time together!

Time Out Tokyo

Jet lag worked in our favor for our Sunday plans. We planned to get out of the house early Sunday morning and begin our day at Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden. I wanted to share the beautiful Sakura in the National Garden with both Dave and the Thompsons. I also knew the garden would become very busy. We arrived about a half hour after it opened and there were already many people prepped for Hanami.

We enjoyed walking through the garden. Yet again, we were lucky with more beautiful weather.

As we walked, we enjoyed the opportunity to view so many Sakura still in bloom.

After leaving the gardens, we stopped for lunch and then caught the train to Harajuku. As many times as we have been to Harajuku, I have never it seen it so crowded. This was the train ride to Harajuku.

The girls made a brief stop to purchase cat ears. Because, Japan.

At one point, about half way down Takeshita Street, the crowd came to a complete standstill. We ended up having to push our way out and slip down a side street.

The crowd left us weary and in need of a break from the crowd. We decided to walk to Shibuya instead of riding another crowded train. It was actually an enjoyable and somewhat entertaining walk.

After the crowd at Harajuku, Shibuya didn’t seem too crazy!

From Shibuya Crossing, we took the train to Gumyoji. I wanted Jennifer (and everyone else) to experience Yozakura. It was yet again, a beautiful evening.

These two! Candy covered strawberries dipped in sugar.

We caught one last train home. It was a long day for the first day of a Julia tour. For the record, I think the kids won this round.

Kawaii Monster Cafe

The first time I went to Harajuku, I saw the Kawaii Monster Cafe and knew I would need to make a visit.

I made several inquiries to friends who had visited. Their feedback, over priced and average food, caused me to push this towards the bottom of my list of things to do. However, if the situation presented itself, I knew I would seize the chance to go. A couple weeks ago, Katie and I decided to take Virginia and her friend, Kailey once school was out. We met on the train and enjoyed the trip together. Check out the girls and their outfits. They created them themselves! Kawaii!

Katie was able to make us reservations at 11:30. We were the first group seated! Talk about head of the line privilege!

Before being seated, you have a choice of where you would like to sit. Virginia and Kailey selected the Mushroom Box for us.

We ordered our lunch set. Our lunch set included a main dish, drink, and soft cream and cost $27 each! Yes, a little expensive. It was surprisingly delicious. I had low expectations based on reviews and I was pleasantly surprised. Katie and I each ordered the Teriyaki Chicken Rice bowl and the girls each ordered chicken and waffles.

The soft cream was well, kawaii!

The restaurant had so much kawaii. I mean so much. From the rotating cake stage, to the ceiling, the tables, and even the bathroom!

The chandelier and sink in the bathroom. Those are bouncy balls!

Plus, there was a show. A bit of a song and dance. The huge kawaii character was indeed kawaii!!

I took a video of the show. There is so much going on and there are only three characters! I apologize for the quality of the video. It’s hilarious and worth watching regardless.

No trip to Harajuku with a kid is complete without a cotton candy mountain. Two, please, for these kawaii girls! Thank goodness for wet wipes.

Virginia and Kailey also worked on their modeling poses by the Harajuku Kawai clock and pink Christmas tree!

It was a fun afternoon. I would definitely go back for a special occasion. Like if a friend visits with her daughters. I’m glad I was able to go with the girls. I don’t think Dave would have been keen on a date night here.

Day Two – Tokyo Tourists

After an amazing day at Tokyo Disneysea and a good night sleep at a Disney Resort Hotel, I planned for us to take the long way home via Tokyo. Layla placed Pizza de Michele at the top of her “must go to” list during her visit. So, we went for lunch. 

The staff was so friendly and allowed us to take pictures while we waited for our pizza. They even let Layla help cook! 

It was delicious! Check out that pizza! 

One final shot of the kawaii jack-o-lantern pizza. 

Here’s more great news. I had train books ready for Nina and Noah when they arrived. We were able to start their stamp collecting as we explored Tokyo!! I was even able to get a few new ones! 

After lunch, we went to Shibuya Crossing. Here we saw the Hachiko Statue and crossed through the crossing three times! Yay, tourists! 

After collecting another station stamp and a couple Hello Kitty stamps, we headed to Harajuku. We stopped for the mandatory Takeshita tourist photo. Do you see the spelling mistake on the marquee? Wabi-sabi in real life! 

Our first stop in Harajuku was at Cafe Mocha, a fancy cat cafe. Nina and Noah put cat cafe high on their “must do” list. I’ve been wanting to visit this cat cafe because it looks pretty cool from the street. We planned to stay 20 minutes. It easily turned into a 30 minute visit. We just needed a little more time to give all 16 cats enough love. 

This cute kitty reminded Layla, Nina, and Noah of their cat Simba. Kawaii! 

Perhaps the furriest cat in Japan! 

Cat in a bowl. 

The cafe had two rooms connected by a hallway. It was decorated in an Alice in Wonderland theme. 

Cat ears were available if you felt felined… I mean inclined. We did. 

Treats were available for purchase so you could feed the cats. The cats went crazy for the lollipop! We asked when we were leaving what it was made of. They were frozen chicken broth lollipops! Who knew? 

My favorite kitty was Pumpkin. He was a real life Grumpy Cat. Although he did seem a little happy to lick the lollipop! 

We had to tear the kids out of the cat cafe. We reminded them there was still cotton candy to eat and a toy store to shop! 

After a quick stop for a pair of cat ears, we made our way to the cotton candy place – Totti Candy Factory. 

Let me make a promise to you. When you visit me with your kids, I will spoil them with a HUGE mountain of cotton candy. 

All I ask for in return is a cotton candy face plant photo! This was a highlight to my day!! Pure sugar happiness. 

We finished walking down Takeshita street (so much kawaii) and worked our way to Kiddy Land. 

Kiddy Land is a four story toy store in Harajuku. It has every imaginable Japanese and U.S. toy. From Star Wars to Hello Kitty. 

We shopped until we dropped. On Pusheen! 

By the time we made it home the train count was up to seven. Seven different trains in one day! Some were pretty crowded. Especially, during rush hour. Nonetheless, we were all smiles! 

I had a great time sharing the Tokyo experience with this crew. They were flexible, inquisitive, and excited! Once again, I want to give photo credit to Layla for helping me document our day. And props to Dave for having dinner ready for us when we finally got home at 8:00pm! 

Tokyo Shopping

Dave and I went up to Tokyo on Sunday for two reasons.

1. Pizzeria da Michele for lunch.

2. I needed to go shopping!

Since we weren’t running a marathon the next day, like the last time we enjoyed a pizza lunch at Pizzeria da Michele, we shared a small caprese salad and a pizza. The pizza was incredible.

After our lunch, we went to Harajuku for my “American” shopping. I wanted to go to GAP for a few staples for an upcoming trip. I was able to find just what I needed!

As we were walking around, I mentioned to Dave that I have bought more GAP clothing in the past year living in Japan than I have in the past five years living in the U.S. The style is classic and more importantly, they have American sized clothes.

I did make one super fun purchase. I’ve seen summer hats with cat ears on a couple of people. Dave found me one on Takeshita street! I love it!

Dave was quite the sport as we walked around. Harajuku is always crowded and more so on a Sunday. I snapped this picture as we started walking down Takeshita street.

When you visit, we will definitely walk around the Harajuku area. Let’s just try to avoid the Sunday crowd!!

Laforet Grand Bazar

The first semester ended yesterday for Yokosuka DOD schools. Today and tomorrow are teacher work days. What is a better place to spend days off with kids than in Harajuku? Oh, wait… Kids? Hmmm… Fortunately, Dina agreed to share her sweet girls and we all ventured up together on the train!

Probably my favorite moment of the day was shortly after we took this picture.


I (jokingly) told the girls that our Kimono appointment was at noon. They both looked at me as I continued to tell them, I scheduled an appointment for all of us to have a kimono fitting and photo shoot.  The look Dina’s oldest daughter, a teenager, gave her was priceless! From there, the joke only escalated and morphed into an inconceivable Japanese kimono fairy tale. It was hilarious.

We walked down Takeshita street and worked our way to Dominique Ansel Bakery for lunch. On our way, we passed this spectacle. A HUGE group of balloons!

Not only was there a huge thing of balloons, there were a lot of Japanese standing in a long line and a cute little American girl wearing cat ears! Kawaii!

Turns out, the spectacle was actually a very well known sales event. According to my research, the Japanese flock to Harajuku for the semi-annual Grand Bazar sales. The sale includes a six-story complex (plus vendors on the street) with many different well-known Japanese brands. The event offers drastic discounts and amazing bargains if you are willing to stand the crowds.

Knowing we would not have much luck finding our size, we continued on our way to lunch. We thought the girls would enjoy seeing and drinking the blooming hot chocolate at Dominique Ansel Bakery. Plus, I wanted to try the lobster roll.

The lobster roll was good. The one I had at Luke’s was better.

After lunch, we spent about an hour and a half wandering around a five-story toy store called Kiddy Land. They had a wide variety of Japan characters and many American. Sadly, no Neko Atsume!

As we walked back towards Takeshita Street, we passed the Laforet Grand Bazar again. This time, the main character was on the street! Seriously. Soak in the number of balls this guy is wearing/carrying. Each time someone asked to have a picture taken with him, he asked, “which ball do you want?” So, bizarre.

Hopefully, the picture is not too grainy but, you really needed to see the details of the makeup on his face.

I laugh each time I look at this one! Her face, his face! Her height, his height! Too, funny. He was definitely not Japanese. However, I think I detected a slight Wisconsin accent.

When you visit, Harajuku is an absolute must! I can’t promise the Bazar but, I can promise the bizarre!


Purikura (pronounced pu-ree-ku-ra) is the shortened common name for Purinto Kurabu meaning Print Club. Purikura are Japanese photo booths that enable the users to take digital pictures with a twist.

Purikura photo booths can be found in shopping malls, arcades and of course, Harajuku. Yesterday we stopped in one while walking around Takeshita Street. The purikura was in the basement of one of the buildings on Takeshita Street. It had about 12 different booths to choose from. This is the one we selected.

Check out the close up… so weird and funny. Something was lost in translation, obviously.

For only ¥400, the six of us were able to cram together into the Japanese sized photo booth and have 6 silly pictures taken.

The purikura photo booths have image editing features that wash out skin tones giving the person smoother, lighter and blemish free skin. Also, there is a feature that will enlarge a person’s eyes making them look like an anime character. The pictures can also be enhanced with decorations using a stylus before the pictures are printed.

A few close-up pictures of the editing and decorating.

In the purikura there was also Gacha. The Gacha were all boy bands!

The experience was yet another opportunity to enjoy a fun and funny aspect of Japanese culture. I can’t wait to take you during your visit. I’m giggling just thinking about it!!


I went to Harajuku with my neighbor and several other spouses to celebrate her birthday. Harajuku is the common name for the area spreading away from the Harajuku Station in the Shibuya ward of Tokyo.

Harajuku is known internationally as a center of Japanese youth culture and fashion. Most recently, Gwynn Stefani has helped to promote the area. Harajuku is “kawaii” overload. There are many shopping options. Everything from big name retailers like Nike, American Eagle, Gap, Chanel and Ralph Lauren to smaller, youth-oriented, independent boutiques. There are also lots of restaurants and cafés. Not only coffee cafes, I counted three cat cafes and an owl cafe. 

Our first stop was the Dominique Ansel Bakery. There are three bakeries worldwide. New York, Paris & Tokyo. They are famous for their “blooming cocoa.” The marshmallow is cut into a cute shape and then set into a ring of chocolate. The ring of chocolate melts once it is placed in the hot cocoa, causing the marshmallow to appear to bloom. 

Marshmallows in a ring of chocolate

Hot Cocoa

Finished product- blooms in cocoa

To accompany our cocoa, we enjoyed lime custard cronuts. Yummmmmmm

Takeshita Street is the main boutique area of Harajuku. There was so much going on…

We walked off our breakfast in order to make room for cotton candy. Magic Mountain Cotton Candy. It was ridiculous. So many layers! 

And as a result, it was ginormous! 

How about this little cutie! 

Harajuku is on my list of must return and on Julia’s tour when you visit. If we are lucky we might see a “Harajuku Girl” or boy… 

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