One of my favorite (and later, least favorite…) days in the entire trip!! Good stuff first:
What’s a trip to Japan without wearing an authentic Japanese kimono? Of course, buying a new, authentic kimono will run you AT LEAST 300,000 yen. And realistically, it won’t ever be worn because there are a million steps to wear one correctly and of course I wouldn’t have an occasion to wear a kimono anywhere at home! So I planned for us to rent kimonos, a tour guide to walk us to Meiji Shrine, and experience Japanese tea ceremony, from a shop called Sakaeya Kimono.
Originally the appointment was for all four of us: brother, sister, cousin, and me, but things changed once my brother broke his arm really badly in an accident. He would be okay to travel, but it’d be very painful for him to get dressed in the kimono. So he opted out and my cousin followed suit. Those boys really weren’t very enthusiastic about the whole idea in the first place but I really wanted some photos of my brother in a kimono!! haha
Anyway, the kimono rental with walk to Meiji Shrine and tea ceremony and photoshoot was incredibly affordable, especially since we technically paid for rental for 11am to until 5pm of the day. It’s only 9000 yen (approximately 90 USD) and one of the best experiences ever!!
So that morning my sister and I woke up early to do each other’s hair. Traditionally, the hair is styled up when wearing kimono. We did the best we could and were pretty happy with it (tip: bring your hair straightener and hair curler. It’s worth the hassle because then you will look extra kawaii in your vlogs and pictures LOLOL). If you have no sister you can trust with your hair or you don’t want to risk looking ugly (one of my curls straightened itself out and it makes me sad to see hahaha), the kimono shop offers a hair styling deal with a hair salon close by in Harajuku.
We walked to Shibuya Station from our apartment, hopped on the train and got off at Harajuku Station. It’s like a 3 minute ride haha. We walked to the kimono shop and met Kahori-san, who is the loveliest woman ever. She runs the kimono shop all by herself! Kahori-san told us that before, her mother used to run the shop. She also said that after her shop was featured in a news article, it became very very busy. It’s true haha she got like three phone calls while she was working with us. Don’t worry, though, she still gave us all her attention!! Her English is pretty much perfect. And the air conditioning in the shop is really strong LOLOL which is a very good thing, considering how hot it is in the summer.
Putting on the kimono takes about 20 minutes. All you have to do is just stand there. She will do all the work, after you pick out your kimono and your obi (belt. tip: choose a contrasting color).
Since it’s summer, we were choosing our kimono from the traditional summer kimono, or yukata. They’re more lightweight silk than regular kimono I suppose, but to us it still felt like we were all bundled up. There’s a few undergarments and belts and cloth pieces that go into the process. You can see in the vlog that will be at the bottom of the post.
I let my sister choose first, and she picked a pink yukata with a cream obi. I chose a cream yukata with a blue obi. I remember Kahori-san suggested I wear a red obi but I just really liked the blue one. She liked the combination too so I felt reassured lolol.
The socks are called “tabi.” You have to wear these socks so you can wear the special sandals. When you book your kimono rental online, you are required to submit your measurements so that Kahori-san can pull out which kimono will fit you. I suggest that you do what we did and measure ourselves for everything she asks for (waist, bust, hip, height, foot size) all in centimeters. Kahori-san has a bunch of hair accessories you can borrow to wear for the day. My sister and I are wearing some. If you stop by Daiso on Takeshita-dori (really close to the kimono shop), you can pick up hair accessories from there as well for only 100 yen each.
Kahori-san taught us how to pose when wearing yukata. Apparently you don’t show your thumbs. I messed up with my right hand in here LOLOL but it’s okay. She gave us a few pointers and then her friend, Yoshi-san, came to take us on our tour of Meiji-shrine. It’s a ten minute walk from the shop to the entrance gate of the shrine.
Here are some pics from our trek into Meiji Shrine:
Here we are at the torii gate. It took us 10 or so minutes to walk to this entrance gate. It’s pretty hard to walk in the little sandals! Do not underestimate the walk haha it’s do-able though!
We borrowed the little bags from Kahori-san.
The fans are also included in the rental. Here we are posing in front of a gigantic wall of sake barrels. Yoshi-san gave us a whole spiel about the history about them but I forgot everything lol sorry!! I know that they’re an offering though.
So to my right there is a purifying area where you are supposed to purify your hands and mouth before entering the actual shrine. Make sure to watch the vlog to see how to do it!
They sell wooden tablets, if I remember correctly, that’s what that stand behind is us for. You need them for….
These things! We are standing in front of Ema Votive Tablets, made out of wood, that you write special personal prayers on and hang them up. Every day, priests will offer them to the gods.
It costs $5 for a tablet. Or you can write on a piece of paper and put it in an envelope and drop it in the box we are standing beside.
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
And that is precisely what we did! Check out our sandals btw.
After this we did a prayer at the offering hall and threw coins into it. There are no photos, because Yoshi-san was showing us how to do the ritual, but there’s video from our GoPro. Make sure you watch the vlog haha.
Now we are on the way back towards Takeshita-dori and the kimono shop.
The scenery is absolutely beautiful. If you are wearing yukata to the shrine, people WILL stop you for photos. After a while we got too tired and hot so Yoshi-san told them no whenever we were asked.
And back we go.
We walked back to the shop after this and Yoshi-san left and Kahori-san performed a traditional Japanese tea ceremony with us. There are no photos of this but it’s ALL in the vlog. It’s a beautiful ceremony and I’m so glad we were able to experience it firsthand!
After that, Kahori-san took some photos of us in the shop.
We got to pose with her tea ceremony things!
Fun fact: my skin got really bad in Japan because I was sweating so much all the time. lol
Look at how beautifully the obi is tied in the back. There is a ton of padding in there to make it stay like that.
The kimono hanging next to me is a wedding kimono. Many couples who are engaged or just married book kimono rentals with Sakeya Kimono. If I ever get married, I’m definitely going to Japan for my future honeymoon, and I’m SO going to book a photoshoot in the super formal kimono with my future groom. hehe
Omg my sister is so pretty.
So we took a million pictures until we were satisfied. We had the option to wear the yukata all day until 5pm but it’s very tiring to wear kimono because the obi is tight and forces you to have good posture, and since there are so many layers, it’s very hot. So we decided to change right after the photoshoot.
Then we were off to explore Takeshita-dori with all its shops and everything! We met up with our cousin and brother, who told us that the shopping here is AMAZING. We were stoked to start shopping but first…food.
We went to Lotteria, which is a fast food chain. You know, burgers, fries, soda. Except they taste SO DELICIOUS LOLOLOL you can see us freak out over fast food in the vlog.
My meal came with a melon soda float. It was so good. Melon soda is so good.
My outfit of the day. Dressed for comfort. You see a ton of cute girls all dressed up around Harajuku. Guys, too! Saw lolita and neo-lolita girls and a lot of punk guys. Super fun.
Only in Japan would a shop that has an “angelic pretty” aesthetic use these freaky rabbit heads for their mannequins. lmao
Good advice from a t-shirt
Okay this is just hilarious. I regret not buying this lol
My brother spotted this in a store and wanted to get them for his friend who’s kind of big but the sizes were too small, even in size XL. LOL the penguin one is so cute.
My brother liked these hats.
We shopped for hours. I bought shoes and clothes and anime keychains. Everything was reasonably priced. It rained and got even more humid and since it was hot, we felt extra gross haha. My cousin bought an umbrella for 600 yen and then it stopped raining immediately HAHAHA.
Then my brother and cousin walked us to Kiddy Land, a toy store with multiple floors.
Half of a floor was entirely Snoopy merchandise. This is the door to the elevator.
I don’t collect figurines (gave all mine to my younger cousin. So proud of her for being into One Piece too), but it was cool to see all the ones they had on display.
Tons of anime merchandise of all kinds. A whole section is dedicated to Sailor Moon, One Piece, Dragon Ball Z, and Pokemon. There’s also a Gudetama section. I bought a Gudetama shirt, tissue box, and notepads.
Cool Gundam figurine?
My brother bought a lot of One Piece merchandise for his friends. Some puzzles from Kiddie Land and some shirts that I model in the vlog lol.
This puzzle was awesome and the FRAME! Ugh so cool!!! but the frame was sold out. Otherwise I’d be like TAKE MY MONEYYYY
I saw this and said, “wow I can’t believe they’re selling damaged merchandise. Just look at the state Goku’s clothes are in.” and my sister told me to shut up HAHAHAH
My cousin bought these super cool wooden puzzles. He got a pagoda one for his brother. I asked him on Christmas Eve 2015 if he finished it and he said it’s 20% done LOL he said it’s too hard but he’ll get it done eventually. The puzzles do look really tough to do but they look super intricate and cool! You can see in the vlog.
Then we went to a random restaurant because they served pizza and my brother is a pizza fiend. It’s called Wolfgang Puck.
My sister and I shared this chicken sandwich. My cousin got garlic fries. And my brother got a pizza. It was really good. He gave me a slice lol.
Anyways that was the end of the day. We went home to the apartment and got ready for bed.
And that’s when shit happened.
So I know it seems from the vlogs and the pictures that we were having the time of our lives. But in reality I was feeling really upset at the same time.
For MONTHS before the trip, I had done so much research and planning. I wanted us to eat at the best reviewed restaurants, shop at the coolest places, and do the craziest things in Japan. I put together an itinerary on Excel, planning each day down, hour-by-hour. I booked the flights, made the appointments for our hair makeovers, bought everyone’s Disneyland and Disney Sea tickets, arranged for the kimono rental, booked the AirBnB, and learned how to get Pasmo cards and use the train station. And it was thanks to my friend Lanna who taught us how to use Google maps and warned us that Yelp doesn’t have anything in Japan.
About a month before we left for Japan, I sent my itinerary to my cousin and showed my siblings everything. I asked them for their input and their opinions and ideas and asked if they wanted to take anything off or do something else so I could add it. My cousin emailed me back and said it looked good. My brother and sister said they were down for what I had planned for us so far.
Once we arrived though, my cousin kept saying things that felt like personal attacks towards me. He said that the restaurants I picked sucked, and that he couldn’t eat anything. I told him sorry but obviously it was my first time eating at the restaurant too, I was just going off of online reviews, and told him he could pick the restaurant for the next day’s meals. He would respond angrily and say, “No, YOU do it. I don’t want to spend time looking it up.” OKAY, then don’t complain? At least let us enjoy our food and don’t point at our plates and say “ew that’s gross” while we’re eating them? Kind of a bastie move.
The apartment I booked on AirBnB was very small, but I figured it’d be fine because it was in the middle of everything we wanted to do in Tokyo. My brother and cousin did nothing but complain about it. “It’s too small” “the air conditioning is too weak” “the instructions are in Engrish” “the toilet is too low” and “the internet is slow” and “the furniture is all from Ikea” were just a few of their complaints. But it really irked me when they said “god, why did you pick this place? Nice job.” IF YOU CARE SO MUCH WHY DIDNT YOU HELP ME BOOK IT? All they said to me when I was browsing AirBnB places and sent them the link to the apartment listing was, “yeah that looks fine, go ahead and book it.” So why was I the only one to blame? anyway all of their complaints to me were minor. We barely spent any time in the apartment. It was just a place to hold our luggage and have a place to sleep and shower at night. So I was really upset when they blamed ME for this.
My sister had gone ballistic at me earlier this day because I had accidentally left her GoPro on for a couple minutes. I’d done it once before but she didn’t say anything about it so I figured it wasn’t a huge deal. The second time I did it on accident she full-on screamed at me. I was really taken aback. And also since the beginning of our trip, she would hold my Pasmo card because my Kate Spade purse took forever to open. So before we got on a train, she’d hand me my Pasmo card, and I’d scan it and hold it. In my head I was thinking “I’ll hold it cause I have to scan it again when I get off the train.” But to my sister, even if the train ride is only 3 minutes, she expected me to hand it right back to her to put away in her wallet and purse. So she would yell at me if I held onto the Pasmo card for 1 minute after scanning it. It kept happening though because that was just my habit. I admit I was a repeat offender but I really didn’t understand why she was SO mad about it.
Then it happened…
(backstory first, cue the flashback music)
I am really close to my siblings. I mean, obviously, we were all on a trip overseas together. My brother is older than me by 4 years and he is the best brother ever. When he was a senior in high school, I was a freshman in high school. I remember on the first day of high school he showed me where my classes were so that I wouldn’t get lost (my worst nightmare lol). Then he got his first car and we drove together to school and even though I had to wake up earlier I was really happy. We went to the same college for 2 years and those years were super fun because he drove me to class and we took a few classes together and once I got creeped on on campus by an old man and I called my brother and he came to save me LOL.
The thing is, my brother almost never calls me by my name though. He always calls me names like Fatty and Ugly and some worse names….haha. He tells me I look gross when I put on makeup and says my outfits look like crap. Once I just got a haircut and I asked him, “notice anything different?” and he said, “yeah, your fat belly got fatter.” HAHAHA SO MEAN. Another time I said “don’t I look so cute?” and he said “no. I look cute. I’m the cutest of them all.” LOLLOL. So my brother acts mean and rude but I know he really cares about me because of the things he’s done to show it. Actions, I guess, not words, are how he shows his brotherly feelings? lol sounds cheesy. Anyway that’s just how he is.
So keep this in mind when I detail the INCIDENT.
We all got back to the apartment, tired from a long and fun day in Harajuku. We had ice creams and drinks and onigiri from combini. We were all happy with our purchases and my sister and I were so pleased with the kimono rental and trip to Meiji Shrine. Nothing could bring me down!
Except I was feeling bad because my cousin didn’t eat anything but an order of garlic fries for dinner cause he said the food was “too expensive and didn’t look good” at Wolfgang Puck. My siblings and I all enjoyed our Japanese-ized Italian food…and we knew some places would be more expensive than others. But the thing was we read the menu before entering the restaurant and my cousin said it was fine when we went in. And he said he was starving still after dinner, but then he didn’t buy any snacks or food at 7-Eleven when we stopped by on our way to the apartment from the train station.
And I had just done the thing where I held onto my Pasmo card, so I just got chewed out by my sister.
It didn’t help that we forgot to leave the air conditioner on when we left so the apartment wasn’t cool when we walked in. Since we didn’t know how to use the A/C correctly, it was a struggle to turn it on and control it. My brother and cousin complained like crazy about the temperature. I said everyone else could shower before me, so I showered last.
I said something like “omg that was such a fun day. The kimono rental was super fun!” and my brother replied something like “gay. that’s stupid.”
IT JUST PISSED ME OFF SO MUCH.
He didn’t have to do the kimono rental, so why did he have to rain on my parade for?? I was so done with his shit, with the shit everyone was giving me. I felt so unappreciated and annoyed that I put so much work into the trip, and during the trip too with my navigation and train scheduling, and all anyone did was COMPLAIN COMPLAIN COMPLAIN.
I picked up my phone, looked up the international number for United Airlines, and asked them for a flight home.
They put me on hold. And the whole time my brother was yelling at me, saying “why do you want to go home early? Why are you making an international call? It costs more!” and stuff.
I was on hold for 30 minutes and then I gave up. I hung up, walked into the kitchen/area outside the bathroom to get away from my brother’s yelling, closed the paper-thin door, and FaceTime-audio-called my mom.
It was like 9AM in California and I knew my parents would still be sleeping. My mom picked up right away. and without planning it, I started sobbing. Loudly.
Of course everyone in the other room could hear me. I was literally sitting down on the floor in front of the door. I cried and cried and said “Please, Mom, I want to go home so bad, but I can’t buy a ticket home because they put me on hold for like ever and it costs me money because I’m calling from Japan and I’m not happy because everyone’s being mean and I miss home and I hate my brother and sister now!!!! HELP ME!!!”
To my mom’s credit, before she heard me say that I wanted to go home because of how everyone was treating me, she immediately agreed to buy me a plane ticket home no matter how much it cost. I think I scared her with my crying. I scared myself, actually. I was just so overwhelmed with feeling picked on and unappreciated that all my anger and sadness just exploded. Like it was four days of wanting to scream, “I’m SORRY your entire vacation was meticulously planned out by such an incompetent idiot (a.k.a. me), you ungrateful jerks!!” Anyway, so my brother opened the door and said “What are you doing?!?! Why are you crying?? Whatever, let me talk to mom.” I yelled at him to call her from his own phone (lol) and then my cousin came in and said “Let’s take a walk. yeah?” I remember yelling “I DON’T WANT TOOOOOOOOOOO!” and then continuing my crying jag.
I know it sounds like I was being a baby but I was so emotional because it felt like no one understood how hard it was to please everyone on the trip and that everyone was against me. Why was it even my job to make everyone happy? Why is it my fault if someone doesn’t like a restaurant or activity I chose for us to do? it’s NOT. But that’s what they kept telling me. And obviously that was NOT an enjoyable experience for me so I wanted OUT.
Then my mom did what moms do best. She calmed me down. She told me that it was going to be okay. She listened to all the reasons that I said made me want to go home. She told me that I couldn’t run away from my problems because she knew I could deal with them. She gave me advice on how to deal with them and then told me to keep in mind their perspectives–my brother had no idea how I was feeling and didn’t know that if he acted fake-mean like he always did that it would annoy me or make me feel bad. She told me to consider that my cousin may feel like an outsider a bit, because it was us three siblings and then him. My mom reminded me that my sister is younger and that she and I are inseparable and so I should be patient with her and remember that we’re best friends. It made sense to me but I was still crying.
Then my mom said that my brother was calling her on my dad’s phone, so she handed her phone to my dad so he could talk to me while my brother talked to my mom on my dad’s phone (omg so complicated. Also my dad doesn’t have an iPhone so the call was expensive because we couldn’t use wi-fi to make the call ugh).
My dad gave me some pretty good advice too. Even though right when I got on the phone with him, I started crying hard again. Haha. I told him, “Dad, you always promised me, just in case, that you would pick me up and take me home no matter where I was, whenever I asked. I’m asking you now!! Pick me up and take me home!” He said in Vietnamese, “I know I promised you that, and it’s still true, but it’s not as easy as me getting into the car and driving to get you. You’re in a different country, and I know you’re upset, but it’s a situation that you can handle. No one’s hurting you on purpose, and everyone involved is your family. You can’t just walk away from them forever. You can fix things with them. This is your first time away from me and your mom, and you still have 2 more weeks to go. You are going to have to learn how to deal with them and have a good time for the remaining days you have in Japan. This is your chance to show me and your mom that you’re mature enough to do that. I’ll talk to your brother and make sure he doesn’t hurt your feelings again. After that though, you’re on your own. Okay?”
Omg. Typing all that made me all teary-eyed. I really love my mom and dad so much. My mom tells me she loves me all the time and hugs me a lot, and sometimes she still tucks me in bed and tells me stories at night. But my dad is not very affectionate, and to hear him say all that was just really a huge moment for me. I mean, I’m lucky because I always knew my dad loves me. It’s not like I was ever waiting for him to tell me that or anything. It’s just to hear my dad, thousands of miles away, wake up and take this call and not freak out that his daughter almost hysterically crying, try so hard to make me feel better with those encouraging words…It’s a big deal. So I took both my mom’s and dad’s advice to heart.
And so my brother got off the phone with our mom and talked to our dad and I talked to our mom again who told me that my brother promised to be more considerate of my feelings. She also told me that he cried and said that he didn’t know he hurt my feelings in the first place, he was just teasing me like he always did, and that he felt so bad that he made ME feel so bad that I wanted to go home when he thought that I was having so much fun. And she said that he said that he was really sorry.
If you know my brother, he’s this tough guy. Before he broke his arm in the accident, he went to the gym like crazy. He ran with a tough crowd in high school where he was one of the only guys who took AP and honors classes hahahah. When he went away to school, he told me crazy stories about parties that ended up contributing a lot to how I chose not to drink, party, do drugs, all that stuff. He calls me names and tells me he hates me and that I’m ugly. He apologized to me…and I could see that he’d been crying. Then he told me he was going to step out with our cousin so that I could talk to my sister and calm down.
My sister is a girl, obviously, and she’s my best friend, so we made up easily. She just told me she didn’t know how I was feeling. I explained to her and she said she was sorry for having no idea that I felt attacked, pretty much. She understood why I felt that way after she heard my explanation and told me she didn’t want to make me feel bad too. So we made up and after a while my brother and cousin came back and my brother asked me if I was okay and I said yes and we all went to sleep.
After that whole ordeal, I realized how I basically was a completely different person. I felt like I could deal with anything now. I was in a foreign country where the only bits and pieces of the language that I knew was from watching anime. I never took Japanese in high school or college, and the only anime I’m into is shounen anime so most of my vocabulary is words like “run,” “kill,” “bastards,” “pirate,” and “justice.” Not exactly the most useful words hahaha. I had to learn how to survive and adjust my behavior according to their customs and culture and get around and not get lost or into difficult situations. I was without my mom and dad and could do whatever I wanted.
But I was with my two of my favorite people in the world, my brother and my sister, and also my cousin, and I had to understand that they’re people too, and when you spend literally all day and night with them, you learn more about them, and also about yourself. At home, if I got into an argument with my sister, we’d just leave each other alone or go into different rooms for a while. I almost never argue with my brother at home because usually at home my interactions with him are like, going to the gym, cooking him food, telling each other about our days, watching anime together with my sister. Not much room for fighting. So this was all new to me. I’m just really lucky to have siblings that I have a really close bond with, and to have parents who I can call at any time and they’d help me out in a heartbeat, but not the easy way out.
And I never regretted not buying a ticket to fly home earlier that night. Because the best part of my trip is yet to come!
TL;DR; everyone was mean to me and I was sad so I wanted to go home but my mom and dad told me to deal with it like an adult and I (kinda) did.
I know that was a huge wall of text but hey, there were a lot of cute pictures of my sister and I in yukata in Harajuku so it’s fine right? It all balances out. It was a very personal post for me to write but it happened, and I’m glad it did because I learned so much from it. So I just wanted to record everything down.
You can watch our kimono rental experience and tea ceremony and shopping in Harajuku here on the vlog! It’s one of my favorite videos of our trip!!!
Unfortunately there is a little bit of a lag in the video. My sister tried to fix it and I tried to research ways to fix it and we tried everything online but it didn’t work. Sorry! Still a good video lol.
Until next time,
P.S. The next blog post and vlog will be all about our day in Akihabara!
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Meiji-jingu (Meiji Shrine)
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Address: 6-1-9 Jingumae, Shibuya, Tokyo 150-0001, Japan
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Address: Japan, 〒150-0001 Tokyo, Shibuya, Jingumae, 1 Chome−17−1, 義富ビル1F