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Shuffling Through Shibuya

A walk through Shibuya City, Tokyo will invariably lead through the Shibuya Scramble—the legendary street crossing that stops traffic in all directions to let throngs of people weave their way from one corner to another. It’s pure chaos especially since many people are trying to take photos as they walk, me included. (Above: View from our room in Cerulean Tower Shibuya. Below: Video of the Shibuya crossing.)

The Faithful Dog

Today we paid homage to Hachiko, a statue to commemorate the faithfulness of an Akita dog to its owner. Hachiko walked his master to Shibuya Station every working day. There, he would wait patiently until his master returned. One day Hachiko’s owner died. The dog continued to go to Shibuya Station and wait. He did this for 10 years until he, too, passed away. (Image: Some random guy. We weren't going to wait in a long line for a photo!)

We realized that we had walked past that statue many times and hadn’t seen it. People crowd around it and wait in line for a selfie. The statue is smaller than I expected, but quite nice.

Tower Records

When living in Seattle, Glen and I visited Tower Records many, many times. It was the place to go for all things music and had a large collection of classical music. Its stores closed permanently in 2006, primarily due to the rise of online streaming.

Japan, however, was different. In 2002, Tower Japan broke off as an Independent. It is still in business and walking distance from our hotel. The seven floors of music were filled with customers. We visited floors 6 and 7 which housed new and use vinyl records, classical music, jazz and rock. They also had CDs and a few cassettes. Glen purchased a Dolby Atmos version of Dark Side of the Moon. It’s a recording not available online.

The Hedgehog Cafe

Animal cafes are a big deal in Japan. Customers get to hang out with the cafe animals and sip tea or coffee. The most prevalent are cat cafes, but with Glen’s allergies, we opted for the hedgehog cafe. Each pair of customers gets assigned to a hedgehog “home.” After instructions on how to handle the critters, we washed our hands and donned gloves. We also purchased some live meal worms to feed our small critter.

Yokoma was a rather scared creature. Although she readily ate each worm we fed her, she clearly wanted nothing to do with us. We decided simply to watch her. The cafe proprietor offered to swap her out for a more mellow creature, which we appreciated. (Image: The shy one.)

The next one, Shoto, was a bit heavier and certainly mellow. Right after Glen picked him up, he curled up and went to sleep in his hands. When Glen gently place him in the cage, we offered a few meal worms, which our hedgehog gobbled up. Cafe staff posed us with Shoto. We look like a happy family, don’t we? Hedgehogs are adorable!

Note that Shoto's eyes are two different colors. One matches my shirt. The other matches Glen's!

Slurping Ramen

I spotted a ramen shop earlier, so we then set out to find it. Like every place we’ve eaten in Japan, staff speak Japanese, not English. We managed to learn that, for this restaurant, one first orders and pays through a vending machine. Then diners take the ticket to their spot at the counter and give the ticket to the chef. Thanks to Glen’s translation program, we were able to locate the dining bibs under the counter and the location of the self-serve water. We also read that the ingredients were essentially farm to table. (Image: We didn't have a wait, but a line formed while we were eating.)

The ramen was delicious and quite unlike what I’ve had before. The broth was rich and flavorful. The egg and char siu pork perfectly cooked. The noodles done to perfection. As the man to my right noisily slurped his noodles (as is the custom), I mimicked the more lady-like slurp of the woman a few seats away.

The Lion Cafe

No, this cafe does NOT have lions. It's a classical music cafe that spins old vinyl records. This was actually the first place we visited after we checked into our hotel on the previous day.

Lion Cafe has a set program every day from 3:00 PM to 7:00 PM. At other times, patrons can make requests. The cafe started in 1926. The building is old, located in a seedy section of Shibuya, but still safe. By "seedy" reviewers are referring to the strip clubs and hourly motels. (Image: Into the seedy side!)

The place has a custom sound system that must be 7 feet or more tall. It is labeled "3D Sound System." Patrons sit in tiny, old, chairs with well worn cushions and a small vintage table for beverages. With two levels to choose from, we decided on the first floor. After ordering a beverage, we sat down and did what everyone else did. Sit and listen. Before each album, the proprietor announces, in Japanese, the upcoming selection. Fortunately composers names are what they are—Beethoven, Bartok, Massenet, Bach (which is what we listened to). We were given a program in Japanese, which Glen's translation app helped to decode. (Image: Glen just down the street from Lion Cafe. It is the green sign on the left.) No photos are allowed inside, but you can see photos it here:

There are clubs like this all over Tokyo, but only this one is dedicated to classical music. There are Jazz listening clubs, R&B, and so on. Charging only for a beverage (no cover), I'm not sure how Lion Cafe can exist, but I'm glad they do.

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