Cold rain was falling once again when we got up on Monday morning, and at first we thought we just stay in for the day. We did a couple of loads of laundry, but by early afternoon we were starting to go stir crazy so we grabbed our coats, gloves, umbrellas and our trusty canvas shopping bag and went to visit Shibuya, two stops away on our subway line, and one of Tokyo’s busiest major transit, shopping, and nightlife areas.
Our plan was to spend some time checking out the Tokyu Hands flagship store, and then head back to Shibuya station to ride one stop to Ebisu Station so we could visit the Muji store, which had been recently expanded.
Shibuya is always busy and full of people, and the fact that it was raining didn’t change that other than everyone was carrying an umbrella, so walking around was a bit of a challenge. The Japanese seemed to do it effortlessly while Brett and I struggled to not bump into others with our umbrellas. Thankfully the walk from our subway exit to Tokyu Hands was easy, and only took a few minutes.
Tokyu Hands has been called the ultimate DIY store, but it also showcases plenty of Japanese design and innovation. The flagship store has seven floors, plus two basement levels. Each of the floors (other than the basement) is divided into three levels – A,B & C – so combined with the two basement levels there are 23 floors, each dedicated to a different theme, from tools to interiors to kitchen to bathroom to paper to crafts to stationery and so forth. It can take a while to go through each floor, but it’s still a lot of fun and a good way to spend a couple of hours. We found a few things we had been looking for, like 3M Command hooks for the kitchen, an over-the-door hook for the bathroom (there are no hooks in this apartment), a notebook for Brett, and a new rice paddle for the rice cooker (the one in the house had melted and didn’t work very well). I also restrained myself in the kitchen section and only bought two small Japanese dishes (that I can use in multiple ways).
At the top of the store is a small snack bar where we took a short coffee break. Well, Brett had coffee but I decided to try a “tea float” – iced Earl Grey tea with a large swirl of soft ice cream. It was amazingly delicious and refreshing, and I will definitely be going back some day for another!
Leaving Tokyu Hands, we walked back to Shibuya station by a different route in order for Brett to experience the famous Shibuya crossing in front of the main station. After making it across we stopped in front of the station to check out the Hachiko memorial statue, hero of one of the most beloved stories in Japan. Hachiko (an Akita) used to walk to Shibuya station every day to meet his owner, a doctor, when he came home from work. Sadly, the doctor died one day while at work, but Hachiko continued to come to the station every single afternoon for 10 years to wait for the doctor. Hachiko is still honored and remembered for his perseverance, loyalty and fidelity, and the statue is a must-see for anyone visiting Shibuya. It’s a well-known place to meet someone, and these days there is usually a long line of people waiting to get their picture taken with the statue (even in the rain).
Japanese train stations are usually not merely places to get on and off, or change trains – in urban areas they are typically surrounded by large shopping districts, especially in the busier parts of the Tokyo area, like Shinjuku or Yokohama. Many larger stations have one or two levels underneath like giant shopping malls as well as stores above and around the station. Ebisu is surrounded by a huge shopping venue called Atré, consisting of eight floors with all kinds of stores, including food shops and restaurants. There is a huge escalator in front of the station that takes shoppers up to the fourth floor, where the entrance to Muji is located as well as several different food-related shops.
Our first stop in Atré was Kyo Hyahashiya, a Japanese confectionary, for one of their scrumptious matcha (powdered green tea) roll cakes, a splurge as they are not cheap. Their cakes and sweets are made in the Kyoto style and most feature matcha in some form. The roll cake is made from an incredibly light matcha sponge and filled with a rich matcha cream and a touch of red sweet bean paste – it’s my favorite Japanese cake. Besides receiving lots of bows from the staff following our purchase, our clerk also wrapped our bag in a plastic cover because it was raining – Japanese service at its best!
Brett had spotted some large cinnamon rolls in the window at the nearby Dean & Deluca store along the way, so we went back there and bought a couple of those for today’s breakfast (they were surprisingly affordable), and at the cash register we found my favorite Japanese cookies, raisin-creme sandwich, so we bought a couple of those as well. Raisin-creme sandwiches were a very popular cookie back in the early 1990s, during our second tour, but not so much these days so I am always happy when I can find them.
Our final stop for the day was the Muji store, which used to be located on one floor at the top of Atré but is now a full two stories in a newly built annex. Muji is something like a Japanese IKEA, but besides simple, stylish and affordable housewares they also carry simple, and stylish clothing and books, and have a nice food section as well. I could happily live with just about everything in Muji, but Brett and I restrained ourselves and only bought a few items from the food section.
Then it was back to Shibuya where we caught a very crowded, packed express subway back to Sangenjaya station for our short walk back to the apartment. In spite of the rain and the crowds we had an absolutely wonderful day, found things we needed, and didn’t spend much!
14 thoughts on “A Rainy Day Outing”
One of my big take-aways from your trip is the revelation of the major sweet tooth(s) you and Brett possess. I like!
LOL! Brett has a bigger sweet tooth than I do – no package of cookies is safe around him. Actually, one of the things we’ve come to appreciated while we travel is how much less sweet things are in other countries than in the U.S. and that we prefer them that way. American sweets are almost too much sweet for us these days. P.S. I actually prefer savory to sweet, like the rice crackers and such here.
So true. Whenever I travel I make sure to bring back the Euro or Japanese versions of candy so I can have friends/family here do taste tests so they can see for themselves how much sweeter our sweets are. There is an Asian store where I live that sells those savory rice crackers, thank goodness!
Back when I used to teach English, one of the top three surprising things my students discovered in the U.S. was how sweet our desserts and such are. The least liked sweet? Doughnuts! Anyway, when we were in Portland in December, Brett and I could barely stand to eat anything sweet – it was just too, too sweet.
What a perfectly entertaining afternoon! I’m so impressed that you were able to mostly browse. It must have been excruciating at times!
I saw several things I wanted to buy (excrutiating is the right word), but we don’t buy much of anything these days unless it’s consumable or tiny because we still have no way to carry it around with us! It’s an amazing deterrent to spending. Actually, we are thinking about buying some dishes while we’re here, but haven’t quite figured out how to get them back to the U.S. (and they would be too expensive to mail).
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Fun shopping 😉excursion! There’s a Muji in Portland, Oregon, but haven’t been there yet. Love your posts; keep them coming!
We had a very good time, rain and all, and were quite happy with our purchases, but we were very glad to get back home at the end of the day!
I can’t wait to visit the Muji store this summer while we’re in Portland! Friend there have been going nuts about it.
Oh, WOW. The writing area in Hands is to die for. And the tea float! And the matcha cake. And, and, and. Great pictures, as always. Thanks for taking us along on this journey! And the story of the dog waiting for his master at the train station is heartbreaking. I’ve heard variations of this over time, but had no idea where it originated.
The pens in the picture are a mere fraction of the pens available. And the colors – oh my! Almost every floor in Tokyu Hands has an amazing collection of items. I REALLY wanted to buy one of the Noguchi AKIRA lamps in the interiors section, but Brett talked me off that cliff (and the box would have fit so easily into my suitcase!).
The matcha cake is so good, so light and with that creamy filling. And that tea float – who could have guessed. That needs to become a thing in the U.S.
If you haven’t watched the movie you should, but have a BIG box of tissues next to you. Try to watch the Japanese version (with subtitles) if you can versus the one with Richard Gere. If you don’t sob your eyes out you’re not human.
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A whole floor of pens & stationery! Be still, my heart!
Going to Portland tomorrow – might have to check out Muji!
The stationery, paper and pen sections (they each have their own section) are some of my favorites at Tokyu Hands. Sadly, my favorite pen is the UniBall, which is made in Japan, but I didn’t see them the other day. Probably a good thing as I don’t think I could have stopped myself from buying several, especially if there was a big color selection.
I hope you get the chance to go to Muji – it is worth visiting!
Very interesting! Thanks for posting this. I’ve added these to my list of places to visit if I ever go back to Japan! My friend’s daughter is going there soon and I sent her your post. There is a Muji store about an hour from me that I might check out when the weather improves.
A trip to Tokyo Hands gives you a chance to see some great Japanese design, but also a chance to experience more of the real, everyday Japan versus just looking at temples, etc. (which are interesting, but there’s so much more here). And Muji – it’s just fun to walk around in there, but I love the food section!
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