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We went to Tokyo to see the St. Patrick’s Day Parade! The parade takes place on Omotesando street in Tokyo, near Harajuku. It was set up by the Irish Network Japan, to introduce Irish culture to Japanese poeple. The parade has run annually since 1992 and has been growing every year.
Along with the “I Love Ireland” Festival that is held in Yoyogi park over the same weekend, it has become the largest Irish event in Asia!
When my Mum, Aunt and their friend came to Japan 6 years ago (Has it been THAT long?!) we went to the parade in all our green glory (for those who don’t know, on St. Patrick’s Day you must wear green!!) and had a fantastic time. I’m sure you could spot (or hear) the crazy Irish tourists a mile away.
The parade showcases the Irish culture which is flourishing in Japan. Groups from Toyko and all over the country participate. Irish dancers, rugby clubs, even “Oi Ocha” a Green Tea company walked in the parade this year (I think it’s because it’s green?!”. Throw in some guys in leprachaun suits, some giant Guinness beer cans, marching bands andfor some reason a Samba dance group, and you have quite a party!!
This year, I really wanted to go with hubby and Seán. The festival runs over the weekend, so we decided we would go on the Sunday, the 17th which was St. Patrick’s Day. We took the bullet train from Shizuoka station. I much prefer train journeys to car or bus journeys, and train journeys in Japan are extra special as you can marvel at the beautiful countryside, and if lucky get a stunning view of Mt. Fuji.
The bullet train is, of course, super fast and super convenient. Even the Kodama (“Echo”) which is the slowest of the many types ( There are also Nozomi “Wish”, Hikari “Light”, Mizuho “Harvest” and Sakura “Cherry Blossom”) reaches a speed of 285 km/h (175 mph). There are bathrooms, changing tables and even a room where you can nurse babies.
It took only about an hour and a half to get to Tokyo. After arriving at Tokyo Station, we got took a train on the famous Yamonote Line (which travels in a loop around all of the main Toyko spots) to Harajuku station. If you are traveling on the Yamanote Line, make sure you take a train going in the direction that will take you to your destination quickest. It goes both clockwise and anti- clockwise.
The Parade attracts 50,000 spectators each year.
There are also parades held in Kanagawa, Chiba, and Fukui Prefectures. Matsue City in Shimane Prefecture, once home to Irish writer Lafcadio Hearn who was one of the first Westerners to write about Japanese culture and its folk tales, has its own Irish Fesival too.
We are yummy Irish food from the stalls at the festival. I wanted to try Irish stew from Tokyo restaurant “Kyojin no Stewhouse” run by the lovely Irish giant Alan. (Check them out! https://youtu.be/_uPZ2e2Tvxg)
Unfortunately their food was so popular it was already sold out! But hubby got a Maggie’s Leap beer and I got a Guinness Chocolate brownie, which we both enjoyed thoroughly. We definitely want to visit the stewhouse next time we are in Tokyo.
Alan was so friendly too, he has even written a book of Irish folktales which is published in both English and Japanese!
On our second day in Tokyo, we went to a very special “limited time only” cafe in Modi (a shopping mall in Shibuya), called “Sumikkogurashi Book Cafe!”
We LOVE Sumikkogurashi.
They are cute characters (animals and..food?) who each have their own story and like to hang out in corners because they are shy. For example, the blue lizard above is called “Tokage” (Lizard), but he is actually a dinosaur in disguise. He ia afraid humans will capture him if they find out he is a dinosaur. There’s also a polar bear who doesn’t like the cold, and a ball of Tapioca that was left at the bottom of a milk tea drink (Aww..).
They are so cute, and the cafe was lovely. We had pancakes and a lunch set (omurice- ketchup and rice omelette). It was pretty good (expensive though, but you pay for the atmosphere and the chance to sit with the big cuddly Sumikkogurashi toys). Hubby got a drink with a cotton candy on top!
This was a “pop- up” limited edition cafe, of which there is almost always going on somewhere in Tokyo. This one was in MODI Shibuya, in HMV & Books. Currently running themed cafe’s include Detective Conan in Harajuku and Hello Kitty x Crayon Shinchan in Hokkaido and Nagoya (full list here https://www.dangonews.com/popup-cafe)
There are also permanent themed cafes, sich as the Pokem on cafe, Alice in Wonderland and the Kawaii Monster Cafe. There are also robot themed, ninja themed and prison themed restaurants in Tokyo.
After lunch, we took a walk around Harajuku. Harajuku is the birthplace of “Kawaii” – cute. It is always bustling with people, and the center for cute fashion (think anime characters/ lolita). Harajuku fashion is particularly popular with young girls. On Takeshita Street, you can find cute fashion stores galore, and sample the food culture of Harajuku. I am pretty sure the food you will see most is crepes! People holding crepes, colorful display os every kind of stuffed crepe imaginable, photos/ signposts advertising the best crepe shop in the vicinity. Crepes are closely followed byy Tapioca drinks, colorful ice creams and cotton candy in popularity. Harajuku is a pastel- coloured wonderland.
We really enjoyed our Tokyo trip. Getting to see the parade, eating at a cute cafe and walking around Harajuku. However, we went to Tokyo during the spring vacation, so there were crowds of children, families and young people everywhere enjoying the break. Which is great! But with a baby it’s not ideal to be winding your way through crowds. I was worried about Sean the whole time, I wondered if he would be nervous with all the people around, and was anxious someone might bump into us unexpectedly. So, personally, I would not recommend Harajuku during vacation or weekends if you habe a small baby. Unless you are willing to chance it! I just couldn’t really relax! A part of me was in fact quite relieved to return to quiet, peaceful Shizuoka.
Says the girl who has stayed in a 3000 yen capsule hotel and taken the first train home in the morning after a night out.. Shows my age, I guess! And that I’ve become a mum.
On the way back, we picked up rice balls at a shop in Tokyo Station, apparantely the absolute favorite of a member of AKB48! They were really good.