Solo in Tokyo (Day 3): Exploring More of Shibuya

After my visit to the Meiji shrine, my next activity was to grab a quick lunch before going to my next location. Well I already knew where I had to go. My boss, who has been to Japan several times, recommended this takoyaki place named Gindaco Takoyaki. Thanks to Google Maps (as usual!), I saw that there’s actually a branch just across Harajuku station.

I finally found the octopus.

I love takoyaki! 😍 It has become a fad of mine to try out the different takoyaki restaurants available for me locally. So far my favorite is Onoda which I discovered when I worked in BGC. I would always eat it as my meryenda with my friends at the office (I actually miss it now huhu). Since takoyaki originated in Japan, I was really excited to finally taste this dish right where it originally came from!

I took this photo after I finished eating. Surprisingly, the line suddenly got this long!

The branch of Gindaco Takoyaki here is only a stall with a small dine-in area on the side. They have different varieties of takoyaki. I went for the original one.

Their takoyaki is bigger than the one I’m used to (Onoda is I think around 2/3 smaller than this). It looked so delicious I chomped the first one in one bite… of which I hugely regretted seconds after. The inside of the takoyaki was piping hot. I didn’t have drinks with me then, so I just chewed the whole thing down while trying not to cry in pain 😓. It sure did burn my tongue. But OMG there was actually a piece of octopus inside! I was so happy I think my soul went straight to heaven 👼. I finally experienced the tako in takoyaki 🐙!

A little traumatized to eat the rest, I just let the thing cool down for a bit before going for it. After a few more bites, I was able to actually enjoy it 😋. I really enjoyed munching on the octopus bit. In terms of taste, I think I would still prefer Onoda. If only Onoda had some octopus in it, it would already be the perfect takoyaki for me!

Time to get my first tattoo!

And so after that quick but hearty snack, I was finally enroute for my appointment to get a tattoo at Studio Muscat! I was very keen not to be late for my appointment (we know Japanese people are very particular with punctuality, just look at how their trains operate). Dave, my contact person from that studio, gave me very detailed instructions on how to get to their studio from Shibuya station. Studio Muscat is a 15-minute walk from the station. Fortunately, the directions that Dave gave to me was very easy to follow. I actually didn’t get lost (wohoo!).

Socials inside the Studio

Upon entering the studio, I saw this lady who was looking at the magazines on display at the waiting area. She had pink hair, with heavy eyeliner, nose piercings, and lots of tattoos down her arms and legs. We instinctively said hi to each other then I took one empty table across the room and settled down with my things. I felt awkward for a bit because I felt like a huge mismatch to the culture of the place 😅. A man then came from one of the rooms of the studio and gave me water (I think this was Dave, but I wasn’t able to confirm 😅). I told him I have an appointment at 3PM (it was still around 2PM at that time… I was able to get in early, whew!). Then I heard him ask the lady also, of which she replied she has an appointment at 2PM. She was accompanied by a guy there at the other table (I assumed they were a couple). The guy had yellow wide hole earrings (not sure what it’s called) and a lot of tattoos also.

Since I still had an hour, I decided to look around at the studio. There were lots of artworks displayed. There were also some books related to tattoos on the shelf.

The waiting area is just small so after just a few minutes, I was able to go through the entirety of the room. I returned to my seat and fiddled with my phone for a bit. I don’t know but after a few minutes, I went with my instincts and just approached the couple on the other table to initiate a conversation. If I was in a different setting, I think I would have been intimidated to approach them. Again, that’s the beauty of traveling solo — you get to be more open to connections with new people!

And so my opening line was — “Who is your artist?” Of which the lady replied ‘It’s Haruka.’ I asked the guy also. Apparently it was only the girl who had an appointment. I can’t remember anymore the next things I said but I knew I mentioned that I was excited because this will be my very first tattoo. I ended up transferring tables to join them as we continued to chat. They said they were from Canada and have been touring Japan since the start of the cherry blossom season (I can’t remember the guy’s name anymore, but the girl’s name is Jiness… not sure of the spelling though 😅). They’ve started their sightseeing in Osaka and was planning to go northwards following the bloom of the sakura flowers. They were also staying in Tokyo but just bought shinkansen tickets to do day trips to Osaka and Kyoto.

Surprisingly, it was very comfortable talking to them. Both of them were very friendly and warm. We talked about the sakura flowers. They showed me some of the sakura petals they collected and sealed on transparent plastic from Kyoto, which looked a deeper shade of pink compared to the pale-almost-whitish color in Tokyo. They also shared their random adventures in Japan. Apparently the guy knows some Japanese and he’s teaching his girlfriend some terms. He reached for his bag to search for a book that he said he’d be glad to give me (told him my Japanese sucked lol), because it greatly helped them in studying Japanese (he had extra copies). Unfortunately he left it at their hotel. I said it’s okay, but I was touched he’d go that lengths to give something to a stranger like me. 😃

Then our topic moved inevitably to tattoos. I told them I will be getting just a small tattoo for my first one, a sakura flower on my wrist. They proudly showed me their sakura tattoos, which were so colorful! The guy had several of them on his upper arm, and the girl had them also across her shoulders. They gave me such great pep talk on what to expect, on how the actual process would feel, and what to do for the aftercare. They told me not to worry at all because although it would indeed hurt (because it’s needles duh), I’ll be able to get through it. Then I asked them if they could still remember the first tattoo they got. It was so fun listening to their stories. The guy just got a tattoo across his whole chest a few days ago. It actually took the artist 9 hours to finish it 😱. He showed me pictures of it on his phone (it looked so colorful!). He told me the most painful was the parts near the nipples because of how sensitive the skin is there.

When it was time for Jiness to go in, the guy asked Haruka if it’s possible to also come with them to watch the tattoo process. However Haruka politely said no, and the guy kindly said of course, he understood, no worries. And so we ended up just continuing our chat while Jiness was being tattooed and me waiting for my turn also. He told me he wanted to watch because the design that Jiness chose (a fox with watercolor spots) was very unique. He has never seen a style like that and was curious on how it’s done.

They didn’t explicitly state that they were a couple, but at this point in our conversation, it became obvious. This guy adores Jiness very much! He talked how he thinks she is mentally stronger than him on the way she handles things during their Japan travels, specifically on how they receive other people’s prejudice towards their heavily-tattoed body. One instance he shared was when they were seated in a park. He distinctly saw a man look at Jiness from head to toe several times with such judgment in his eyes. He got very offended and wanted to confront this man, but Jiness calmly told him to just let it go. It’s his problem, not theirs. He shared this to me because he wants me to understand that people will make assumptions about others who have tattoos. It’s not everyone’s cup of tea, but it should not bother or disturb me, because that would be their problem, not mine.

We still were able to talk about several topics, of which I will just outline here:

  • I told him that I’m just a bit worried how people back at home will react to this. He told me that shouldn’t be a big deal. It’s not the worst. He told me when he was a waiter in a bar, he distinctly saw a man with tattoos of letters in each of his fingers that spelled out: K-I-L-L-C-O-P-S. I’m getting a beautiful kawaii flower on my wrist so I shouldn’t be worried.
  • He selects his tattoo artist very very carefully. He had one artist he really liked. This artist was always fully booked, he had to wait years to get the perfect timing to have an appointment with him. He was able to finally get his dream tattoo just a few months ago.
  • Tattoos don’t come cheap. It’s a lifetime investment so I should find for the best one out there. He said I should be wary about tattoo studios that hold sales on their services. It’s something that I’ll wear for the rest of your life, so always go after the quality of the tattoo.
  • He complimented my English speaking skills (oh thank you hihi).

After a few minutes, Asao, my artist, approached me and showed me sketches of my design in varying sizes. I went for the largest one, as Jiness’ guy (huhu really sorry I forgot your name) also gave me this tip that I shouldn’t be afraid to get larger tattoos. The bigger the tattoo, the greater the details will be on the design.

When it was my turn to go in, I bid the guy goodbye. On my way inside the studio, I actually passed by the room where Jiness was, already in the process of her tattoo. She saw me and happily said “good luck!”

The moment of truth: pain and needles

The rooms in the studio were only divided by curtains. There were other customers being serviced on the other rooms and I could hear the sounds of the needle machines. 😱 Upon reaching our room, Asao assisted me in taping the design sketch on the wrist area. I adjusted it on where I wanted its exact location to be. After that, Asao requested me to lie down on the bed (I actually forgot to take off my shoes first and Asao politely asked me to). Then she started to prepare her equipment. I saw her getting the dyes and testing how to mix the colors. She even asked me to confirm if I was okay with the shade of red. After a few more minutes, the tattooing process finally began.

I can’t seem to find the best words to fit the description of that sensation: it hurt, but in a good way. Asao would press the needle machine on my skin, then will lift it up after a few seconds, then will wipe the area with a cloth (based on videos I saw on Youtube, it’s to remove the blood oozing out of the skin 😵). It only hurts when the needles touch my skin but it immediately goes away when lifted. I was just so happy that I got to have a female tattooist to do my very first tattoo, because I knew I would be more comfortable with that setup. The studio must have noted that it was my first tattoo because honestly it didn’t hurt that much (maybe Asao was just very gentle). I wanted to get a glimpse on what’s happening on my wrist, but I couldn’t get sight of my skin while Asao was working. I just did quick glimpses in between whenever Asao turns to get something from her table with the dyes and other equipment. I saw that she first did the outlines of the flower and the note, followed by coloring the petals, and then outlining the pistils.

The whole process lasted for an hour. The flower was a bright red, but Asao said that it will lighten after a few days. Then she asked if it’s okay to take a photo of my tattoo (of course!). Then I went to this other room with a black backdrop and a guy took photos of my wrist with his DSLR (as of this writing, still waiting if they would post it on their Instagram page).

When I went back to the waiting area, Jiness and the guy were no longer there. With a melancholic feeling, I collected my umbrella and jacket which I left at our table earlier.

They wrapped my freshly-tattooed wrist with some bands to protect from getting infected. They also gave me a print out of instructions and a small tube of ointment for the aftercare.
With my tattoo artist Asao. It was a surprise treat to actually get to have a photo with her. I was meaning to ask David if I could stay for a bit after the session because I wanted to take more photos of the studio. He interpreted it to me wanting a photo with Asao. I wouldn’t have asked for it (uh I’m shy) but yes of course, I would be delighted! So yeah, so happy it turned out this way. 😀

This is my tattoo a few days after the session, still in the healing process (left) and my tattoo more than a month after (right).

This design has a meaning behind it, of course. I actually had my whole explanation drafted already, but I think I would want to keep it with me for now. I guess I’ll just write that on another separate post in the future (this post is already long I know… but hey huge thanks you got this far. ♥). If you also are interested in getting a tattoo at this studio, I will also be writing a separate post to delve into the details of my process in getting one from them. Stay tuned for that!

Sushi Conveyor Belt Experience

Okay, so it was not technically a conveyor belt, but it’s the closest thing I have experienced so far. One redditor suggested this place in our Japan travel LINE chat, and so I went for it! From Studio Muscat, I walked to Uobei Shibuya Dogenzaka! Apparently this is a famous sushi chain in Tokyo, maybe because each order of sushi only costs 108 JPY! I arranged to go visit this place after my tattoo session. It was already past 5PM at this point I guess, and it was still drizzling outside. Walking in the cold with my transparent umbrella, I checked my map to locate this sushi restaurant.

There was no queue when I arrived at the restaurant (thank goodness, because I was starting to feel hungry). A staff gave me my number and I went inside to locate my seat. I saw that the place consisted of long tables with seats facing the conveyor belt where the orders will be delivered. I immediately went for the seat that matches the number that was given to me.

Each seat has a touch screen machine where orders can be selected. You can order three items at a time, of which will be delivered along the belt and will stop in front of you. It was like I was playing a game actually. It was so fun looking at the menu on the touch screen (there’s English menu! 👏). You could also order drinks, but those will be delivered to you personally by the waiters (we don’t want them to get spilled on the conveyor belts!).

There were 3 lines of conveyor belts, so it’s possible to get your order on the 1st, 2nd, or 3rd level. Once the dish gets delivered to you, you get the plate, then press a button on the screen so that the small tray would return back to the kitchen (I assume). It was very entertaining to see dishes zoom past me towards the others along the table! 😆

Can I just declare that Uobei’s miso soup is the best one I have tried so far? It was so flavorful! It really was just the best!

I super loved the salmon and sardines sushi (I wanna eat one right now 😭). I liked most of the sushi I ordered, except for the one with nato. I guess I’m not a fan of its texture. 😐

For dessert, I got myself a lemon cheescake! *yum*

All in all, my bill was less than 2,000 JPY, even though I’ve eaten a lot of sushi! I was so satisfied with this recommendation. I walked out with a happy tummy!

An Unexpected Stop at Don Quixote

I was originally enroute to a nearby Daiso branch to check out stuff there. While waiting for the green light at one pedestrian lane, I saw this somewhat familiar penguin logo I saw online while researching stuff for this trip. I was actually looking at a Don Quixote shop! Well I guess I’ll check out the place too, right? Based on my research, this shop is famous among tourists because of the great bargains there. Well I found out it was true, because a lot of people were inside. It didn’t help that the aisles were a bit narrow. I had to say a lot of sumimasens while I navigated inside.

There were a lot of souvenirs to buy! I think this is where I bought some green tea Kit Kat (that is a staple pasalubong, especially from Japan!). Although I still wanted to check out more stuff inside, I was beginning to feel exhausted and just bought what I could find.

Visit at my first Daiso in Tokyo

One-hundred yen shops are popular in Japan, and one of them is Daiso. There are Daiso outlets in the Philippines, but of course I wanted to see what the shops are like in Japan!

I don’t know, maybe I had high expectations for this shop, or I just visited the wrong branch? The one I visited here in Shibuya only had few items that interested me. Well I still able to get great deals, as I was able to buy here the mini laptop sleeve and the camera pouch that was in my to-buy list! I was actually hesitating to buy the laptop sleeve because I was thinking I might find a better and cheaper one. But yeah I still went for it. Actually I wasn’t able to find something similar to this for the rest of my trip so I was very happy I purchased it there and there. That just teaches the lesson, especially applicable for shopping, that if you’ve seen an item you like, buy it! You might not be able to find something like it anymore.

Tower Records Pilgrimage

It was already dark and still rainy outside, and I still had one item on my itinerary for the day — go visit Tower Records in Shibuya! I’m a huge fan of music and I still buy physical CDs of artists that I really like. I planned to buy the latest album of The 1975 there because I learned online that there’s a bonus track on the Japanese release version of the album. While walking around Shibuya, I saw Jaejoong several times in the ads playing on the electronic billboards. I tried to take photos of it, but failed. 😖 He’s actively promoting his music in Japan. Maybe I could check out his albums in the store!

Aaah, my fangirl heart fluttered at the sight of this.

The building consists of nine floors, and different categories are in each of the floors. There’s also a music cafe there! I only was able to get a glimpse of that floor (when I was exploring the place via the elevator). I think I was able to pass the floor with KPOP, and then JPOP artists. I was specifically was looking for the The 1975 album so I went to the floor where foreign albums are located.

No music, no life. Damn right!❤

Visiting Tower Records, I learned that Japan do love Queen! Lots of Bohemian Rhapsody movie merch and soundtrack albums were in display.

Lots of Taylor Swift stuff. So proud of our queen!

I went through the shelves where the albums were arranged by artist. By some reason, I just couldn’t locate The 1975 albums. 😭 I scanned the numbers before “A” and also went to “T”. Oh well, the ending was — I wasn’t able to buy their album!

Shibuya Crossing and Hachiko

Already tired and bit sad, I continued walking towards Shibuya station. Walking around Shibuya at night was something else, like it was an eclectic dream. With light rain falling down, very cold wind, I walked through the Monday night crowd.

I was enroute to check out the Hachiko statue by the station when I passed by the Shibuya crossing. It was very anticlimatic.

I was taking photos of this beautiful building when I suddenly thought — Uhm is this the infamous Shibuya crossing? As I continued to walk, I looked at the crowd as they start to cross the several pedestrian lanes in different directions. This was it? What’s so special with this crossing? At that point I was unimpressed. Maybe I just missed something, but Shibuya crossing was just meh.
Oh hello there Hachiko! What a good boy!

I finally located Hachiko’s statue. It was easy — I just had to find the spot encircled by a crowed near the station. I thought this scenery might have looked a bit silly from a local’s point of view. It’s a rainy night, and these tourists are crowding around a statue of a dog (nah I’m just bitter I didn’t get a decent photo with Hachiko lol).

And that wraps up my third day in Tokyo! It was so tiring, but again I had lots of memorable experience for the day. I think this is one of my most favorite days in my trip in Tokyo all because this is when I got my tattoo! I’m so happy that things went well. There are still A LOT of happy things that I will share with this trip, and I am still drafting them all. Stay tuned for more!

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