I discovered that there is an entire shopping neighborhood in Harajuku that is best described as the Land of Ugly Sweaters.
There are lots of boutiques and trendy clothing stores, but there are also used clothing stores and 700 yen stores, which might be my new favorite things. The largest used clothing store is called Chicago, and I tagged it in my phone as "Ugly Sweaters R Us." It's like everybody's grandmother's knitting supplies were picked out by a drunk hobo. Not many things were gasp-out-loud hideous, but nearly every sweater was just ugly enough that there was a cumulative effect. But it wasn't just sweaters. They also had a respectable selection of other clothes and coats spanning the entire aesthetic spectrum from "that's super cute and I wish they had it in my size" to "sweet mother of fraggles, why would anybody need an electric purple fur vest?"
For the record, if that purple fur vest had been just a smidge bigger (chafed armpits = too small) Husband would have insisted we get it and that I wear it out in public. Bullet dodged!
Overall, the prices were fairly reasonable, too. I tried on a couple trench coats in really good condition that were a little too big to fit properly, but would have only cost about $25.
One of the 700 yen stores we visited had a brontosaurus neck and head wearing a vintage army helmet over the entryway inside the store. I took that as a good sign. They had a smaller selection of ugly sweaters and used clothing, but everything was 700 yen (with the conversion, about $8.50 USD). We came away from that store with two suitably ugly sweaters and an awesome scarf.
We'd been halfway looking for ugly sweaters ever since we were invited to an ugly sweater party circa 2008 and couldn't find a single one in any department or thrift store. As of yesterday, crisis averted! Now we are prepared if we are ever invited to an ugly sweater party again. I debated between the too-large sweater with polar bears and snow-covered pine trees or the slightly snug brown sweater with reindeer and fur-trimmed hood (fake fur, animal-lover friends, don't worry). I opted for the reindeer.
I should get extra points for color coordination with the cat.
I'm not crazy about the hood, though. The fur seems to be attracted to my eyeballs like a magnet.
Husband's sweater, the color of canned peas, has the added benefit of being too loose in every dimension and making him look like a serial killer. Especially when he wears his Army-issue square plastic glasses. Seriously. It's chopped-up-women-in-the-freezer creepy.
Also worth noting: this sweater actually clashes with jeans. You wouldn't think so, but someone else made the observation when he first put it on and I agreed.
My new kickass scarf: seven feet long and purple (murasaki!) stripes.
In a small men's clothing boutique, we found what might be the most awesome shoes in the world.
You know you want a pair.
In a train station we passed by a doughnut table. Buying a doughnut is unremarkable, but they're just so prettily packaged! It makes the experience just a little bit more special, y'know?
The US needs more illuminated tractor trailers with cartoon fish. How can you have road rage if you see a happy cartoon fish driving along next to you?
We went to a bar for dinner that was themed around Antonio Inoki, a Japanese professional wrestler.
The bar itself is in a boxing ring and all the televisions were playing an old video of him in a drama-filled match against some cave man with crazy hair and a full beard. In case you were wondering, professional wrestling is just as painfully fake in Japan as it is in the States.
They encouraged group photos with the statue of Inoki, and had the requisite your-face-here wooden cutouts by the elevator door. Who could resist?
Unfortunately, the food wasn't particularly good. At least the pasta dish I ordered wasn't, the fried cheese appetizer and complimentary seasoned popcorn were tasty.
We moved on to a different bar called Tokyo Loose for some drinks and met up with some friends. It's a gaijin bar (sorry, "international bar") that caters to foreigners and is pretty chill. The owner is Nigerian and the Japanese bartender spoke perfect English, and they had excellent sheesha.
After 10pm or so, it started to get a little more crowded. That's when we met the Japanese Leisure Suit Larry. He couldn't have been any taller than four foot ten and was very interested in dancing with the gaijin's womenfolk (but not the men...Husband tried). I think he goes there to dance with gigantic women. (Before anyone goes on a "you're not fat!" tirade, yes, yes, I'm a tiny svelte thing. But I was eight inches taller and could have lifted him with one arm. It's all relative.)
There are a couple photos of my attempts to follow his lead in some form of ballroom dance, but I do not have them. He alternated between a waltz-like box step, spinning himself under my arm, and miming either cartoonish infatuation or a heart attack, I couldn't tell.
My memory of the time after the bar is a bit hazy, but we made a stop at Burger King so the guys could get an obscene number of chicken nuggets. And a paper crown. Did you know there are rules printed on the inside? There are! Whomever dons the crown must proclaim in a loud voice, "I am the King!" and then he (or she) is King. Unless there is a coup and the crown is taken by someone else for more than three seconds, in which case there is a new King. There is also a handy warning that the crown is in fact made of paper and therefore the current reign may come to a premature end if exposed to water or flame. There are some more rules for "Advanced Play" like the King must speak in a cool accent, but I'll leave that set un-described so I don't ruin the surprise for the next time you get yourself a Burger King crown.
We were so busy dancing with Leisure Suit Larry and getting chicken nuggets that we missed the last train. Lucky for us, our friends are not only super cool people, but they have an extra room and let us sleep in it.
The next day we went to the New Sanno for brunch. On the cab ride over from the friends' apartment, I saw this helpful illustration about pedestrian awareness.
And on the way back I picked up a new drink:
It feels anticlimactic to end on a ginger ale, even if it is red, so here's a video of Crooked Head disemboweling a bag of catnip.