>> Thursday, April 1, 2010
Konnichiwa, and welcome to Shinjuku pics, part two. Once I had the lay of the land from the observatory at the top of the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building, it was time to get down and dirty on the infamously busy streets of Shinjuku ward. And boy, Shinjuku did not disappoint...
Still close to the skyscrapers here...
Just across the tracks on the east side of Shinjuku Station. The big green building turned out to be a multi-level video arcade.
At night, Shinjuku is the downtown Tokyo you've seen in movies. By day it's a little less colorful, but no less chaotic.
The architecture of Japanese buildings is often dynamic, which is exciting as a sightseer.
Off the busy main drags are busy side streets, wide enough for a single car but plenty wide enough for lots and lots of shoppers.
Shinjuku-dori, the main destination for Shinjuku shoppers. I visited on a Sunday morning, and all car traffic was blocked from using the road, except for crossing it at intersections. I was able to walk down the middle of the road and get a real feel feel for the enormity of the place!
I love the bowing fellow (top right and left) welcoming visitors to this street. Particular streets within a given shopping area often have their own identities and themes.
Another piece of interesting architecture. There's so much new architecture around because the Japanese are continually knocking things down and rebuilding them.
Another view of Shinjuku, just outside Shinjuku station.
A helpful street sign. I love the eyes above the text at the bottom. Is it telling me to pay attention to the announcement? I tried, but I still couldn't understand it.
There were emergency evacuation signs all over like this one, telling people where to go and what to do in the event of an earthquake. I've been told that I will experience at least one earthquake while I'm here, and possibly more. While I'm interested in the experience, I can't say that I'm eager for it.
Tucked just off the shopping area, as is so often the case here in Japan, is a temple complex. This one, Hanazono Jinjya hosts a smallish flea market on Sundays. There may be more vendors on warmer days. Mostly memorabilia and old kimono. Can't wait to get Wendi here so she can browse the used kimono, which are available here and there in every city.
The main temple building...
...and a glimpse inside. It was roped off from there.
Prayers tied to strings around trees.
Water trough and cups.
Not sure what these are, but they look great. They were postcard-sized, made of wood, and strung up to two big bulletin boards just outside the temple.
Another customer. This time, there's a choice of bell ropes.
The view from the steps of the temple. The sakura were just beginning to bloom!
A shinto shrine on the grounds of the temple, with a line of torii leading up to it.
Conveniently located just down the road from Hanazono Jinjya is the Golden Gai, a warren of hole-in-the-wall bars so small you wonder how they serve more than two or three people at a time. I went during the day, when everything was closed, and as I wandered the small streets and alleys I decided that daytime was the only time I really wanted to visit.
Some of the alleys are the kind of places you really don't want to run into shady characters late at night--or during the day even.
But the area has nothing if not character. Word is that visitors shouldn't bother with the Golden Gai, or you'll be fleeced. But it's a popular place with locals. The local government keeps trying to get rid of it, and the buildings themselves are cinderblock structures that weren't meant to be around for more than a few years, but the Golden Gai has been going strong now for decades. A friend here at the school told me that one of the big department stores has been buying places up as they become available, so perhaps it's only a matter of time until this place is gone. That would be a shame. Shinjuku has enough department stores already, but only one Golden Gai.
Loved this sign on a bar door.
Near the Golden Gai, not surprisingly, are a few "love hotels." These places offer nightly and, ahem, hourly "rest" rates.
The entrances to love hotels are discrete, sometimes even deliberately hard to find, catering to the kind of patrons who would need their services.
I ducked inside a pachinko parlor to get a feel for the atmosphere. It's an assault on the senses: loud, bright, and a bit smelly from the cramped, camped, players. Pachinko is an odd form of gambling, where you buy a certain number of metal balls and drop them into the top of a machine. The balls bounce down a series of pins, and you as the player can redirect them with flippers. The more balls you get in the center pit, the more you win. They are the Japanese equivalent of slot machines. I've read that overnight, the pachinko parlor owners will have people in to surreptitiously reset the pins, changing the individual games so that no one can master any one machine, and to keep some from paying out too often. The big baskets behind the chairs are the players' piles of metal balls they've won.
An odd desert available at one of Shinjuku's restaurants--Chocolate Banana Honey Toast. That's one seriously big piece of toast there...
A snack of a more familiar sort, spied across the vast train tracks of Shinjuku Station--Krispy Kremes! And no, I didn't go have one. They're probably three times the price, and have a line around the block. If you want to make money in Japan, open a doughnut shop. Those are the ones with the lines out the door.
That's all for now. I'll leave you with this oddly mesmerizing train station sign telling you to fetch a station agent if you happen to drop anything down where the tracks are. More pics soon! I'm going to try to get out to a baseball game this weekend, and perhaps also Akihibara, the otaku/geek mecca. Sayonara!