Not every outing in Japan was life-changing, or amazing, or revelatory. In fact, some of them were just nice little walks to explore the neighbourhood we were staying in… in the daylight, for a change.

Above you can see the view from our hotel window–SHINJUKU, the “capital’ of Tokyo, location of the municipal government buildings, and the big dirty red light district, and shopping and… well, what people think of when they think of “Tokyo” can usually be found within a 15 minute walk of Shinjuku station. We were staying a 2 minute walk from that station, a little bit south west, and since none of my plans or itineraries had be going any further south than I was at that moment, I decided to go for a walk one warm May morning before the day really got going.

The first stop, as always, is the local convenience store, or “conbini”. Lawson isn’t my conbini of choice, I’m a 7-11 guy at heart, but I was starving and wasn’t willing to wait. Also with me on this trip is Jim, who is tired, cuz its early and jetlag is never kind to him.

We arrived in Japan during the hysteria for the theatrical release of Evangelion 2.0, and the ‘ultimate’ edition DVD release of Evangelion 1.11, so Eva product was everywhere. Lawson had entered into a special agreement with the Evapeople (Gainax, I assume? I can’t tell who runs that merchandising anymore) and so they had tons of unique and ‘rare’ items. Shown above are cans of coffee, boxed with an action figure on a very full display. You might be giggling to yourself, but that same coffee and action figure was SOLD OUT all over Tokyo by the end of our trip.

Also shown: Evangelion-themed cup noodles.

There were also Evangelion give-aways if you bought specific kinds of snack breads, in specific amounts. Or maybe Evangelion-themed snack breads. It was difficult to tell. Jim helpfully points them out.

Click to keep reading:

The sign outside pimping the DVD release of EVA. The wind wasn’t cooperating that day so I reversed the photo. One of the neat things about convenience stores is that you can get a lot of stuff there that you can’t really get at similar stores here. Event tickets, full meals, DVDs, toys, games. Changes of shirts, socks, and undies for when you’ve stayed out all night karaokeing and smell like a distillery. Sooooo handy.

For me though, it’s all about fried chicken, red bull, and beer. And that is what I bought, and that is what I ate and drank as we walked around.

Fried chicken.Red Bull. Beer. Breakfast. Japan.

I’m going to more-or-less shut up at a certain point and just let the architecture take over, because I find it fascinating. A combination of fire/earthquake readiness and a much milder climate creates situations like this, a massive outdoor fire-escape that adds an exciting visual diagonal to the design of this (somewhat thin) building.

Oh, yeah, you can click on any picture to get a really big version.

We decided to walk through the ‘dead spaces’ between massive office towers, the courtyards created by the vagaries of building codes and fire safety. Old and new, flashy and dull, glass and concrete, all butting up against each other in giant, beautifully maintained, and spotless areas that almost no one ever uses. All of these photos were taken, to the best of my knowledge, at around 10am on a weekday. Love that yellow building in the background.

No idea what is going on with the mushroom-inspired streetlights, but the geometric topiary is phenomenal.

Ah-ha! Garbage! Well, not exactly garbage. More like someone noticed garbage, put it in a plastic bag, and left it for the maintenance guy to pick up.

This is what it looks like when different pedestrian walkways between buildings with different owners collide.

The staff of a Book-Off that we didn’t manage to find on our walk congregate in the otherwise-empty courtyard, going through the morning plan: GANBARU! In the distance, an arch.

You can’t go 100m without hitting a convenience store. It’s some sort of mathematical formula they’ve worked out. Oh, oh the Denny’s. Wait til you see this.

DENNY’S. By the way, Denny’s in Japan is nothing at all like Denny’s in North America, there is no overlap between dishes, and frankly, the food is awful in Japan. It’s awful in America too, but at least you can get bacon and eggs if you really want it.

This Denny’s is floating over a parking lot, for your parking convenience. A model of modern architecture and technology, and actually beautiful in its way. All totally undone by the shitty laser-printer signage in the window…

Anyone who watches anime knows about ground-level train crossings, and man, it’s nostalgic and utterly PRESENT to encounter them. It’s hard to explain, but I love them. Love them.

Also note the sporting area, fenced off on top of the building on the right. Gotta make the most of your outdoor space, roof included.

So this is the space next to the building at the train crossing, and the fence next to the space is about waist high, once you stand in the bushes. Study this picture.

This is the 30+ foot drop between the building and the retaining wall next to it, that is protected by a waist-high fence. This is utterly, utterly terrifying to look at, and completely alien to how we build things in Canada.

Your humble narrator. Funny story, in the time it took to take this picture, the crossing arms went up, the cabs drove through, and then the arms went down again, trapping us on the other side for another 5 minutes.

This is where Jim is pointing out there’s a perfectly¬†serviceable¬†walkway over the crossing, and what the fuck is my problem? My problem is that I’m not going to climb 3 stories of stairs for him or any man when the alternative is waiting 2 minutes, fuck that. Who do you think I am, some douche who climbs stairs? This is JAPAN. Escalator or bust. Stairs are for chumps.

Had to take a picture.

Never did make it back to this toy shop. In my imagination it is fucking awesome.

Mm, this is a thing about Japan. Cafe Lolita is on the first floor, but look! There are 4 or 5 floors in that building, and each one has at least 1-2 businesses in it. The density of retail shops is incredible, you can walk 40m and pass 20 shops. It made progress slow, slow going if stores had particularly interesting signage. :)

Around this point [redacted] was a little worried that we were lost, but the road actually curved back around to drop us off in our neighbourhood, at our hotel. All in all we’d gone out for about 45 minutes and probably not gotten more than a few hundred metres away, but it was really neat seeing the neighbourhood, taking in the architecture, standing at the train crossing.

That is a thin fucking building.

And there we are, back at the hotel… Conveniently located directly adjacent to a Tokyo Metro entrance I should add. This is seriously the greatest hotel, I hope it stays as cheap and classy for my next trip.

A nice day walk in Shinjuku… I never really did go south from our hotel again, and this is the view facing north. Into the crowds, the shopping, the red light district, the JR station, and everything people think about when they think of “Tokyo”.

Next time we’ll see what the night has in store.

- Chris
Edit because my hilarious joke on Jim had run its course. :)


4 Comments on “Japan 2010: A Short Walk Through Shinjuku”

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  1. Chris Pitzer says:

    I really like these reports…

  2. Will Von Wizzlepig says:

    Hi! If you are still over in japan, make sure you try out MOS Burger… http://www.mos.co.jp/index.php

    They were my favorite when I was there, a while back- they had some inventive stuff, like the “Nan curry dog”, a hot dog on Indian nan bread with curry and onions- it was great.

  3. Gerry says:

    I too want to thank you for these virtual ambles. I am planning to fulfill my lifelong desire to visit Japan later this year, as a 50th birthday present to myself. Reading this post was exciting for me, and I think you helped me find my Tokyo hotel! The reviews for it on Trip Advisor are excellent…and the location seems great. I’d welcome any other recommendations you might have. Learned about your blog from the folks at Bergen Street Comics in Brooklyn…my neighborhood comic shop, so it all comes full circle in a very nice way.

  4. Xenos says:

    Damn I miss Japanese markets. I remember the Family Mart down the street from where we stayed with a friend was an amazing wonderland to us. So many food products we rarely if ever saw in America. To say nothing of those random boxed anime figures you’d pay five times as much for if you ever saw them at a con in America.

    Oh and Mos Burger was.. interesting. It was almost too.. clean? Too sterile? Went to one down the street with friends. One time they dared me to make it down there, order a meal, and bring it back. T rick being I spoke hardly any Japanese. That was.. awkward.

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