Sunday, September 2, 2007

Shinjuku in greater detail

After my day of wandering around Akihabara, I was going to meet a friend in Shinjuku. For anyone who has never been to Shinjuku station, I just wikipedia'd a few facts right now. First off, it's the second largest station in the world in terms of area, being only beaten by Nagoya station. It is the busiest station in the world, with 3.31 million people using the station daily. To put that in other terms, if the station itself was it's own metropolitan area, it would be in the top 100 metropolitan areas in the world, and if we're talking cities proper, it would almost make it into the top 50 largest cities, being beaten out by Berlin with 3.389 million people. The San Francisco-San Jose-Oakland area has 3.385 million people. So, if you get rid of 75,000 people from the major cities around San Francisco, that's how many use this train station a DAY.

Also, my friend Wikipedia told me that Shinjuku station has well over 200 exits. I'd believe it. I'd been to Shinjuku once before and I had a friend on the phone helping me as I got off the train. Today I arrived early and I didn't have that luxury, so I tried to find the 'east exit', which is quite ridiculous. First off, not all the signs and maps are in English, but I know the kanji for East is 東, which is mildly helpful, but the kanji for Tokyo is 東京, which makes matters much more confusing, because just looking for 東 does me no good.

Also, there are exits like "Main East exit" "Central East Exit" "East JR Exit" and so on, which are all different from plain old "East exit". But, I got there early, so I had time to wander, and I did just that. The train station was incredibly busy so I didn't really stop to take pictures. I wandered down this one hallway where they just gave up on naming the exits and gave them numbers. This was not where I wanted to be, but by this point, I just wanted to get outside.

I must say, while still trapped indoors, the fine people who designed this area did everything they could to make me feel comfortable. I walked by this set of, well, I'm not sure what it was. People were sitting down here, but it didn't look like benches.

At least seeing something green put me at ease for a little bit. I'm not one to get claustrophobic, but I was feeling a bit pinned in.

After walking by a bunch of tiny little boutique stores and restaurants, I saw this quite nice and artsy walkway.

Those squares are lights shining down. It had a really nice modern art feel to it and felt incredibly classy.

I finally found my way out of the train station, and I saw this:

This was the largest bus terminal I've seen without a question. The picture doesn't quite do it justice. And what's up with that giant cylinder? Is there an underground bus terminal too with that as a vent? Considering there was another one on the other side, that would make sense.

I tried to take a picture of Shinjuku, but there is no way you can capture the experience on film.

The sights are one thing, but the sounds and smells are almost indescribable. Imagine the scent of restaurants grilling up their wares, people with perfume, cologne and BO, new electronics and the scent of fresh plastic, car exhaust, and gusts of surprisingly fresh air. It was amazing.

The sound was that of the chatter of young girls, vendors shouting at you to entice a sale, trains and cars, music blasting at you from every angle, buzzers, alarms, randomly ringing things, and every audial distraction someone could find. There was so much of it, it was no longer annoying, but kind of created a symphony of chaos. I loved it.

There were so many bicycles too. Besides train, bicycles are the obvious second-favorite form of transportation in this city.

All three of the last pictures you saw were taken from the same pedestrian bridge area facing different directions. When I came down to street level, I saw this:

What the hell? Bunches of bamboo in one of the busiest and most modern places in the world?

Apparently, they were doing some sort of construction and they built a small house out of bamboo, wooden poles, and straw mats. This seemed sorely out of place, like finding a horse and buggy at a construction site in New York. I didn't understand why they were using such seemingly archaic methods for construction (why not just build a small shack out of sheet metal and iron bars?), but I'm not part of the construction committee, so whatever.

There was this band playing on the street. The girl singer/bass player was actually pretty good. Unfortunately the song was quite bland and unimaginative. Other than that, they were all right. That bass was really weird, though. What was it, a Jazz bass that was hand sanded down? I'd never seen a bass like that.

After seeing this, I met up with a friend of a friend friend and her two friends and we went to an Izakaya, which is like a bar, but not really. They give you snacks and drinks and it's a lot of fun. After a few of both, me and my new friends (minus one, because she had something going on) went wandering. They told me they were going to take me to the local governmental building. It sounded odd, but whatever, I was just along for the ride.

After walking around for a while, we came to this ridiculously long hallway. There was a moving walkway, but it was off as it was no longer business hours. My friend told me that they put the it in because there used to be a lot of homeless people living there and it was the city's way of kicking them out. I noticed this rather odd artwork on the other side of the hallway:

I thought it was strange, but kind of nice, which sums up a lot of Japanese public art. I wondered if it also had the same ulterior motive as the walkway.

So, we kept walking and they were trying to describe the name of the building. They kept saying it was the offices of the ward we were in this building, and the ward was the central ward in Tokyo, which was the central city of the prefecture (which is like the county or state), therefore making it an important municipal building.

Why we were going there at 9 at night on a Saturday didn't make sense to me, but again, these people know more than I do, so I just followed them. After we got out of this long hallway, I finally saw it: (sorry for the bad picture)

Oooh! THAT building!!! If you want a better picture, just go to google images and type in "Tokyo tallest skyscraper" That's what they were talking about.

After a brief and very relaxed security check, we went up to the top of the building. It didn't cost anything, and it was without a question the most dramatic view of a city I have ever seen. The city just stretched on for miles. Last night was a great time to go to too. It wasn't crowded at all, but not empty and creepy. And the sky looked amazing. The pictures I took do NOT do it justice.

I like this picture for the artistic merit. Oh, and those are my two new friends.

We could also see fireworks off in the distance.

The view was simply amazing. I need to find a better way to capture it on film, but it was amazing. I am sure I will return to this tower sometime soon.

1 comment:

Keith said...

Whoops. That is now the SECOND largest skyscraper in Tokyo. But, the largest just opened in April this year.