Saturday, December 16, 2006

Here's a Little More Tokyo!

Not really. I just thought you should see what a Tokyo train station looks like. In two weeks, I'll be here:

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This is the Shinjuku station... I think. Eerie yet dull flourescent lights, lots of English signage. But it can still be confusing, even daunting, especially during rush hours. This place was even worse last December because they were remodelling it and there were plastic baggies hanging from the ceiling and ten times the noise and murk.

The typical Tokyo station is underground, with news stands and snack kiosks (like mini-convenience stores) all around. The Shibuya and Shinjuku stations are under department stores or massive shopping complexes. You can take the steps up into the city itself, or into the stores filled with high-priced designer goods and larger-than-life photos of actresses and models.

These places typically make Christmas shopping in the States look like afterhours.

If you're really interested in the hustle and bustle of major megalopolitan life, visit me and I'll take you there. Probably we should use some sort of tether line like the professional mountaineers do though, in case there's a danger we'll get separated or one of us should be sucked into some kind of consumerist crevass and forced to purchase Louis Vuitton handbags and perfume that makes you smell like Maria Sharapova.

Actually, the Harajuku station is a quaint old-fashioned open-air platform with a great view of Takeshita-dori and all the fashion girls there. And the platform that leads to the Hachiko exit in Shibuya is elevated, and you have to go downstairs to the the groundlevel ticket machines and exit/entrance.

Tokyo Terminal, from where the Yamanote, Chuo and shinkansen lines ebb and flow is ridiculously massive, with all kinds of book and clothing stores right in the station itself. I get lost in the main area just about everytime I stop there!

If you leave the Shinjuku station from the Kabuki-cho exit, you're right back here:

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Just cross the street towards Studio Alta. I've taken so many photos of this view, it's getting to be a personal cliche. I love this photo, though. It has a strong contrast between the brilliance of the blue winter sky and the electric mayhem below, signified by all the bright red signs.

This New Year's Day, 2005. Later, I got lost in Shibuya... not very many people out and about because a lot of places were closed. On days like this the pace is less frenetic and you can really drink in your surroundings. Even if there is a bit less to see.

And there's the tiny pink Nova Usagi in the distance on top of Shinjuku Honko. I wonder if kids really like Nova Usagi. A lot of the teachers heaped abuse on the poor li'l rabbit, but I actually enjoyed Nova Usagi's confident attitude... always walking around hands-on-hips with her eyes shut.

Yes, I think Nova Usagi is a girl. There's one image of her wearing a ballerina tutu but everything else she does is non-gender specific.

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Here's a big poster advertising The Incredibles, which was known simple as Mr. Incredible in Japan. That's Pa Incredible and his daughter Mabel. I think that image is from the barn-raising scene where the Incredible family uses their immense powers to build a barn and milk 50 cows for market in less than 15 seconds.

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This shows you how large this poster was. I call this my "National Geographic shot." It has the feel of one of their photos from a story illustrating big city life in modern Tokyo. I guess there's some kind of social commentary I'm making here about commerce and the predominance of Western pop culture around the world.

Or maybe I just liked the brightly colored superheroes and the dudes selling stuff in front of and beside them!

There are a lot of shoe stores along this street. An abnormally large number, so I think I'll call it Shoe Avenue from now on. All day long trucks unload hundreds of boxes of Nikes and Converse and who knows what all and store clerks rush out and hurry the merchandise into these stores.

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This is more Shinjuku. This is in Kabuki-cho, or near Kabuki-cho or some damn place! It's back towards Koma Stadium. I cropped it out but there should be a McDonald's sign on the far left. Kabuki-cho loves McDonald's and McDonald's loves Kabuki-cho.

Hmm... in 14 days I'll be walking this street again.

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This is the shop where you can get practically anything. The have electronics, cup-a-noodle ramen, light bulbs, cellphone rechargers, paper plates, disposable hashi, over-the-counter allergy remedies, household cleaners, Zippo lighters, sunglasses, business attire including ties, sportswear, toys, candy, snacks, and a surprisingly well-stocked sex fantasy section catering to whatever lingerie, cheerleader or schoolgirl fetish the modern young pervert might have.

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This smoking guy didn't want his photo taken. But we all don't want things we... uh... can't have. I think he looks cool. Maybe I'll create a cartoon or comic character based on him. A little Tokyo tough guy, pretty conservative in outlook but a nice enough person if you don't screw with him. Yeah!

And this, once more, is my favorite shabu-shabu restaurant. I think I'll give 'em a treat and make them clean up after my sloppy shabu-shabu stylings next month. The funny thing is, I don't know if their smiles mean they like me or if they're just being polite and they hate my smelly gaijin ass.

You really just do not see too many foreigners in this particular section of town, other than the random Southies from Boston who troll for dance club and strip club customers. So I don't know. The people seem nice enough but I do feel a little out of place there, unlike in Shibuya where a lot of people I've run into speak at least a little English, and the staff at the Outback Steakhouse and even some at Shakey's Pizza are very fluent.

I am the perfect example of the Clueless American Abroad, blustering about all oversized and overconfident, secure in my bubble of American invulnerability. And all this time I was convinced otherwise!

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And this is actually Shibuya the previous night- New Year's Eve. I don't know why I put this here, because I tried to organize these photo essays geographically, as if we were taking a walking tour.

For today's, it's as if we walked from the Shinjuku station to the shabu-shabu restaurant... which takes maybe 5 minutes in real time.

I really took those photos going the opposite way. I stopped in an AM-PM combini and bought a disposable camera and the first shot I took was the smoking guy walking by that shabu-shabu restaurant.

But I forgot to include this pic the other day. Lots of lights, lots of people out strolling, banners advertising the new Exile release flapping in the wind from the lamposts.

And yes, that guy on the right is wearing sunglasses at night. That's so he can so he can so he can even watch you breathe.

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