Once again, I’m out by dawn. This time I forgot my camera. Only realize when on the train. Oh well, make it a short trip. Try not to see any cool sights along the way. Worse case got my phone. Bad pictures sent right to the cloud in a pinch. Doesn’t work out that.
On my way to visit the headquarters of Square Enix, the favourite game developers of half my friends back home. I’m not crazy about them. Strike me as greedy big corporation. Still, they have a shop, and people want souvenirs, so here so we.
It’s out in Shinjuku. away from the main bustle and off into a new condo development. I see the sign easy enough from the sidewalk, but the store / cafe isn’t open yet. There’s a line out front waiting to get in. Don’t want to socialize with fan ckub. I wait in a grocery store, rolling the dice on packages on tofu, hoping for a sweet one, not salty. On a bench out front I dip it. It’s the salty kind. Not the best breakfast.
The cafe opens, and the line rushes in. I slowly follow. Inside is surprisingly swanky. It’s shaped like an egg. Piano tunes play against the trickling of water that falls from a fountain in the ceiling. I consider a coffee but back away at the price Roughly 8 bucks Canadian. No thanks. Doesn’t bode well for the souvenirs. Prices are much worse, dear God. 30 bucks for a small plastic keychain, 15 for four thumb sized plastic stickers. The action figures and collectibles are worse, ranging from 90 for an unpopular character to 1200 for the more favorable ones. Ouch, sorry guys no souvenirs here.
I head back to Shinjuku. I realize I’ve only seen one dog since I got here. One 9 those dumb cute little ones that fits I your purse, the kind the internet would love. No complaints. Seen lots of cats, in person and on posters / shirts / billboards / everywhere.
Speaking of billboards, the ads in this country are out of control. Not just in the sense that every inch of surface everywhere is plastered with ads selling everything from vacations, to appliances, to business management software, the the designs are often out of this world. Beer ads are hands down my favourite, both in print and on the tv screen that are never more than a glance away. You’ll see everything from Japanese jock types downing cold ones, to beers rolling in ice and tomatos, to housewives needing a break and cracking open a can in the back yard overlooking an expansive estate, while their husbands are surely off making money somewhere.
Other winners include the throngs of cat ads, cola commercials with hollywood level choreography and special effects, as well an aggressively homoerotic ad for men’s shower gel filled with phalic symbols (connecting cleanliness with virility?)
On a whim I pass through nearby Kabukicho, an old part of the city filled with ramshackle huts, tiny shacks and crowded alleys that still mirrors the design and decor of the city in the 1940s before the post war efforts to modernize and revamp the city took place. How the area survived, is a mystery. In a city of electric billboards, a whole district of bars that seat no more than five at a time seems out of place.
Before I hit the metro, I happened to glance at one of the street maps. For some reason, all the maps in this part of town were upside down, with south pointing up. Confusing as well, since I was going by memory and only realized what was up when I noticed Shinjuku park was on the wrong side of the main road. For some reason, on a whim, I decided to hit the park. Forgetting my camera turned out to be a big mistake.
Shinjuku Gardens is one beautiful park. It has a bit of everything that a park needs, from quiet wooded areas, to green space and open fields, to flower arrangements. It also has a traditional Japanese garden section, complete with tea house overlooking a pond. For a city where space might be the most valuable commodity, a garden this size, with fields of empty green space must be something precious, and it is by the looks of all the people wandering through here.