Muschamp Rd

Not Dead, Not in Tokyo Anymore

October 13, 2003

So I went to Tokyo on the long weekend. Apparently they celebrate Canadian Thanksgiving in Japan, except they call it Sports Day. Go Figure eh? Authentic Canadian Accent

If you haven't heard, Tokyo is big and crowded. This is especially noticeable inside and just outside major train stations. Tokyo Station itself being the ne plus ultra of sprawling mega stations. I had no trouble getting around in Tokyo by myself except inside Tokyo station when trying to find a empty storage locker and a way to go from the Marunouchi side to the other side.

There is a way, amongst the many signs is one that says how, then you go through a long tunnel filled with ads, past the sake and omiyage stores and eventually you end up in an entirely different station. It's like travelling in time. On one side the facade is glass and steal with plenty of cement for good measure. On the other side you will find red brick, green space and taxis. There are taxis on all sides of the station I seem to recall, but they stand out more amongst the greenery.

Empty 500 Yen Coin Locker

Of course it was raining the final day I was there. Of course that was the day I wore shorts. Of course that was the day I had to lug my large bag around, which I'd thoughtfully filled up with books and other trinkets, which I proceeded to lug through the world's most crowded train station. There was a big herd of people with bags going from wall of lockers to wall of lockers looking for a key.

You see a key signifies the locker is empty. Not only do you need a key, you need a larger then average size locker, cause my backpack has a frame which isn't suppose to bend so I couldn't scrunch it into the smallest lockers. I eventually found an empty 500 Yen locker, which I photographed as proof they exist. It was in a less busy part of the train station, down a hallway, in a back room, right by a security camera. I also took a picture of the security camera. I wanted to let big brother know that I was watching them too.

So what was Tokyo like outside of the train station, you might ask? To which I would reply, you mean it's possible to leave the train stations? Seriously between the JR lines, the other lines, the subway lines, the underground passages, the covered walkways, the department stores etc. etc. I'm sure you could live quite fine never seeing the sun in Tokyo, except through a window. And only breath fresh clean Tokyo air, when you're on a train platform.

I spent time in the following districts: Gotanda, Shibuya, Shinjuku, Roppongi, and Ginza.

Gotanda was where my Ryokan (Japanese inn) was. It is on one of the JR lines, from which I could get to all the other places, except Roppongi, without changing trains. Pretty clever eh? Authentic Canadian Accent

Gotanda is quiet for Tokyo. But it has Neon ads (which aren't Neon), huge intersections and a Subway/Train/Bus station so it isn't really all that different from the rest of Tokyo. I ate Ramen there and had coffee it really isn't terribly exciting.

My inn was nice and clean. It cost 5000 Yen a night. Which is over 50 bucks Canadian eh? Authentic Canadian Accent For that I got to sleep on the floor, share 3 toilets, 3 sinks and could only shower between 7:00-9:00 in the morning. There was also a 12:00 Am curfew. But seriously my hotel was fine, next time I'll try to find one with no curfew though I guess.

Shibuya is crowded. Especially in the afternoon. It is a shopping destination as well as a popular haunt for the young and trendy, so naturally I fit right in. I spent a lot of time waiting in Starbucks for Yoshiko. We are talking two hours or so. So I spent that time skymailing and watching the crowds surge across the intersections. I also could listen to the other Gaijin, Tokyo is full of Gaijin, complain about this and that.

The Gap in Shibuya

I came to Shibuya to shop, full stop. I even bought a single pair of black pants at The Gap. Supposedly the largest Gap in Japan. I think it was 5 stories tall. I got a picture. If Hell Freezes over let me know. I hope my soul can be redeemed, yadda, yadda, yadda. But I needed another pair of slacks and they had my size.

I also bought Halloween makeup. Apparently you have to make a special trip to Tokyo to buy Halloween makeup. Everyone in Japan seems to have heard of Halloween, but they don't know what day it is on. Halloween isn't like one of those mickey mouse holidays that is the second Tuesday of the fourth month in every year that isn't a leap year. In a leap year it's actually in June. No, Halloween is always October 31st.

Anyway I also bought books. The day before in Roppongi I bought some books. But Tower Records, has a book store. It's not surprising giving that it was seven stories tall. You can only put so many CD's, records, DVD's and people in a seven story building before you need something else to take up space. The top floor has books and magazines in English. The magazines are not ridiculously over prized either.

Case in point, the official NHL preview magazine cost me 2500 Yen in Toyohashi. Uncut, which comes with a free CD was only 800 Yen.

I also bought some books to go with my magazines, face paint, overpriced, child labor produced khakis, and post cards. I really went to Tower Records to buy post cards. They have post cards in Tower Records for the record. Post Cards are not easy to find in Japan. Bookstores and large free standing towers are your best bet.

The concept of easily available, professionally taken pictures, which you can send to your friends is not a concept that has taken off in Japan. Cold coffee in a can is an example of concept that has taken off in Japan. You can buy cold coffee in a can anywhere. Postcards can be an adventure in themselves.

The hardest postcard to find, is always the last one, to send to that one last friend. I always try to send a different cool postcard to everyone. This can take days in Japan. When in Sapporo I was constantly on the lookout for postcards. In Tokyo I had a little more savvy. I went straight to department stores and book stores which are actually record stores. Then you have to go either to the very top floor or deep into the bowels of the basement if you want to buy postcards.

Shinjuku is perhaps even more crowded then Shibuya. According to the Lonely Planet, it is better for a night on the town. So I went to an Irish bar, run by the Japanese, and drank Guinness and watched rugby talking to random Gaijin and what have you, until Jun got off work.

Roppongi is the Gaijin nightlife capitol of Tokyo. So naturally I went there during the day to eat a hamburger and buy books. I did buy a postcard too plus a souvenir for my sister. I also drank beer, German beer and talked to Gaijin.

Actual conversation on the streets of Roppongi about 6:00 on a Saturday. A small group of short haired men, approximately a tank crew size approaches. They are drinking in the streets.

"Do you speak American?"
Pause to access the situation, meanwhile more crew cut individuals have crossed the street and surrounded me.
"I speak English" I said.
"You mean American" he replied.

They wanted to know where some bars were. Not wanting to talk to them I said "I only got to Tokyo today." They asked where I was from. One said "At least he wasn't from Europe." I pointed out the building of nothing but bars behind them with large sign saying Australian Bar in English. Since their were some hot Australian chicks in the last bar they decided that was the place and they marched up the steps.

I had been thinking of going there to watch rugby but I decided to get the hell away from them.

Ginza is also famous for shopping, restaurants, and night life I imagine. Mainly it is full of gleaming towers. It is probably expensive. I wouldn't know most things were closed Monday morning. I did troop around with my big bag looking for a book store so I could buy one last postcard.

I was starting to wear out. So I went home. I'll probably go back, but not until my bank balance recovers. In the mean time I got books to read.

PS As to why there have been no long rambling emails despite the cries from my loyal fans. Well it's because I have to go to internet cafes and I'm not sure I can type that long on a Windawg box. I'm serious Blair's computer which wasn't in a public cafe and was used by only one person had over 400 viruses on it. There is no end of spyware, adware, and scumware lurking on the average internet cafe PC. I often have to try and fix them so I can surf the web without porn pop ups. I'm saving this text to a file before I try to send it.

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Words and Images © Andrew "Muskie" McKay.
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