Shinjuku with massive skyscrapers!
Shinjuku Travel Blog› entry 5 of 15 › view all entries
So, having finally caught up with my well-needed beauty sleep, I awoke more refreshed and ready to see some sights. Having finally dragged my companion out of his stupor and feeding him coffee, we plotted what to do.
The trouble with a city quite as large as Tokyo is there's so much that you could conceivably be doing. Every page of the bible suggested more and more interesting things - so eventually we just decided on Shinjuku. "What's there again?" I asked as we strode out into the debilitating heat. "Big buildings and lots of 'em" was the reply. Neat.
We jumped onto the obliging metro and popped up again across the city into the middle of a maze of steel and glass.
We started trudging around, our necks glued at a permanent and crippling 90 degree angle. Conversation was minimal, the odd "wow" or "look at that!" with some vigorous gesticulation was about all we managed until we got used to the spectacle around us. What finally brought us down to earth with a bump was the phenomenon that can only be described as cake in a bag.
We'd stopped in a convenience store to replenish our fluids. I was browsing the chilled section, more to get relief from the heat if nothing else when something odd caught my eye. There, innocuous amongst all the other delights was a triangular bag containing an orangey-pinky cake complete with cream.
This was a must purchase. Excitedly we bounced from the store and admired the greatness of cake in a bag. Trembling we opened the packet. The cake was moist and cool. It tasted all right, certainly better than some cakes I've paid more money for and were not in bags. We grinned as we wolfed it down.
"That," said my mate relaxing back with a satisfied grin on his face, "is progress."
I concurred. "I concur. It beats toilets that wash your bum."
He nodded sagely - too scared to try the loos in fear of what happened to me.
I too nodded. What followed was many minutes of discussion in exactly what foods should indeed come in bags. We concluded pretty much all of them (our favourite was roast dinner, in a bag). This episode highlights a couple of things. 1) We're a little excitable; 2) food in bags is good; and 3) we probably should have been doing something better with our time. So we did.
The object of our Shinjuku excursion was the Tokyo Toco, or the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Offices. We were here to ascend the 243m building to get to an observatory on the 45th floor. Inside were queues, bag checks and lifts that go so high so fast your ears pop. Then we were looking out over all of Tokyo.
The views were immense - literally. It brought home the size of the city and the building we were in. We joined the other tourists and milled from window to window gawping at the view and waving to people in the other tower. On the same level was a massive souvenir/cute tat bazaar selling many, amny cute plastically (no doubt highly collectible) bits of rubbish. Souvenirs were quickly bought. Now more view.
Eventually, we had enough and headed back down to the plaza and normal size. Our next stop was motivated by two main concerns: 1) we wanted to see a hollow sky scraper, and 2) we needed the loo. As chance would have it, the Shinjuku NS Building was equipped to deal with both concerns - and it did so admirably.
The building is hollow all the way up, which is quite incredible. It's like a shell of a skyscraper, or one made out of a cereal packet when you were a kid; soaring up on all sides. One wall is dominated by the worlds largest pendulum clock all 29m of it. It ticks, which is hypnotic, and looks perfect for a sequence in an action film (where someone could grab it and swing round shooting people...) The only problem with the NS Building was the lack of seats - it's a working office and tourist attraction, so you can't sit and admire the spectacle of engineering. To be honest, we were the only ones who were - all the Japanese people there presumably weren't impressed as they didn't look up once.
In terms of the second concern - this was the only time (to my knowledge) my mate, at my behest tried the bidet function.
This left us all skyscraper and caked out; so a walk in the Shinjuku-Park seemed in order. Like all great cities, Tokyo has these oases of green, lush and verdant nature in the middle of capitalist craziness. The walk was great, the heat was crazy. We found our way into Yasukni-dori, a mental shopping street full of people, large department stores and (thankfully) some air-conditioning to take away the heat. We blundered around for a while before we reached Hanazona-jinja, one of the many shrines that pop up all over Tokyo.
We went inside to escape the packed multitudes gorging at the teat of capitalist whimsy, and were immediately in more quiet and serene surroundings.
That done, we moved to Harajuku, and more specifically the Jingu-Bashi bridge. This was my mate's idea. He enthused with passion about the hordes of Japanese teens who loiter there dressed as their favourite manga characters. "Should be great," he said. "Unmissable."
We got to the bridge. Couple of buskers. Lots of pedestrians. No teens in skimpy costumes packing heat. No real teens in sight. "Ah, shit. Must be the wrong day." I tried to raise an eyebrow in sardonic acknowledgement but I was too hot and tired.
The last stop of the day was the Yoyogi National Stadium. This offered some great views of the surrounding area and was packed with teens. All waiting for some concert. Not a sailor suit or baretta in sight. Thoroughly defeated we retired to a restaurant, ate some food and then got quite drunk. Well, we'd earned it.