Thursday, August 03, 2006

30th July

Today was the day I saw proper Japan. I say proper Japan. Actually, I probably mean the opposite: tourist Japan, movie Japan, guidebook Japan.

I have no problem admitting that’s part of the reason I came: vertical neon signs, space age transport, crowds of people moving fast across walkways.

Took about 25 minutes to get to Shinjuku from Akabane, and from the train I could see very little except the usual dense melange of drab Lego

But about 5 minutes out from Shinjuku, the buildings fell away and I was greeted with a view that can only be described as iconic ; a forest of impossibly tall vertical signage flanking either side of one of the city’s chunky arterial routes.

It was classic Japan. I don’t know what the English equivalent would be ; driving over Vauxhall Bridge and seeing Big Ben one side of the Thames and the Millennium Eye on the other, I suppose.

The sight was so great that I let out a rather overenthusiastic and embarrassing “Woooooaah”. Wish I’d kept my cool.

Arrived at Shinjuku station which, I am informed, is the busiest station in the world. Also the station has 283,629,163 different exits, some of which are in different timezones.

Get the wrong exit and you can be in trouble – you’ll be miles away from where you thought you were.

Went up the government metropolitan towers first. They are free, and there’s some good views to be had. However, unfortunately Tokyo doesn’t really have much to see from the air, apart from Mt Fuji. Which I couldn’t see because of some rubbish clouds.

Another quick tour round Shinjuku and then on to Harajuku.

Harajuku is like Japanese Camden – meeting place for moody teens, Goths and anyone with angst issues.

Goth in Harajuku however does not mean a faded black Cure t-shirt, big platform shoes and a stud through your chin. It means dressing up like Dickensian housemaid.

Black all-in-one dress, overlayed with a white petticoat/apron, lacey cuffs and collar and a haircut straight out of Bleak House. Honestly, one of the most stupid fashion trends I’ve ever seen.

On to the Meiji Shrine. Hidden away in a forest. Beautifully preserved and a real sense of history, but there’s not much to do there really. Apart from bow a lot.

Finally on to Shibuya, which reminded me of New York. More neon and more crowds. Into a British pub for an orange and lemonade. They gave me a glass of orange, and a glass of lemonade. Close, but never mind. I’ll drink them both at the same time.

Back home and watched a rather bizarre programme about Japanese cuisine in London. Lots of footage of Tower Bridge, Big Ben and St Pauls. Made me home sick.

It’s been a full-on day. I feel like I’ve been hit in the face with copies of Akira, Lost In Translation and Blade Runner.

Have been reading about haikus. Thought I would try and compose one to demonstrate my thoughts on the day.

I can still see it
The noise, the light, the movement
Though my eyes are closed

What a pretentious twat I am.

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