One of the easiest traps to fall into when visiting a new place or country is to pull in as much as possible, try and grab little bits of everything.. Gobbling up cultural differences and experiences rather like a greedy kid at a party.
That is probably why my feet, knees legs and back have all gone on strike this evening. Clearly they have decided to put in a serious protest about the ridiculous amount of work they have been put to over the last couple of days.
I started noticing it when I clambered up the nth flight of steps to the Hanazono-jinja Shrine, right in the heart of the busy Shinjuku shopping area.The going up was OK, but the coming back down was a distinct warning that my knees in particular had had enough of this particular game.
The problem has been quite a simple one. I set out with every good intention and then get carried away. It all started with a pleasant enough train ride to Shinjuku this morning. Now this area is described in one tourist guide book as “Japan’s greatest entertainment district.” I have no idea about that with regard to the night life, but it sure as hell entertained me all through the day.
It started with my usual wandering around in the station. There are around eight million exits and I had no idea which was the one I should be taking, so I simply followed the other passengers.
Which is how I ended up in the biggest food hall or halls I have ever seen. They were all inIsetan department store. And these guys are SERIOUS about food and presentation. I must have spent an hour or more just wandering around looking at beautifully presented and prepared food. I have no idea what any of it was, but it looked absolutely delicious.
And then it was off to Bic Camera, now this is a techno person’s idea of heaven. If it is electrical then they have it, if it is bizarre, then they definitely have it. All I wanted was an adaptor for my UK plugs. The one that I brought with me as being specially suited to Japan – isn’t!
But oh boy was I in for a shock as I wandered around the seven or eight floors of cameras, washing machines, various kitchen appliances that looked “strange” and then through the “Grooming” department. Now I am sure that it is merely my lack of Japanese, but some of the attachments looked decidedly suspicious. And from the videos that were being played at various corners, well let’s just say that say that some were not merely for work outs.
Fortunately I managed to find an assistant who spoke some halting English and we found the necessary adaptor and I managed to make my way out of there before breaking into too much of a sweat. The sheer scale of the shops here is staggering. Uniqlo and Bic camera share a store that is ten floors filled with everything imaginable – from Lego to sportswear and the previously mentioned “grooming” gear!
And this was just one of dozens of multi floored department stores all busily touting for business amongst the wild food outlets, noodle bars and entertainment places that come to life later on in the day.
Having succeeded in getting the tiny bit of shopping done I then hunted out the Shinjunku Gyoen National Garden, Once again having got lost a time or two in the process I was amazed at how Tokyo seems determined to fool you. Right next to the screaming glitz and glitter of the 21st century there is a park that is an oasis of calm and serenity.
The Shinjunko Gyoen National Garden is set out in three distinct styles, a traditional English area, a French area and a fabulous Japanese area. There is even a mother and child forest area – but I left that for others.
In the Japanese area there are even a couple of tea houses and so I had a bowl of tea along with a traditional Japanese sweet, all served most charmingly by a lady in traditional dress. It was a wonderful chance to reflect and re-charge after the hustle and bustle of all that window shopping!
Everything was incredibly quiet and the two other people in the tea room were clearly using it as a chance to gather their thoughts For me it was a major chance to rest my feet as well.
The amazingly sculptured landscapes and structured layouts, all working with stone and water as the Yin and Yang bring a wonderful air of tranquility to the people who passed through, and it is certainly somewhere I shall remember.