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Published: April 1st 2010
Insomnia is a bitch! I did everything I could to beat jetlag, as soon as I got on the plane I was thinking in Japanese time, I ate when they ate etc, I also stayed up until around 1a.m. I ended up having a few drinks last night in the local bar, a cultural mixing pot, I met two Aussies, a Kiwi, a Canadian, two S. Africans and a couple of Yanks; I also met a few of the locals who like to enjoy the company of travelers like myself. I set alarms so I wasn’t going to oversleep but these weren’t necessary and after a long and with the exception of three hours) sleepless night I waited just as I said I would I waited for Mena at the station. I was waiting at the agreed spot 15 minutes early and waited 20 minutes after we said we would meet. I guess she just couldn’t find the station (I did a lot of the map navigation to get her to her accommodation the previous day). Women and maps, you know how it is!
By the time I had something to eat I would have missed most of the fish market anyway so instead I decided to make my way to Shinjuku. Shinjuku is split in two by the railway, one side has offices and official buildings, the other is seedier with pachinko parlors, clubs and a red light districts. My first stop off was the Tokyo Met Gov Building which has two towers, the first of which has an observation deck on the 45th floor which is a great spot to get your bearings. I figured as it’s also free its worth 10 minutes. On a clear day the views something to behold -it is possible to see mt Fuji in the distance but alas, not today. I spotted a park which I knew from the maps I had was the Meiji Shinto shrine where I was heading next. The thing with being 45 storeys’ up having an aerial view is that everything seems much closer. In the lift the altitude and pressure changes make your ears pop as they do on a flight, and the thing I wasn’t expecting was the gale force five updraft through the cracks that shot up my leg. As soon as I got off the lift I was on a mission to find the park. Even though I knew the direction I was going in I still had a little difficulty finding it, a bird’s eye view from that height makes everything look close by…it wasn’t. I saw a postman and decided to try my Japanese without slaughtering his language and get directions at the same time, he was so helpful, and it was great. I saw the shrine and took a pleasant stroll through the park where young kids were playing on the grass a group of mothers sitting with prams looked like the should have a club jacket and insignia. Next I wanted to see the seedier side of town so I made my way back to the station and found myself on Piss Alley, a narrow alleyway filled with small drinking establishments and eateries, this place was the inspiration for Blade runner, and I would later visit at night to get the full effect. I saw pachinko parlors in a few places but never went in before. Pachinko is a game where the player takes handfuls of ball bearing and drops them in a game machine that has numbers running horizontally across the screen, when the bearings hit a certain item you get the number of points it shows. The game isn’t interesting but watching the player is. They just lob handful after handful into these machines and noise is something else. There were 11 rows, back to back, each row with approx 20 machines all the machines were taken by people of all ages dropping handful after handful of bearing into this machine. The noise was something else.
I wandered around a while just looking and decided to head back a bit earlier than intended and stop at Akihabara (electric town), this place is a main street about a mile long filled with duty free electronics, side alley bars, sex shops and basically brothels. From the station exit I took the first thing I saw was a 5 storey sex shop broken down into category, I didn’t go into this one but they’re not shy about the business, there are banners across the windows on each floor, ground floor; means masturbators and lotions; 2nd floor women’s; 3rd costumes; 4th toys and costumes and fifth high end sex dolls. The thing is they’re not discreet; there are posters on the windows telling you this. In Akihabara there are girls dressed in outfits that you would see in the role play section of an Ann Summers catalogue. Some of them are canvassing for bars, themed casinos (girls all dressed as French maids and such) others are handing out fliers for sex parlors. All of these girls are early 20s if that, some of them don’t look old enough to be out past 10 and they’re all dressed in revealing clothes but the thing is they’re not trashy and look like they’re in need of a fix like most of the ones you see in Europe they’re all stunningly beautiful. I walked up and down the length and breadth of the street and some of the alleys. I even spotted a sex parlor and curiosity kicked in so I peeked inside. The girl at the counter blushed and said Japanese only. Ah well!
After the events of day 2 I went to the bar for a night cap and once again found myself heavily engaged in conversations with people id only met 20 mins prior. Roughly and hour later the 2 S Africans joined me and after telling them about my day and plans for the fish market in Tsukiji the next day we decided to see it together so after a few more drinks and arranged to meet at 4.45am for the early train.
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