We finally hit Tokyo for real. We headed over to the West side of town, to Shinjuku. If you have any preconceived ideas about Tokyo – here they come true.
Begin with Shinjuku Station, which is the busiest of the world in terms of passenger throughput (3.64 million people per day in 2007). 11 train and metro lines intersect here and the station has more than 100 exits.
The train tracks cut Shinjuku into an Eastern and a Western part. And they are very different in nature. We started on the West side, an office and administrative district.
Here, a forest of concrete, steel and glass grows into the skies, taking forms that range from the organic shape of the fancy new Tokyo Mode Gakuen Cocoon Tower (finished in 2008) to the elegant slope of the Yasuda Kasai Kaijo Building to shapes that resemble more a crystal growth or a self-organizing ensemble of computer chips, as found in Tange Kenzo’s 1 billion US$ Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building. This skyscraper forest exudes the cool composure of giants who will live through the ages and are watching the ants run deep down on the ground.
After having wandered around for a while with our heads bent back, staring up all the time, we were ready for a different perspective. We headed to the observation platform on the 45th floor of the South Tower of the Metropolitan Government Building. From there, we looked down at the endless expanse of the city of Tokyo. Rising from the far away mists, a hint of Mount Fuji greeted us from the South-West.
Afterwards, we had our lunch (home made onigiri) in Shinjuku Park, where a few homeless people live in tents. True to the Japanese spirit, also homeless’s tents are as orderly as can be. Shoes outside, clothes hanging from clothes hangers, and the floor inside was just being cleaned while we were passing.
While West Shinjuku lies under a strange, calm spell, East Shinjuku is boiling over with frantic movement, sounds and colors. The are all sorts of shops and stores, fast food restaurants and Pachinko parlors, also a red light district is located here. Again Tokyo like you know it from TV.
It took us a while before we managed to navigate our way across Shinjuku Station to the East side (getting lost several times in department stores). Once on the other side, our brains immediately went into buffer overflow under the attack of audiovisual sensory input. After some aimless drifting in the crowd, we returned dazed to the station, from where a crowded train took us away all across town, until one hour later, we were back in our quiet Kashiwa-no-Ha.