Japan Trip Day 4 – Shinjuku
Woohoo, still motivated to write more about my Japan trip. Here’s the fourth day, Shinjuku.
Today’s destination is Shinjuku, the red-light district of Japan. My experiences in Shinjuku can really be split into a dichotomy of day and night. During the day, there are many sights to see, including parks, museums, buildings (Shinjuku has Tokyo’s largest concentration of skyscrapers). It’s a busy place where you will see businessmen coming and going all the time. Compared with other places in Tokyo, it’s definitely not as tourist-friendly, but I would still recommend visiting. The day is nice, but the night is where things really starts happening. At around 7pm or so, pimps will start to roam the streets, drunk people will increase in number as the night goes on, and even fights would start to break out randomly. I never been to any other red-light districts before so I don’t know how crazy Shinjuku is in comparison, but there are definitely lots of things going on. There are also gangs and triads, so be careful when you go.
Breakfast – Sushi
This is the second time I had sushi in Japan. We went to a place with more variety this time (instead of getting a bowl of tuna). The store layout was pretty professional, and it felt comfortable eating there. They offered several sets, the cheapest being around 700 yen. I got the medium set (which was about 1000 yen), but it already came with quite a lot of types of sushi. Everything is fresh and it tasted great. I really liked how it came with steamed egg. If anything is cheaper in Japan, it’s sushi. It only cost 1000 yen for an assorted plate of fresh, GOOD sushi. That’s a deal that you definitely can’t find in the states. 4/5
Day – Epson Office
Not much to see here, but there happen to be a photo exhibition, so we stopped by. We also didn’t have much other places to visit, since some other museums were closed. That said, make sure to check whether a place is open before you go. This is already the second time I missed out on a place because it was closed! (first was in Odaiba).
Day – Bunka Gakuen Costume Museum
This museum host different exhibits throughout the year. When we went, they were displaying various costumes and clothing from the Middle Eastern region. They had a pretty good collection of things from different eras. The place is actually quite small though, only two stories high, and two exhibition halls, and it cost 500 yen to get in. It’s … really not worth the money, unless you’re into clothing or have a special interest in history or art.
Day – Takashiyama Time Square
A department store. There are plenty of these in Ginza and Shibuya, so we didn’t spend too much time in there. It’s a typical department store so we didn’t spend much time here. I’ve found that all department stores seem to have very similar layout. The basement is always where they sell food, mainly snacks and gifts, but they don’t have much “real” food. The first floor is almost always sell make-up, then the floors above will sell women clothing, men clothing, kids clothing, then maybe kitchen and living room items, in that order. Sometimes the top floor will have restaurants, but generally, those are pretty pricey.
Snack – Chocolate Bread
Bought myself a chocolate bread as snack. Just so-so. Wasn’t expecting much to begin with though. 3/5
Day – Shinjuku Central Park
This is the park right behind Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building. It wasn’t the best looking park, but it’s a nice change of scenary from all the skyscrapers in West Shinjuku. It was mostly under construction, and about half of the park was not accessible. There were some skateboarders, some painters, etc. It was quite relaxing, but since we can only walk around half the park, we didn’t spend too much time there either.
Day - Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building
Not too sure what this building is for exactly, but I’m assuming it’s like Tokyo’s city hall. The building is very tall, and surprisingly, although it’s a government building, it has a small area for tourists, which makes this more tourist-friendly than any other place we’ve been to in West Shinjuku. You can take the elevator to the top floor where there are places to sit, a small cafe, and a gift shop. You can get a good view of Shinjuku from up there, I highly recommend coming here if you visit Shinjuku during the day.
Late Lunch – Standing Sushi
Ate sushi again for lunch. This is the first time we tried standing sushi. These types of sushi stores are manifestations of how busy Japanese people are, and it’s really a cultural symbol. Most people there are businessmen who just wants to get a quick bite before running off to their next client. Each stand have a hot water dispenser and powdered green tea. You really don’t need waitresses to do anything besides wipe the area after someone finishes eating. It’s very efficient, and pretty cheap too. An order of sushi (2 pieces) is around 150 yen, and like all sushi places in Japan, it’s both fresh and tasty.
Night - Kabukichō
Night finally arrived, and so we visit the notorious Kabukichō (in East Shinjuku). As it gets darker, more and more people start to cram the streets. There are bars and restaurants everywhere. It’s really different from anything we’ve encountered this trip. Everywhere, you can see pimps trying to lure people into their stores or hook them up with their girls. We were approached by several, and surprisingly, most of them can speak multiple languages. The ones that met can speak Chinese and Korean fairly well, and some English too. We actually had a good chat with two of them. One came from Korea, but is fluent in Japanese, Chinese, and Korean. He showed us pictures of girls on a PSP, but we were told that the legitimate pimps will always show the girls in person. So he was most likely trying to scam our money. Later, we got separated with one of our friends, and we asked a person in front of a bar to help us out. He was nice and started calling people to look for our friend. In the meantime, he kept asking if we wanted to sit and drink in his bar, so we weren’t sure if he was just being nice to get our business. One thing I do know for sure is to keep your guard up in Shinjuku. There are scammers and liars everywhere, so it’s best to go with someone who’s familiar with the area.
Dinner – All-you-can-drink!
One of the things we really wanted to do at Japan is to drink, drink, drink. We’ve been keeping drinking to a minimal for the past few days, but tonight, there were just too many opportunities to pass up. There are many restaurants that offers all-you-can-drink (all of which have a time limit). We picked a random restaurant. It was very small, it only had about 5-6 tables, but at least it looked safe. One thing we were really scared of is getting ripped off, and this place looked legitimate enough. There were various types of sake and other Japanese liquor made from various grains. I don’t know the name of what we drank, I just remember trying everything they had on their drink menu. We also ordered a lot of food, and it ended up costing us about 2500 yen each. I think they may have overcharged us (perhaps b/c we were foreigners), but we were too drunk to tally up the bills so we just paid what they asked for.
Night – Long Walk Home
After we chugged as much alcohol as we can, we were buzzed off our feet and couldn’t do anything, so we decided to rest at an arcade. Before we know it, time flew by, and we missed the last train home (around midnight). We only had two options, 1) wait til 5am when the train starts running again, or 2) walk. It was a chilly night, and we really didn’t want to stick around Kabukichō any longer, so we decided to walk back to Asakusabashi. Looking at the map, the walk is around 10km, but adding some twists and turns, it probably ended up being 11-12km. I noticed that the only stores open that late at night are convenient stores and McDonald’s. It took us about 3 hours to walk from Shinjuku back to Asakusabashi. It was a unique experience, walking through the streets of Tokyo at night, but it is also something I wouldn’t ever want to try again. To anyone planning to go to Shinjuku to drink and party, make sure to catch that last train back, or save up enough energy to stay there all night.