Tuesday, August 31, 2010

August 31, 2010: Shinjukumania

Today we spent a leisurely morning in the Sunroute Hotel in Shinjuku where we are staying. We had breakfast buffet at the hotel and blogged. We left the hotel and went to the Odakyu shopping centre where we went up to the restaurant floor and found an excellent Japanese restaurant. We had a bento box that included prawn tempura, miso soup, rice, pickled things, some strange crab pudding type thing, and sashimi. We left and walked around some of the stores in the centre and walked around the viewing platform. Next we walked around Shinjuku more and admired the modern architecture. Our favourite building is called the Cocoon Building and it looks like a cocoon or sarcophagus. We tried to go up in it but only made it to floor two the rest were locked down for people who actually worked in the building.

We walked through the sweltering city heat to the Tokyo Municipal Building #1 where we went up in the North Tower. They are offices for the municipality, government, some schools, and other offices. There is a viewing platform free and open to the public taking an elevator up to the 45th floor. There are vistas all around Tokyo on top. There are maps that point out the noteworthy buildings and mountains that you cannot see because of the haze or smog. We had a dessert in the Italian café up there and admired the view, especially of the Cocoon Building.

We walked around Shinjuku some more and looked for some dinner. The flashing lights reminded us of Las Vegas but not quite the same. We had dinner at a deli place that actually was more like a trans continental cuisine place. We shared a Caesar Salad, Nachos, and a Margharita Pizza.

We walked all over Shinjuku getting lost in the side streets, marvelling over all the shops and looking in some of the department stores and strange pawn shops that actually seemed to be counterfeit goods, and eventually had a Baskin Robbins ice cream. We then headed out to a Pachinko parlour to play Pachinko. For those of you unacquainted with Pachinko it is a Japanese game like slot machines but you get a bunch of little silver balls that you then play like a pin ball machine that is vertical. It is loudy, smokey, and confusing in the place. We had a hard time figuring out how to start. It turns out you put your money directly into the machine and it spits out balls then you feed them into the machine and if you are Bill and April lose them all. The guy beside April tried to explain the strategy but no matter what we tried we lost the balls eventually and left empty handed. Apparently you cannot win money in exchange for the balls so people end up getting cigarettes, candy, or other items like cans of tuna in exchange. We have heard that there are people in alleyways willing to buy these items for money and that is how people end up getting money for them but it may be different nowadays. The book April was reading about Pachinko was written in 1975 and I have not played Pachinko since I was 3 in 1983 when it was all over candy so it’s tough to say. We walked back to our hotel around 10:00 p.m. exhausted. The temperature outside at that time was 30 degrees Celcius! It is hot.

The aptly named Cocoon Tower
Municipal Building #1: South Tower on the left, North Tower on the right.
April atop of the municipal tower
View from the municipal tower
Cocoon Tower
Cocoon Tower

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