My original plan had been to take the train to Tokyo station and wander around the Imperial Palace or at least the public parts. Seeing as how the sun starts to set around 6pm I would probably get to the station just as the sun was starting to set in the sky. Instead I decided to visit Shinjuku again and find out where a specific store is since I am going to meet some people there on Sunday. Found the store quickly, then set off to wander around the area again. The usual things were to be found: legions of low paid greeters, trying to get people interesting in the menu of their resturant or trying to give everyone advertisements and packets of tissue paper. In general almost no one from either of those groups approaches me or offers me their advertisements. The group that approaches me the most often are the hosts or freelancers trying to get me to enter the nude girl revues. Mind you, this is to be expected in certain areas, such as Kabukicho (which happens to be in Shinjuku) but it also happens in other random areas that just happen to have that kind of entertainment. One place is right across from a large arcade and instead of having just face shots of the girls working there, it has full nude pictures right there in the open. How fun it must be for those women to have their bits exposed to the world thusly.
Anyways, I wandered around for about an hour before getting hungry. I wasn't certain where I wanted to eat or what I was in the mood for. Curry sounded nice but you can never be certain and it could force me to take up temporary residence within a restroom. A few Indian resutrants offered Chicken Tikka Masala but at 1500 yen without any rice or nan, each costing about another 500 yen. I'd rather save that money so I pressed on, becoming more hungry and still trying to decide just what I wanted to eat.
During this time I came upon a small shop that was selling pets. Three kittens and two dogs (the really hairy, puffy type) were be offered with the cheapest being around 700 dollars. This in and of itself wasn't too suprising as I have seen this before throughout Japan. What really distressed me was that after two people finished looking at the animals and left, the owner of the shop opened up the glass (the animals were in cages behind the glass) to move some things around. As soon as the owner opened up the glass all the animals went nuts, trying to get to the owner, mewing or barking. I couldn't tell if they desired food or just some attention. The whole scene really broke my heart and made me feel really bad for the animals. I could never work in such an environment as I would want to constantly play with the animals just so that they didn't feel abandoned. Poor little things. Left quickly after that scene because it was just too much for me to look at.
Continued wandering around Shinjuku until I came upon a small hamburger place and realized that I was in the mood for meat. Their fries were alright and one of the options they had for dipping sauce was this wonderful garlic mayo. The burger had an egg and some bacon on it along with this strange sauce full of pickles and other stuff. Each patty (two of them) had onions all over it and I had to scrape most of them off. Aside from that it was a decent enough burger. One gentleman next to me got a mini cheese pizza with pesto on it. I'll have to give that a shot the next time I'm in the area. Some people might think it's odd that I travelled halfway around the world and here I am eating western food. The problem is that my options are limited both by my budget and what I can eat. Noodles are good but usually require effort to remove all the green onions and those strange mushroom stalk like things. They also lack a fair amount of protein unless I can figure out how to order a bunch of extra pork or something. Curry is good but can cause problems like the ones I meantioned earlier. Sushi is nice but can be expensive to fill up on unless you find a good place and even then you cannot always be certain of how good it will be. I'd had tempura for lunch and wanted no more of it. Besides, sometimes you just feel like a nice burger or something similar.
After I ate I wandered around for a while before finding a coffee shop that offered desserts. The man behind the counter welcomed me in with "Good Evening" in Italian and in an act that will probably not occur again for a long time, I remembered just enough Italian to reply with a "Good Evening" of my own and placed my order in Italian. That confused the poor man and I placed my order for a large coffee and a small chocolate cake again in as close to Japanese as I could. The nice thing about this place was it offered three floors and I wanted to have a view of the area so I went to the second floor and took a seat at the window and proceeded to pour sugar and creme into my coffee. The chocolate cake was alright but you could tell that it had been sitting on the shelf for too long; the outer edges were dry and somewhat bitter and the inner part had become an almost solid hunk of chocolate. Sat and watched people coming and going until I finished up and got ready to leave. Just as I was leaving, the girl who had been sitting next to me had one of her friends arrive and they greeted each other with "Good Evening" in Italian, then proceeding to talk in Japanese. Very entertaining.
Got lost for a while trying to figure out where I was and where I was going. Almost like some kind of horrible nightmare where every turn you make leads you to the same street. During this time I found this alley that was mostly empty that had a parking area that had a barrier up. What was interesting was that there were about four stray cats there, one of which was a young kitten. They were all skiddish of course but one of them was willing and walked over to a young girl and let her pet it. Very sweet. The kitten was the most nervous of all, unwilling to get very close to any of us. After that I finally managed to figure out where I was and found my way to the arcade that I had been trying to find. Put down my name to play the gundam game and wandered around to watch some people playing. One business man playing Virtua Fighter was playing and his custom profile (stored on a card that almost everyone seems to have) had the name "Pornstar" on it. Honestly, I cannot make this stuff up. Sat down and waited for my turn to play my gundam game, an exercise that lead to me being soundly thrashed on my first game and doing marginally the second time around. Damn I feel like a newbie.
My ego damaged again I left that arcade and continued to wander about for a while before finding a few other arcades. In one I stopped to watch one man playing a soccer game in which he had chosen Brazil as his team. The odd thing about this was that he was playing in a tournament against the computer and his opponent in the final was Spain. That's right, only in a video game can Spain make it to the finals (sad, but true) and in the finals they got throughly thrashed by Brazil. Makes me sad.
Finally decided to go home, so I got on a train that was completely packed by the time everyone got on board. Evidently this line (Saikyo) in infamous for people who like to cop and feel and after being squished into the train I can understand just how easy it would be to do that. My right arm was caught between a business man's and a girls leg. If I had moved it (which I couldn't, I found out) I would have gotten a handful of someone's butt. Finally was set free by our arrival at Itabashi and wandered over to the supermarket to try and get lunch for tomorrow, only to find that it closed at 11pm and I had missed that by 20 minutes. Instead I walked home and found myself to be very tired and only stayed awake long enough to talk to Athena for a little while before she went offline. I followed suit quickly thereafter and fell asleep.
Photos for January 25th, 2007