Tokyo Turbocharge

This blog is not really a blog so much as a story in the process of being written. It's about what happens when an English guy goes to Japan for a couple of years. Please use the comments to let me know what bits you like or don't like.

You can start at the beginning by clicking here, or go to my normal blog Glacons.

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

5. Up to Shinjuku

By the time we had finished our cigarettes and headed back indoors, the throng of JET participants and organisers was looking ready to move on out. An enthusiastic American girl was waving a flag beckoning us to follow her past the crowds, so we rejoined our trolleys and starting pushing back out into the stifling humidity. Being in the majority British, we all made a neat and orderly queue at the coach as the suited driver and his assistant franticly arranged all our cases into neat rows inside the coach's cavernous hold, occasionally wiping the beaded sweat of their foreheads with white handkerchiefs.

Inside the coach were the same ridiculous lace curtains we had seen when smoking. A huddle of us soon started talking, leaning across the backs of our chairs, cracking jokes. It was the usual talk you get on these occasions, "Where are you from?", "Where are you going?", "Oh! You've been to Japan before. So what's it like?". Fatigue and the motion of the bus made such pleasantries a strain, and before long I was gazing out the tinted window at the view clutching at my senses, searching for my own visual answers to the mysterious place I had just arrived in. The grey modernity of Narita airport was soon left behind as we drove past the hotels and onto the motorway, competing for road space with exotic Nissans and Hondas. The land opened up around us until my eyes fell upon a scene of watery squares dotted on the inside with green and growing clumps of rice, and bounded with raised lines of earth criss-crossing themselves perpendicular and reaching out to the parking lots of blue roofed houses and the walls of two-storey white tiled appartment blocks.

Swimming under the weight of fatigue, I shut my eyes for what felt like a moment but opened then again to find that the open land had suddenly been closed in up into a visual mess the like of which I had never, ever, seen before. The highway has raised itself up above the ground level and I was looking down and out and up and yet all I could see was buildings. Some were tall and and some were short but they were all decorated in brilliant Japanese and colour against plain facade. As the coach slowed in the traffic I glanced up between two buildings stretching thirty metres above me but squashed together only two metres apart, their windows facing into each other into the shade of their mutual shadow. Although clean, the view was far from tidy and neat. Telephone lines and power cables were draped dangling ramshackle and running off to the buildings. And the buildings themselves were arranged onto the Tokyo urban landscape with the planned consistency of a box full of a million multi-sized lego bricks dropped in one random act of fate from above.

A little bit further and we took a gradient off to the left, descending down an incline until we found ourselves on the ground with the highway twenty metres above us, suspended on colossal y-shaped posts standing firm in the tarmac. Down at street level the road was lined with ribbons of pavement, and railings with bike upon bike perched against them bearing granny baskets on their handle bars, and shops with their store fronts lit up in flashing neon under the darkness of the shielded sun. We turned left away from the highway's shadow and the sky opened up around us to reveal that we were hundreds of metres deep in a sea of skyscrapers, moving slowly at the bottom of a wide plateau of black road divided in the middle by a thin mohican stripe of green lawn and lampposts. I didn't know it yet but this was Shinjuku, one of the throbbing hearts of the city, pumping out electronic noise and light from it's shops selling all the latest cameras and and mobiles amongst its narrow back streets, processing three quarters of a million passengers every day through its station. The paths of this town were going to be trodden raw by my feet over the next two years, a small fortune spent in the station and the restaurants and the clubs and bars. But at that first encounter seen from the coach window just above the tidy pavement but way way below the shining dagger peaks, I was headed with the other fourty recruits to the Keio-Plaza Intercontinental Hotel for my one-day arrival briefing.

Next Part

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October 10, 2005 at 8:18 PM  

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