The chase is on! … continued

10 sushi pink  Will our first day in

               Japan be a lot of fun

              or will we just sleep?

Riding the Narita Express is a very pleasant experience – comfortable, a trolley drinks service and train attendants who bow as they enter or leave every compartment (or coach as the announcements have it) whether there are passengers within or not. It’s strange to our eyes and minds and  gives us an insight into the fact that for all it’s modernity Japan still retains some hard-wired traditions. There are news and weather updates on the flat screens at the front of each coach with very useful journey information as well as lots of ads of course. But Express is a bit of a generous appellation in my book. We left Narita at 10:48 and got to Shinjuku at 12:08 so an hour and twenty minutes for 50 miles seems less than arrow let alone bullet speed.

Just before we left we watched a documentary made by a friend’s company called “Shinjuku – the world’s busiest train station”. It was fascinating and just about prepared us for the warren of bemused foreigners (us included) and thousands of purposefully striding locals on their lunch breaks that met us. Finding an exit that would would lead to a taxi rank all the while struggling with our four suitcases remember, involved two lift rides, an escalator and a false exit before we found it at last. Again one had been somewhat forewarned but to get into a spotless very boxy vehicle – maintenance is obviously brilliant as all the cabs we’ve seen look very old models – and find lacy antimacassars and seat backs and the driver in white gloves. Oh I’ve got some suggestions for the black cab fraternity and their minicab competitors! The stern lady at Narita Express tickets had suggested we should expect to pay between ¥1000 and ¥2000 depending on traffic conditions. Well they must have been superb since the fare was ¥710 and tips are not expected in Japan.

We couldn’t check into our hotel until three o ‘clock so we deposited our bags in what wouldn’t have disgraced the lost luggage at Baker Street – clearly hundreds of people arrive on early flights and can’t check in till later. So we set off in quest of first some lunch and then Murakami’s new book.

First lunchWe walked around the immediate area looking at plasticized menu pictures of strange combinations and eventually settled on a 24-hour self-service place where we could choose our own food – and the two large, very much needed beers you see. It proved all rather Murakami as the staff were constantly screaming – pleasantries and encouragement I hope – at each other and then I looked out of the window and saw this. 
Robot float

It transpired that they were “The Shinjuku Robots” parading the streets on a float to publicize a forthcoming Shinjuku event. However in the middle of a day with no sleep it was food for thought. I’m sorry I hadn’t time to rush out and get a front on view but the traffic lights don’t wait that long.

But lunch was long enough to get us into the room, have a shower and then set off in search of news of Muarakami’s new book. Now the room – I recall a congratulatory post that we’d booked our first room for only £65 a night. Well it’s fine – the hotel is very well located, the lift works and for once we are not in the room furthest from it. However it might be a good place for Nakata (a character in Kafka on the Shore) to talk to or even interrogate cats but he certainly couldn’t swing one. However it’s fine for two nights, provides an extensive range of toiletries and towels and a yukata and slippers for each of us.

Refreshed we set off and walk towards where I think Kinokunia Bookstore should be. Passing a small shrine, a baseball batting cage like a gold driving range and several young ladies who start to offer me cards until they see Dee and hastily recover their doorway stations, we find Kinokunia, confirm publication at 08:00 on 12 April and suggest there will be a queue of about 80 waiting to get the latest Haruki fix. We’ll be there, sporting a unique 1Q84 tee shirt gained at the London launch of that book.

Making our way back to the hotel we encounter a delightful elderly gentlemen who asks us where we come from, is amazed at the length and breadth of our trip and offers helpful suggestions for good things to see in the area. We were at one of these, the Hanazomon Shrine, an oasis of peace in the midst of hectic, trendy Shinjuku. Through the line of torii in the right hand picture if you look carefully you can see at the end the gold fascia lettering of Emporio Armani – a real god meets mammon moment. It surprised me thirty years ago to see people come from their offices wash themselves ritually and go and stand before the shrine, say a few words of prayer and clap their hands to ensure their prayers were heard. I find it amazing today.

P1090102  P1090107

Sated with spiritualism we then moved off into the heart of Shinjuku’s “entertainment district”. Never has so much neon been burned in attracting people to spend their money. It’s truly amazing. We walked the streets, wondering at the large amounts of hanging about on street corners by both young men and women – some were certainly trying to get us to dine at their establishment but probably not all of them. However, resisting their blandishments we chose a bar of our own liking, had a couple of beers as many of Murakami’s characters do in this part of town and then went off for dinner. But not before exchanging meishi and becoming lifelong friends.

P1090110  P1090109  P1090122

Then back to the hotel via an interesting punch in the number to select your dish, pay in advance diner which was actually rather good and then to bed for one of us and to blog writing for the other, the results of which you know. It’s midnight again and we have to be up early to be in the queue at Kinokunia, so sayonara and Thursday’s news will have to wait until tomorrow.

14 thoughts on “The chase is on! … continued

  1. I’m not sure I’m following directions properly to comment!

    But I’m loving hearing the details of your travels. Exactly as I would expect: you fit in the fun before sleep.

    xo Daisy

    1. Fascinating James, thanks for sending it on. We’ve got ours as you’ll read – I’m floundering a day behind at the moment as days are too filled and sleep has some demands.

  2. I am so jealous. I am visiting Tokyo and Osaka end of May just for 10 days and my goal also is chase the locations in Murakami’s books! My search for this information led me to your blog and I am just envious, I hope you can give me places to go around Tokyo especially with reference to Norwegian Wood and Kafka on the Shore…

    1. Dear Patrick
      I hope you have the most wonderful trip. There are lots of references in many of the other posts in the blog. Happy hunting. Mike

  3. Wow, fantastic blog layout! How long have you been blogging for?
    you make blogging look easy. The overall look of your site is excellent, as well
    as the content!

    1. Thanks for the compliments, Charlie. I’ve only been blogging for a couple of months so it’s all quite new to me too. I have to thank WordPress for providing such excellent and flexible templates to start with. I work in media and communications so feel comfortable writing and have a fair idea of what makes a page attractive. Otherwise it’s beginner’s luck and some wonderful experiences to write about before, during and after the Japan trip.

  4. Greetings from Colorado! I’m bored to death at work so I decided to check out your blog on my iphone during lunch break. I really like the information you present here and can’t wait
    to take a look when I get home. I’m amazed at how fast your blog loaded on my cell phone .. I’m not even using WIFI, just 3G
    .. Anyways, great site!

    1. Sorry work was boring – not a good state of affairs. Very pleased the site loaded quickly – that’s thanks to WordPress which I find a great blogging tool. I hope you enjoy the rest of the blog as much as we enjoyed the trip. All the best Mike

  5. Good blog you’ve got here.. It’s hard to find excellent writing like yours nowadays.
    I really appreciate people like you! Take care!!

    1. Thank you Estella for your kind words. I’ll keep posting from time to time as it became quite addictive during our travels and fun things continue to happen.
      All good wishes, Mike

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