Tag Archives: japan

Sleepwalking Through Shinjuku

Early morning. I have a cold. I took some Japanese decongestant and I’m undercaffeinated. My feet hurt. It’s starting to rain. What should I do today?

How about wander through the alleys of Shinjuku in the morning drizzle?

A triple latte made me a little less groggy, so I didn’t even get lost all that much.

The Golden Gai in Shinjuku looks like this. It had a definite Nasty Vomit Sauce vibe, but everything’s closed in the morning, so there’s no way to check.


Next I went to Akihabara. I had a hankering for Freshness Burger* and figured I could have lunch and check camera prices in the duty-free shops.

Akihabara is “Electric Town”. It grew out of the black market in surplus military electronics that went on under the train tracks after World War 2. That portion is still there—although it’s legit now—and sells all sorts of electronic components and related items as the trains rumble overhead.


If you’re more than about 5′ 10″ you’ll bump your head. There’s even a second story in there.


The rest of the area is a more standard jumble of computer/camera/stereo/DVD/you-name-it businesses.


The cameras I looked at all had the same prices as on Amazon. I would have saved on taxes and shipping, but that’s it.

And there’s no Freshness Burger there, so I went back to Shinjuku. I knew I’d seen one there. I had lunch and listened to two Japanese girls speak French to each other, then went back to the hotel to take a nap.

* Mos Burger is pretty good, but Freshness Burger is better.

The Danger of Trains

There are those who say that this blog focuses on trains too much, that it’s insufficiently dramatic and fails to live up to the high—even stellar—standards that this blog has set in the past.

To those people I say: You do not realize the danger of stepping onto a train in Tokyo. On any day, at any moment, something like this could happen.


He always goes after the trains. Not to mention the risk from Rodan flying over, or Ghidrah’s lightning breath, or Gamera shooting fire from his leg holes. Granted, Gamera is with a different film company, so he wouldn’t attack in conjunction with those other monsters, but any one of them would be sufficient, is what I’m saying.

But this blog giggles in the face of danger. That’s our commitment to you, our several readers.

You’re welcome.

Nasty Vomit Sauce

About 20 years ago, a friend visited Tokyo and told me of something called “nasty vomit sauce” at some dive down an alley in Shinjuku. I tried to find it today while I was stranded in Shinjuku.

Sumimasen,” I said to passersby. “Nasuchivomitososuno restauranwa doko desuka?”

But they just bowed and acted embarrassed and rushed away.

Iidesuyone!” I called after them, but I guess they all had a train to catch or something.

I’ll try again tomorrow. Somebody must know.

Conurbationary Megalopoli

Imagine greater Los Angeles. At 4850 square miles, it has about 13,000,000 people. Now increase the size slightly, to 5240 square miles. Then nearly triple the population, to 36,000,000. Make most of the roads too narrow to drive on and put a giant, confusing train system in the middle of it. Add vast amounts of neon signs and video screens and one emperor.

Now try to find your way around.

I couldn’t find a place to stay in Tokyo proper, at least not for a reasonable price, so I’m staying in Saitama, a little north of Tokyo. Getting here is straightforward. You just take the Saikyo line to Todakoen station. You have to make sure you get on a local or a rapid express, not a super rapid express, because that one bypasses Todakoen. Otherwise, no problem.

But if you’re going the other direction, the line stops at Shinjuku. If you’re foolish enough to stay on the train, thinking it will continue to Shibuya, well…it won’t. It now goes in the other direction, back toward Todakoen. To continue toward Shibuya, you have to get off and take a train on the Rinkai line, which is the same exact line. It’s just called something else in this direction.

So that was a good chunk of my afternoon.

I finally got to Shibuya, but all I did was get a triple latte at the Starbucks that overlooks Shibuya crossing and watch the people go back and forth across the street. A fair percentage of them were just crossing the street to try to get pictures of everyone else crossing the street.

At the starting gate, just as the light turns…


Tonight I’m just going to stay in and read a William Gibson novel.

Eel Update

The eel at the little divey place in Akihabara is better than the regular eel in Kyoto, but not as special as the special eel. The quality conger, while indeed exhibiting some quality, was slightly less special still.

Matsumoto to Tokyo

Matsumoto to Tokyo was simple: northeast to Nagano on the limited express, then southeast to Tokyo. After that…

I took the Yamanote line from Ueno station. It loops around the city, so I thought I could get a look at the different areas. All I got a look at was the people standing next to me, and occasionally some buildings and train tracks. And I might have seen Shibuya Crossing. Not sure. So I wasted about an hour looping back to Ueno station.

Now then. I have a membership with Toyoko Inn, which is a chain of inexpensive business hotels. They’re all over Japan. But in order to find one, I had to look them up online, and that meant that I had to find wifi. I hadn’t had wifi access since the fish & chips place in Matsumoto. Starbucks has free wifi, but you have to sign up for it first, which means you need an Internet connection first. If I had that, I wouldn’t need the wifi.

But I had signed up for it, just in case. Now I just needed access long enough to get to the confirmation email that they should have sent.

So I got off at Ueno to see if there was public wifi. Nothing. I walked a few blocks from the station to see if I could see a Toyoko Inn. Nothing. But I knew there was a Toyoko Inn near Akihabara, and that was just two more stops, so I got back on the train and went there.

I couldn’t see anything near the station, but I found really slow wifi in one area in front of the station, which enabled me to confirm my Starbucks registration. There was a Starbucks on the third floor of a department store adjacent to the station. So: upstairs, buy a latte, and…no place to sit. Found a bench in the department store and connected to Starbucks. “Cannot connect because you do not have an Internet connection.” Tried several times.

Back downstairs with all my stuff, including a latte I didn’t really want. Tried to put some of the stuff in a locker, but didn’t have enough coins. Carried everything back to the slow wifi area and got to the page with Toyoko Inn’s address and walked there. It’s not really that close.

They only had a vacancy for tonight. I still have to find a place for the rest of the nights, but at least I have wifi here.