the shinjuku skyscraper district and a vermillion shrine {walking tour 17: part 2}   21 comments

Sunday, April 9:  After leaving Shinjuku Gyoen and taking the metro back to Shinjuku Station, I walk out the west side of the station to see the Skyscraper District.  Shinjuku is the world’s busiest train station, handling over 3.6 million passengers a day. With over 200 exits and numerous platforms spread out over a large area, it serves as an essential transit hub for the Tokyo rail and subway network as well as rail links throughout the greater Kanto region.  Department stores cover nearly all sides, according to the Shinjuku Station website.

I’m so confused, I’m not really sure where to exit, but I just see a random west exit and emerge from the depths.  This is my view when I first exit.

the view west of Shinjuku Station

Below is one exit, but not the one from which I came. It’s still raining like the devil.

One of Shinjuku’s 200 exits

Rainy day in Shinjuku

It’s such a drab day, I have to stop to take a picture of a colorful florist.

One of my colleagues had on a cute outfit at work the other day and she said she bought it at Uni Qlo.  I find one here in Shinjuku, so of course I have to go in to explore.  Sadly, I come out empty-handed.

Shopping street in Shinjuku


I have a hard time getting oriented.  There are roads going out into all directions and walkways over the roads.  I wander around and it’s raining so hard, I can’t even get my map out to find my bearings.  I wander around randomly for a while until I find someplace to eat.

Shinjuku Sompo building

streets of Shinjuku


Skyscraper District of Shinjuku

There are several restaurants around the area, including one conveyor belt sushi restaurant that is packed with people.  I decide on 3rd Burger.

I’m not too happy with my lunch, as the hamburger “with vegetables” is rather chewy.  However, it is a pleasant place to find relief from the rain and to study my map, rather than continue to wander around haphazardly.

Road construction in Shinjuku

The most noteworthy skyscraper I see first is the Sompo Japan Nipponkoa Head Office Building, corporate headquarters for Sompo Japan Insurance.  At 200 metres (656 ft), the building is the 28th tallest building in Tokyo and the 33rd tallest in Japan.  Inside this building is the Seiji Togo Memorial Sompo Japan Nipponkoa Museum of Art. It’s named for the Japanese artist who is known for his paintings of young women.  It sounds appealing, and I try to go in but sadly find it is closed today.  It would have been a great way to stay dry for an hour or two.

Sompo Japan Building

The 54-story Shinjuku Center Building has a free observation deck on its 53rd floor, but I don’t bother going up since I won’t be able to see anything anyway.  It serves as the headquarters of the Taisei Corporation and is the workplace for 10,000 people, with 25,000 visitors.  It was featured in the 1984 film, The Return of Godzilla.

Shinjuku Center Building

The most fabulous building in my eyes is the 50-story, 204-meter (669 feet), Mode Gakuen Cocoon Tower. The building is home to three educational institutions: Tokyo Mode Gakuen (fashion vocational school), HAL Tokyo (special technology and design college), and Shuto Ikō (medical college). Completed in October 2008, the tower is the second-tallest educational building in the world and is the 17th-tallest building in Tokyo.

Mode Gakuen Cocoon Tower

Shinjuku Sompo building

Shinjuku Center Building

Mode Gakuen Cocoon Tower

I’m surprised to find the LOVE sculpture that originates in Philadelphia.

LOVE at Shinjuku

While walking around in Shinjuku, a gust of wind catches my umbrella and turns it inside out, breaking one of the ribs.  One of the metal pieces is sticking out dangerously, and I can’t help but think it might poke my eye out. As I head to the Family Mart to buy a new one, it stops raining. I put my umbrella in the umbrella stand and go inside the Family Mart to check out what’s available.  Since I already spent an outrageous sum of 2,800 yen (~$26) to buy my umbrella at Tokyu Hands, I’m not keen to spend another 1,280 (~$12) today if I no longer need to.  I only brought a certain amount of money to hold me until pay-day on April 26, and I need to make my money last. I forego the new umbrella and leave my broken one in the rack.  I would have just trashed it, but as Tokyo has such strict rules about what you can put in the trash, I wasn’t sure of how to dispose of it.


karaoke at Shinjuku


Busy crossing at Shinjuku

I return to Shinjuku Station to walk over to the east side of the station.  As soon as I exit the station on the east side, two nice Japanese ladies standing near an information area ask me where I’m going.  I tell them I’m in search of Hanazono Shrine. They kindly direct me, and as I make my way there, it starts to rain again.  It’s a light drizzle at first, so I think I might be okay.

eastern portion of Shinjuku

Shopping street east of Shinjuku Station

However, as soon as I get to the Hanazono-jinja Shrine, it starts to pour.  I’m going to get drenched without an umbrella.  I remember seeing another Family Mart near the shrine, so I backtrack and buy the 1,280 yen umbrella, which is much sturdier than my expensive Tokyu Hands one.  I walk back to the shrine, still brilliantly vermillion even in the rain.  It houses the guardian deity of Shinjuku.

Hanazono Shrine

Hanazono-jinji Shrine dates back to before the founding of the city of Edo, the former name of Tokyo and seat of power for the Tokugawa shogunate,which ruled Japan from 1603 to 1868.  The shrine sits on the site of a garden that belonged to the Hanazono branch of the Tokugawa clan, which is why the name of this Inari Shrine is also that of a daimyō family; these were powerful Japanese feudal lords who, until their decline in the early Meiji period, ruled most of Japan from their vast, hereditary land holdings.  Inari is responsible for many things, one of which is the welfare of merchants.  This leads many local shopkeepers to pray here for financial success.

Hanazono Shrine

Hanazono Shrine

Hanazono Shrine

vermillion torii at Hanazono Shrine

Hanazono Shrine

large torii gate at the entrance to Hanazono Shrine

It’s feeling pretty desolate here at Hanazono, as even the vendors from the Sunday flea market are almost packed up. It’s 3:00 p.m. now, and I am tired of the day and of the rain, so I head back to Shinjuku Station to make my way home.  Before I descend, I see this colorfully painted metal utility box.  It makes me smile before I weave through the crowds at Shinjuku to get back on the train.

a utilitarian metal box turned to art

This time, I take the Rapid Express Odakyu line for Machida, and then to Fuchinobe, where I ride my bicycle home in the rain. Upon returning home, I enjoy a glass of wine and actually cook myself a meal of salmon with some prepared asparagus and a vegetable rice patty.  I’ve been watching the newest season of Grace & Frankie; soon after I settle in to watch, I drift off to sleep, exhausted from the day.

Steps on this walk: 19,560 (8.29 miles).  I didn’t do the entire walk today as I wasn’t that interested in all the skyscrapers and was feeling defeated by the rain. 😦


21 responses to “the shinjuku skyscraper district and a vermillion shrine {walking tour 17: part 2}

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  1. Crikey it all looks very confusing! I get disorientated knowing which exit to take on the Tube and there are only usually 4 or so! I’m glad you found the shrine, so much more interesting than skyscrapers. I think I would panic on those streets! But you seem to take it all in your stride. Hope the teaching is going well 🙂

    • As Cathy noted, these massive skyscrapers often house incredible art galleries and museums and amazing shops on the lower floors.

      • I still reckon I’d get very lost!

      • Heyjude, it is very odd but you do get used to it and I am saying that from when I lived there 28 years ago when there were no English translations anywhere. You kind of create a mental map in your mind of visual cues and signposts and breadcrumbs to find your way around. It takes a while, but the main thing was to NEVER deviate from an accepted route or you would get horribly lost, which was quite frightening when you are totally illiterate in the native language.

      • You definitely do have to create a mental map, and luckily these days, there are many English signs. I do fear getting lost, but I also think you can always find a metro station somewhere that can get you back to where you want to go. 🙂

      • The Japanese know how to put all space to use efficiently!

    • It is very confusing! The teaching is all going about as well as can be expected with a bunch of 2nd year students who are unmotivated and at a lower level than I would have expected. 🙂

  2. Some days are definitely better..take a look at some knitting supplies for me, a quest and see about a second hand book store…I take it you’re in the big city or close to it, hows the fruits and had salmon, fresh? what of marine with the nuclear meltdown…concerns? do you see/hear birds? is red the primary colour?


    • Jimbocho is the used book store district. Incredible finds. For any crafting Robin, you would go to a Tokyu Hands department store. Are you planning on moving there?!

    • Fruits and veggies are good here and of course, yes, fresh salmon and tuna, etc. Loving it here all around, but I haven’t yet found any secondhand book shops. But I haven’t really been looking for them either….Yes, lots of birds, and I wouldn’t say red is the primary color, not like in China. More muted tones are the order here. 🙂

  3. I know what you mean about the exits. You really need to know where you want to end up and it gets very tricky. It sounds like you’re doing pretty well though. Shame about the rain. I hope it’s dried up since then.

    • We’ve had perfect weather. Yesterday Golden Week began and it’s in the mid-60s and breezy; yesterday was sunny but today is supposed to be cloudy. The next three days, which I also have off, are supposed to be perfect. 🙂

  4. Hi there!! I used to work a weekly extra evening class in the Shinjuku Center Building, the tall brown one. I took that job on the 48th floor so as to be able to watch the lights come on at dusk. Magic! Too bad you bought an expensive umbrella at Tokyu Hands. Do they no longer sell the clear plastic 500 yen ones everywhere the minute it starts raining? I much better investment. I bought a number of very expensive umbrellas there (where else can you find so many incredible pop-up umbrella shops!?) only to have them either forgotten in the pub or stolen, the one item that did grow legs if you weren’t paying attention. I bought a gorgeous Anne Klein umbrella though which I have treasured these 25 years, only to have one of the rib assemblies break in a fierce gust of wind! I was heartbroken! However, I found out in Vancouver there are two umbrella repair shops, I have sent photos of the injured patient and am awaiting instructions as I am praying they can fix it. I love that umbrella and while I have invested in other ones, that one is special. However, I recommend you stick to the el cheapo 500 yen jobs rather than spend 12 dollars or whatever on one you will leave behind when you go home.

    The rain can get to you, but as you lived in S. Korea you know what you are in for….!!!!! Rainy season, boiling hot and humid misery. !! Cannot wait until you return to Kabukicho. If you lived in Shinjuku area you would quickly get used to the massive underground city that goes for miles and know where to exit. The secret we had was to memorize the kanji but now with all the English everywhere (there was none in 1989 at all anywhere! And was only starting to get common when I left in 1994.) you will get your bearings if you plan to do all those Tokyo walks. The Shrines will all start to look the same (the smaller ones) so I recommend you don’t feel you need to visit every one in the guidebook, just the major ones. I am sure you will soon have Yoyogi Park on your list, that is not to be missed for all the strange rock bands all over the place.

    Have fun!!!!!!! Stay dry!

    Mona Lisa 😀

    • My current umbrella is a 700 yen one; sometimes I can use those big sturdy umbrellas at various places, where people leave them as communal umbrellas. I do that periodically on campus.

      Cool that you taught a class at the Shinjuku Center Building.

      I’m not looking forward to the hot and humid rainy season, which is said to begin in June and go through July. Ugh. Right now, the weather is perfect. I could live with this kind of weather for all time.

      I was just at Yoyogi Park yesterday (dropping by after going to Meiji Shrine), but it is not my kind of park at all, with all the noise. I didn’t even want to go in, but just looked in on it. It reminds me too much of those Chinese parks where every family with kids goes and the kids are screaming and music is blaring. I enjoy the more quiet spots, which, as far as I can see, are hard to find in the middle of the city. I’m so glad I’m on the outskirts of Tokyo. It’s much more my pace. 🙂

  5. You went in a clothes store and came out without buying anything? Cathy, you’re slipping! 🙂 🙂 How is the wearing a uniform going? I have to say that this aspect of Japan thrills me much less than the sakura. Bring on the shrines! If you can find them 🙂 🙂 (Mona Lisa sounds helpful)

    • Haha, you know me too well, Jo. Lately, I haven’t been so self-disciplined. Japan is a shopper’s paradise; I have to be careful or I won’t have any travel money! You know I don’t wear a uniform, but I do have to dress in “business attire.” Ugh, that’s bad enough. But I think they’re going to announce more casual dress sometime in May. 🙂

      I’ve visited a lot of shrines by now, Jo, especially in Kamakura, which was wonderful. Mona Lisa’s the one who recommended my 29 Walks in Tokyo book; it’s been a great help. Plus my colleagues always have recommendations for things as they’ve been in Japan for years. 🙂

  6. Two hundred exits from the station? Like Jude, I’ve been confused by four in some of the London stations so I’ve no idea how I would cope with two hundred!

    • I know, Elaine, these metro stations are crazy. Usually the signage is pretty good, although yesterday I went to Shibuya and it took me a good long while to find my transfer line. It was very confusing, but the station is undergoing renovation; maybe that’s why it was so convoluted. 🙂

      • A busy station with lots of exits and lines also undergoing renovation must be a complicated experience for even the locals, never mind intrepid tourists. 😦

      • That’s for sure, Elaine! I never know what the heck I’m doing in these huge stations. I just wander around in circles looking for a sign to point me in the right direction, and when I can’t find one, I ask around until someone can help me out! 🙂

  7. Pingback: shinjuku: kabukichō, hanazono-jinja, and golden gai — topped off by a gelato at isetan :-) | catbird in japan

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