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.
Below is one exit, but not the one from which I came. It’s still raining like the devil.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
I’m surprised to find the LOVE sculpture that originates in Philadelphia.
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.
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.
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-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.
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.
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. 😦