Shinjuku

Tokyo and its environs are so vast and diverse that you could write a separate book about the blocks around each individual train station, and there are a lot of train stations.

Here are some images of Shinjuku. A central hub itself divided into distinct districts, making it a city within a city.

It doesn’t sleep, but it ebbs and cycles. It generates its own energy, perpetually.

Have faith in Shinjuku. No matter how long or how far you are gone, or what you do while you are absent, it will never judge you, and it will always take you back.


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Golden Gai, in East Shinjuku. A couple of blocks of narrow, interconnected streets and alleys in which are clustered almost two hundred tiny, fascinating bars. As you sniff whisky, sake, or over-carbonated lager, you can listen to heavy metal, jazz, Japanese folk music, or just drunken rants and smoky laughter, depending on which door you happen to have tentatively creaked open. The area attracts misfits, bohemians, tourists, and on Friday nights nearby nine-to-five workers who are through with social fakery, for a few hours at least.


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The grounds of an urban temple, Tenryu-ji. Just a few doors down from the temple is Antiknock, a basement punk club. A little further and you’ll come to Takashimaya, a huge, upmarket department store. Traffic speeds by on the busy road at the front, heading toward the expansive station complex. But in here are stillness, gravestones, protective statues in a row, and a large temple bell. On the rear side of the grounds, a residential block contains aging apartment buildings and houses that back right up to the graveyard, their curtained windows overlooking rows of grey stone, before which are incense, flowers, and other left offerings: cans of coffee and beer, packets of cigarettes, the everyday items the departed once enjoyed.


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Gunkan Higashi Shinjuku. Constructed in 1970, the building’s name means Battleship East Shinjuku, and it was designed by Metabolist architect, Youji Watanabe.

Having fallen into disrepair, the naval-inspired structure came close to demolition, but its unique presence was saved, and in 2010 it underwent renovation and now contains living and commercial space.

Commanding and bizarre, yet slotted neatly into a perfectly normal row of nondescript urban architecture, it creates an imposingly memorable juxtaposition.

And when you’ve had a look from every perplexing angle, and Shinjuku offers–knowingly, inevitably–the timely pull of abandonment, you will be just a few minutes tread from the wayward, drunken swagger of Kabukicho, and all its wasted reminders.

 

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