From shrimp to Shinjuku

Asia wakes late and stays up later. We made breakfast at the hotel this morning, but many shops were yet to open by the time we checked out. Wandering the streets of downtown Kyoto we went in search of gifts and dried foods. The latter we purchased from Nishiki markets which sell everything from fresh seafood to pickled radishes.

Wandering through the main streets, the shopping arcades and the tiny alleyways I was struck by how the modern concrete buildings would have a little gap for an old house or a shrine.

Despite the wonderful cuisine of Kyoto we found ourselves in a branch of the First Kitchen hamburger chain trying to feed Alex some meat pasta. The pasta was too chewy for him so he preferred the salmon from my burger.

This time, when we caught the subway from Karasuma Shijo station to Kyoto station we were careful to search out the elevators, escalators and ramps, so the process of transporting our luggage was much easier. We had to hurry to make our Shinkansen ride. The platform, along with one opposite, was filled with students on some sort of excursion.

It was a brilliantly sunny day in Kyoto, but we sped into a cloud front on our way towards Tokyo. My hopes of seeing Mount Fuji were dashed. As the land outside changed from rice paddies to tea plantations, interspersed with cities and factories, all I caught a glimpse of was the mammoth base of Mount Fuji, its summit obscured by cloud.

Shinjuku is where we first stayed in Japan and it is good to be back there now amongst the neon canyons. But when we emerged out of Shinjuku station we were shocked to see how much had changed in a single year. Giant billboards that had been atop buildings since at least November of 2005 were gone, a building demolished, a big interesting Labi shop popping up at one corner. No longer does the light of the Epson sign shine into our bedroom window.

But much is still the same. The fruit store where we bought Alex an apple and bananas after he ate very little of the curry at that same underground restaurant we had dined in at least twice before. It’s very good Japanese curry.

I finally found the Lemura building after searching in vain for it and the ten chi toilet in 2007. I don’t know if the fantastical moving toilet is still there. I only noticed it while standing outside, opposite Mitsukoshi, waiting for B.

We had a lot of trouble finding nappies and wipes for Alex. We eventually ended up buying a bag from the the posh Isetan department store, but were then directed to Sanpei, an underground supermarket. They had a small range of nappies, but no proper baby wipes. We’ll just make do with regular wipes.

Our Japan Rail Passes expired today. They have served us well on this trip.

Outside I can hear the quiet rumble of trains as they arrive and depart from Shinjuku station, the world’s busiest. There are bright neon lights and giant screens. Young people dressed up as Barbie dolls, goths and combinations of both. Now I’m here in Shinjuku I don’t want to leave.

Filed under: