Shinjuku, Harajuku and Shibuya
Trip Start Feb 06, 2007
5Trip End Ongoing
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The plan for today was for us (Chris, Christie and I) to setup our bank accounts, and get phones... and we did all that, and saw some of the craziest things in the process.
So the day started when i met Christie and Chris at their station, and from there we rode the train into Shinjuku station (around about 30 minutes). Shinjuku Station is ENORMOUS! Enormous doesn't even begin to cover it! There are 7 platforms (each 2 sided), but underneath is like an enormous cavity swarming with people! It was only around 11am, so not really rush hour, but even then there were more people than you'd see in a day at Brisbane. And it's so confusing trying to find your way out - according to Wikipedia there are more than 200 exits. Of course most of the signage is in English, but it doesn't really help when you don't know where you want to go. We eventually found our way out to the surface, and found Yodobashi Camera! i've been told lots about this place, and it looks like a great place to spend money when you have it :P Anyway, here's a photo of me outside Yodobashi Camera (just outside/on top of Shinjuku station) - just to prove that I really am in Tokyo!
While in Shinjuku we only really saw a tiny part of it - it really is enormous. As Brisbane was pretty much the only big city I've been able to explore, the sheer scale of Tokyo just blows me away. The streets we were walking through would be described as side streets in Brisbane (just going by size), and while in Brisbane they'd be empty, or the backs of stores, here they're just full of people and shops.
Anyway, we had our first coffee at a Tokyo Starbucks - when we were in there we saw some non-Japanese people. It's funny, I'm sure Tokyo has many foreigners, but just due to the sheer number of people living here most of the time all you see are Japanese people, so when you see Westerners you can't help but get a little excited. We saw these two guys in Starbucks, and were excited, thinking they were someone we could ask for directions. Then they started speaking in French.
I managed to set up my bank account after amazingly finding my bank - it took maybe 15 minutes to set up the account and to receive my card (which almost ended in disaster when the assistant in the bank asked what my name was in katakana) - and another 15 minutes for me to work out how to use the ATM. My first attempt ended up with me walking out of the bank - it seemed easy enough at first, it has the important words such as DEPOSIT, WITHDRAWAL and BALANCE written in English, so you select them on the touch screen. Next it comes up with a screen entirely written in Hiragana, and a button saying "Confirm".
Among the rest of my adventures in Shibuya I found a 5 or 6 floor stationary store but couldn't for the life of me find bluetack, and hunted for and eventually found a toilet (they're extremely hard to find here, as are bins).
After meeting back up with Christie and Chris, we headed to Harajuku to get a phone... which meant going BACK into Shinjuku station, and finding our train (the Yamanote Line), not a simple task, in any sense of the word.
Harajuku is amazing. The street in this photo is the first we saw stepping out of Harajuku station - its a tiny little street, about a quarter as wide as Queen St Mall, and is just filled with people. Each side of the street is filled with clothes shops, ranging from everyday fashion to goth to costume shops. This street is itself a side street off the main street which runs through Harajuku and Shibuya and goes off to godknowswhere, and off this street are even more even smaller side streets, each packed with more clothes stores. And none of the streets have names! Moo, when you come to Tokyo I'm taking you straight to Harajuku - you're just going to go nuts!
Everyone is wearing the coolest clothes, the craziest clothes, and everyone is eating crepes!
All of a sudden in Harajuku we started seeing these Crepe stalls, where you can buy crepes filled with pretty much whatever you want!
So it turns out that despite the Softbank website saying they had a Megastore (we figured a Megastore would be the place most likely to have someone who spoke some English) in Harajuku, its actually in Shibuya. We found this after we realised we had NO idea where to look in Harajuku and asked a policeofficer where it was - he, like everyone else we've had to deal with, was so friendly and helpful.
So, now we knew the store was in Shibuya... Well, Shibuya is an awfully big place. And while you'd think a megastore would stick out and be hard to miss, it seems like everystore in Shibuya is a megastore.
After debating for an hour over what phones to get, first of all wanting all the cool features like TV and instant messaging and internet and GPS and barcode scanning (??), then realising that as they'd all be in Japanese and so there'd be no point in getting them, and realising that as we couldn't guarantee we'd be in the country for 24 months and so couldn't go on a contract, which meant we'd have to buy the phone outright there and then, which given our present financial situations was an interesting proposition, we found phones (all the same one, in different colours) which met our needs and also suited our price range (cheap... as cheap as possible).The call plan we're on is fantastic - we can call any Softbank phone in Japan between 1am and 9pm everyday for free - as well as free sms, and cheap email - email from phones! I'm not sure we'll ever use it, but WOW!
Anyway, it gave us lots of time eat and to explore the tiny corner of Shibuya we were in - again, packed with people, stores, lights, more people, food - really unlike anything I've ever seen before.
Finally getting our phones, and time to head home after being out for around 12 hours - a very exhausting day. Heading back to Shibuya station we encountered Center Gai - the enormous crossing you see in Lost in Translation. It really is enormous. Check out the photos for more descriptions.
Anyway, after that we caught our separate trains home. I'm pretty much getting the hang of the train system - it's amazing, a train comes through every 5 minutes pretty much. And everyone falls asleep on the trains! Its crazy! Not many people talk, people just tend to sit there with their eyes closed, looking like they're half asleep. Although, I did feel like doing that myself last night, if I wasn't so worried about missing my connection. This is the map I have to use to get places - it's not as hard as it first appears, as everything is colour coded, and you eventually work out what lines you need to use, but you have to work out what station you need to change trains at. I think most of the time, for most destinations you'd be able to get away with only having to make at most one transfer. From Minamigyotoku (my station) to Shibura I change lines at Nihombashi, which is pretty much at the halfway mark of the journey (it takes me about 20 mins to get to Nihombashi, then another 20 mins to get to Shibuya). Also, the direction of the train is indicated by the final station on the line, which is confusing at first as well, but very handy when the station you want is the last one. At Shibuya it's easy as the Ginza line only goes in one direction from Shibuya. When we first arrived we were given a colour map (except Chris and Christie - their maps were black and white - not very useful when the trains are colour coded) of the train system, a couple of times today I thought I lost it - this would've been a disaster. I did find it again, but it's getting fairly raggedy...
Okay... long day, what I've written here covers maybe 1 tenth of what happened and what we've seen, but this writing business is tough work... Hope you're still with me! Check out the photos in the gallery - there are stories with them, and more photos than what appears here.