ultramarinus – beyond the sea

DAY AND NIGHT IN SHINJUKU (新宿), Tokyo (東京), Japan

There are a handful of cities around the world that I have often found reasons to revisit. In Spring 2016, my mother and I had a brief getaway trip to Tokyo (東京).  We shopped, visited galleries, wandered in different neighborhoods, had a self-served grilled oyster dinner, and hopped on a bullet train to Karuizawa (軽井沢) for a day excursion.  In Tokyo, we chose to stay at Shinjuku (新宿), one of the city’s major commercial, administrative and transportation hub whose railway station is renowned as the busiest station in the world with 3.64 million passengers passing through each day.

Japanese office workers have been known for their high level of work related stress.  A daily routine of an office worker begins from the moment when he or she squeezes into a commuter train bounded for the city centre.  After an intense day of office work in an orderly and hierarchical environment, as night falls upon a totally opposite world awaits to unwind the mental tension of office workers.  It is a world of colours, neon lights, chaos and desires, presenting the perfect counterbalance for the rigid real world during the day.  Shinjuku encompasses both ends on the balance: a busy administrative and commercial district by day, and the world famous red light district, shopping paradise and dining wonderland by night.  For any visitor, Shinjuku serves well as a springboard to obtain an introduce about the two faces of Tokyo’s urbanity.

3West Shinjuku, the commercial heart and home of Tokyo’s metropolitan government, is cool, tidy and orderly.

2Design to reference a cocoon, the Mode Gakuen Cocoon Tower is a highrise educational building by Tange Associates.  Tange Associates was founded by Paul Noritaka Tange, the son of Kenzo Tange (丹下健三), one of the most influential Japanese architect of the 20th Century.

1The concrete tower of one of Japan’s top three insurer, Sompo Japan Nipponkoa Credit Corporation, presents the typically unsympathetic appearance of the modernist architecture in West Shinjuku.

4Designed by Kenzo Tange and opened in 1991, the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building (東京都庁舎) is home to the metropolitan government of Tokyo.

5A series of bronze statues are erected along the colonnade flanking the civic square in front of the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building (東京都庁舎).

6While the towers of Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building (東京都庁舎) resemble a Gothic cathedral, the square in front reminded me of a Classical colonnade.

7Many buildings in the commercial and civic centre of Shinjuku are finished with either light grey, beige or silver materials, offering a rather monotonous and coherent cityscape for visitors.

8At night, much of the commercial and municipal centre of Shinjuku is deserted, except groups of young dancers who come to practice their dance moves in front of the reflective glass curtain walls.

8aIt is a totally different story just a stone throw away at the east side of Shinjuku Station, where neon lights and large LCD billboards begin to dominate the streetscape as soon as the sun sets.

9In the area of Kabukicho (歌舞伎町), narrow alleyways are lit up by all sort of neon signage and restaurant shopfronts.  The streets get even more crowded as the clock clicks closer to midnight.

11Entrance of the popular Sakura Dori of Kabukicho (歌舞伎町さくら通り) is decorated by a atmospheric gateway and colourful signage.

12Nightclubs and restaurants are everywhere as far as the eye can see.  In order to thrive in such a highly competitive entertainment district, venues sometimes would opt for some sort of creative gimmicks such as the Robot Restaurant, where real robots and humans dressed in robotic costumes would go on stage for performances.

13With the mighty Godzilla head perched over the podium roof, the tall and slender Shinjuku Toho Building (新宿東宝ビル) is a visual icon on the high street of Kabukicho (歌舞伎町).

14Landing on a restaurant for dinner in Kabukicho (歌舞伎町) can be tricky as there are just too many choices.

15The iconic neon gateway of Kabukicho Ichibangai (歌舞伎町一番街), the “Sleepless Town” (眠らない街) of the Japanese capital, is itself an urban monument.

16It wasn’t until the reconstruction after World War II that Kabukicho (歌舞伎町) has gradually became today’s “Sleepless Town” (眠らない街).  The name Kabukicho (歌舞伎町) was first used in 1948, after attempts to bring a Kabuki theatre into this new entertainment area of postwar Tokyo.

17Outside Kabukicho, the Yasukuni Dori (靖国通り) is an important shopping and entertainment avenue of the city.

18Looking back at the gateway of Kabukicho Ichibangai (歌舞伎町一番街) from Yasukuni Dori (靖国通り), the vivid neon lights of the vibrant urban scenery has undoubtedly inspired the imagination of any visitor, as if standing in the futuristic science fiction movie set of Blade Runner.

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