Here’s that hustling, bustling joint Shinjuku Station. This is during one of its less busy times of the day, and this is just one tiny part of its truly huge underground complex of tunnels. It’s like a small city.
Archive for October, 2003
Lots of people hear “ramen” and think of 11-cent Maruchan instant ramen packets at the grocery store. As you can see, those are to real ramen what Spaghetti-Os are to a real Italian pasta. The egg is my favorite bit. Now I am hungry.
The ramen joint we usually patronized was closed throughout the duration of my stay, so we had to find another high-quality place. We decided to give this place Kohran a try, mainly because it had the same name (phonetically, anyway) of my favorite Sakura Taisen character. Andy had always avoided it because he never saw anyone eating in there, which I found to be very Japanese of him. Japanese seem to judge ramen places based on the length of the line waiting to get in. If I ever open a ramen shop, I’ll make sure only to have one table and no inside waiting area; I’ll make a killing! Despite Andy’s apprehension, when we went in, we found that it was actually a nice place with a friendly dude and a solid bowl of ramen.
More testament to the idea that in order to create an artistic picture, all you need is a lens flare. This is the main street nearest Andy’s place, near the Matsuya where I accidentally left my digicam overnight. Thanks to the stupefyingly honest citizens of Tokyo, I was able to walk in the next morning and claim my brand-new 27,000 yen camera. Amazing.
Here’s the inside of the Yodobashi Camera. This is pretty much what all major electronics stores look like: very brightly lit, lots of signage, and lots of little kiosks with all the products lined up side by side.
This is what a Japanese arcade looks like. The machines are sit-down, your opponent sits on the other side where you can’t see, and there are actually so many people in there that you can’t move. Andy is playing some Virtua Fighter 4, for which you get your own identification card to insert into the game whenever you play. It keeps track of your stats, and you can earn stuff for your character as you play more and more. You can also go online with your phone or computer and check out your stats and find other players in your area. Apparently you can also earn turf by beating people who hang out in certain arcades around Japan. A whole culture has built up around the game and it’s just fascinating to me. There was a guy there whose character was named, “Le Big Mac”. Pulp Fiction fans around the world, unite.
When I buy video game systems against my better judgment because of Andy, it rains. This is right after I bought my red-and-black Game Boy Advance; we went to Yodobashi so Andy could pick up his silver one and so that I could get some accessories, and while we were in there it started pouring. It’s fun to watch Japanese people avoid the rain as if it would melt their flesh.
We went into the “nice” cheap sushi joint pictured in [this old context photo], and man oh man could we tell the difference. Plates were between 100 and 350 yen, which is pretty pricey, but it was quite worth it. I’m sure this looks gross to a lot of people but the thing you are looking at is vying to be my most favorite food of all time. Mmmmmm. : index.pl?767
This is the pillow Andy always uses for sleeping and for leaning against during our epic gaming sessions. Boy, I wonder what Andy’s up to these days. I bet all his fingers got chopped off in a freak pencil-sharpener incident and that’s why he hasn’t been able to send me a simple “I’m alive” email in the last month. Or maybe the reason he hasn’t been able to send me an “I’m alive” email is because he’s _not_ alive.
Between Andy’s apartment and the station is this little shopping street called “Niko Niko Road”, where there is a Lawson convenience store and some little restaurants and food stores. Back between two buildings is this little unmarked booth which opens at night and stays open pretty late. Every now and then you’ll see someone walk up to it and make some sort of transaction. We have no idea what it is, so we made up an elaborate story that it’s where freelance assassins can bring the heads of various important people and collect their bounties.
Here’s our meal of yakiniku. You get all these raw meat bits and stick them on the flaming-hot grill thingy. Before you freak out, family members: yes, that is a beer. Andy makes me drink beer when we eat yakiniku. Bleh. This is kind of our special-occasion meal; we had this for Christmas and for Thanksgiving last year. The wagyuu we got, while expensive, was probably the best meat I’ve ever had. They do not mess around when it comes to beef.
This is pretty much an average train-inside. Sometimes there are few enough people that you can sit down, sometimes there are so many people your feet are barely touching the ground, but usually it’s about this crowded. You eventually get used to holding a book or a Game Boy right in front of your face with your arms pressed against yourself, and some people can even sleep standing up.
The wall store is an essential part of any East-Shinjuku game-shopping run. I don’t think I’ve ever known of anyone actually buying anything here; Liberty down the street has a much better selection and better prices. But the charm of a store that actually has no inside, that consists entirely of a wall on the side of a building, is hard to resist.
Ah, Trader. As far as we are concerned this is the heart of Shinjuku game-shopping. The West-Shinjuku game-shopping loop starts and ends with Trader. This tiny little shop contains a lot of products and has some surprising deals. It was here that Qiang, Sean, and Drew finally convinced me to buy a Dreamcast and the first two Limited Edition Sakura Taisen games a year ago. This time around I had a similar obsessing session about the red-and black Game Boy Advance SP Limited Edition that comes with Bokura no Taiyou. I wouldn’t have gotten it, but Andy was urging me to play Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles (which requires a GBA for each player) with him. Even then I was still reluctant until I found Digicommunication used at Sofmap just down the street. That’s the game Qiang showed me that made me want a GBA in the first place, and I couldn’t resist any longer. I don’t even like Digi Charat, but a game in which you run a character-goods shop is too neat. So I bought it all, plus Made in Wario and Sakura Taisen GB. I’m weak.
Here’s Andy’s good buddy Gou on the platform at Higash-Kouenji, Andy’s station. I used to come here almost every day to play Sakura Taisen at his apartment. I even got myself a teikiken (monthly ticket thingo) that claimed I lived here, so that I could come to Andy’s place more cheaply. Gou hung out with us a lot during my trip this time. We played THE CHIKYUUBOUEIGUN, a part of the SIMPLE 2000 series. This company puts out very basic-quality games for 2000 yen; usually they’re board games or sports games or whatever, but this time it’s a defend-the-earth-from-50’s-style-monsters game. The game’s simplicity is charming and the crappy gameplay is addictive. Gou works at the One Piece store in Ikebukuro (I love that a comic/anime/game can have its own store; more on the Sakura Taisen store later) so for homework we watched One Piece anime episodes with him. It’s actually quite good stuff. Gou and Andy are movie buffs, so we also went to see acting/directing legend Beat Takeshi’s latest, Zatouichi, on its opening day. More on that later, too.