WT2010 – JAPAN – Day 11 – Nozawa & Sangenjaya + Shinjuku/Shibuya Friday Night

Posted in Travels by jukeboxparables on March 20, 2010

WT2010 – JAPAN
Day 11 – Nozawa & Sangenjaya
[On the iPOD] American Football & Franz Ferdinand

So leaving Nozawa on the local small bus and then connecting with a train and then the Shinkansen (bullet train) is an apt analogy for my thoughts on the matter. It’s a gradient back to modernity and to the lights and sounds and the shiny hotel rooms of the big city. The weather was actually much clearer (it was foggy on the way in) So for the first time I got to see the mountain ranges I’d just come from in clear blue sky. Green fields with patchy snow farmland leading to amazing snow capped mountains in the distance. I’ve never actually seen landscape like that in person and to think that’s where I’d just been snowboarding.

I got off the local train and was off to connect with the Shinkansen upon where (walking off the platform) a guard immediately approached me and asked ‘Shinkansen connect?’ I replied yes and he said “follow me” So I thought okays. He lead me to the bottom of the stairs (no lifts) I’m carrying a 10kg backpack and a 20kg+ suitcase. This guy proceeds to say it is up here, follow me and lifts my suitcase and proceeds to carry it up 50 flights of stairs we get to the top and he shows me the JR Ticket booth. I reply with my best bow and Domo Arigatoh Gozaimasu!!! Had I just stepped into the hilton hotel? No this is apparently a train station.

I had a nice nap on the bullet train and within an hour and a half I’d left Nagano and was in Tokyo. Thinking about the helpful Shinkansen attendant I was thinking it could not be topped right? That’s when things just blew me away. I had to travel to my next point of stay Sangenjaya which I was pretty sure from memory you had to get to Shibuya first because the line ran from there. So I walked up to a map to make sure and before I could even begin to study it a fellow in his early 40’s came up to me and asked where I’d like to go.

I told him I think Shibuya because I’m after the Tokyu den-en Toshi line and I think it runs through there from memory. He asks where I’m headed and I say Sangenjaya and he then proceeds to tell me to follow him because it’s on the way he’s going. My plan at most stations so far was rather than get a JR local pass I’ve just kept buying individual tickets. I was thinking I’d just get out of Tokyo station and buy a single to my destination. He proceeds to say ‘no don’t worry I’ll talk to the guards at Shibuya for you’ I was a bit weary but he looked genuinely enthused, so I thought what the heck!

On the train he told me his name and that he works for an Insurance company and that he loves Australia and has visited many places including many parts of Queensland. He seemed like a well-traveled guy with good knowledge of places. He also mentioned he used to Ski and loves Airplanes and would love to come to Sydney one day to climb the Harbour Bridge. Eventually we get to Shibuya and he gets off (even though it wasn’t his stop) He lived in Yokohama (30minutes further on) talks to the guard so I just could pay the fee there rather than having to buy a ticket.

He then shows me the way to the gates of the line I needed to go to in person (this involved him paying to exit shibuya) It was like a 5minute walk up and down stairs (Train stations in Tokyo aren’t like Australia, rather than having a station with 8 tracks they might have up to 8 different lines (different names) that run in different areas and then they’ll have 2 tracks each and these tracks will be spread out of pretty big walking distance and it’s all considered the same station) At least the big ones.

So I was utterly blown away, I told him he should visit Australia again for sure. What more could I say? I couldn’t say Domo Arigatoh Gozaimasu well enough. I was blown away. It’ll stand out in my mind as a highlight of courtesy on this trip. You’ve heard me rant about how helpful Japanese people are and how nice they are. This speaks for itself doesn’t it? I need not say anymore. Nihongo Ga Suki Desu!

I suggest on the mere basis of this story if you ever see a Japanese person lost in your home town; help them out like-wise. Pass it on. I will be.

I took a few more photos of Nozawa in the morning as well as some snaps from the bus and train(s) of the gorgeous country side.

Sangenjaya is a pretty cool place. On the map when I was booking my hotel I was a bit worried because It looked “a bit out of town” but in reality its two stops to Shibuya which take like just over 5 minutes, It’s actually closer to Shibuya than Shinjuku. I went out at night to take a few snaps of the streets and once again came across some ace motorbikes and some cool looking fixies (those shots are for you myers!) I had emergency dinner (I hadn’t eaten since breakfast it was approaching 7pm) which consisted of two sets of Gyoza and a big bowl of rice. A simple little restaurant with good service.

I was also expecting the pace of Sangenjaya to be a little slower since its a few kms from the bigger Areas but it’s just as interesting; A few long main strips of shops all connected with little dingy looking alleys selling foods as well as little boutique stores. I’m starting to get the vibe of what greater Tokyo really is. All it’s “suburbs” are little cities unto themselves.

I was late to meet a friend of a friend in Shinjuku so I hopped a train and then was walking through the friday night traffic jam of people as quickly as possible (Picture leaving a big concert or sporting event, you can’t really move any quicker than the people in front of you. This is Shinjuku and Shibuya at night) I was headed to the Kabukicho area; which is allegedly “the most dangerous place in Tokyo” it’s home to a lot of bars and clubs that will get you anything you want. The streets have ‘gangster’ looking people in groups at every corner and you can’t really walk too far without being approached by someone pimping something. The best and safest bet is to keep walking. Funnily enough an African American guy walked straight up to me asking me “WHATSUP” I’m not sure what the deal is here it’s happened to me twice in dodgy areas but you always just give it the “in a rush mate sorry” Only to have them continue asking questions as you walk away. I later learned certain groups of gaijin have been recruited by local gangs or started them themselves; pimping, robbery etc and scams like inviting you to a cool bar and it just being an empty room and your given the option to leave if you “pay a fee” It’s anyone and everyone in this part of town though.

I eventually (somehow) found the restaurant I was meeting a group of people. Aussies and a New Zealander who have been here for ages and know the in’s and outs. They’re insight into the Yakuza was pretty Interesting. I’d known they pretty much run a lot of Japan but hearing how they do it was an eye-opener. One example which we speculated on; Every restaurant you go to in Japan you get a steamed towel beforehand (it’s a business the towels are collected, cleaned, re-steamed, repackaged) It’s not really necessary theres napkins a plenty. Let’s just say all restaurants must pay for this service, no guesses for who owns the company that runs it. It’s not very sinister is it? It’s legitimate but unnecessary and enforced through questionable means, though this was all conjecture of course but you do start to notice odd things like this. Services and things that aren’t really needed but somehow exist. It leaves you guessing.

The beer was cheap as chips at the place we were at but everyone decided to head to a cool little bar and I was happy to tag along for the ride. We didn’t have to walk too far before walking into a doorway that lead down some stairs; you’d totally miss this place in the neon signs that are near-bye. I then experienced the best fricken bar I’ve probably ever been to.

It’s called MOTHER, it consists of a room 3metres wide by about 6metres long; a 3metre long bar with 6 stools and some cramped seating right behind them and a dingy dingy little toilet that looks like a closet. So why was it so cool? 1 bartender a cool Japanese chick would serve you drinks behind the bar but above those drinks was an entire WALL filled with CD’s. You then get handed a menu with the names of bands they have music of.

Your handed little mini-pen flashlights (because the place is dark and red-lit) and you summon the bartender and point to what music you want to hear; she immediately shuffles over to the spot where that band is pigeon holed and comes back and hands you their entire back-catalogue of albums. It’s then up to you; you choose what gets played.

THE SOUND is amazing. Most people don’t experience a great audio system. If your a muso and you’ve sat in a studio listening to a playback on the best speakers and equipment money can be you’ll know what I mean. That’s what the audio is like in this place; its FUCKING loud. Like a concert, you find yourself choosing songs you’ve heard 1000’s of times and sit there in a line at this bar with like 5 people with beers in front of you just enjoying the music. Theres no pretentious bullshit, no DJ bullshit, no paying for it. Your just a bunch of mates having a listening party.

Between the 5 of us gaijins and two Japanese guys in there (you could call that packed) we sat and listened and drank to the likes of (as chosen by us) The Misfits, The Ramones, At The Drive In, The Cramps, Weezer, Joy Division, The Cure. If you know me you’d think that’s me hogging the selection but it wasn’t, everyone in there had a seasoned understanding of good music (that was in a row and selected by different people). After a few drinks it also turns into Karaoke to some extent. It’s interesting actually just sitting in a room and listening to what your new found friends and strangers are really into music wise.

I chose The Smiths – I Know It’s Over. I thought it was going to be a bit of a downer but to my suprise everyone in there knew the words, hearing it on that stereo system and that loud was an experience I won’t forget anytime soon. It was also a catalyst for more The Smiths selections to follow.

I went to use the bathroom which is the size of a closet as mentioned. You can’t see a spare bit of wall. Pictures of bands duct-taped dingily to the wall. It brings a smile to your face really. This place is put together by music fans and held together by duct-tape; and the lovers of music who go there for a rad night out.

We then headed over to Shibuya after probably some significant ear damage. Another cool little bar/club which a little more straight forward but still had a cool vibe. The smallest bars are the best bars I think. Ended up getting home at like 3am, pretty amazing night.

Some photos from earlier:




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