Exploring Shinjuku

 

I’m not really sure where I should be today—I have no real plans and no set agenda—but after my toast and latte breakfast at Miyama, I go to Kinokuniya to buy a book. I forgot to bring any with me, choosing instead to study my Japanese on the plane (HA), and I’m already sick of my ipod playlist . Once I have my books in hand, I’m overcome with the urge to find a park to read in. Reading in Tokyo’s phenomenally beautiful parks was my absolute favorite thing to do back in august, and though I know this is the dead of January and it won’t be the same, it’s warm enough that I have to try.

I head to Shinjuku Koen, which I had not gone to before. It’s a large park, and one of the most famous places for Cherry Blossom viewing during the Hanami season. Even without much in the way of foliage, it’s still jaw droppingly beautiful:

And almost totally empty, too! In NY, this might have given me reason for pause…

I can barely tear myself away from the gorgeous open field and my book, but I’m thirsty and starting to get a little chilly, so I leave after about 2 hours.  I head out to the train station to go someplace fun and as yet unnamed, but end up shopping at Mylord instead. Mylord is one of 5 or 6, or maybe more, Gigantor department stores in Shinjuku. Department stores in Tokyo are not like Macy’s or JC Penney’s back home. They are more like malls, with a lot of little boutiques in one. Only in department stores, the boutiques are kind of loosely linked by style or type of customer. MyLord is clearly the cheapest, youngest slanting one so far (at least until we get to Shibuya), and they were selling stuff at 70 percent off, so I really had no choice in the matter. I buy a green floral print dress that I will likely never wear in New York and, by the time I’m finished, I’m hungry for lunch. I wanted to try out a few vegan restaurants here, so I head down the mini-hill for a macrobiotic cafe on the top floor of the In The Room department store, which sells…er…room stuff. The chef who owns the cafe is a famous macrobiotic cook.

Here is what I ordered:

Brown Rice cakes with Hijiki and takana, and a kabocha (pumpkin/squash hybrid) mousse.

This was the best explicitly “gourmet” vegan meal I had while in Tokyo, and it was tasty, but let’s face it…the city has not yet embraced vegan junk food, and that’s a real shame. Here in NYC, it seems like a V-restaurant is good if it can fool people. We have vegan marshmallows, cupcakes, and buffalo wings, all designed to make you feel like you’re pigging out with the rest of society. Tokyo doesn’t get that concept yet, I’m afraid—their vegan food tastes like healthy, simple, modestly seasoned twigs, and they like it that way. It’s all very virtuous, and presented beautifully- but if anyone out there has an entrepreneurial spirit, hit me up and help me show the natives the wonder of greasy soy corn dogs. I think we can make some serious cash, and do some good in the process.

I am starting to realize by this time that I actually like Shinjuku quite a bit. Kabuki Cho is irritating, and I’ll probably never get to Golden Gai, but the rest of the place is unpretentious but exciting, a tourist area where people live and work successfully. Here are some daytime shots to give you a better idea:

Later, I pass by this cute store with yellow dogs in the front window, blasting The Beatles. By now I am well acquainted with the fact that the Beatles are still hugely popular over here, as if they never broke up or…er…died. I go in, and something happens to me which has never happened to me before in Japan. Salespeople try to engage me.

The first one to approach me is 18 or 19, with perfectly razored and dyed auburn hair and a gigantic smile. He looks handsome in his suit, but more like a boy on his first Communion. He asks me if I want to know the “most popular” thing in the store, and who can say no to this face, right? He shows me a black sweater tunic, striped with dark gray, paper thin, worn under a cute black camisole. He insists that I’ll look good in it, even though I’m 5 foot 2 and long sweaters spell death. Still, he seems genuinely concerned with my clothing choices, so I agree to think about it and put it in my bag.

Then, I come to the coats. Tokyo is much, much warmer than New York is, which I knew, but it feels like there’s a big difference between daytime and night hours, which I don’t notice so much back home. I ended up taking off my coat during the day, and now I’m freezing and want to come back to the hotel for extra layers. Plus, I realize that my coat is hideous and makes my butt stick out and I hate it, and this store is like the Japanese GAP. Pretty cheap basics that you can’t really go wrong in.

Here it is for anyone interested..Comme Ca Ism. The GAP of Japan, even though they have a GAP:

So, I’m looking at these black pea coats, when out of nowhere this RIDICULOUSLY good looking salesperson appears. Like, for real…RIDICULOUS. Tall and suave and young and just insanely good looking. I’m not attracted to him or anything, since pretty boys kind of turn me off and I’m still all squishy over my crush guy, but I’m totally intimidated, and so when he gently shakes his head and shows me a snow white coat he says is ‘better’ for me, he should have known that he really didn’t have to go any further. I would have bought whatever he put in my hands. He shows me the darts on the front of the coat and tells me “slim, slim” in English, and then he gestures for me to try it on. I take my coat off, and he helps me put it on and tie the bow in back, which under normal circumstances would be the biggest sexual thrill of my week.  We back up together, and the coat is indeed beautiful, and he looks proud of himself, like he just helped make over Marla Hooch. I buy the wildly impractical but beautiful coat (even a cheap white coat is still a white coat) and tell myself that I’ll just wear it in Tokyo and then clean it and give it to my mom. I know that won’t happen, though. Sorry, mom 😦

Both guys wave goodbye to me enthusiastically as I leave, beaming like two parents. I ended up buying the sweater, too.

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