Exploring Shinjuku

The weekend was spent mostly at Kiwako’s bedside. She’s been getting progressively better each day, eating, walking about, and had the IV out yesterday which was a milestone. She hates hospitals, as would anyone, although probably more than most given she had to spend a year in one in her mid-teens. So she’s getting pretty restless. Although there’s no excuse, and I wish I was mentally tougher, I’m also feeling restless and was going a bit stir crazy. I realized I¬†rarely sit in one spot for more than an hour anymore, so a few days spent at the hospital have been hard.

On Saturday night I went for a walk around the nearby park which helped. Shinjuku has a lot of nice green areas and the central park is especially nice. West Shinjuku seems like a pretty nice place to live. They had a beer garden on at the park so dinner was a plastic cup of beer and a yakisoba. The cicadas were in full chorus. Apparently they live underground most of their lives, then for only 10 days after chrysalis. 10 days to find a mate then die. One last, wild party. Evidently it was day ten for a good deal of them and they banged and thrashed about around my table as though hungover.

A friend commented to inform me that Shinjuku was on the Koshu Kaido, one of the 5 main roads into old Edo (Tokyo). Wikipedia tells me that this particular route connected Edo with Kai province in what is now Yamanashi and meets up with the Nakasendo at Nagano. Shinjuku was the first stop on the road, with Nihonbashi being the start. Or end if you were coming into Tokyo. There’s actually a hint to this in the name. “Juku” can be translated as waystation or stop on a major road, and “Shin” means new. So Shinjuku was the new waystation at one time. It would be interesting to explore the whole route sometime.

My friend who is generously letting me stay at his place near the hospital has been giving me a tour of the area. On Saturday morning we went to Arms, a burger place which also serves a great, reasonably priced breakfast. It’s a nice, laid-back atmosphere, similar vibe to the beachside area where we live in Zushi, and dog-friendly. I had an avocado omelet which was great! Around the corner is the Little Nap Cafe which serves good espresso, and parked out front we saw this cool old Mitsubishi jeep.

I like to see old cars like this still running. Modern society’s obsession with new vehicles is madness. There’s no reason a car shouldn’t run for 100 years. Just like my boat.

Saturday afternoon the sky over Shinjuku was cloudy and troubled, and shortly after this picture was taken lightning storms and thundershowers broke out. I was at the hospital then and didn’t get any pictures, but from friend’s posts on Facebook it was quite a show.

Visiting hours at the hospital are 13:00-20:00 weekends so I spent the afternoon and evening with Kiwako. We watched a couple of movies, though I don’t remember which, visited the convenience store in the basement and generally passed the time together. I read more of Webb Chiles’ journal and a bit more of James Baldwin’s voyages.

Saturday night my friend and I went to a ramen restaurant he recommended. It was great, a real local place, bare bones, hard stools, no napkins, big lineup and massive, heaping portions. Despite my best efforts, I couldn’t finish it all, which I consider a sin. I abhor food wastage.

This neighbourhood was in the bright, glitzy, messy part of Shinjuku near the infamous robot restaurant, a place I’ve only seen from the outside and personally hope I never have to enter, as I’ve had enough of that sort of thing during my time in Japan. A new visitor here would find it an interesting experience though, so if your noise and flashing light tolerance is high give it a visit. We walked from there to the Golden Gai neighbourhood, a few blocks of narrow streets with tiny restaurants stacked upon each other. A couple of beers there then a walk home, along which we passed Memory Lane (colloquially known as Piss Alley), and saw these street performers, who were quite good. I wonder how they got power? No generator, did they tap into the mains somehow?

Sunday I was feeling some built up frustration from being sedentary for a few days, and not having exercised much due to a pulled back muscle. Living at the beach in Zushi I’m usually active daily, swimming, surfing, working on the boat, in addition to walking or riding bikes everywhere as we don’t own a car. I made use of the on-site gym at my friend’s apartment and had a good aggressive workout with lots of lifting heavy things. The human back is a complicated mechanism. After a couple of weeks of back pain that one workout put things back in balance and although other muscles are now sore, the back issue is fixed.

Keeping with the theme of a healthy day I had a good traditional Japanese lunch of grilled fish.

That all put me in a pretty good mood, and I was able to spend a relaxing, positive afternoon with Kiwako at the hospital.

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