Hello again Shinjuku

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Visiting Ichiran has to be on the holy grail of things to do in Tokyo by now. It’s good ramen for sure, but definitely not the best I’ve had. I still like it though – it’s reliable and not exorbitant. [Olympus OM-D M10 | untouched]
Japan has great food. That much is undeniable. That being said, is it sad that the best ramen I’ve ever had was in Melbourne, Australia?

Ichiran is touted as a ramen franchise you can’t not go to whenever you’re in Tokyo. I personally find it a little bland and the soup’s depth a little shallow, but it’s still a good source of comfort for me as I can at least be sure that what I’m going to get for my money is pretty damn decent. Having said that, my search for the best ramen in Japan continues.

Honestly, I planned to diet and save money – two birds one stone! – during my time in Japan. This did not go according to plan for multiple reasons, and looking back, I wish I’d just ate the damn food I actually wanted to eat instead of choosing to count calories and opt for the leaner option.

But somehow I ended up talking about food in a Shinjuku travel post. I’ve digressed too much – back to my travel diary:

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Erm. Downtown Shinjuku somewhere around in the afternoon, taken hurriedly on my way to the station. This was 14/12/16 I think, and I remember the date because this was when I was legitimately terrified that I’d be late to the concert. [Olympus OM-D M10 | untouched]
If I threw a filter on this shot and blurred it a little, I bet I could pass it off as a screenshot of one of the newer animes. Japan really is a reflection of its anime – or would it be more accurate to say that anime is a reflection of Japan? I don’t even like anime but I really adored seeing how closely it resembled the anime world, because it made me feel familiar and comfortable, even in places I’d never been to before. I suspect that this familiarity increases hundredfold if one actually enjoys anime/manga.

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Also 14/12/16 in downtown Shinjuku. Those red and white lights to the right are really damn aesthetic and spell out Japan, if the gigantic Japanese signs weren’t enough of a reminder. [Olympus OM-D M10 | untouched]
I love Shinjuku. I love how vibrant it is, I love how full of life it feels. But these (semi) side streets, which were only sparsely populated, made me feel empty for the same reason I love Shinjuku so much: because they weren’t bustling full of people despite being so obviously ready to receive a throng of people and house them for an hour or two and stroke the wanderlust fantasies of glib online travellers who google reviews and photos of their future travel destination.

An empty Shinjuku would be eerie and ghostly beautiful. A full to the brim Shinjuku is spectacular and busy. A Shinjuku in the middle of both extremes is one that leaves me wanting for more.

I felt sad on those half empty streets for reasons I couldn’t articulate. Maybe I’d be better at articulating anything if I turned off Youtube and concentrated harder on what I’m writing, but the truth is that the moment I turn the music off, I’ll stop writing and fall back into bed. That’s just the kind of day – month – year that I’ve been having.

Anyway. Here is Shinjuku ensconced in darkness, and this time the dark filled in the spaces left vacant by the lack of people and made me a little less sad.

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I think 13 or 14/12/16 – not sure, but Shinjuku once again. I think a minute away from Shinjuku station? [Olympus OM-D M10 | untouched]
December was a whirlwind of a month. I wish I could go back…..but I digress again.

Now, this was the Shinjuku I knew well and loved even better. But somehow, even as I walked amongst the throes of people and felt their liveliness and claimed it as my own, I felt a queer sense of loneliness that couldn’t be dissipated, no matter what I did or where I went. I suspect that this is the bane of solo travel – the insidious, fog-like loneliness and solitude that creeps up on you and does not release you until you’ve been drenched in its melancholy.

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Probably 13 or 14/12/16 again in downtown Shinjuku. Oh, ABC Mart, you’re practically omnipresent now, aren’t you? The streets were full, as they’re wont to be in Shinjuku at this time of the day. [Olympus OM-D M10 | untouched]
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Ahhhh. 13 or 14/12/16 again in Kabukicho, Shinjuku where my capsule hotel was located. I miss the bubbly energy of this place, and how the neon signs were flashing into the depths of the night – I never felt alone here. Or did I? [Olympus OM-D M10 | untouched]
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In front of the ‘entrance’ to Kabukicho, Shinjuku as framed by the green neon lights.  [Olympus OM-D M10 | untouched]
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Eating a late dinner in a Japanese curry franchise. This place is actually really really good, and great value for money too! I came back a couple of times, because at twelve at night it’s really too much of an effort to find dinner that doesn’t suck and isn’t too far away from your accom. I have every inclination to come back when I’m back in Tokyo, regardless of the time! [Olympus OM-D M10 | untouched]
 The next time I return, I’d like to not be alone.

I hate how vulnerable I sound (and feel), but it is what it is. This year has not been kind to me, and I don’t think I can bear to travel solo for a long while.

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