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The rarely updated blog of Joel Dixon

Viewing blogs tagged Shinjuku

Monday, April 06, 2015

Shinjuku (Tokyo), Japan - 2015

# Posted by Joel Dixon at 06/04/2015 14:50:00

A robot restaurant, delicious food, beautiful park and a constipated robotic assistant were all part of an action-packed few days in Shinjuku. We begun our time in Shinjuku with a casual stroll around the Kabikicho area - the red light district. Named for a kabuki theatre that never ended up getting built, the seedier part of Shinjuku wasn't all that seedy as far as we could tell. Admittedly we mainly walked the streets and didn't enter any of the "18+ only" establishments - but if we were in Amsterdam we would have a much easier time figuring out what was going on.

Close Family
We had noticed kids walking around with their families throughout Kabukicho - they were probably all there for Family Mart

After our superficial investigation of the area we headed for the main Shinjuku attraction - one which was probably booked in before anything else - the Robot Restaurant. When Pao asked me "Do you want to go to a Robot Restaurant?" I immediately answered in the affirmative - but asked for no further information. Would there be robots in the restaurant? Would we be served our food by robots? Would we eat a traditional Japanese meal while encased in Gundam-style mech robots? I didn't know and I didn't want the secret to be spoiled before we got there.

Razzle Dazzle
Say what you will - but the Robot Restaurant cannot be described as subtle

We were first taken into a waiting area and told we could grab a seat and have a drink from the bar. Every square centimeter of the waiting area was covered by a mirror, jewel or colourful light. Once the robot band made their way out to play for us I knew that Pao had made an excellent choice in selecting this attraction, regardless of how it ended.

Robot Boogie
Daft Punk-style band playing cocktail lounge music - where have you been all my life?

Life Goal Complete
One of the many photos we took that night

You'll notice that I have a lot of photos from the Robot Restaurant - bucking a Tokyo trend of strict "no photo" policy. I think this is due to two reasons: firstly the spectacle of the Robot Restaurant is one that many people (similar to me) would want to experience once they have a taste, and secondly because you can't capture the whole experience through the lens of a camera - it's just something you need to experience in person. Pao and I both had a great night, thoroughly enjoying the entertainment and meal even though the plot of the show was a clear afterthought and impossible to follow.

Samaurai Riff
This guitar-playing samurai was quick to threaten me mid-riff

The drummer was skilled in both drum hitting and drumstick twirling - the two essential aspects to drumming

Calling them robots is a bit charitable, they were more aptly described as moving props with flashing lights

A stark contrast to Kabukicho and the Robot Restaurant, the following morning we headed to Shinjuku Gyoen - and expansive park blending Japanese, English and French styles. We arrived quite early and breezed through the entry gate immediately enjoying a fantastic collection of cherry blossoms in full bloom. We had timed our visit to Japan perfectly, being able to experience the fantastic sights of cherry blossom season. It was nice relaxing in the park for a few hours, and provided a nice chance to unwind after all the stress of train catching.

Water Sakura
I'm finding myself sounding like Alf Stewart a lot this trip - blooming this and blooming that. All that is missing is some flaming gallahs

Yep - that's a flower

Our plan of arriving early was supported by this massive queue of people waiting to get in while we were leaving

For lunch we wanted to try Shabu-shabu - which is tender cuts of thinly-sliced meat which you cook at your own table in a boiling broth. After being showed how it all worked (for which we were extremely thankful) we were actually able to complete the process ourselves which was great fun. The meat was delicious, and especially tasty when dipped into either one of the sauces (soy or brown sauce - official names). Shabu-shabu was so tasty, once we finished our plate of meat we accepted the server's offer to bring another one - feeling greedy but sure we could finish it off. We did finish (and enjoy) the second plate of meat - but then realised that we still had a course of rice, soup and noodles to come. Still worth it.

Best of Shabu
Is someone getting the best, the best, the best, shabu-shabu?

Although not technically in Shinjuku - but close enough for my liking - we also went to the Honda demonstration building to meet a real robot in ASIMO. This was an attraction that was only added to the schedule at the last minute and I'm so glad it made the cut because it was very awesome. As well as showing off ASIMO Honda took the time to introduce us to UNI-CUB - their personal mobility device. I was quite impressed by the apparent easy of navigating with a UNI-CUB, and to drive the point home the big screen played OK Go's video clip for I Won't Let You Down while we were waiting.

Once the ASIMO demonstration started I was transfixed. He was much shorter in height than I was expecting, but no less impressive, ASIMO maintained a strong stage presence showing off his balance, light weight and sign language ability. The part Pao and I enjoyed the most was ASIMO's ability to run - looking a little bit like he was heading to the toilet. Throughout the rest of our trip, either one of us just had to rush off in a similar fashion in front of the other one to receive a hearty laugh of approval.

ASIMO bros
Did I mention he was short? Probably so they don't appear to imposing while they plot human enslavement

Another one of Aaron's suggestions was Omoide Yokocho or Memory Lane - a collection of cramped eateries in the laneways next to the Shinjuku Station tracks. Only allowing about 8 people to eat at once it was cramped and smoky, but the food was delicious and the company seemed nice. We settled on a vendor at random and were both impressed by the delicious meat on a stick and washed it down with Asahi (not knowing they served Hoppy Beer, oh well).

Memory Lane
Walking down Omoide Yokocho, I was a little worried about whether we'd get unimpressed stares if we sat down to dinner...

... until we were greeted by this lovely chap with a crab hat

After dinner we had a quick walk around the Shinjuku Station area to see some more of those pretty lights before heading home for some well-deserved rest.

A pretty impressive looking McDonald's amongst the bright lights of Tokyo

This is the 6th in the Super Fun Chronological Japan Travel Catalogue series
GET 1 - Nikko, Japan - 2015GET 2 - Ueno (Tokyo), Japan - 2015GET 3 - Akihabara (Tokyo), Japan - 2015GET 4 - Ginza (Tokyo), Japan - 2015GET 5 - Asakusa (Tokyo), Japan - 2015GET 6 - Shinjuku (Tokyo), Japan - 2015GET 7 - Harajuku (Tokyo), Japan - 2015GET 8 - Shibuya (Tokyo), Japan - 2015GET 9 - Odaiba (Tokyo), Japan - 2015GET 10 - Kawaguchiko (Five Lakes), Japan - 2015GET 11 - Yokohama, Japan - 2015GET 12 - Kamakura, Japan - 2015GET 13 - Osaka, Japan - 2015GET 14 - Kobe, Japan - 2015GET 15 - Hiroshima, Japan - 2015GET 16 - Himeji & Nara, Japan - 2015GET 17 - Kyoto, Japan - 2015GET 18 - Iga, Japan - 2015GET 19 - Nagoya, Japan - 2015GET 20 - Takayama & Gero, Japan - 2015GET 21 - Sakura & Bonus Wrap-up, Japan - 2015

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