MangoVine
Adventures in East Asia

East Shinjuku at Dusk - Shrines and the Red Light District

After a day of sight seeing around West Shinjuku, we begin our tour of the East at dusk. Its a shorter tour with seemingly more intimate venues, closed in by the darkness despite the prevalence of neon lighting. A little tiredness also kept our tour short!

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We begin with checking out a massive branch of the popular Kinokuniya Bookshop which includes foreign language books and magazines on the seventh floor. Great for expats, but after seeing English titles that we can get way cheaper in the UK, we conclude that we're not actually going to buy anything although Japanese book design in general does catch my eye.

The trendy shopping mecca Isetan Building

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Our next stop is the Isetan Building, a trendy shopping mecca that takes up practically a whole block, with the ground floor hosting lots of fashionable boutiques and sparkly accessories. We went straight to the basement to check out the desserts and other foods which are temptingly presented and nicely packaged.

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Isetan seems to be a place that can keep you browsing all night, but we make a move not long after arriving since we're keen to keep our evening tour short.

The Hanazono Shrine

We then passed the Hanazono-Jinja (shrine), our first encounter with any shrine or temple in Japan, though at night, the inner halls seem closed off so we could only wander around in the grounds.

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Interestingly, the grounds seemed to host a small, temporary show or play, since we arrived partway through an interval after which we could see the audience return to their seats in a large tent, followed by the performers taking to the stage (we only heard them) before they exited through the backstage.

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Aside from the entertainment, we also watched as a smartly dressed woman arrived at the shrine to make an offering. She climbed the steps of the shrine to drop a coin in a trough before pulling on a rope to ring one of the overhanging bells. Apparently, this is to summon the deity, after which you bow twice and then can press your hands together in a prayer position. After praying silently, the woman clapped twice before bowing again and then backing away to leave.

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The Kabukicho Red Light District

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Leaving the shrine, we walked through the notorious red-light district of Kabukicho. But apart from seeing lots of trendy and smartly dressed guys with big fashionable hair lining the streets canvassing for business for their clubs, nothing much else happened. There's supposed to be lots of 'soaplands' (massage parlours), peep shows, porno-video booths and audience participatory strip shows but I think we missed those amidst all the Japanese-language-only signs and neon lighting. Of course, its nothing like the in-your-face frontage of the red light district in Amsterdam, but then the action here is meant to be pretty much off limits to foreigners.

For our dinner, we drop into a sushi place that had even cheaper plates than our venue last night - at 100 JPY (for Linh's favourite - tamago).

Fruits on a stick

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The cheap and cheerful sushi was compensated for by some expensive (but tasty) fruits on a stick that we bought at a nearby stall afterwards. We tried some pineapple, some yellow melon and some strawberries.

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Check out more photos of our exploration around East Shinjuku


This entry posted in : Attractions. Culture. Japan. Tourism.

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