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Tokyo has the coolest roadworks in the world

You couldn’t make this shit up.

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Check this guy’s outfit – I’d have killed for that get-up back in my early 90s techno days.

I took this photo outside our apartment in Shinjuku; apparently this guy was paid to stand there all night waving his lightsabre at the passing, minimal traffic. Another reason Japan has such low unemployment – well, until recently at least.

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Torinoichi Bamboo Rake Festival

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While chilling in the gardens around Dembo-in in Asakusa, admiring the beautiful Koi under the bridges, I got chatting to an elderly local called Hideo. I think he just wanted to flex his pretty impressive English skills, but his eyes lit up when we told him we were staying in Shinjuku. Excitedly, he insisted that when we got back there, we head on down to the Hanazono Jinjya Shrine, as there was a one day, once a year Torinoichi Bamboo Rake Festival taking place, and it ended at midnight. He explained it was where these elaborate bamboo charms were sold that would bring good luck for the following year.

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Shinjuku Gyoen

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Awaking to a surprisingly sunny and very hot November day, we decided to take a short walk down to Shinjuku Gyoen. While I’d been impressed with the serenity of the gardens around the Imperial Palace a couple of days previously, nothing had prepared me for the vibe here. The park is split into three main sections modelled after traditional English, French and Japanese gardens, with the latter of course being the most interesting.

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More images from Tokyo

As you can probably imagine, I’ve been taking a lot of photos while I’ve been over here in Japan. Due to time constraints and the way WordPress works, I haven’t been able to share as much with you as I’d like, but I have been dumping literally hundreds of them on Facebook. So it suddenly occurred to me – this is the interweb, and the power of the hyperlink is strong.

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Shinjuku JR at rush hour

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I’m always surprised when people moan that no-one talks on the tube in London – I mean, exactly what the fuck are we meant to say? It’s pretty much the same on the Tokyo JR lines – no-ones chatting, too engrossed in their manga, their text messages, their DS and PSP games, the flat screens showing beauty product ads and video games trailers or studying their reflected hair in the dark windows. Pulling into stations is always announced by the usual bombardment of neon signs, followed by the sight of commuters waiting in perfect, orderly queues. Something not so familiar if you hail from London, then. Some might say it looks a bit robotic and regimented, but that’s hardly two words I’d use to describe Tokyo residents. Not fucking rude are three that spring to mind.

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Shopping for Manga in Shinjuku

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Just like all the stories you hear, manga is everywhere in Japan. There’s racks of it in every supermarket and convenience store you pass, and at lunch times gangs of salary-men and students gather around to silently read it.

Today we stumbled across Comic and DVD Forrest in Shinjuku, a specialist store with so much stock that, to be frank, it’s a bit of a mindfuck. Didn’t actually buy anything this time – they had a couple of Denno Coil art books, but not the exact one I’m looking for – but I did manage to grab a few shots before the super-polite staff busted me….

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Shinjuku

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So we’re here. Finally.

Actually, we arrived about 48 hours ago, after what seemed like a week of travelling. Hellish. But, of course, with hindsight completely worth it. Shinjuku is everything all the cliches say it is – Akira, Bladerunner and Neuromancer all rolled into one, but somehow weirder for not actually feeling that futuristic. Or at least, it’s a kind of retro futuristic, a reminder of the that 80’s cyberpunk vision that it inspired but never quite happened anywhere else. Like all sci-fi, they got some things wrong. Example? Well, it seems damn near impossible to find any public Wi-Fi round here. But why would you need it when everyone’s had 3G capable phones for over ten years?

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