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Kiddyland – Harajuku

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Kiddy Land is a pretty mainstream toy shop, and wouldn’t normally warrent a mention here – except that this is Tokyo, and mainstream means something completely different. Spanning five floors, of most interest are the anime and Ghibli sections. While the former caters for more kodomo and shonen level stuff, the latter is worth checking just for it’s huge selection and the over sized plush Totoro (pictured above) that sits as it’s centerpiece. Yours for just 676 quid. Worth a mention too are the hugely helpful (like everywhere so far in Tokyo) and mainly bilingual staff. Worth a visit, for sure.

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Harajuku – Shoppers’ paradise

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There’s not much that I can write about Tokyo’s central fashion node Harajuku that hasn’t been written already – certainly if you’ve ever read style magazine Fruits you’ll be familiar with the impact the area has had over global fashion in the past. There are those more cynical commentators who will tell you that the scene here is past it’s best, but take it from this reporter: there must still be something here to attract the visibly large number of western models and aging fashionistas sipping coffee and smoking French cigarettes while keeping their wrinkle-cream treated eyes on the outfits of the passing teenagers.

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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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Tokyo Imperial Palace and Gardens

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If you want to escape from the concrete and steel for a day, bizarrely one of the best places to head to is the centre of Tokyo, and the area surrounding the Imperial Palace. The gardens are huge, and took as a good five hours to fully explore yesterday. You can’t get in the Palace itself, obviously, but the architecture and gardens are beautiful. Even then you’re never far from the corporate futurism; the Palace lies in the middle of Tokyo’s financial district, and is circled by the usual skyscrapers and communication towers. Even though, its nice to have the usual background noise of crowds, traffic and electronics replaced by birdsong for a few hours.

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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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