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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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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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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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