Poagao's Journal

Absolutely Not Your Monkey

Nov 08 2009

Shibuya and people who hate it.

I slept in this morning, puttering around my room and posting the previous day’s journal before finally heading out at noon. This time I walked around the other side of the park, through the alleys that skirt the edges, past old wooden houses along dead-end lanes. The weather was cloudy gray, and hardly anyone was around. I thought about Louis’ opinion that Taiwan is both Japan’s past and its future; the shiny veneer that I found so antiseptic when I first visited Tokyo in 1991 has worn off. It seems much more used and lived in now, closer to Taipei in feel than before.

I’d told Louis that I’d meet him at Sendagaya Station again, as I couldn’t remember where the cafe was, but as I walked I recalled various landmarks, and I got close enough that I could call from a payphone, and he walked out to meet me. Back inside, he introduced me to the photographer whose book Louis had sent me last year. The older man was holding a Ricoh GR1 and seemed to be in a rush to get somewhere else. “I like your photography,” I told his back as he left. Louis said one of the guys at the next table was the lead singer of a famous Japanese band that I had never heard of; I guess that cafe is popular among famous people. I had lunch there, chicken noodles and rice with some delicious soup. The waitress was very talkative; she told me she had visited Taipei once.

After lunch we walked towards Shibuya, which Louis doesn’t particularly like. “Couldn’t you just stand here and take a book’s worth of street photography?” I asked him, but he pooh-poohed the idea as too easy, basically shooting fish in a barrel.

“It’s almost as bad as Harajuku,” he said. I figure I’d do it, but I’d probably get tired of it quickly enough. The light was nice, though. At one point we passed a forlorn-looking man sitting at a desk in an empty lot on a deserted alley, presumably waiting for a passerby to inquire about the property, even though it seemed nobody was around.

SubwayWe walked towards Ebisu, through alleys lined with former used clothing shops that had closed. One place sold the very same Olympus Pen that we’d seen at the flea market for a substantially greater price. The whole area became very expensive looking, with glass-walled premium shops. As we passed an art gallery/bruncheon crowd of fashionable women nibbling snacks while surrounded by paintings/photos of dancers, I burst out in a scathing monologue mocking the art patrons. “Are you speaking into a microphone?” Louis asked.

We crossed a pedestrian bridge, from which Louis shot a series of photographs of three motorcycle policemen standing below, and then down to another neighborhood with a deep canal running through it. “Nice,” I said. “It doesn’t even smell.”

It was getting dark, and I was getting tired, so I was grateful when we stopped for some pie and drinks at a cafe open to the sidewalk. My apple pie and ice cream was delicious, and the orange/mango smoothie just the thing after a long walk. Louis had to go work on some snags in his upcoming book, so I took the train back to Shinjuku, from where I called Yas, who was out putting up flyers for his upcoming film festival. We arranged to meet at the Alta screen at ten, so I walked around the area taking a few pictures and just enjoying the atmosphere. I paid yet another visit to the Yodobashi camera store, this time playing with the Sigma DP2, which, while faster than the DP1, is still finicky and slow.

Yas was facing another long night of editing, so he had coffee at a crowded Doutor while I drank fruit juice. We talked about perhaps cooperating on a project in the future, probably a short film, and about directors in Japan and Taiwan. He said he might be able to find the Japanese film I worked on in 1994-5 under Edward Yang; he thinks it’s Director Hayashi Kaizo’s third detective film. I’ve never seen the finished product and would like to see how it turned out.

Yas hates Shibuya as much as Louis, if not more so. “It’s full of stupid kids,” he told me. “I wouldn’t go there at all if there weren’t some good independent theaters there.”

I took another route back to the hotel than I usually do, this time straying a bit too far into the hustler zone. Tall black men walked with me, trying to hand me cards for bars with scantily clad Japanese women on them. Luckily, my hotel is far enough away from that area; I don’t think I’ll be going there again.

Actually, my hotel, the Shinjuku Urban, has been great; I love the smell of coffee and creme in the plush-red carpeted hallways, the 60’s feel and the convenient location between several subway lines and near the Shinjuku JR. I would definitely recommend it.

Tomorrow is Monday, and everyone is going back to work. I’m thinking I might go to Yokohama and Roppongi if the weather’s nice.

posted by Poagao at 11:25 pm  


  1. enjoyable reading. I like the bits about the ccanal smell and the microphone 🙂

    Comment by persimmonous — November 9, 2009 @ 9:04 am

  2. I envy your eye

    Comment by Zhara — November 11, 2009 @ 5:59 am

  3. Hi,

    interested to find out more about the hotel you mentioned. shinjuku urban.
    would it be good for a family with 2 young children?
    is the room very tiny? how close by is the train/subway?


    Comment by rowena — December 11, 2009 @ 12:05 am

  4. I don’t know if they have larger rooms. They had large suites, but those might have been for longer stays. My room was pretty tiny, though I’ve stayed in smaller. It’s fairly close to two stations, very convenient, but only a block east of a pretty dodgy area so I’m not sure if it’s the best for kids.

    Comment by Poagao — December 11, 2009 @ 6:04 am

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