Breaking down Tokyo: Shinjuku

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When thinking about Tokyo, I think the general consensus is something to the equivalent of the stereotype for New York City with a glamorous nightlife filled with neon lights and an exciting atmosphere. Okay, basically parties and clubs and everything that entails. That or the massive Godzilla (which if you did not know already, is the icon for the use of nuclear power/weaponry) that rampages through Tokyo, destroying and wreaking havoc. It is also the Shinjuku’s mascot, and they have a statue of it which I plan to see on my next visit.

While the former is true to an extent, Shinjuku possesses a little more international culture in my opinion. For example, it houses a Korea-town of sorts called Okubo which has many Korean restaurants and even more stores selling K-pop merchandise. For all fans of K-pop a.k.a Korean pop music, this is a veritable paradise. I am going to hazard a guess that a majority of the goods are not originals and likely mass produced knock-offs from China based on the cheap prices that I saw.

I also think that I saw more restaurants serving food from other countries in Shinjuku. One of the ones that I am most impressed by is the Mexican restaurant specializing in California-styled burritos. As a Californian, that is a dream come true. But the most interesting part of it is that it is called “Rainbow Burritos,” which if you haven’t guessed yet, is very much supportive of the whole spectrum of sexuality. This fairly clear statement is a little bit surprising, since I have heard that one’s sexuality is not really mentioned in Japan, although it is generally accepted, however you identify yourself. Shinjuku actually has a thriving war known as Ni-chome in which its distinguishing factor is that it is know as Shinjuku’s gay town because the high percentage of gay bars concentrated there. They have their own sub-culture there, and being from the Bay Area (California), it reminds me a lot of San Francisco because of the strong LGBT community and the pride people have in it, which is great!

Another interesting thing about Shinjuku is the concept of host or hostess club, and although they are not limited to Shinjuku, there are many of them. Before anyone freaks out, all it really is, is where patrons pay to have conversation and entertainment and drinks. Under typical Western views, paying someone to talk to you is viewed negatively as a reflection of social ability, but I think this is kind of difference between American and Japanese culture. In the U.S., we are taught from the time we are young that independence is good and to be generally more aggressive and vocal when we want something. In fact, those who are perhaps more introverted and may have difficulty striking conversation are viewed more negatively when in reality, introverts possess excellent qualities that are overlooked. And as a result, there is a push for introverts to adapt an “extroverted” persona. From personal experience of being one of those introverts with a cultivated front, this is a refreshing difference. From what I have gathered in my time here, the Japanese dislike imposing themselves on others. People are generally less raucous, and many things are not said, but rather implied. As such, the presence of host and hostess clubs kind of makes sense, because then you are not imposing yourself on them if their job is to lift your spirits.

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Shinjuku at night

That being said, Shinjuku is pretty quirky in a good way, and I would definitely go back to keep exploring the sights. I hear there’s a garden cultivated in different styles like French or Japanese-styled!

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