Friday, April 18, 2014

An Evening in Shinagawa

If Shibuya is Tokyo being pretty darned trendy, Shinagawa is Tokyo perhaps getting down to business. Well, my wife told me it was a business district, although to me there seemed to be a few hotels and restaurants there. It features the most impressive, in my opinion, of Tokyo’s stations. There’s a big arched roof above a walkway that runs from the north to south exits that people bustle through. That’s where you find the Japan Rail entrance to the station. It’s a really big station too, one that’s pretty easy to get lost in.

I headed to Shinagawa yesterday evening to meet my wife and some of her friends for dinner, and I was a bit early. So I thought I’d take a stroll around and snap a couple of pictures. Pretty much attached to the station was a Pachinko/slot place. They are unbelievably popular here. I once wondered where the good people of Ichinoseki all were as the main streets were often dead, and one day I went into a pachinko place and found 90% of the machines taken and there were hundreds in that place, possibly over a thousand. Almost definitely. And there are dozens in my old hometown.

Pachinko is almost a cross between a pinball game and a slot (pokie) machine. You get a whole bunch of gold balls and try to guide them into a winning position – the machine is upright though, and you have very little control, much less than a pinball machine for example. Anyways, outside this place there were two guys dressed up and dancing trying to get people to go inside. They weren’t having much luck. I wonder if I could get a part time job doing that?

On the north side of the station, after passing people walking through the arched walkway which was seriously grand, was the part of Shinagawa I haven’t really explored at all. It seems a lot of restaurants are in that area, 6-8 people were out hawking for their restaurants with menus in hand and aprons on. Business men and women with stern faces took the escalators up to the station on their ways home, and every now and again one person would be smiling and laughing, relieving my worries that everyone in Tokyo is just working until they die with no enjoyment from life whatsoever.

Inside the restaurant.

There was little to none of the Harajuku colour, the artisan spirit, the outfits and non-conformity that you can see in other places in Tokyo in Shinagawa. And then it was time for dinner as my wife arrived and we met her friends at a French Restaurant on the other side of the station called ‘Aux Bacchanales’.

It was very ‘colonial’ in design, reminding me of d├ęcor more attuned to the 40s I guess, and somewhat reminiscent of a restaurant (also French) I went to in Yaounde, capital of Cameroon. I really loved the look of the place, although the waiter who served us, who was French, didn’t crack a smile until the end of the night when we were paying the bill and I said to him ‘Please smile, you look so stressed’, and then he did. Which was a relief.

In fact this was the third French restaurant I have been to inside a week! And no, I didn’t choose any of them! The menu was limited, but we were in the lunch/bar area. It was great for my wife to catch up with her friends, and I must remember what it’s like when we move back to Australia to be at a table and understand less than 10% of the conversation. Although my wife speaks a lot more English than I do Japanese, it will still be very hard for her. Listening is always the hardest thing!

And so we walked back to Shinagawa station to take the train back to Yokohama and beyond (we are in the suburbs here). The train was packed, lots of standing, but apparently nothing like peak hour. Take care everyone, more coming tomorrow. From now on on Sunday I will be posting a retrospective on a place I visited in the past, in an attempt to not be posting everyday about Japan.

Don’t forget to have a listen to the podcast. It’s the main feature of yesterday’s blog. Each podcast will get its own dedicated blog post.
The station at night.

Tomorrow it’s back to the Japan Survival Guide – I’m going to talk about Japanese foods! And a little bit about grocery shopping! May the journey never end!

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