Experiencing Shinjuku

Marisa Lewis
October 15, 2013

When you think of Japanese cities, you might imagine them to be orderly, spotless, and super modern. If you do, well, you’re sometimes right! Sort of. Tokyo really is one of the cleanest cities I’ve been to! This comes with its own annoyances, though – for instance, there are no trash cans as they were all taken away due to problems with having too many crows. There are always little old ladies sweeping away every leaf that falls into a bin. But some parts of Tokyo reveal the dirtier and more grungy side of the city, which is both a little sketchy and refreshing.

This is an alleyway full of graffiti

Recently my photography class traveled to Kabukicho, which is located in Shinjuku and is known as Tokyo’s red light district. We were each given individual assignments, and mine was to take photos from the perspective of a homeless person! At first this seemed like a difficult task, because you usually never ever see homeless people. There’s no sign of them! But after scouring alleyways, I was able to capture some revealing photos. The picture to the left was just one of the many little alleys full of character, which is depicted through its great amount of graffiti.

A bed behind bars.

I walked a little further, and behind a gated flight of stairs, I saw my first evidence of the homeless in Japan. This picture to the right made me wonder if the homeless have much of a presence in Japan or if they are generally ignored. They seem to be something that society doesn’t mention often.

A man walks past a host club billboard.

While I was looking for more signs of the homeless, I ran into the rest of what Kabukicho had to offer: pleasure. There were billboards for host clubs everywhere! In case you were wondering, host clubs are clubs where male hosts are paid to flirt with and entertain their female guests. The hosts themselves are often tall and slim, with edgy clothing and hairstyles. The picture to the left shows an example of the advertising I saw!

My classmates taking in all the sights there were to see.

After walking past the various host clubs and massage parlors, I was met with a flash of lights. It seemed I had returned to the more urban and better known area of Shinjuku! There were so many stores and signs everywhere – it was truly a sight to behold. I then walked out of the shop and restaurant area into the street, and was met with tall skyscrapers and looming grey buildings. The picture on the left shows this. Unfortunately the day was very cloudy, but it lent a cool and ominous kind of feel to the entire city!

Looming grey skyscrapers in the city.

The one and only homeless man I have seen in all of Japan.

Lastly, as I was returning to my train station, I caught a glimpse of a homeless person. I felt bad taking a picture of him, but I think it really shows another surprising side to Japan that most people don’t think about. I left the city feeling intrigued and  impressed, and would like to go back and experience more.

Marisa Lewis

<p><span style="color: rgb(29, 29, 29); font-family: Arial, Verdana, sans-serif; font-size: 12px; line-height: normal; background-color: rgb(237, 237, 237);">Hello! My name is Marisa Lewis, and I am an East Asian International Relations Major/East Asian Studies Minor at the University of Virginia. I&rsquo;m originally from Alexandria, Virginia (though I&rsquo;ve got a lot of family in Thailand as well) and am super excited to be traveling to Japan! I&rsquo;ve only ever been to the Japanese airport before &ndash; their toilets are awesome, by the way &ndash; and have always wanted to experience Japanese culture ever since I first started watching Pokémon as a kid. Don&rsquo;t lie. You watched it, too! In my spare time I love to read, write short stories, bake, listen to music, and have adventures. I am looking forward to making new friends, stocking up on Japanese sweets, and experiencing all that Japan has to offer! But more importantly, stocking up on Japanese sweets. Where my mochi at?</span></p>

2013 Fall
Home University:
University of Virginia
International Relations
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