Koganei Park to Shibuya to Ebisu to Roppongi & Back" by Lyle
A friend from the world outside the islands returned (Kanazawa before, Yokohama this time) after living on the other side of the Pacific for awhile, and we met on Friday, November 18th. I previously only knew this person via the Internet, so it was the first time to actually meet face to face. You never know how someone is going to be in person after writing to them, but this time I found the man to be basically more or less as I had imagined he would be. We started off in Yoyogi-Uehara for lunch and then rode the Chuo Line out to Musashi-Koganei Station - the nearest station to the Edo-Tokyo Open-Air Architectural Museum (on the Chuo Line side - there is also Hana-Koganei Station on the Seibu-Shinjuku Line on the other side).
The building in the middle photo above is where you enter the museum (which is outside behind and on either side of the building), and is of some historical interest itself having originally been in front of the Imperial Palace. It was built in 1940 to commemorate the 2,600 Year Anniversary of Japan and moved to Koganei Nature Conserve (now Koganei Park) in 1941.
(Far left above & below) - a couple of views of the former residence of Hachirouemon Mitsui. The reception and dining areas of the house were originally built in Kyoto in 1897 and then were moved to Tokyo and used in the house, which was completed in 1952 in Nishi-Azabu (a very nice area of Tokyo).
After walking around at the outdoor museum for awhile, my friend headed home to Yokohama and I went over to Shibuya to look for a bookstore he mentioned that I've never been to, and also a pet store to buy fish food at. In Shibuya, just out of the station while waiting for the walk light to turn green, I noticed what I took to be a couple of robots dancing in display windows on the 3rd or 4th floor of the building across the street. My first thought was "Wow... they've gotten really good with robotics - those almost look real", but then I watched as one of them spun around a couple of times and I began to suspect that they were - gasp! - human beings! The light changed, I walked over and had a good look (the yellow, red and blue windows of the far right photo above) and could see by closely watching them that they really were live beings and not robots. The experience was strangely irritating... it would be better to see a robot and mistake it for a person than to see a person and mistake them for a robot!
In Shibuya I was unable to find the bookstore I had been told about, but since I did find the fish food I wanted to buy and was also able to get some pictures, it wasn't a waste of time to drop by.
After Shibuya, I rode the Yamanote Line one stop to Ebisu to burn off some (more) time before going to Roppongi to drop in and have a look at a new drinking place there celebrating its grand opening. The attraction was that they were going to have an "open bar" from 10:00 p.m. until midnight. Ebisu is a much more relaxed place than Roppongi, so I bought some chips and a can of chuhai from an import store by the station and walked over to Ebisu Garden Place to sit on a bench to eat the chips, drink the chuhai and contemplate my surroundings and the time I would soon be spending in Roppongi....
Come to think of it, Ebisu and Roppongi have something in common in the sense that they are both places popular with young people and with a number of places to drink at. The difference is that the ones in Ebisu are more upscale and it all seems perfectly legitimate. Roppongi, on the other hand, offers more excitement and more places to go, but it's also a bit rougher than Ebisu and it's been in the news lately as being an area to worry about....
Above & below - a mix of pictures from Ebisu, Shibuya & Roppongi.
It was interesting to walk around in Roppongi, but it was rather cold and I wasn't dressed very warmly, so by the time 10:00 p.m. appeared on the nearby horizon, I was more in a mood to just go home than to go to the new drinking place, but if I didn't at least take a look, it would bother me down the road as I wondered "I wonder what that place was like... I should have taken a look when I had a chance to...." That being the case, there was nothing for it but to take a look right then, so I went over to the building, climbed the stairs, and found myself inside....
Not often willfully walking myself into crowded social situations, I felt about the way I used to back in high school when entering a room full of people assembled for social fun. Probably the only difference really is a slower metabolism that is (somewhat) numb to the very same nervousness I've always had when walking onto a strange stage.... In any case, I looked around a little and didn't feel as though it was somewhere that I wanted to spend my time really, so I immediately set about getting a few pictures. That done, I was on the verge of doing a U-turn and leaving when a woman working at the place asked me if I wanted a drink. I said okay, she said Y800, I reminded her of the open bar deal from 10:00 p.m. to midnight, she nodded and I ordered a Guinness. Guinness in hand, I stood there and figured I'd down the one drink and then go home, but I caught sight of the English guy who had invited me there via an e-mail mentioning the "Open Bar!" bit, so I walked over to say hello.
We hadn't met in about... five years or thereabouts, so there was much to talk about. Probably two or three hours would have covered it, but since I was persuaded to not worry about the last train, we ended up talking until about 4:00 a.m., whereupon my English friend fell asleep on the bar and I talked with the woman working the bar for a bit.
As for the free drinks... they were indeed free, free that is, until I was prompted to order one after 12:00 midnight - "Would you like another one?" - the woman behind the country sweetly asked, "Okay" I stupidly answered. As she set the beer in front of me, she said "Y800", so she got that out of me after all.... Once it was about 5:00 a.m., I left and marched myself to the train station (with all the other Friday night people from here and there in Roppongi) in search of the first Saturday morning train home. (Not everyone outside Japan seems to know this, but the entire train system in Tokyo comes to a complete halt each and every night between about 12:00 and 1:00 a.m. and doesn't start up again until around 5:00 a.m.)
So, what do I think of Roppongi? I was happy to go there and have a look around after not having seen much of the place at night for many years, but I think I'm not really geared to Roppongi - I prefer other parts of the city and always have. Maybe it's a case of stage-fright....
Copyright 2005 by Lyle (Hiroshi) Saxon, Images Through Glass, Tokyo