Step 1: Explore the area

THE hotel choice in the Shinjuku ward was perfect. It was the center of the business district, a few steps away from the train station and it was easy to find (or so I thought). I still have to thank that kind Japanese man for pointing me to the right direction after getting disoriented getting off my limousine …… bus. I really believed the bus stop was by the hotel’s doorstep, the map I printed was showing it. Was it moved?

No matter, I still made it to my hotel after a moment of lost bearing, and even got an upgrade! Domo arigato. I was offered a bigger room not because I got off a limousine…bus… but because all the single rooms were full. I don’t even want to imagine what could have happened if I didn’t have my reservation printed out. “No reservations under your name” were not the words any first time visitor would like to hear. Hell will break lose.

The double room still got the view as requested in the original on-line reservation, but admiration of the view had to wait until after my initial exploration of the area. So I dumped my things and hurried out to the streets of Tokyo.

Acquainting myself with the area was quick, to my surprise. A few minutes was all it took and I was strutting like a local. This reassured my conviction that I was really a Japanese in my past life, a geisha or a Sadako or whoever I may have been will suit me just fine. How else can you explain this phenomenon? Déjà vu? It’s my first time here, may I remind you, in this life at least.

Another tip to make sure you make it back home should you stray too far from base is you have to identify a landmark, a popular one which locals can point out to you. Easy to pronounce can help you big time as well.

In the ward’s center of commerce, I chose the entrance of the JR train station closest to my hotel. I later found out it was the South entrance. The backup came easy, a beacon! The structure directly facing this entrance to the busiest railway station in the world was an even more important landmark (to me) – THE Takashimaya mall. Getting lost was next to impossible. It was losing my sanity in this mall that posed more of a problem.

 

More trouble came as I trekked blocks farther from my block. It seemed like I was favoring the direction where the “points of interest” (read: shops) were bunched. The shop windows were beckoning me on the first hours of this trip.

Tip 2 would be to scout for restaurants and 24-hour grocery stores of your area. Know what these neighborhood restos have to offer, the cost, and service hours. This may the wisest thing you can do, just in case you suddenly get a craving for the ramen and gyoza in the middle of the night.

Light bid the day farewell and as darkness fell, Shinjuku was transforming.

Published in the Sun.Star Davao newspaper on June 09, 2011.



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