Tokyo Metro, in one of its first large communication efforts for foreigners, has helpfully simplified Tokyo transit for those ready to go beyond the Yamanote JR loop line and the Sobu-Chuo metro commuter lines. Cool Tokyo, Night Life, Metropolitan Luxury, and Cultural Fusion are newly invented geographies with some suggested destinations.
I am secretly glad not to see Nakano and Koenji on the map. We can be “off the radar. I also wonder how well the tiny interactive Journey Planner works. The initial screen looks like the map threw up on itself in four languages. I guess it’s a start.
I managed to visit the Hanazono festival in May twice, once during the day and once at night. In the nighttime, the lights, food, and atmosphere are magical. I particularly like the mix of the spiritual with eating and drinking. A large public space that normally serves as a quiet place with a few people stopping briefly for prayer becomes full of people and celebration.
Hanazono is particularly interesting because of its Shinjuku location in the heart of commerce, commuters, and night life. In all the festivals, the stalls sell the same types of food: yakisoba, okonomiyaki, hot dogs on a stick, fruit encased in clear candy, chocolate bananas, and newer imports like shwarma (called “kebob” in Japan). It seems that the stall operators travel from festival to festival, and I have heard that this business is controlled by the yakuza.
I like how everything that is separate in Western culture gets mixed together in Japan: prayer and eating, spirituality and fun, the sacred and the ordinary. Rows of lanterns hung high signal the special event and add an extra sense of festivity.