WHAT:- This is one of the best places to people -watch., because of the diversity of the crowd: Usually there are street musicians, ridiculous fashions, religious cultists, guys trying to pick up women, karaoke touts, and a million shoppers, all going at once. Best people-watching locations: outside of the east exit. Also, INSIDE THE STATION. near the east exit ticket machines, is awesome too!!! BEST TIME: come after 10 and pretty much everyone in there is drunk and making an ass of themselves, making this a great place to just go up and talk to strangers. I write more about people-watching HERE. And again HERE.
Also, I will be referring to an exit called the EAST SOUTH EXIT. This is not me being a wino. That is what it is called, and it IS distinct from the East and South exits. Please deal with this.
WHERE: all around shinjuku station
WHAT: these are homeless guys selling magazines that people left behind on the trains! It’s not a ‘bookstore’ – just a table with a grizzled dude standing by. If you want to experience some “only in japan” culture on the cheap, buying used pornography from a homeless dude is my advice.
0101 (MARU ICHI) department store
WHAT: There are a bunch of these chain stores all in Shinjuku, but the most interesting one is a sort of gothic lolita shopping mall! It’s laid out in an interesting, cynical way: a whole different girl-subculture on every floor. Sort of like America’s Hot Topic stores but with snobbier clerks.
HOW:go out the East Exit of JR Shinjuku station, walk to the famous Studio ALTA , and turn right. walk 2 blocks, pass the ABC MART shoestore, and in a few seconds you’ll reach 0101.
WHAT: Tokyo’s only Anarchist bookstore. Yes, the books are in Japanese. But, jesus, who cares? It’s Tokyo’s only Anarchist bookstore. Well, one of two!
HOW:Start at the East South Exit, go down shinjuku-dori maybe 5 minutes until you get to a big intersection. there will be a DOUTOUR COFFE shop on the far right-hand side. go past Doutour, and make the next right, onto a little tiny street. MOSAKUSHA is at the end of the block on the left side.
WHAT: The most chaotic used book store– just piles of stuff up to the ceiling, Crazy combinations of merchandise in riotous profusion. Total vintage 80s FLASHDANCE-era porn, and movie soundtrack sheet music, and reproductions of medieval maps for NO GOOD REASON.
HOW: it is also on shinjuku-dori, the block AFTER the side-street of the Anarchist Bookstore. go past the OFFICE DEPOT, and MAPSNPORN will be on your left. it is on a corner, across the street from a KOBAN (police box)
WHERE: shinjuku-ku, shinjuku, 6-3-6- . which is to say, Shinjuku 6-chome, 3 block, 6 building.
WHAT: It is a barber shop and gangsta rap shop. you are kicking yourself for not already being there. He specializes in Dirty South, did so before the South was cool.
HOW: anyway, if you go past the maps-and-porn store ON SHINJUKU-DORI, you will come to an AM/PM. turn left there and walk like 12 minutes in a straight line. . the barber should be on the right.
WHAT: You can’t miss them, There’s gotta be at least twenty DISC UNION record/cd shops within a block of each other. Each little shop sells a different genre. You can find metal, prog, avant-garde, etc. Ask at any Disc Union for a little map which explains all the different stores. Most of their inventory is from the West, but one shop in the basement is only Japanese Avant-Garde music. The stairway/entranceway is painted with a mural of fat sweating men with snot-noses, so it should be easy to spot.
HOW:Go out the JR station at the east-south exit. Cross the street and turn left, so you are walking north. Turn right at benneton and keep walking 2 minutes. Then you’ll see Disc unions on both the left and right side.
WHAT:ANTI-KNOCK is one of the oldest live punk venues.
HOW:To get there from the station, go out the SOUTH EAST EXIT. then take the stairs down, and you will see a big old overpass on your right. go right, walk under the overpass, and make the first left. walk down that street until the first stoplight. then CROSS the street, and turn right, and walk like 2 minutes, and on your left will be antiknock. it is right next to a KOBAN (police box).
WHERE: Shibuya ku, sendagaya, 3-12-14. Mon – Fri 10:00-18:30
Sat、Sun & National Holiday 12:00-18:30Closed Mondays.
ENGLISH: a little
WHAT: a specialty bookstore for fans of modern architecture.
Even selling a tour-guide book for tokyo’s most impressive new buildings!
HOW: From Shinjuku station it takes maybe 20 minutes walking! Go south on meiji dori, pass under the chuo train tracks, walk until you come to a SUBWAYS SANDWITCHES on your right. Then turn right and walk uphill on the next little street, and GA is on your left, about 100 feet away from meiji-dori.
WHAT: Shinjuku’s OTHER anarchist store, (like MOSAKUSHA but the books are in English!) Dude sells lots of punk records and zines too. but it’s the boring, sensitive, PC, PUNK PLANET, let’s recycle type of punk. So maybe it’s better to think of it as a place to go talk politics. Dude speaks OK English and can tell you about whatever protest march is going on this week, if you want photos of riot police to impress your friends back home.
HOW: this place is insanely hard to find. It’s basically inside a shoebox hidden in a cupboard in a dungeon in the back of the castle on the 9 th level, and the Wizard served your ass with a Spell of Confusion. Plus, it’s around 20 minutes on foot from Shinjuku station. (but if you’re planning to visit the other anarchist bookstore, the maps-n-porn store, or the gay district of 2-chome ANYWAY, it’s not such a long haul).
Start from Shinjuku station. Walk east on Shinjuku Dori (walk on the left side of the street). Walk and walk and walk. You’ll pass a TULLY’S coffee on the right. Maybe you’ll pass 2. Eventually, you’ll come to a traffic light. On the far side of the intersection is a big building with TOSHIN written in English. (it should be standing next to a building with YOZA YOZA YOZA!!!) written in huge letters. This is the intersection for you. If you get to a HUGE intersection where the building on the far right corner has a sign reading ACHILLES on top of it, you’ve gone 2 blocks too far. Turn around. Anyway, you’ve found the “SHINJUKU DORI MEETS TOSHIN AND YOZA YOZA YOZA” intersection. Turn left, (north). You will enter a small maze of alleys. Walk for about 3 minutes until you come to an AM/PM store. Turn right and walk for about 20 feet, then take the first left into a little alley. The shop is on this very block! Walk about 20 feet. Pass the sign reading EARTHHREE. The building AFTER EARTHHREE is IRREGULAR RHYTHM ASYLUM. On your right. If you look up, you should see tiny, grey and black flags sticking out of a 3d floor window. That is the place! Go up the stairs and get off on the 3d floor. Pat yourself on the back for making it through the 9 th level dungeon maze!
WEST SHINJUKU (西新宿）
They say West Shinjuku is all just office buildings. but there is some good stuff here too, sure enough.
Most of it is in the same area, so I’ll just give the directions once: Take the west exit from JR Shinjuku station. turn right, head north on KOTAKIBASHI-DORI. This street runs north-south, parallel to the train tracks. Soon you will go through a huge intersection the size of a football field. Go straight through the intersection and now you are in the cool section of West Shinjuku!
WHERE: Shinuku-ku, Nishi-shinjuku 7-1-7.
WHAT: There used to be like 100 tiny semi-legal fetish stores inside this giant normal-looking office building. . . I think there is one or two left, like a store that sells used Mister Donut uniforms in case used panties are not weird enough . . .There is also a Japanese noise cd store and Tokyo’s only Esparanto office!
HOW: is maybe 1 minute north of the football-field-sized intersection, on the right side.Daikan is a big ugly and brown office building with a sign out front that says カラオケ (karaoke) it is on the right side, next to the MOSBURGER. . .
HOW: this is never open. I think he only does mail-order. Please check his website if you want to mail-order Japanoise records, especially field recordings of trains on vinyl. His speciality. He speaks English.
various SPECIALTY RECORD STORES
WHAT: Nishi Shinjuku is home to a whole little district of tiny, specialized CD/record shops. Some music nerds spend half their tokyo-vacation money in one day here.
NAT records is the main punker record store in these parts.
HOW: to get there from JR Shinjuku station, take the SOUTH exit and turn right. you are walking on a big wide road named KOSHU KAIDO. walk for 10 minutes and eventually you will notice that a huge fucking freeway is now hovering in the air over your left shoulder. jesus. now keep walking another 10 minutes and keep an eye out for the porno video store. after you pass it, take the next right, into a little alley and there is WALL.
WORKIN’ MAN’S CLOTHES STORE
WHERE: Shinuku-ku, nishi-shinjuku 3-chome, 8.
WHAT: They sell all this rad stuff- the knickerbockers and ninja boots and all the distinctive clothes that Japanese construction workers wear.
HOW: I don’t know the exact address but you know NISHI SHINJUKU PARK? This shop is a BRIGHT CANARY YELLOW BUILDING directly catty-corner from the SOUTH WEST CORNER of Nishi Shinjuku Park, so it’s hard to miss.
KABUKICHO ( a part of shinjuku) 歌舞伎町
This is the Las Vegas part. All the gigolos and mafiosos and hoes and weirdos. Best at midnight. Hella drunks be staggering.. Gigolos be pestering women. Female hookers here do not work in the street. But you can spot them going to work because they all have these orange prom-looking up-dos. A squad of friendly trannies is usually in front of Koma Stadium, holding signs that encourage visitors to keep the place tidy.
Here is a sample walking tour.
From Shinjuku Station east exit, find STUDIO ALTA, a popular landmark.. It says ALTA in english, and also there is like a 20 foot high tv screen on it. Walk across the plaza to Alta. Turn left, walk maybe 20 feet, and then make the first right. You are now on Alta Alley,. If you see like 20 guys with Rod Stewart Hair trying to grab women walking by, you are in the right place. Also check out the Host Bars — some of the hosts are ONABE, or drag kings. See if you can tell which is which.
Don’t ask me about prostitutes. That stuff is too normal and besides Actual Brothels don’t allow gaijin customers. Gaijin have this rude habit of objecting to the 200% overcharges that Japanese sex-bars routinely put on after you thought you paid for everything. Here is the rule, dood : If there is a guy from Nigeria telling you about a sex-bar, it is not one. The real sex-bars have guys from Nigeria paid to keep your foreign ass out.
WHERE: Shinuku-ku, shinjuku 3-22-3
WHAT: A cheap, bizzarely decorated karaoke joint with Angel Of Death on the menu.
HOW: If you walk north on Alta Alley and take the first right turn , you will see ZOU KARAOKE. it is on the left hand side, maybe 20 feet away, and easily discernable, as it has a HUGE STATUE OF THE PREDATOR or maybe Eddie sort of busting out of the facade.
WHAT: Tokyo’s most serious “maniac lecture bar.” Every day they have a different lecture or demonstration of some totally underground, uncouth hobby.. For instance, medieval torture or scatology or 1960′s animation.
Unfortunately, since it is a “Talk Show Bar” Even the fetish shows are mostly talk., so if you do not speak japanese I would not recommend it.
HOW: if – instead of turning to go to ZOU KARAOKE, you continue straight up to Alta Alley, you will come to a big intersection. go straight through it and now you are in the heart of kabukicho. everything here is either selling sex that looks like a video game or selling a video game that looks like sex. get back on the main street and keep walking until you get to a “T” intersection. turn right and walk 30 feet. . .on your right, next to the obnoxious neon sign of Kenny from South Park with a condom-hat, is LOFT PLUS ONE.
COCO PART 2
WHERE: Shinuku-ku, kabukicho －１２－６
WHAT: A bona-fide Yakuza fashion store- you can get your super-wide wale cordoroy tracksuits with knockoff Warner Brothers characters here.
HOW:If you pass loft plus one and make the first left — 5 feet after Loft+1– and you walk 40 feet you will see COCO PART 2.
SEX INFORMATION BOOTHS （案内店、案内コーナ）
WHERE: all over Kabukicho!
WHAT: The rest of Kabuki-cho is full of “information booths” which are like sexual travel-agents. They just have stacks of promotional pamphlets, and some minion in a cheap suit who might be nice or mean.. Go in these and get all the free shit you can.
If that’s too intimidating, there’s literally millions of free sex-store brochures on metal stands outside every convenience store. Most of these are full of hooker classified ads, with pictures of puppies and necklaces.
WHAT: MOMO PARA (‘moo-moo paradise’), a Sukiyaki restaurant with a 1800 yen-per-hour all-you-can-eat policy. Rock on.
HOW: now, go back to that “T” intersection I mentioned in my directions for LOFT PLUS ONE.. But instead of going right towards COCO and LOFT, you can go left. . . .at the corner of the block turn right, and then you will see, on your left, a concrete park full of homeless folks. on the far side of the park is the HUMAX BUILDING. on the 8th floor is MOMO PARA
WHAT: A capsule hotel. Read more about my capsule hotel adventure here.
HOW: if you go to the far-west side of the homeless park, then turn right, walk to the end of the block, and then turn left and walk 100 feet, you will come toGREEN PLAZA .on the fourth floor is a capsule hotel which is pretty yabai, but you should try it if you want the full Japan experience.
WHAT:Tachibana shinryoushitsu (tachibana’s diagnosis room). Is one of the many tiny expensive weirdly-themed bars in golden-gai. This one’s theme is “nurse fetish.” While you drink out of beakers and eat popcorn out of surgical trays, you can look at medical charts on the wall, squeeze the blow-up nurse hanging from the ceiling, or admire the mama-san’s giant dragon tattoo while you sip drinks with names like ‘barium enema’ and ‘speculum’.. Expect to pay about $35 per person, as there is a cover charge which you will not be told about.
HOW:(addresses are pretty meaningless in Golden Gai, but it’s the kind of trippy neighborhood where getting lost is half the fun. Basically keep a lookout for a store sign with a red cross on it). it’s open nightly from maybe 10 or 11 pm till 4 am.
2-chome (pronounced, NEE-cho-may), in Shinjuku, is the gay part of Tokyo
Go out the Shinjuku Station East Exit and walk East on Shinjuku-dori. Once you cross Meji-dori, you are in 2-chome.
Map is here: http://members.at.infoseek.co.jp/GSJ/GAY-BAR/gay_spot.htm
WHAT: small friendly disco with both gay and lesbian events, and ‘mix nights’- drag-queen shows where everyone, including straights is welcome. Every night is a different theme, so check their schedule.
WHAT:GEN’S CLUB is a “drag-king host club” . It’s not a hardcore “get jiggy” host-club – the decor is less like Vegas and more like ” toy store.” The drag-kings don’t really speak english. There is a membership charge, plus – like any good host club – you have to buy the gentlemen drinks. On your first time, you’ll be spending maybe $30 to $40 each for 2 hours. Worth it if you speak Japanese or if you like hot dudes. They say they get both gay, straight, male and female customers.
HOW:directly across the little alley from arty farty
WHAT: A mediocre porno store, with an AMAZING logo. You can get a prostate vibrator and pick up a soap-opera DVD based on the escapades of kabuki-cho’s gigolos.
HOW: ask, homey!
OOKUBO (大久保) — the Korean part of town. (literally, ‘big nostalgic garuntor’)
Technically Shin-ookubo is still part of Shinjuku. : the north part.
Exit shinjuku station and walk north on kotakibashi-dori for 10 minutes until you get you to Shoukan-Dori, the main street of Shinokubo. A good walking tour will take you from kotakibashi on the west, until Meji dori on the east.
WHAT: – This is your entry to another of Tokyo’s baffling, obsessive subcultres: gun nerds. A certain kind of Otaku likes to collect replica firearms from gun history, or perhaps they stockpile paintball guns based on the new anime character that just came out last month. Naturally, they got their own world of green beret-style LARPING. But it’s all make-believe: 9 out of 10 of these guys could get beat up by a junior high school girl. The store is open every day from 11 am to 9 pm. They even have a firing range on the 3d floor! Echigoya is a B-b gun store. I asked them if they sell paintball guns and they looked at me as if I cut a huge fart and then asked them for a Kleenex.
HOW:DIRECTIONS FROM SHINJUKU STATION: It’s the big, pointy yellow building on the north-east corner of the intersection of KOTAKIBASHI DORI and SHOUKAN DORI. That means it’s over 10 minutes from both Shinjuku and shinookubo train stations.
ENGLISH: a little
WHAT: Cheap indian food made by Nepalese guys. The lunch is so-so but if you come after 5, you can get some hella hot curry and naan for around $11. If you are lucky you can catch a bootlegged rerun of Batman Returns dubbed in hindi and subbed in nihongo.
HOW: Walking east from Echigoya, you’ll come to the Yamanote train tracks. . . there is GREAT INDIA!!
A MILLION KOREAN RESTARAUNTS
WHERE: continuing east on Shoukan-dori, there is like a million korean restaurants. on the left (north) side.
OOKUBO GHETTO has gone out of business. Sorry! It used to be a combination art gallery / skate shop / piercing / tattoo joing with an infamous indoor skatepark.
the best DON QUIXOTE in Tokyo!
ENGLISH: a little
WHAT: ANY DON QUIXOTE is nuts, but the Okubo one is the best because of the colorful mix of kabukicho people, confused immigrants, and poor japanese that mix in the aisles. imagine a japanese version of K=MART with the ambience of the inside of a pachinko machine. you can go there wanting to buy a pet dog and come out with a buttplug, some peanuts, and a turtle costume instead. total sensory overload!! the sign is not in english. it is bright yellow and red and says like this — ドン. キホ-テ。
HOW:The DON QUIXOTE is on shoukan dori, About 5 minutes after Ghetto , also on the left side.
WHAT: a tiny club specializing in grind and metal bands with basically no fans.
HOW:On the south side of the Shoukan-dori, between GREAT INDIA, and DON QUIXOTE, is URGA the heavy metal live club. it is next to an AM/PM.
Guinea pig (ギニーピッグ)
Shinjuku ku, kabukicho, 2-41-3, third floor.
From 10 pm till 4 am . . . some days. irregular schedule! He’s open when he feels like it.
ENGLISH: a little. Enough.
WHAT: PIERCING / BODY MOD / GAY BAR. Decorated like a monster movie. The owner is this rad gay tattoo dude. When I went it was mostly retired strippers and trenchcoat dudes. But I’ve been told that other nights there are s/m performances or just if dudes want to get it on they can if they let everyone watch. Who knows, man. Anyway there might be a line to get in, so be patient. It’s hella cheap compared to fetish bars anywhere else, though. And free popcorn. I kept deliberately not eating my popcorn fearing we’d be charged some retarded hidden fee of 10 bucks a bowl. But it was all good. Dude probably knows about a lot of tattoo / fetish events if you want to ask him.
HOW: You know how I just told you about Don Quixote? Basically, guinea pig is just across the street from the Don. Say you’re going out of Don Q. Cross the main street there, turn right, walk 3 blocks. You pass a Sunkus convenience store. When you come to the next traffic light (URGA is on the corner!), turn left at URGA, on to a small side street. When you get to the end of that block (10 seconds), you’ll see a circular outdoor staircase. Go up to the third floor with your pants off.
WHAT: the most scary fucked up brutal post apocalyptic god damn thing. Make sure and go in the lobby also –it’s decorated with a suspiciously spinal-cord looking theme. Rumor has it you can go up to the roof! IF YOU DARE.
HOW:After The Don, keep walking east on Shoukan-dori for 5 minutes and you will see it lurking on your left.
========end of the Shoukan-dori walking tour==========
CRAZY CULT SOYLENT-GREEN RESTARAUNT
WHAT: a restaraunt run by a Buddhist cult – with an actual COMPOUND, no less - that serves veggie food in a buffet setting. Unlike most veggie places, this ONLY has fake meat. No salads or fruits or cereals. Just dozens of kinds of fake meat . . . .all made from the SAME MYSTERY SUBSTANCE . .. .THAT NO ONE KNOWS WHAT IT IS. Definitely worth it for weirdness value. You have to walk past their grotesquely swollen and obscenely mirthful 20-foot-tall Buddha statue to get to the restaraunt. I think they are only open for lunch?
HOW:Exit shin-Ookubo station. Cross the street to the NORTH SIDE of ookubo dori, and turn left. Walk until you’re pretty close to regular-ookubo station, and you should pass a red-brick building about 6 stories high – the only one on the block. Turn right at that building onto a very narrow street -heading NORTH. travel for one minute – you only pass about 3 buildings -and you’ll come to the cult’s compound, on the left side. Enter and prepare yourself.
WHAT: a killer italian theme restaraunt – the theme being “itialian food, bebop jazz, and the interior decor of a Maine fisherman’s cabin.”
HOW: take JR CHUO line to OOKUBO station (the next one from Shinjuku station). go out the north exit,, turn left and hen make a left at the first traffic signal after that, walk 20 meters and it Pankontomate is on your left.
WHAT: a Chinese restaraunt where you can get dog. As in, WOOF WOOF dog.. Point to the kanji in the menu that looks like this: 狗. It’s around $40.
HOW:Take JR to Shin-Ookubo station, go out the exit (there’s only one), and turn right.Walk on the north side of Ookubo street until you come to the first light. Right past the first light, there’s a big yellow billboard with English letters reading KANT. It’s an internet MMPORG cafe named after a philosopher. But that’s not important right now. Right downstairs from KANT is EN JI SHAN,
HOW: go past En Ji Shan and walk about 3 minutes. Eventually you’ll see a FAMILY MART convinience store on the right side. Keep going another 30 seconds, and on your left side is a chubby girl with a street-stall selling tiny shiny trinkets. Next to her is a Korean restaraunt. In between them is a tiny door that leads to a staircase. And that staircase is EARTHDOM, If you come to the police-box, you’ve gone too far, turn around.
WHAT: an all-night “family restaraunt” where you’ll sometimes find the Korean or Chinese “families” having a little mafia sit-down. After midnight is your best bet – pop on in and ask them which “family” they’re with!
HOW:After the earthdom show, you can walk back west (on the north side of ookubo dori), past the dog restaurant. . . and keep walking PAST the train station station. You’ll soon come to CASA(sign in english),
excellent fake gaudi building
WHERE: Shinuku-ku, waseda – tsurumaki-sho, 517 (yeah, they do the numbers differently over there!)
WHAT: Exactly what it says.
HOW: Take the Touzai subway line (not JR) and get off on Waseda station.
Apart from Shinjuku, Kouenji is my favorite neighborhood in Tokyo. Lots of vintage boutiques, small mom-and-pop stores, instead of big irritating neon stores. . . .a great place to just get lost and wander.
To get there just go to Shinjuku Station and take the JR Sobu line. It takes about 10 minutes.
WHAT: . this is one of the punkest record stores in Tokyo. They DO do international mail order, and can read English. Also they got all the flyers of upcoming shows, and Toshio (the English-speaking manager) can tell you which shows are the bomb.
HOW: Exit the South Exit of JR Kouenji station, and you’ll see a little “taxi parking lot” in front of you, and a traffic light maybe 20 feet to your right.
Now, go to the light, turn left, facing AWAY from the train tracks. If you go straight, you will proceed down The Big Street, called Kounan-Dori. if you go like 2 minutes down Kounan, you’ll pass a toy store on the right (sign says “TOY HOBBY” in english), and then you’ll pass a used-book store on the left (this is one of those amazing one-dollar used porn places). Then, on your left, you will pass a Freshness Burger. right next to the Freshness Burger is a little folding sign that says BASE. go up to the 3d floor.
PAL shopping mall
WHAT: A rad little shopping mall full of odd little stores, and a great place to people-watch.
HOW: Exit the South Exit of JR Kouenji station, and you’ll see a little “taxi parking lot” in front of you, and a traffic light maybe 20 feet to your right. Go to the traffic light light I said before, but instead of going down Kounan, look to your right and you should see a big sign saying PAL. go in. it is not that difficult. Almost all the stores in PAL have little signs in english, hanging from the roof. so if you look up, you can spot the landmarks I will give you.
WHAT:a funky vintage-clothing and burlesque clothing shop. Lots of clothes, but the main attraction is the eerie porno decor, and the vending machines out front selling miniature poo and cut-up body parts. Ask the owner to show you the “kago shintaro art”. The store is run by the lovely SUMAKYUU, who is an expert in all things underground, but doesn’t speak English.
HOW: If you keep going down PAL for another minute, on your right you’ll see, signs for “belle pia” and “world airplane.” on the left side, opposite the signs, is a little street. take it, and then (10 feet later) make the first left after that , and walk 10 feet . on your right is CHOCOLATE CHIWAWA.
After you’re done with the Chiwawa, just walk around.. The whole area between Kounan-dori and PAL is utterly dense with little odd gift-shops, and probably cooler than PAL. The only problem is hipster white people. Including you.
VILLAGE VANGUARD IN KOUENJI
ENGLISH: a little
WHAT:Just in 2009, Village Vanguard opened up a new branch store in Kouenji PAL mall. It’s not as big or crazy as the Shimokitazawa Village Vanguard, but it’s still full of subculture books, odd indie manga, silly novelty toys. And it’s got a big neo sign in English, so you can’t miss it.
HOW:PAL mall. On your right side. After 2000 VOLTS.
SOBA NOODLE SHOP
WHAT:A very traditional, but cheap and kickass, soba noodle shop on your left. Usually it’s not open because the owners are 200 years old. But if you show up at 6, you should find their umbrella is unfurled, which means you can go in and get the awesome.
HOW: If you go back to PAL, and keep walking away from the station for another few minutes, you will find, on your left, the soba shop because it has a big, traditional, red paper umbrella out front when it is open.
WHERE: It’s an evening cafe – from, I think, 6 PM until 1 AM??
WHAT: It’s like the cafe equivalent of Taco Che or Chocolate Chiwawa – a place for fans of Japan’s avant-garde, erotic and grotesque from the ’70s until today. Plus, coffee and light meals. They have books and cd’s for sale. The owner is really nice-when I was there, he sold some obscure delay pedal to some electronic music nerds that were planning this 8-bit-synth performance festival at the table next to me. The one otaku guy was so happy I thought he was going to cry. The owner speaks some English and would be more than happy to tell you about events and performances that could use your patronage.
HOW: If you walk down the length of the PAL mall to the end (you can tell you’re past it when the roof dissappears!), the street continues. keep walking 10 seconds, and you’ll come to a used-clothes store on your right – it has a white spiral staircase on it, right on the sidewalk, so you can’t miss it. The clothes store is “a’aight,” but the real attraction is around the next corner – literally in the alley that comes after that store. Turn right in to the alley, and walk about 5 meters , and you’ll see a tiny folding sign on your right hand side called MATCHING MOLE: go in the door and up the stairs, and on the second floor you’ll find the wonderful MATCHING MOLE CAFE.
ENGLISH: depends on who’s working. Basically no.
WHAT: a subculture-book store. this is a great place to pick up a souviner for friends back home — used magazines and books about sex, violence, how to become a pimp in Japan, autobiographies of famous drag queens, lists of books or records which have been banned, manga about poos, etc.
HOW: on your LEFT, a few minutes past matching mole is ANIMAL (アニマル）,
oooooooookayyyyyyy. .. .. end of the walking tour, back to the station! We’re going to go down some different roads.
ENGLISH: no, plus they regard your entrance as a rude interruption to their internet browsing.
WHAT: this store is the size of a shoe-horn, but it is fucking stocked with crazy shit. probably the most “Punk” looking of any of the record stores in Tokyo.
HOW: THEY MOVED !! They are no longer by the train tracks, homegirl. To get to NEW BOY,
go down PAL, turn LEFT at the Softbank, go into an apartment building! There’s some stairs by the lobby (outside) Then go up to the third floor and walk down the (outside) balcony\veranda thing until you come to an apartment door with BOY RECORDS on it. (hint: if they’re open, there should be a little folding sign in the apartment lobby that says “boy records” on it, too!)
from 9 pm , every day but sunday
suginami ku, kouenji minami, 3-61-11
WHAT: a “2-channel” bar!The place is packed to the rafters with old famicom games, cartridges, and lots of game conosles for you to play. Kouenji otaku are just as passionate as Akihabara otaku, but also really different in style! So put on your anthropolgist’s pith-helmet and see if you can spot the differences. Part net cafe, part community. The events are different every night: sometimes, everyone is live-blogging a political speech or watching a livestream of a idol show, other nights no one is even there.
HOW: south exit, turn right, walk parallell to the tracks for 6 or so minutes, pass the “godzilla-ya” shop, and eventually you’ll find area 51 on your left side.
WHERE:杉並区高円寺北3-1-1 アサヒビル1F (suginami-ku, kita kouenji 3-1-1)
ENGLISH: yes, and french as well.
WHAT: a foreign-run combination skate-shop, bar, and Medeteranian cafe. They serve felafel and veggie foods. Wednesday night is movie night.
HOW: go out the north exit of Kouenji JR station, and turn left. Walk until you hit the KFC and keep going to the LEFT of KFC (so KFC is on your right) – this small street is under the train tracks! Walk 4 minutes until you hit this obnoxious bicycle-barrier, and turn right. Dynamo is 3 feet away on your right hand side.
WHO: BAROK (バロック)
ENGLISH: a little?
JUST GOT WORD THAT BAROK HAS SHUT DOWN.
WHAT: a crazy serial killer -and – hentai store. get Thai versions of “faces of death” videos or snot-fetish videos here. a true museum of weird.
HOW: go out the North Exit and turn left. . cross the street, and pass a Macdonalds (it should be on your left). you are now in a little alley parallel to the train tracks. the tracks are on the left, aren’t they? ok then. barok is only 3 minutes walk from here. on your left, you will pass a pool hall, then pass a lawson (convenience store). maybe 10 feet past Lawson is a little folding sign saying バロク. go up the staircase.
WHAT:SHIROUTO – (meaning, beginner) is a friendly bar. They used to be open day and night, but i think they open at 9PM now. that’s right. midnight. on any given day you will find foregners from like 2 or 3 different countries drinking, drawing in the “draw your own manga” books provided by the bartender, and debating the issues of the day.
HOW: go past barok, straight. shirouto, until you see a used furniture shop on your right — hard to miss because there’s furniture piled up on the sidewalk. then walk another 20 feet and you are at shirouto on your right. put another way, it’s about 100 feet from the very end of that street.
WHAT: a fun little window-shopping street. The streetlights are all decorated with banners of monkeys.
HOW: Go out the north exit, then turn right, and go across the parking lot. Your destination? A big store with a red-and-yellow sign proclaiming “drug and cosmetic.” When you get there, sort of walk along the left-hand side of the drug store. Then quickly make the first left (at a flower shop), and then the first right (at a pachinko parlor). This has all taken you about one minute if you did it right. Ok, congratulations, you are now on Monkey Street.
from 9pm – 3am. closed sundays and the third monday of every month.
On the south side of waseda dori just west of kannana dori, across the street from foodex
Ryuuchan is the bar run by Ryuuji Yamamoto, who is kind of the Crispin Glover of Japan.
IKEBUKURO (池袋) （literally, ‘lake sack’）
Most of the action is on the East side, on an outdoor shopping street called Sunshine Dori (not to be confused with the INDOOR ‘sunshine 60’ shopping mall). Sunshine dori should be on any tourist map.. It’s a good place to people-watch! Just go out the east exit of JR Ikebukuro station.
WHAT: another architectural marvel、looking like HP Lovecraft meets Geiger
HOW: basically, you take the east exit of JR ikebukuro station, and walk down the big wide road — NOT sunshine60 street. you walk like as if you were going to the Higashi-ikebukuro subway station. on the right hand side of this big street you will see a DOUTOUR coffee shop. take the next right hand turn and the insane building will be like one minute away, on the right. boo!!
WHAT: a “cat house” where you pay to pet cats. The cats are hostile and wigged out on catnip. The parallels to human prostitution are eerie.
HOW: At the end of Sunshine 60-street, on the right, is nekobukuro: above the Tokyu Hands department store, . . .walk down sunshine 60-dori until you get to tokyu hands, then take the elevator.
SUNSHINE 60 MALL
WHAT: this is like the newer, younger version of shibuya’s famous 109, but more junior-high-ish.. They have a hip-hop-gear shop which one entire wall is a mural of the BOO-YAA T.R.I.B.E. – perhaps the only place where the guys are even larger than life. And there is an aquarium also. The aquarium is in the skyscraper, but the mall is in the basement.
HOW: Take the escalator which is next to the entrance to Tokyu Handz.
WHAT: It’s basically Akihabara for women. There’s 5 or 6 BL manga shops, and a few “butler cafe”s and supposedly a drag-king cafe also (for nerd girls who are practising to talk to real men but aren’t there yet). All this in a 3 block radius. Oh, and BL is basically slash fiction. I would reccomend Otome Road not just for nerds, but for anyone who is interested in what Japanese girls are REALLY like: watching the customers is the best part of going to the store! It’s like going to some Hassidic neighborhood where they have not seen a Gentile in 5 years.
HOW: Anyway to get to otome road, you go all the way to the end of SUNSHINE DORI and cross the big, scary freeway intersection. Once you are across, walk to the end of THAT block (it’s really short) and then turn left. You are now on otome road. there are 3 or 4 stores there: mandarake and k-books are the most famous. This would be a great place to get gay harry potter manga for your friends back home.
WHAT: the butler café- the ‘otome road’ version of a maid cafe. It is usually full, but you can ask the pretty “mayter dee” if they have any seats free. There’s also an AM/PM there, which has a bunch of nerd graffitti in the bathroom.
HOW: Find K-1 BOOKS, one of the stores on OTOME ROAD. Swallowtail is in the basement of K-1, but you should make reservations beforehand via their website.
Buki means “armaments”, and this store sells replicas of samurai stuff, as well as military history text-books which show you what famous WWII tanks and planes would look like if they transformed into half naked Anime girls.
WEST SIDE IKEBUKURO
West ikebukuro is supposedly one of the last holdouts of “juvenile delinquent” gangs, or wanna-be 50 cent guys or Banchos or whatever. So if you want to fight guys with baseball bats and steal their honda scooters, then you can walk around here at midnight with a sign saying “テメーの母さん”（your mama!)
LIVE HOUSE CHOP
WHERE: toshima-ku, ikebukuro 2-46-3
WHAT: Another live-house specializing in VISUAL-KEI.
HOW: Not sure! Seems to be close to the North Exit of Ikebukuro JR station.
WHAT: A tiny, squalid café where you can pay $15 for 30 minutes. You get coffe or tea, plus you can see the underpants of the waitresses. When not serving customers, they sit on little shoe-shine-stand type stools that expose the underwear. Also you have a little closed-circuit TV at your table where you CAN WATCH THE UNDERPANTS ON TV even as you watch them in real life. Every 30 minutes the manager takes customers into a back room where they can take pictures of the underpants as well. Don’t take pictures until then. The staff do not speak English.
HOW: Exit Ikebukuro JR Station NORTH exit. Actually, just check my article about the ‘underpants café’ on a separate page, – there’s photo-directions on that.
WHAT: A huge, famous visual kei club, in Takedanobaba, near Ikebukuro. They have a no-outside-food rule and a no-camera rule too. So please don’t get caught.
HOW:To get there, take the JR YAMANOTE-LINE, and get off at TAKADANOBABA. THEN take north exit, turn left, walk 5 minutes.AREA is on the right side, next to a supermarket.
NAKANO （中野） （’the center of the field’）
A pretty excellent nerdly neighborhood maybe 10 minutes west of Shinjuku, on the CHUO or SOBU lines of JR.
WHAT: Tokyo’s most famous nerd mall.
Inside broadway there’s too many cool stores for me to list here, but that’s OK because half the fun is looking around and getting lost. The highlights:
Old movie Poster store
vast amounts of used Toy stores
Yaoi manga only store
Computer porn store
Ascii art store
3 or so used-magazine stores: mostly mainstream pop stuff but you can find true-crime stuff, old KERA and FRUITS, and lots of bizarre soft-core porn.
On the first floor there is a store which only sells stuff which people have accidentally left on trains. it is full of anthropological / tragic goodness. just ask any storekeeper, “WASUREMONO MISE, DOKO DESUKA? “
HOW: just go out the north exit of JR Nakano Station, and then look to your right. You will see the mall . . . just across the parking lot — it looks like a cathedral crossed with a tunnel.
WHERE: Broadway mall 3d floor 12：00～20：00
WHAT: An underground bookstore (specializing in avant- erotic- and grotesque theatre/performance from the ’70s, as well as deviant manga, cultural critic books (all in japanese), and clerks with really pained looks on their faces whenever you try to talk to them.)
where: Right around the corner from Broadway mall. Sorry, I don’t have walking directions. It’s next to a pachinko parlor. DOES THAT NARROW IT DOWN?? Hmmm . . . exit the north side of Nakano station, and you’ll see the glittery shopping mall archway. Don’t go in. Instead, go into the small street which runs parallel to the mall street, but one block to the right. Go until you see a macdonalds, then turn right. Walk like 20 meters and you should see Flower on your left hand side. Well, you’ll see a tiny little sign, anyway. The actual store is tucked away on the third floor of an apartment building.
from 11:30 to 9 pm, closed thursdays
english: a little.
what: Old and rare punk and visual kei records, vynyl, zines, memorabilia. Stacked to the fucking ceiling. Literally the ceiling is encrusted with CDs and 7″s which are hanging vertically, in rows. Must be seen to be believed.
WHERE: Nakano-ku, nakano ５－５３－１０ . Opens at 8PM.
WHAT: Another otaku bar – this one is especially for fans of ’60s-era ‘tokusatsu’ (special effects) shows like KAMEN RIDER and such.
HOW: No clue!They say it’s near Waseda dori, near the north-east corner of the Broadway mall. google MAP.
WHAT: Besides Broadway, there is one other thing. you got to see in Nakano: on the south side of the station, is the mushi-sha (beetle shop) which is also kind of a beetle museum! they are selling the biggest, stinkiest beetles you ever saw!!
HOW: go out south exit of JR Nakano station and turn left. Walk 3 minutes parallel to the train tracks, up a little hill. Mushi-sha is on the right side. No sign or anything , because it is on the second floor of an apartment building right after a DOUTOUR coffee-shop. If all else fails, ask the dotour clerk where the beetles at.
4649 (pronounced yoroshiku!) is a snack bar (スナック） – snacks are kind of old-school Japanese bars that are more saucy than a Moe’s type bar, but less expensive than a hostess bar. They always have a Mama-san, and usually some “members-only” policy. But 4649 is run by a gaijin Mama-san, so if you’re looking to learn how to do snack bars (etiquette and etc.) this is a good place to learn the ropes. English is spoken!
The Mama-san herself was kind enough to explain the system of her snack here:
“Snack 4649 has an aura of Showa Retro flavored with American Rock & Roll. The charge per person is ¥1300, & if one doesn’t have a bottle that includes the 1st drink (excluding beer). Rum, gin, vodka based mixed drinks, glass wine, ume shu & house shochu/whisky are all¥700, a bottle of Asahi Super Dry (mid-size) is ¥800.
As far as bottle keep goes, shochu starts at ¥3000, whiskey at ¥3500 and up, bottles are kept for 6 months. I also have an array of hard to find special rare shochus available by the glass.
Food is simple, mainly nibbles but also a few filling dishes (yakisoba etc) for those with an appetite. Karaoke is ¥200 per song & the system has 140,000 songs (almost 9000 foreign numbers!) and is wicked cool- the karaoke video chicks strip if you sing well!
Neither myself nor my staff are worried about hiding our tats or wearing what we wish & I encourage my girls to be their own quirky selves as opposed to some fake fancy unreal version of themselves that is the rule at most snacks. And if ya act like an asshole my girls are allowed to tell you so.
Yup, the times they are a’changing. ＼(^o^)／
Slightly different from traditional snacks is the fact that female customers make up about half of my business, so it’s not just a guy thing.”
AKIHABARA (秋葉原) （’field of fall leaves’）
There’s several English tour-guides on Akihabara already, so I won’t bother going into too much detail here. Take JR Chuuo or Soubu line or Yamanote line to the Akihabara station.
RAIDIO KAIKAN (ラジオ会館)
WHAT: This is like THE toy store.
2F: Star Wars / Western toys and figures, as well as a hundred models of construction equipment, cranes, etc.
3F: Porn and Manga
4F: just an INSANE amount of tiny stores selling TINY toys.
5F: merely a “regular” computer store
6F: THE PAYOFF. VOLKS doll store. is just this huge place full of doll parts, doll clothes, doll eyes, and of course lots of maniacs. again, one of those places which you might not want to buy anything but it is good like a museum!
HOW: Go out the “Akihabara Electric Town” exit. and then GO LEFT once the machine eats your ticket. once you get to the door, turn RIGHT. you are now, hopefully, standing outside and shaking your head in bewilderment at the 1,000,000 billboards that plaster every square inch. quick, look at your ass! It has an ad on it now, doesn’t it? how do they DO that??? anyway, if you look to your right, you will see a huge yellow neon sign on the opposite side of the street. the sign is saying: ラジオ会館 （radio hall)
WHAT: Actually there is a LOT of Asobitcitys around here but this one is special. They sell hella toy guns.
HOW:After you are done at Radio Hall, exit the building and turn left. go to the end of the block, and you are now on CHUO DORI (CENTRAL STREET) the main street of Akiba. turn right, and walk chuo dori on the left side. At the next traffic signal, turn left.
Go up the right side of the street. After 2 blocks you will see ASO BIT CITY.
BATTLE / SPORTS FETISH / FETISH WORLD / HEROINE
WHERE: Hashikatsu Honten Bldg.5th floor
3-1-15 Sotokanda, Chiyoda-ku, .. .11 am to 10 pm.
WHAT: Merely 2 stores after Aso Bit City is basically a vertical shopping mall of hentai. Oddly, it’s NOT anime hentai. It’s real-people hentai. There’s no less than four stores. But you’ll have to look carefully to find it – it’s another one of those find-the-tiny-folding-sign-and-go-in-the-anonymous-looking-doorway-and-up-the-elevator deals.
BATTLE. – catfight specialty store. 5F
SPORTS FETISH – 4F where you can get videos of naked volleyball and pictures of old gym shorts
FETISH WORLD – 6F and the main event.. fetish world is sort of a grab-bag of weird-for-the-sake-of-weird depravity, with a general focus on feet and trampling.
Last time i went there, i found videos of
guy in a white spandex sperm costume being tickled by a woman in a super villain outfit while tied to a giant cross
woman being tickled by a machine with like a dozen tiny hands, each with a ridiculous Mickey Mouse-type cartoon glove on the end.
Women masturbating with vacuum cleaners
Shoes for sale, which were used in crushing videos
video of schoolgirls walking in mud with dirty socks
but the “foreign s/m videos” had the best titles. For instance
WHAT: This store sells only one thing: dvds and magazines of female superheroes. These are also porn. If you ever wanted to see x-rated power rangers or bodybuilder cougars fucking nerds to death, here is your spot.HEROINE is in the same building as FETISH WORLD. The owner speaks English, but don’t bug him about ‘Can I take your picture and interview you and please show me around tokyo.’ that is not part of his job.
WHERE: chiyoda-ku, sotokanda, 3-7-12 , 4Fopens at 7pm.:(03)3252-2733
WHAT: What is it? Um, it is a bar where the waitresses all wear cosplay costumes! Not a sex bar or a hostess club. Also do not expect the waitresses to be “in character.” It is not like the King Arthur’s Table restaurant where the waiter calls you Sir Knight or whatever. but it is still good for a laugh.
HOW:Go back to CHUO DORI, and keep walking away from the station.Walk down the street for maybe 4 minutes. Walk on the left side. Eventually you will come to a sign in English saying PC TRUST. (If you come to a traffic light, you went too far). next to that is the little BSD building. LITTLE BSD is on the fourth floor.
WHAT: In the same building as Weiss Blau, right next door there is a Security Shop. (I’m sure there are a hundred of these in Akiba, but since it’s right there you should go in.) they got spy stuff, cameras, bugs, etc – , as well as the Hello Kitty Rape Whistle and the Annoying-Loud-Guy-On-A-Cellphone-signal blocker.
HOW: in the same building as Weiss Blau, next door.
HARAJUKU: (原宿) （’a field where you can camp out’）
I’m not going to talk about Takeshitadori. Also be warned, the “cosplay bridge” is OVER. There is more tourists than posers.
WHAT: This is where the rockabilly grand-dads do their famous dance on sunday. on every day of the week there are bmx bike dudes doing tricks at the entrance. also you can rent a bike here and get your exercise on. this park has like 8 million homeless people, who sleep in a tent village hidden in a dark corner. See if you can find it!
But also it is awesome because everyone who has a hobby too noisy to do at home, they all come to YOYOGI PARK. you will see a guy practicing a flugelhorn next to some girls doing judo next to some guys practicing theater next to a cameraman taking pictures of a model leaning sexily against a tree, next to a couple on a date playing badminton, next to some hippies with a drum circle. this is like every day. also this park is famous for straight people having public sex. although, this being japan, they are nice enough to not leave condoms littered behind.
HOW:take the OMOTESANDO exit of JR Harajuku station, and turn right, and right again, and you will come to the bridge where the cosplay kids hang out on sunday. keep going further and you get to YOYOGI PARK.
WHAT: amazing thing! Basically it’s a café where, if you buy a coffee, you can stay as long as you want and look at their insane, floor-to-ceiling collection of art books. Mostly it’s advertising or graphic design oriented (the rest of the building is an advertising trade-school) but they have a crazy selection of out-of-print magazines, movie books, and Eurotrash Helmut Newton photobooks. Also they have a whole section of Japanese photographers. It is pretty nuts. Also the coffee comes with small chololates. Which also contain caffeine. Rad!
HOW: from the Takeshita-dori exit of JR Harajuku station, walk left. Go through the first red light, then make a right at the first fork. Walk up the street and you’ll see it on your left side: it has a huge English sign that says: THE BOOKSTORE IS OPEN.
Now it’s time for the OMOTE-SANDO WALKING TOUR. Take the Omotesando exit of Harajuku JR Station and walk down the street (should be on any tourist map).
WHAT: a huge giant used-clothes shop .If you want cheap clothes that Harajuku kids wore last year, this is the place to go.
HOW: Continue walking down omotesando-dori until you hit laforet (the omotesando/meiji intersection). Cross the street and turn left. Pass the Gap and you’ll see a sign in English saying ADIDAS CONCEPT SHOP. In that same building is KINJI.
WHAT: There’s a million little “wacky boutique” stores here but I’m only going to mention this one because it is such a trip – an LSD circus mixed with a Parisian tranny’s bodoiur doesn’t even begin to describe it.
HOW:Go down Omotesando until you pass Meji dori,. After that intersection (itself one of the best people-watching places in Tokyo. ) After that intersection go 20 more feet up omotesando until you hit a Wendys. Turn left. Walk another 40 feet until yo ucome to the first (tiny) intersection, on the right far corner is a 2-story building with the second story painted pink. This is 6% DOKIDOKI (map here)
WHAT: a vintage analog synth store. If you want moogs or ’80s drum machines, or 8-bit video-game-sound chips, this is the joint!
HOW:go to the takeshita exit of jr Harajuku station. don’t go in Takeshita, though. turn right and walk 15 feet – enter a building marked LE PONTE. FIVE G is on the fourth floor of Le Ponte. BONUS: right next to Five G is a tiny nail salon named TE TOTE, which sells fake nails with 3D sculptures on them
WHAT:Design festa gallery is a brilliant concept — each room has a different artist, usually a college student. the artists have to stay in the museum all day, and talk to people about their work. a great way to practice japanese, and it is free! Just don’t expect the art to be, well, good.
HOW: keep walking down takeshitadori until you come to a traffic light. go straight, and walk two very short, crowded blocks and then turn right at the second block. on your left, on the corner, should be the FREAKS STORE. Walk down this street for one minute and you should see the gallery on your right. it looks like a spider eating a hippy. hard to miss.
WHERE:Shibuya-ku, jingumae 2-31-9 : 03-3475-8980, from noon until 6ish.
WHAT: This is a cafe which also serves insanely hot Thai food. The main attraction, though, is the decoration: half West African tribal stuff, and half 1961 Atomic Hepcat’s Chemical Science Den. Carved masks and tusks rub shoulders (figuratively) with giant molecular models and cubist objets. The only connection I can see between the two is color: everything in the shop (and it is full to the rafters) is on some point in the continuum between brown and mustard. Teak abounds. There’s a floor-to-ceiling vertical garden on one wall, and a stuffed Cassowary. THE SECOND FLOOR IS EVEN STRANGER AND MORE WONDERFUL, SHOULD YOU SURVIVE THE CHILLING 80-DEGREE STAIRCASE JOURNEY UP.
HOW: After you walk all the way down takeshita street, you cross Meiji dori, and walk north. After about 5 minutes you’ll come to the DIESEL shop, on the right side. (it’s big, sign in English AND it’s at a red light. Can’t miss) turn right at that light and go down the little hill. At the next intersection (only about 100 feet), on the left you’ll see a SUNKS. Turn left, and pass sunks. Continue on for maybe 30 feet until you see a sign (on your left) saying CREAM TOKYO. Turn left in front of CREAM TOKYO, and walk 10 feet. You will see a stuffed African cow in the street. Welcome to KOKONGO.
SHIBUYA: (渋谷) （’bitter valley’）
Honestly I don’t think there are a lot of cool stores in shibuya – it’s more a people-watching place. Rediculous people.
109 is best for sensory overload, but for talking to people, go to the 109 AND A HALF building (across the street from Starbucks, next to the train tracks). On the “Mens floor” (5th? 6th?) are a bunch of chatty salesmen with Rod Stewart hair and Navajo accessories who are really pretyt lonely, so if you want to kill half an hour and don’t speak japanese, just ask one about his modeling career.
WHAT: only the best store in Tokyo for zoot suits, pimp canes, and gangster pants. The decor of the place is exactly what you’d expect from a pimp’s palace. Worth going even if you don’t want to buy. Staff is super nice and covered in tattoos. The manager does chicano-style rapping under the name Loco Coyote. Not El Coyote Loco. Loco Coyote.
the best BOOK OFF in Tokyo!
WHAT: . Book-off is a used book chain that is all over Tokyo, but the Shibuya one is great because it’s bigger than most, has a few English books, and has a whole floor of used clothes!!
great reasons to go to book off (even if you can’t read Japanese)
1) you can read the manga – they aren’t shrink-wrapped like at new-manga stores.
2) $1 porno mags, weird kids’ books, and “how-to-speak-engrish-nice-way!” books make great souviners for pals.
3) Browsing random magazines is a great way to find out about some subcultures you never would have found otherwise.
HOW: If you walk down CENTER-GAI for 5 minutes, you’ll pass a Macdonalds, and then pass a Shakeys Pizza. The next store after Shakey’s is a BOOK OFF
HOW: coming from the Hachiko exit, Rope is a little ways past 109 building. as you approach 109 , turn left so that the 109 is on your right, keep going until you see a little archway on your right, with a 2-foot-tall PacMan looking creature on it. then walk one block until you see a Lawson’s. left at Lawsons, go another block and the ROPE sign should be on your right.
WHERE:shibuya ku, udagawa-cho 31-2 beam building. 12-8 daily
WHAT: the most famous used-manga and used-figurine store. A little kernel of nerd culture in the middle of Shibuya. Not only is the Shibuya store the biggest in Tokyo, but the decoration is insane – worth it even if you don’t like manga. It’s 4 floors underground and you have to walk through this stairway that is made like cave tunnel with crazy stalactites. once you get inside it is a warehouse full of old toys and just crazy junk and the clerks are usually in costume doing karaoke.
HOW: it is across the street from tokyu hands, the famous department store. Ask anyone and they’ll know where the fuck Hands is.
WHAT: a sex-toy shop. Actually one of several all on the same small street. Mostly they sell stuff you’d find at a Western sex store, but with better Engrish. C’EST BIEN has s/m stuff plus an electronic pocket pussy endorsed by an ex-pro wrestler, with a built-in “penidometer” which keeps track of how many times you thrust. So if you are looking for that, try C’EST BIEN. Further along the same alley,, also on the left side, is YOUNG NAI (sign in English). This is one of the many “brothel tour-guide” stores – basically the brothels and pimps all get together and rent a storefront, and stock it with millions of free brochures. So this is a great place for souviner shopping. There’s a couple more on this street, too, but the signs are in Japanese, so they are not as easy to find. After YOUNG NAI, on your right side, you’ll find a tiny, steep alleyway which leads up to the love hotels. (turn right at the VIA MAMA sign).
Alternatively, if all this sassyness has got you uptight, you can turn around, go back to the MacDonalds , and then walk accross the intersection. If you’re standing kitty-corner from Macdonalds, you will now be across the street from a 10-story karaoke place (giant blue sign, with red letters reading カラオケ館 ). Some of the private rooms have floor-to-ceiling windows in ‘em so you can bust out your binoculars and try to catch people having shenanigans.
HOW: walk to the 109 building, and then keep walking along the right-hand side of it. Pass the KUJIRA-YA. make the first left – at a macdonalds. The first left will take you to a uphill tiny alleyway, full of shops. On your left side are like 3 basement sex stores.
WHAT:A rockabilly shopping mall — not only do they have amazing amounts of Billy stuff on 3 floors, but the fucking interior design of the place is as astounding as anything i have ever seen. a mix of ’50s with baroque and stained glass windows. huh?? even if you hate elvis, go to pink dragon for the interior design. it is at
HOW: Kind of hard to find – it is Pink Dragon is on the OPPOSITE side of the tracks from everything else in Shibuya. It’s on a small street which connects Shibuya to Harajuku. Basically exit Shibuya station and walk to the famous Tower Records. Take the first right after Tower and cross under the train tracks. Now you’re on Meji-dori .Cross to the other side, turn left, walk 2 minutes, and you’ll find a small street branching off of Meiji Dori – on the corner is a shop called AS KNOW AS. Now you are on the small street. Walk 2 more minutes and you’ll see pink dragon on your right.
I have to say, the street Pink Dragon sucks. That whole neighborhood is just wretched. It’s the worst of both worlds: boutique snobbery mixed with hipster slumming bullshit. If you see some terrible callow youths strolling there, tell them I said TSUKAENAI YARO, SHINE! (die, you useless ass!)
UENO (上野) （’above the field’）
CHRISTMAS TREE BUILDING (AKA sofitel tokyo)
WHERE:2-1-48 ikenohata, taito-ku, Tokyo
WHAT: It’s a hotel that seriously looks like a christmas tree. if you go to the lake at ueno park, you can clearly see the building, it is just across the street.
WAIT , this has already been torn down and replaced with an elementary school, but you can still read my report about it HERE.
WHERE: up my ass.
WHAT: Don’t go. It is fucking disgraceful. I am not saying this to be a vegan sandal-wearing guy. Ueno zoo is just depressing and squalid. Like something you’d see at a second-rate Colombian drug lord’s backyard.
OKACHIMACHI shopping streets.
WHAT: Of course Shinjuku’s Kabukicho has the ultimate Blade-Runner-iffic Neon Everywhere thing going on, but For sheer Engrish excellence and a more post-WWII kind of ambience, go to Okachimachi street. Walk down the street for a few minutes. Eventually you’ll see a DOCOMO store on the left. next to that is a WASUREMONO store (they only sell used stuff that people left on the train!) keep going and then on your right will be the CENTURY CAPSULE HOTEL. it says “Century” in English. you can get a bed for the night for under $30!
HOW: Go out of JR Ueno station’s Hirokoji Exit, and walk south on the giant second-story pedestrian plaza. you will see a street that is like 10 lanes wide (what you are seeing is chuo-dori turning into asakusa dori). Go directly across it, and then turn left. Walk like 2 blocks and then turn right at the Freshness Cafe. This is Okachimachi street.
WHAT: the main attraction of Okachimachi is the NAKADA SHOUTEN : they sell WWII Japanese uniforms and other odd uniforms. closed mondays.
HOW:go down Okachimachi street, and pass the century capsule hotel.. If you pass the “joy pop” store you are close. and if you pass the “wood craft goods” store, you are now in front of Nakada Shouten.
AMEYOKO （ア メ横）
WHAT: Another similar cool shopping street — kind of touristy but still full of awesome neon signs and just retro chaos — is Ameyoko.
HOW: to get to Ameyoko , exit Hirokoji exit, but instead of turning left, on chuodori, go right, crossing UNDER the train tracks, and then proceed south, walking parallel to the train tracks.
WHAT: what indeed! This is a place to go for people who aren’t usually interested in Traditional Japan or tea ceremony or any of that shit. Trust me, you’ll dig this. This is a temple dedicated to dead children. If the legend is correct, over 40,000 DEAD CHILDREN. The little decaying statues of these kids are lined up obsessively over the entire temple grounds, on the floor, walls, EVERYWHERE. Just staring at you with their blank, damaged faces. Shit is basically creepsville, is what I’m saying. You can’t miss it.
WHERE: 3-32-1-3F Higashi Ueno, Taito-ku, from 1 – 7 pm. closed wed. and sun.
WHAT: death-metal art gallery! Run by the guy from BUTCHER ABC – who is also the head of OBLITERATION RECORDS. Also has cool metal zines for sale, old role-playing game books, and crazy obscure CDs. No posers.
HOW: Exit Ueno JR station by the main ticket gate, then take the Asakusa exit. Go straight down asakusa street until you hit Kiyosubashi street- there’s no signs, but basically walk 7 minutes and turn right at the Macdonalds. Then take another right at the first traffic light and walk 3 steps. The door is hidden on your right side. Third floor up.
WHERE: taito-ku, Higashiueno 2-chome 21-2 or 3-chome-16-anything. Or just look for any building that resembles a lovehotel!
ENGLISH:: Only the words “No!” and “Out!”
WHAT: Pachinko parlors are everywhere, but did you know where the ACTUAL BUSINESS HEADQUARTERS of the pachinko companies are? They’re all in one little area, less than 5 minutes from Ueno station. They have a lot of pamphlets and cool display games, but the main thing is the atmosphere: They really hate “outsiders” coming in, so make sure to be extra polite. Even if you don’t like pachinko, go to these stores for a taste of “the other Japan.” (i.e. the rude, paranoid, mobbed-up one).
HOW: DIRECTIONS: JR Ueno station East exit. You emerge into a giant outdoor, second-story plaza. Word. Instead of going south to the shopping district, turn left, towards the giant-red-paper-clip sculpture. Pass it, until you come to the GIANT PACHINKO BALL sculpture. Go down the escalator, and walk 20 feet until you come to the first tiny-ass street. Turn right. Walk another 30 feet until you come to an intersection- there’s a parking lot on the far side. You’ll find there are pachinko offices on your left AND right side. If you turn to the right and walk another 20 feet, you’ll soon come to a cool KENDO (Japanese fencing) store. If you turn to the left, however, you’ll be on the main avenue of the pachinko district. Enjoy.
WHAT: the Kendo store – swords, armor, and more. No wimps allowed!
HOW: right in the middle of Pachinko-land.
MATSUZAKI SHOTEN –
WHERE: taito-ku, higashi ueno, 3- 18 – 3.
WHAT: Nestled in amongst the pachinko offices is MATSUZAKI SHOTEN, which is an army/navy surplus store. It’s great – Mr. Matsuzaki himself is at work in the back, all fixing and restoring garb.
HOW: good luck.
WHERE: taito-ku, higashi ueno 3chome 15-13.
WHAT: a small mom-and-pop store that sells the pachinko parlors the security devices they need to spy on/stop gambling cheats (not sure if they also sell the butane torches the yakuza use on cheaters afterwards). The TAISEI store is really close:
SHIMOKITAZAWA (下北沢) （’below the north swamp’）
SHIMOKITAZAWA is supposed to be this cool hipster neighborhood. I don’t think it’s that cool – who cares if they got a bunch of kitch stores selling old American toys? I’m from America, where we call that ‘junk’. I guess if you want to pick up on college boys with greasy hair this is an ok place to go.
No, I’m being too harsh. There’s lots of cool mom-and-pop stores, vintage clothes stores, hipsters and artists etc. Better than the stores is just walking around is the best. Basically it is Berkeley.
WHAT: In Meguro, there’s a Shinto Temple (oops — Buddhists have temples, Shinto-ers have JINJA) dedicated to the Toilet God.
The rad thing about Shinto is, before it became a political tool of the Meji Restoration-era right-wing, it was Animism. Animism means EVERYTHING is a god ? zinc, thistles, dirt, your keyboard, etc. Which gave Shinto a lot more leeway than regular religions to make up whatever crazy-ass customs/festivals they damn well felt like. Anyway, the temple has a festival every October 28th. You can go there and visit the Holy Toilet, plus the monks are selling Blessed Underpants. If you dutifully wear the underpants which have been specifically anointed by the Toilet God, you won’t get incontinent in your old age.
WHERE: 03-3793-7931, 2f fujiya building, 1-3-9 kami meguro, Meguro-ku
WHAT: Probably the most credible gallery in Meguro. Quality of art varies widely, so check their site for who is showing before you go.
JINBOUCHOU BOOK TOWN (神保町) (‘the town protected by the gods’)
This neighborhood is located at the intersection of HAKUSAN DORI and YASUKINI street. It is a neighborhood which has NOTHING but antique book stores.
most stores close right at 5
there are almost no store signs in English which makes it hard to navigate, and
not all of the books are in English.
Most bookstores have free maps of the neighborhood, which they will give you. If they don’t have what you are looking for, they are usually happy to help you find another store that does.Well, half the time.
directions: Go to Suidobashi station on JR Chuo line. Go out the east exit and turn right. You are now on HAKUSANDORI (白山道り )
CAR BOOK STORE
WHAT: A store devoted entirely to books about cars, bikes, trucks, and models of same. This is where you can sometimes find books on the famous “art trucks” ( トラックキング or カミオン ) (truck King and KAMION), and sometimes they have old チャンプロード （ champ road ） magazines (which are about bosozoku)
HOW: OK, you’re at the SOUTH SIDE of the intersection of HAKUSAN DORI and YASUKUNI, If you turn EAST at the big intersection, walk down YASUKUNI for 1 minute and you’ll see (in English) a GAMES WORKSHOP d&d store on your right. 10 feet after that is a regular glass door, which does not resemble a bookstore. If you proceed through the foyer, you’ll enter the store.
WHAT: – a whole street of guitar shops! Like, 30 of the fuckers.
HOW:Near the Used Car Magazine Store is theKINKADORI /YASUKUNI intersection: KINKADORI is a north-south street, running parallel to HAKUSAN DORI. One intersection east of the YASUKUNI/HAKUSANDORI starting point. If you turn north on KINKADORI you’ll find it’s nothing damn guitar stores. Plus there is a huge sculpture of a guitar sort of sprioinging out of the top of the nearest building, so you should be able to find it.
CENTER BUILDING (with a big outside glass elevator!)
WHERE:chiyoda-ku, jinbouchou ２－３ CENTER BUILDING
WHAT: There’s a cool kids’ used-book store on the 5 th floor. They have childrens’ books from the ‘40s and ‘50s which are just beautiful, if a little faded.
And on the 7 th there’s a used-porn store. But this store specializes in NON-DIRTY PORN. Like, lots of underage pop star photobooks. which in any other setting would seem really innocuous, boring even, but here it’s right next to “semen observation woman #43.” Also a lot of women’s lifestyle magazines, including THE BEST STASH OF KOGAL-ERA EGG MAGAZINE in town – are guys jacking off to this like repressed suburb kids in the ‘50s did with their mom’s Sears Undergarment Catalog? Or are they for pervert transvestites-in-training??? Who knows? The important thing is, after you leave this store, every magazine will seem dirty!!!
HOW: Starting at the YASUKUNI/ HAKUSANDORI intersection, head west on YASUKUNI, and after about 40 seconds on your left, you’ll see a 8 story building with a suprising transparent elevator shaft. This is it.
WHAT: The sign is in Japanese only, but you can’t miss it – the window is full of rock stuff like bon jovi or Hanoi rocks. But inside is a huge plethora of old Japanese rock/ visual kei / punk magazines like DOLL, burst, and FOOL’S MATE.
HOW: Literally 20 feet farther along is the rock magazine store, on your left.
WHAT: Vintage is just insane!! It is full of Japanese movie/play/tv memorabilia from the ‘50s, ‘60s, ‘70s ‘80s. if you are a fan of old movies or plays, go here.
HOW: The next block after BUNKEN.
Of course there are 100 more bookstores, and some of the best stuff is not on the main street, but hidden in little side-streets.. Naturally the books are in Japanese, but if you are lucky you can find an art-book store.
WHAT: Hakusandori is the ugly pervert twin of literary,historical,cultural JIMBOCHO – HAKUSANDORI is basically the USED PORN DISTRICT!! Not only is used porn way cheaper (if you’re shopping for souviniers for your Mom on a budget) but the used stores attract a more seedy, creepy brand of customer. So definitely hit the used porn stores after work, when they are the most crowded. Anyone who thinks Japanese are not ashamed of porn or are OK with it has never been to one of these stores. Worth it for anthropology! Plus, scatology!
HOW: If you’re coming from JR Ochanomizu station, you will actually have to walk down HAKUSAN DORI to even GET to JIMBOUCHOU. Walk down the RIGHT side of the street and there you are. If you’re starting, however, on the YASUKUNI/ HAKUSAN intersection, just walk north on HAKUSAN and keep an eye on your left hand side. Check out the store signs and look for the kanji 中古ｄｖｄ OR 中古ビデオ , which means “used.” If you can’t read the kanji, just go in the smallest, most depressing places, you’ll be allright.
WHAT: A rad name for a used porn store: it means “cultural image hall”. So you know what’s inside: the Mona Lisa. With an eel in her.
HOW:A few minutes walk from the YASUKUNI/HAKUSAN starting point, will bring you to D-LABO porn store. Not so interesting. But since the sign is in English, it’s a good landmark. The next store after D-LABO is: 映像文化党 – at first it looks like a normal video store but if you go in, it quickly turns into porn. This store is awesome because they have a lot of new this-week’s-kink stuff, plus the aisles are incredibly narrow so awkward, erotically fraught confrontations with the regular clientele are half the fun!
WHAT:神田書房 has mad crazy ‘80s porn, and ‘80s s/m. So if you want to see some busted-looking confused chick with a perm and giant Breshnev eyebrows in a vinyl outfit that is the wrong size getting violated, this is the place. Not a great decade for Japanese fashion – somehow even the young women look middle-aged in ‘80s Japan’-ish outfits. But the graphic design of those zines is pretty boss. Plus the proprietor is just so jaded and tired of life and hates you, so there’s that.
HOW:head down hakusandori for a few minutes . . ., you’ll pass a DOTOUR coffee. You went too far, dummy! Turn round. Walk back a few feet until you hit a store that sells trophies. The next store is 神田書房 . It’s tiny so don’t pass it by accident!
HOW: just a few minutes from ASAKUSABASHI station.
Old Toy Store Street
WHERE: 台東区蔵前 2-2-2
Taito ku kuramae 2 -2 – 2
ENGLISH: Don’t count on it.
WHAT: This is a tiny district of shops that all sell toys from the ‘40s. Some – like the shop on the corner where you are standing – sell really valuable antiques and tin robots.
If you go further down the street, you’ll find stores that sell new toys, but also stores that seem to sell just old junk toys. There are also a couple of stores that their whole business model seems to be “Pile crap up to the ceiling until there is nowhere left to stand and then sit directly in the doorway to make doubly sure customers can never enter.” One lady running a store said this district used to have 30 shops but they are down to less than ten.
HOW: Get to the kuramae 2-2-2 intersection – the corner or Toei Asakusa Dori （都営浅草通り） and Kuramebashi Dori (蔵前橋通り). (take the Ginza subway line to Asakusa and then take the Asakusa subway line to Kuramae, the next station over). Or walk.Once you get to that intersection, walk around until you find the toy store on the corner with the rad toys. Then keep walking up that street. All the other stores will be on your right.
ENGLISH: not sure. Maybe you’d better brush up on your Portugese.
WHAT: Asakusa – famous for its traditional Japanese temple, is also home to Tokyo’s version of Brazil’s Carnivale. So it makes sense there’d be a year-round “carnivale and showgirl” costume shop. They also do dance lessons. The main reason I have not been inside is that to get in, you have to pass between two larger-than-life silkscreen posters of the proprietor, a muscular 70 year old woman, in full carnivale costume skimpy dress, and I feel like that would sexually violate me somehow.
Taito ku , nishi asakusa, 3-2-1 basement.
WHAT: a bar with a tribal / tattoo theme to it. They have (sometimes tattoo themed) art exhibits, and live music/performances at night. If you are nostalgic for 1993, this might be a nice place. Supposedly they know about traditional yakuza tattoos there.
HOW: you know the big Asakusa temple? It’s near there. From the main entrance, turn left and walk until you come to HIGHWAY 462. Tribal village is on the west side of 462, right beside the ASAKUSA VIEW hotel.
WHERE:102 maison mejiro, 3-1-17 shimo-ochiai, shinjuku ku. tel 03 3954 5348 daily 1-7pm
ENGLISH: a little!
WHAT: my friend insists this is THE BEST prog-rock record store – more deep than disc union. it’s also the size of your couch, but there are somehow like 5 clerks moving like busy worker bees, entering and exiting mysteriously. They have an encyclopediac knowledge of both japanese and foreign music and are hella helpful.
HOW:to get there, take JR Yamanote to MEJIRO station. exit the north exit , turn left, pass the police box, and you should see a tiny steep outdoors staircase on your left side maybe 10 feet past the police box. take the steep steep staircase down and go straight, so you are parallell to the train tracks. Turn right at the AM /PM. after 50 feet will be a 3 story red brick building on your left. It looks like a regular apartment building because it IS. the record store is on the first floor way in the back on the right. have fun.
WHAT: this is so fucking cool. it is a huge cemetery, with old Shoguns stored there. plus, graves from many different eras and religions. but it is not IN Ueno. Instead, please take JR YAMANOTE to nearby Nippori station. and then take the west exit. go up the stairs. you are there, fool.
HOW: take JR Yamanote to NIPPORI station. The cemetery is directly outside! Take the north exit and turn left. Go up the stairs, there you are. BOO!
WHAT: FAMOUS OLD-SCHOOL OTAKU BAR WITH A STATUE OF GREAT MAZINGER out front, so it’s hard to miss.
HOW: Go to JR Yamanote / Chuo line YOYOGI STATION, take the West Exit, and you’ll see a big intersection. Cross to the kitty-corner of the intersection, (the south-west corner) and walk south on the big road. After ONE BUILDING, there should be a little alley on your right. Walk down the alley until you see the GREAT MAZINGER statue. It’s only a minute from the station. google map HERE, nerd.
Closed Sundays. Open on weekdays from 12-7, 12-5 on Saturdays.
ENGLISH: a little?
WHAT: probably the only good thing in Ginza.
they describe themselves as “specializing in the erotic and grotesque.” The gallery itself is the size of your kitchen, but they have a 12 foot tall bookshelf full to the rafters with expensive decadent gross photo-books like joel peter witkin.
HOW: Go to the famous matsuzakaya department store (anyone in ginza can tell you where that is). Next to matsuzakaya is the SUMITO MITSUI BANK (it has a large red sign with a white flower on it?). vanilla gallery is basically behind that bank. Walk from the department store to the corner bank, then left, then left again, and you’ll be in a back alleyway. Proceed like 20 feet until you see a sign that says 第 2 蒲田ビル , and head inside. There will be a plaque in the lobby saying “vanilla gallery 4f” , followed by an elevator the size of a toilet seat. Good luck!
WHAT: it’s really spooky and strange!! A Hello Kitty disneyland!
You can read my report about it, and see photos HERE and also HERE.
HOW:It’s in Tamacenter. This is a different suburb than the similarly named saitama. be careful.about 50 minutes from shinjuku. at Shinjuku, transfer from JR to this other private railroad called KEIO LINE. the Keio station is inside the same mega-complex that houses the JR station. Board the train BOUND FOR HASHIMOTO (ask the station-worker “Hashimoto wa nan-ban desu ka?” and he will tell you what platform on which to wait). then, midway into the trip, you have to change trains at CHOFU STATION. all you have to do is walk to the other side of the platform and there will be a train waiting for you. but don’t forget!! then get off at TAMA CENTER STATION.
WHAT: Yet another Japanese subculture! Train-spotting maniacs! They go here to eat curry which is delivered by a model train which runs through the entire restaraunt, bringing little plates of curry.
HOW: Somehow take a subway to YUTENJI station. go out the east exit. Turn left and cross the street. Then turn right and walk 10 feet until you come to an alley. From Google-maps,I can’t tell if you are able to fit in the alley or not. But the restaraunt seems to be opposite a 7-11, so if you can find the 7-11 you are cool. Anyway it is only 100 meters from the east exit so it should not be a huge pain.
WHAT: This is the official record outlet of the PSF label. It specializes in heavy-psyche and Japanoise, as well as obscurer-the-better artsy music which combines trad. Japanese with modern-classical music.
HOW: From Shibuya, Take the Ino-kashira subway line to Meidaimae (going past Shimokitazawa). Take the central exit of Meidaimae station, and turn right. You’ll see a little parking lot. Walk about 20 feet to the end of the parking lot and turn left on the small street there. Walk up the street another 20 feet. Modern Music Records is located in a very normal APARTMENT BUILDING on your left. In fact, it’s the very second building you’ll come to! You pass a Pachinko Parlor, and then it’s the apartment. Go into the lobby – this is the tricky part – into the lobby and you’ll see an intercom buzzer. Type 201 (no pound key) and hit enter, and he’ll buzz you up. Modern Music is on the second floor. Hint: the first floor of the apartment is a real-estate office, and the lobby door is immediately after the real-estate office.
HOW TO NAVIGATE,
This is the boring part. I know this. There are no exciting descriptions of sex clubs in this part. You might be thinking “I will skip this part.” Keep in mind that reading this for 5 minutes will save you hours of time once you get to Tokyo and get lost like a noob.
FIVE WAYS OF GETTING NOT LOST IN TOKYO
they say “maps don’t help in tokyo because it is all crazy”. . . but that is only because regular tourist maps suck. I reccomend the TOKYO METROPOLITAN ATLAS, because it lists all the street and block numbers. You can buy it on the sixth floor of KINOKUNIA BOOKS, which is in TAKASHIMAYA TIMES SQUARE, which should be in your “regular” guidebook. Take the JR Shinjuku South Exit, and look for the big building directly across the damn street, with TIMES SQUARE printed on it in english. The bookstore is in a separate building just south of the one which you can see.
3-17-7 shinjuku. tel:03－3354－0131
Going to get the map. . . should be the first thing you do on arrival!
HOW TO READ THE MAP
First let’s give you some vocabulary.
区 (“ku”) －－ it means, roughly, ward or district. Next to cities, a “ku” is the biggest unit of land. tokyo has 23 kus.
each 区 has like 10 or so 近所 (“kinjo”) or neighborhoods, which are referred to by their proper names, not numbers.
A large 近所 will contain 3 or 4貯目s.(“chome”s). Chomes are like mini-neighborhoods of maybe 30 or 50 blocks each. However, small 近所ｓ are not subdivided.
within each 貯目, the blocks are individually numbered, and you will no doubt find block 3 next to block 45 next to block 2.54. do not be alarmed by this. If you have the map with the block numbers written on it, you are set.
now to put this theory into practice, let’s look at a typical tokyo address.
B2 ,1-45-34 MINAMI-OOKUBO, SHINJUKU-KU,
first, they write the floor or suite number of the place, in this case B2
then, they have a triple-number.
the first part of the number indicates which “chome” the building is in.
the second part indicates which block, within that “chome”,
and the third number is the actual building number on the block.
(Hate to give you even more bad news, but. Sometimes address will only have TWO numbers, rather than three.The reason is, really small 近所ｓ are NOT subdivided into 貯目ｓ, so they only write the block number and the building number)
After the “triple number”, they write the name of the 近所 (i.e. “minami ookubo”) , and finally the “区” or district.
2) VISUAL DIRECTIONS.
The map directions sound difficult, arbitrary and frustrating? Well, the Japanese think so too!
In fact, Most Japanese people don’t use maps; they give visual directions. For example, “Well, turn left at Macdonald’s and right at the first 7/11 and then blah blah”. I am so awesome, I will try to write BOTH visual directions and addresses for everything here.
Visual directions are easy, but there are a couple of points to keep in mind:
Most of the shops and all the nightclubs do NOT have regular store-fronts, with the store’s name painted on the front window, and merchandise displayed there. Most cool Japanese stores are like in the basement or the second floor. so what they do is put a tiny folding-sign out, which has the store’s name on it. you kind of have to look DOWN. First, find the folding-sign, then find the staircase nearest it . . . then finally you will come to the store.
Also, when i say “go 2 blocks”, keep in mind that in Tokyo, blocks are like 20 feet wide. If you pass a 3-feet-wide alley off to your right, well, you are now on a new block.
3) google street view.This allows you to see actual storefronts. I did not know this because I am old and don’t care. Click on the Japan bit of the map and choose “tokyo” from the drop-down menu.
4) PESTERING STRANGERS.
If visual directions fail too, there is a third method. just ASK PEOPLE. Normally Tokyo people are nice. BUUUUUUUUUT– don’t ask the “arbaito” kids you see standing in front of stores, hawking product. Sure they are right there handy, but they are like 20 years old and live in the suburbs 300 miles away and have only been working at this particular job for like a month, and consequently don’t know jack diddley. Ask older people.
gigolo post cards – available in front of host clubs in Kabukicho . free.
“hooker classified ads” magazines – available anywhere in kabukicho. usually people are handing them out on the street, but they should also be in small racks in front of stores for free.
cheap vinyl from kouenji’s many used record stores on AZUMA DORI. even if you, like me, don’t have a record player, a lot of the covers are wonderful. price: from $1.
your friend’s name on a japaense business card from a “business card vending machine.” – there’s one in Yoyogi JR station and, i think, one in JR Shinjuku station too. $5
NAKANO BROADWAY (aka the NERD SHOPPING MALL). ? used old magazines from broadway’s TRIO shops. or used old Ultraman monsters from like hella shops there. Price – from $3.
Wittily designed event flyers from harajuku and shibuya botiques. Free. Granted, these are not really the most awesome souviniers, but in 15 minutes you can collect like 20 totally kick-assedly designed, totally baffling fliers from like 13 different subcultures, so it’s a case of quantity over quality.
Used porno mags / random mags , from homeless guys in front of Shinjuku, Shibuya, or. . .well, just about any JR station. from $1.
Novelty toys from don Quixote – check both toy department, the sex section, and the costume department. From $6
A good souviner is to think of a movie or video game that your friend back home likes, and then go to the girl-nerd stores on “Otome road”, and find a gay-manga version of that movie or video game. From $2.
Pringles with rediculous, only-in-japan flavors from Don Quixote. $2. Pickled cucumber flavor! Chili cheese flavor! shrimp flavor! My nuts flavor!