Tokyo in snapshots: Shinjuku 新宿

 Recently I have noticed that what was exciting / new / weird / funny for me when I first came to Japan, has now become really quite normal and, come to think of it, I don’t even pay attention to most of those things anymore. For example, I was kind of surprised to see that all Japanese cars are kind of square and small and like 80% of vehicles are white…except for taxis. There’s one special type of car used for taxis in Japan (it’s a Toyota Crown Comfort if you’re interested). And you know what else? All of the cars are so clean and shiny, people here really care about their cars. That was one of the things that struck  me as so different than Europe. Another one is shouting store assistants. Seriously, at first it made me really stressed out, I didn’t really want to go shopping in Shinjuku or Shibuya, where store assistants  shout so loud I didn’t know how it could be considered a good way to bring in more customers? But apparently, Japanese people have a high noise tolerance – if you ever passed a pachinko parlor, you’ll know.

Right now, thinking about what was new to me when I first came to Japan gave me this feeling of pure nostalgia… so I thought I’d take some snapshots and just show you around Tokyo.

SHINJUKU 

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Shinjuku Station is the busiest station in the world. According to Guinness World Records  “An average of 3.64 million passengers per day pass through the station, which has over 200 exits (←I didn’t know that) and serves the city’s western suburbs via a range of intercity, commuter rail and metro services” (see here).

I can’t even begin to count how many times I got lost there. It gets a bit easier with time, but I think that even Japanese people have problems. You can always ask a station officer about the way but… chances they speak English? Near zero. So I hope you speak Japanese!

Also, I’m sure you’ll notice it the second you step into the station, Japanese people walk real slow. You’d think that people here are super busy so they’d try their best to commute quickly, right? They do speed up to jump in trains at the last minute, literally as the doors are closing, but basically it’s not easy to be a fast walker here. I wouldn’t consider myself a really fast walker but I  still walk faster than most other people on the street.

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 Shinjuku South Exit

You can often see some people performing there. One Canadian guitar player I used to share a guest house with told me once that it’s actually illegal to perform there and that he knows station officers’ schedule so he can avoid the times when they’re there. Apparently the lady in this picture knew their schedule too, and she even managed to gather a small crowd of salarymen to admire her crooning.

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Most of the stations in Tokyo have pachinko parlors, karaoke booths and video game arcades in their neighbourhood and Shinjuku isn’t any different. Thinking about it now, I actually remember I ate my first bite of okonomiyaki somewhere around this area.

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Shinjuku East Exit

The first thing you currently see when you get out of the station, using this exit, will be a giant Kimura Takuya’s face staring down at you.  I didn’t capture it this time, but if you google “Alta Shinjuku”, you’ll know what I’m talking about. Other things you’ll see here are game arcades again, some DVD and purikura booths, dirt cheap izakayas…and lots of lingerie and shoe shops. Why?

One word: KABUKICHO.

…and what do shoes and Kabukicho have in common? Well, I’d say you can find a rather wide selection of super high heels here, that’s the connection. You’ll see some more of Kabukicho a few photographs later, so hang tight.

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Shinjuku can also look very elegant, at least I find this street very cool looking. Unless there’s a car with a dozen of half-naked ladies casually passing by…

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Here it is! Kabukicho – the red light district of Tokyo. Some Japanese people told me that a few years back, Kabukicho was considered a no-go, a yakuza town where they’d rip you off, steal everything and most likely kick your teeth down your throat as an added bonus. I have only passed through Kabukicho, I have no intention of hanging out in that area to be honest. Knowing what’s going on behind the doors of numerous dingy clubs there, makes me avoid it like the plague.

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What do we have in here…”Talent in pub Super Angel” whatever that means, video DVD booths which might look innocent, but trust me, they are not. There was this one time I needed to kill some time and thought I could use one of those DVD booths and just stay there for a while (it wasn’t in Kabukicho though, it was in Ueno) but what I saw there was far from what I imagined was an innocent place where one can watch some DVDs. You should expect one type of movies, for one type of clients (or is it my bad luck that I always find creepy places?)

Countless girls’ bars, kyabakura clubs, sekukyaba clubs, love hotels…

a little dictionary for you to take a gander at:

hostess club: well groomed women pretending that drunk businessmen are the most attractive men in the world, laughing at all their lame jokes, pouring their whisky, lighting their cigarettes

host club: same as above, but switch genders

girls bar: a typical bar where you can drink some whiskey or any other spirit, with one difference – all staff is young, attractive females

kyabakura club: like a hostess club but girls wear sexy clothes, the “look but don’t touch” rule applies

sekukyaba club: like kyabakura clubs but the “look but don’t touch” rule doesn’t apply, one can buy a certain ‘service’ here, not a ‘full service’ though

love hotel: no need to explain that, I guess. Suffice to say, you need to bring your own play partner

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And host clubs… There are lots of these boys on the streets of Kabukicho, desperately looking for clients. Some of them are rather far away from what one would have called worth spending over 10,000 yen on.

No…just no.

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And if you’re just looking for some cheap izakayas and cheap food, it’s an okay place to go. I can’t really recommend it since I have never really spent much time there, but I guess it is much safer than it was, say, 15 years ago (according to my Japanese friends). So yeah, why not check out Kabukicho?

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When someone asks me about Shinjuku, a few brief pictures always come to mind. Skyscrapers, fashionable people, Kabukicho and cute narrow streets with those ubiquitous taxis, karaoke booths, pachinko parlors … everything you’ve ever heard about Tokyo, you can easily find it gathered in this one district.

 

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 Thanks for stopping by! ♥

 

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Tattoos in Japan / Tattoo studio LaRuche in Shinjuku

 As  you may have already noticed  — I LOVE TATTOOS. I honestly think that tattooed bodies are beautiful and tattooing is art. I remember I have wanted a tattoo since I was, maybe, 14 years old? Just a few months after I turned 18, I got my first tattoos…I’m almost 24, and I’m currently planning to turn my quarter sleeve right arm tattoo into a proper half sleeve. It’s going to be gorgeous.

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Where will I get it? I guess I’ll get it done at the same studio where I got other tattoos….

Studio LaRuche in Shinjuku!

Some time ago I decided it was high time for me to get my arm tattoo fixed. I got a kokeshi done a few years back, but, I won’t lie – it was cheap and after 3 years you couldn’t even tell what colours were used. Anyway! I found this magazine called Tattoo♥Girls in some bookstore, I don’t remember the name, but you can get it in Village Vanguard or Kinokuniya. I really recommend buying this magazine if you want to get a tattoo in Japan. You’ll find descriptions of many different studios, not only in Tokyo but also in Osaka and Kyoto. I bought this magazine in July last year, but it wasn’t until December when I decided I should finally get my tattoo re-done. Somehow, LaRuche appealed to me.

By the way, guess who’s going to be in the newest issue of Tattoo♥Girls? Surprise, surprise — me! 😀 I’ll definitely make a blog post about it once I get my hands on the 2014 issue of the magazine, which will be on sale in July!

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 I sent an email to LaRuche and got a prompt reply. They told me to come to the studio, so we could talk about my tattoo, how we could try to fix it, choose a new design etc. The tattoo artist Betty and her assistant Sekiguchi-san are honestly some of the nicest people on the face of this Earth. They’re really kind and super funny, I can’t recommend them highly enough.

Just look at these little pieces of art Betty created on my body. My arm tattoo design is entirely her idea, I just told her what I wanted and trusted her with everything. She turned my poorly drawn kokeshi into a colourful beauty. I didn’t know what it would look like until the very last session.

At the time when the photo was taken, the tattoo was still really fresh so it didn’t look so good, but trust me, my kokeshi is a total cutie now.

Notice mini-me on the fan ↓

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 Second tattoo done at LaRuche. A tribute to my childhood – Sailor Senshi planetary symbols.

Who didn’t love Sailor Moon as a child?

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I’m crazy in love with my tattoos. I know I can’t remove them, I know I’ll have them even when I’m old and wrinkled – and that’s exactly what I love about them. And if you ask me about having tattoos in Japan…Well, is it really so different than other countries? Here’s a few answers to the most frequent questions I have been asked.

“How did you get a job in Japan? You have tattoos!”

I had qualifications, I passed all the interviews. I didn’t come to the interview wearing a sleeveless shirt, saying “Eyyyy what’s up, look at my tats”.

“Do you hide your tattoos at work?”

Do I…? I have a good understanding of Japanese business etiquette and personally, I don’t find wearing piercings / low-cut tops / sleeveless shirts appropriate either. Even if it was okay, I just wouldn’t show my tattoos. So what do I do with the visible ones? I put some beige tape on them whenever I have to. Sometimes people I meet ask me “what happened, are you hurt?” I answer it’s nothing serious, they don’t ask, I don’t tell.

“How about other people? People on the street? Your friends?”

Honestly? I have never heard any bad words about my tattoos. All I’ve ever heard was “So cute! Adorable! You’re soo cool!”. I think that the fact that I am not a big scary dude driving around in a big black car helps me here a lot. Anyway, my friends love my tattoos, I get compliments from people on the street, some people can’t get their hands off of my kokeshi (*cough cough Shin-Okubo cough*).

People do stare. But is there a country where they don’t? I know that in other countries it might be more common to have tattoos so people don’t even care anymore. But in Japan – it’s a vicious circle. A long time ago tattoos had a really bad image, so you wouldn’t really see them in public. Nowadays more and more young people get tattoos but thinking others will criticize them, they still don’t show them in public – therefore other people think it’s rare – but in fact it’s not –  therefore they stare whenever they see tattooed people…. Could ya follow that?

The only situation when I feel uncomfortable is when I’m alone, on the street or on the train, and I wear clothes showing my tattoos. You know that feeling when you can feel eyes on you? Yup. So in the summer I always wear a thin cardigan whenever there’s no friend by my side. Not a big sacrifice, is it?

How about onsen / swimming pool / gym / beauty salons?

First and foremost, I will not go to a public onsen ever again. Let’s say my first onsen experience was quite shocking, because at that time I believed that what they show on TV — people wrapped in towels relaxing in the bath — was true. Needless to say, the reality hit me hard in the face. For someone who would have never imagined bathing with any other person, let alone like 30 other people, that was traumatizing. Naked people. Looking at you. Because you’re foreign. And you have tattoos. And you’re naked too. I managed to force myself to stay there for about 10 minutes.

I think that was one of the worst experiences I have had in Japan so far. No more public onsen for me, nope  n o p e  NOOOPE. You can always book a private onsen, and trust me, it’s waaaaay better than bathing with a bunch of strangers judging you, while you’re standing there naked and powerless.

Swimming pool? When I stayed in Okinawa last year, I had no problem using the hotel swimming pool, neither have I heard any comments. The same goes for the beach. No problem at all.

Gyms and public swimming pools though, are another story. You can’t attend them if you have tattoos. I hate working out so I’m fine with that. And if you like sports…try jogging maybe? Why pay for a gym?

And yeah…beauty salons. Some time ago I wanted to get a nice professional massage (sitting at my desk 12 hours a day, getting stiff shoulders and stuff). I found a nice place, was about to book an appointment and then I saw a very politely written notice that said something like:

 “We’re really really sorry, but we can’t serve clients with tattoos”

….

ALRIGHTY THEN.

But! What I did was finding another Japanese massage place where you just wear clothes like pajamas and they even cover you with a warm blanket, it’s all nice and cozy and nobody cares if you have tattoos or not.

You see, it’s not bad at all. Kokeshi approves.

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Getting back on track….

My favourite tattoo studio!

tattoo studio LaRuche

〒160-0022 Tokyo, Shinjuku, 5 Chome−9−12

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This is what it looks like outside…you can’t miss it.

 Notice adorable tattooed Betty Boop  ↓

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Tattoo prices depend on the size, colour, difficulty, style…everything. They are much more expensive than in Europe…like maybe, 5 times as expensive? But now that I think about it, I realize that’s a good thing. A tattoo is something you’ll have for the rest of your natural life. You get something inked on your body. Does the price really matter?

If  you feel you’d like to get something, but you’re not really sure what, LaRuche has countless tattoo magazines (most of them are foreign), beautiful photos of wabori tattoos, picture books full of tattoo ideas and of course Betty, who is a really talented artist.

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You can get a fixed price tattoo and choose a design from the “12,000 yen campaign” tattoos. They also have a “5,000 yen small size tattoo campaign” and you can find some really adorable tiny designs there.

Yes, Japanese people often get tribals, butterflies, mysterious shapes, English quotes etc…

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 Tattoo time!

 

This time I decided to get something cute, because I like cute things, and that’s a good reason to get more ink, right?

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 Choosing the colours I wanted….

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Let’s do this!

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Yay! My super-duper-adorable tiny hearts. When I put my arms together, the hearts connect into one heart. How cute is that.

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↓Betty-san and her assistant Sekiguchi-san. 2 really awesome people ↓

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Have you ever seen any cuter tattoo artist?

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 And Sekiguchi-san, he is the funniest and friendliest Japanese man I have ever met. You’ll love getting your tattoos here.

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If you worry about having tattoos in Japan – don’t. Why worry? If you love both, tattoos and Japan, why give up one thing for another? People’s mentality will change eventually.

If you live in Japan and  you’re looking for a friendly place to get your first tattoo / get your tattoos fixed or covered up — studio LaRuche is the place to go. Any questions? Leave a comment!

If you’d like to book an appointment at LaRuche, ask them about prices, or need someone to go there with you to translate for you – please contact me!

⇓⇓

shichijyuuni.gmail.com

or here

tattoo.laruche@gmail.com

 Thanks for reading

♥♥♥

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