Shinjuku at rush hour (from 29 March 2004)

Words cannot describe what it feels like to be in Shinjuku Station at rush hour. It seems like the entire population of Tokyo is rushing to one of the numerous train lines that stem from the station, a giant race to get to where one wants to go and it is every man for himself. I was in the area with a group of 15 of my peers, getting a drink for someone`s birthday after spending the entire day doing a citywide scavenger hunt. After a conversation with a confused transportation officer and a bit of luck, I managed to find a train going in the direction I needed to go, but not without sweating a bit. This train system is remarkably efficient and convenient, but when the crowds are flowing past one loses one`s train of thought so to speak. I cannot imagine a busier place in the world.

The scavenger hunt was an excellent way to get acquainted with the city. It brought us to all corners of the city, if only for brief spurts. One of the stops was at the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building, which features one of the best views of the city around. It is astounding to think about the number of people who live within the space visible from the towers: the Sears Tower’s view of the Midwest pales in comparison. Nothing, in fact, is more striking about Tokyo than the people. There are enormous crowds everywhere one goes, even in the ‘quiet’ neighborhoods. It is exhilirating in a way, but also exhausting. Perhaps the most crowded area is Shibuya, a major youth quarter shown often in Lost In Translation. At the main Shibuya intersection, it feels like charging into battle as two crowds on opposite sides of the street charge into one another.

I know that I picked the right country to come to because I have baseball to watch on TV every night. Last night the New York Yankees played an exhibition against the storied Yomiuri Giants, Japanese equivalent of the Yankees. It marked the return of Matsui Hideki to his former home, and he thanked his fans by hitting a giant home run in his first at-bat. Also of note is that former Cub and current Japanese all-star Tuffy Rhodes has moved from the Osaka Buffalo to the Yomiuri Giants, so I will likely have an opportunity to see him play in a very different setting than the last time I saw him.

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