Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Friday 19th Steven Bennett IV, Nakano, Estaban, Leo and Shinjuku.

Friday we headed out to meet my friend Steve Bennett who as a teen had lived in Tokyo for several years and even worked part time as an animator. We caught the subway to Shinjuku station, transferred to another line to Nakano where we grabbed lunch, soba and udon, and went back to the station to wait for Steven. When he arrived we headed to his old neighborhood where we dropped by a shop that has had the same, now very discolored and patched with tape, Space Battleship Yamato poster for over 30 years. The owner recognized Steve and introductions, with photos, were exchanged. After leaving we grabbed some yakitori a few doors down and headed on to where Steve's grandmother’s house was located, dropping by a model kit shop he used to visit as a kid.

After being shown around a little more we went to Arai-Yakushi temple. During the fire bombings of W.W.II Steve’s grandmother sought refuge here with her infant daughter, Steve’s mother, here during a raid that leveled her neighborhood, except for her house. The temple was very interesting, with people coming and going. There was also a section of Jizo statues in the memory of deceased infants, aborted or stillborn babies. We were then joined by Kris (or Chris, I did not ask how he spelled his name), a friend of Steve’s from Canada who is spending a year in Japan. We then walked back to the Nakano station area. At the Nakano Broadway Mall Steve told us the story of a Friday the 13th where he and his brother went through an incredible sequence of disturbing events when he was 13 on the way to the international school at the local US base. We told him he needed to do a comic strip of the events and to try to get it published in the base paper.

Then we went into the mall where I found a set of Lupin III ball toy figures and well as two statuettes of Lupin and Fujiko at great prices. Then a few doors down the hall we ran into the manga artist Senno Knife, an old friend of Steve who I met many years ago. Our now enlarged group proceeded to shop, chat and explore more of the shops, especially the series of Mandarake shops, each with a specialty that have taken over much of this mall.

Chris (Kris?), Steve, Senno Knife, Cindy, Me. - photo by Steven

We then had to leave to meet Estaban at Shunjuku station so we headed to the station and caught the train back. Navigating Shinjuku station during rush hour traffic is an interesting prospect given that 2 - 3 million passengers pass through this complex station on a weekday. We found where we were to meet Estaban and realized his suggestion to wait at a particular exit gate was not a good idea as it was hot and humid. Luckily he called us to say he would be late so I told him to meet us in front of Studio ALTA. Happily outdoors, we hangout across the street watching club hosts trying to entice young women to come to the their clubs.

When it was time to meet Estaban we headed across the street and met him, he guided us to a great restaurant on the 3rd floor of a building. 100% nonsmoking and inexpensive, the place was hopping with customers. Then as we were just finishing our meal Leo called, perfect timing, to tell us that he was in the area and we headed out to meet him. It was raining and the streets were a mushroom forest of umbrellas. I introduced Estaban and Leo and they came up with a tour of the area for us. We saw some great locations, including Hanazono shrine at night, and plenty of the local street scene. Then we headed to a restaurant, so Leo could get his dinner, where we had a pleasant conversation until we three visitors started to nod out so we headed back to the station and the ryokan.

- Gilles

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