Sunday, May 24, 2015

Giant Godzilla Head at Toho Cinemas in Shinjuku

A life-sized giant Godzilla head is now on display in Shinjuku.  It officially opened in late April along with the movie theatres.  Up on the terrace level where itis displayed, you can walk outside from the cinemas and get a look at it up close and personal.  The Hotel Gracery there also has special Godzilla themed rooms to rent that look pretty sweet, but they'll cost you a pretty penny to stay.  You can look out the windows and see Godzilla staring back in.

UPDATE: I've heard that you need to be a guest of the hotel or eat at the restaurant there to go out onto the terrace to see the head up close.  Otherwise, bring a zoom lens to see it in detail.

I walked out of the Shinjuku Station exit by Studio Alta and heard loud thumping noises like giant footsteps.  Then there was the deafening roar from Godzilla.  There was this big promotional display for the new Toho Theatres there.  It was a pretty cool experience and a nice Godzilla welcome!
A giant replica tail breaks out of the sign.
Pretty hard to miss this super tall, snazzy new building with a Godzilla.

The Toho Cinemas are pretty easy to find as it is in the Kabukicho area near the Don Quijote.  Just walk down the busy street there and look to the north to see the big head.

The Don Quixote Store on the big street Yasukuni Dori
Looking down the street to see the giant head.  Some people apparently didn't see the head until they saw me taking photos.  They then took their own pictures too!  All we need is a screaming crowd running away from it now.
Close to the big Godzilla.
The giant Godzilla head up close.  It actually looks quite good, and Big G looks like he is looking down on you.

When I was there, the theatres had not opened yet, but I could still see the statue of the head which does look like Godzilla is looking down on you.  The head is based on the original 1954 Godzilla.  A good post with some more information about Godzilla and the hotel at the Huffington Post.

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Saturday, May 23, 2015

Shinjuku's Underground Labyrinth (or The Tunnels of Shinjuku)

I was sick of the rain on a damp, rainy morning on my last trip to Japan.  It had rained for four days out of seven when I was there, with two days of solid rain.  The early morning wasn't so bad, but it was raining fairly steady after visiting the giant Godzilla head on top of the new Toho Cinemas in Shinjuku (more on that in the next post).  I decided to go underground to dodge the rain and do a bit of subterranean sightseeing.
Shinjuku Station itself, one of the largest and busiest train stations in the world is a maze too (see Shinjuku Dungeon app), with over 35+ platforms, but the maze extends far beyond the station.  Shinjuku has a large set of tunnels that connect Shinjuku Station to the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building and many of the other buildings on the west side of the station.  These range from entire underground malls to kilometres long underground tunnels, some of which are just utilitarian, and some are pretty nice looking.  I would visit a number of the office towers I wanted to take photos of and stay much dryer by doing the mole person routine.
Below street level, just west of the Station
Some picture wrapped coin lockers

I started around the north west side of the station near the big circular concrete hole in the ground there for the buses and roads.  The Shinjuku Eye art installation is in this area and it is giant yellow eye that watches passers by on the concourse.  It is animated and pretty darn cool, kind of reminding me of the Eye of Sauran a bit.
Shinjuku Eye
The eye again
 The tunnels near the eye are the larger tunnels.  The southern tunnel that goes west/east has a moving slidewalk that takes you towards the Tokyo Metropolitan Offices, while the northern tunnel that goes west/east here also has a slidewalk that takes you towards Shinjuku Station.  These tunnels are basically like wide underground streets that have shop fronts and entrances to the the buildings on both sides of the street.
Underground Street, slidewalk to the right.
The yellow shows the covered or underground tunnel system.
 I popped up above ground to take photos of the Gakuen Cocoon Building then went underground to the lobby of the Sumitomo Bank Building.  The building is triangular shape from above and is hollow in the middle.  With the light shining straight down and the rain water, it looked like a kaleidoscope and something out of Blade Runner.
Cocoon Tower
Courtyard adjoining tunnel
Another courtyard
Tunnel exit
Looking up the atrium at the Sumitomo Bank
I then went looking to the north of this building for the Shinjuku NS building which was in the wrong place when I originally Google mapped it.  The building is just south and east of the Tokyo Metropolitan City Hall Towers and is hard to miss as it is a big square blocky building.  Still, misfortune can work for you and I explored some interesting looking buildings and some really long underground tunnels.
Long tunnel.  If the lights ever went out, it would be pretty darn dark down here.  Good for a horror flick.
Very attractive seating area
Basement courtyard of another tower
I then went south to the Tokyo Metropolitan City Hall and visited the large Tourist Center there for some brochures and went up the free elevator to the observation deck on the 45th floor of the building (there is one in each of the twin towers, but only one is open at a time).  Tokyo City Hall is a behemoth of a building with a massive courtyard several floors above street level, and it extends several levels below the street to boot.  It is city hall for like 25 million people though, so you're looking a state level government headquarters.  The governor here is the most powerful official in Japan after the prime minister.
City Hall
Cocoon Tower and other buildings from observation deck at City Hall
City Hall tower up close
Lobby of City Hall
A small portion of the eastern side of the courtyard at City Hall
The west side of the courtyard with the main City Hall building in the background (from a previous trip).
City Hall
 After this I walked across on the courtyard level to the south over an overpass and under a roadway above me (a pseudo tunnel) to reach the Shinjuku NS building.  It is amazing how many different levels the buildings around here operate on.  You might think you are at ground level, but you aren't.  It is a truly monumental type of architecture and environment that could only exist in the largest cities.
Note the 4 lane road that runs above the courtyard (4 floors above ground), and I walked below that to get to the NS Building.
The Shinjuku NS building is a large office building with two floors of restaurants way up on the 29th and 30th floors.  The building has a massive atrium inside and a walkway that crosses it on the 29th floor.  This was something I wanted to see as I had seen pictures of it before.  There is an express elevator to the restaurant floors.
Shinjuku NS Exterior
Lobby of NS
The 29th floor skywalk
The skywalk up close
The views from it were pretty nice for City Hall and some of the office towers in the area.  After this went out the south side of the building back through a small courtyard that had some nice casual restaurants ringing it and back into the tunnels that lead east back to Shinjuku Station.  On the way I stopped at a electronics store and had a look around for iPhone cases.
View down from NS
Good selection of cases!
The southern east/west tunnel from the south end of Shinjuku Station.  It connects to the underground Keio Mall that runs north/south at the Station.
BK in the Keio Mall with a specialty burger
It was an epic circular journey underground to and from Shinjuku Station and I stayed fairly dry.  It was a good way to explore things and kill several hours.

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Monday, May 18, 2015

Japanese Toys Like Gudetama, Sushi Cats, Hiyoko-chan, and Puzzle and Dragons

Japan has a pile of neat and cute little cartoon characters.  They then do an amazing job of making merchandise based on them that you want run out an buy.

Sanrio has Hello Kitty, and dozens and dozens of other cute characters that you've never heard of.  One of the newer ones is Gudetama, the lazy egg.  This cute little egg yolk usually lazes around in a series of short cartoons.  You can find them on Youtube if you look.  The egg is found in a variety of different food type situations and I'm not sure I could eat him myself.  There is a pile of merchandise for him though.  The LA Times has a write up about Gudetama.
Gudetama plushy
Gudetama display
Gudetama merchandise
If you don't like eggs, you could also get Kirimi-chan, who is a salmon fillet.
Lots of merchandise and plushies!
Sushi Cats are another Internet meme and this last year had them released as gashapon characters you could buy.  They are very cute and you have to have a set.  There is an official video for them that will kind of blow your mind the first time you see it.
Sushi Cats cell charms.  I took the hooks off so they can be put in a display case.
Gashapon machines with sushi cats in one of them.  Pretty rare to find at the moment.
Rement was also selling them by the case.
I bought a box to get a set from the blind boxes inside.
You get the little sushi cat inside.

Hiyoko-chan is the mascot for Nissin Chicken Instant Ramen.  I have to say this particular chicken ramen is one of my faves and is even featured in Ponyo, the Ghibli movie.  The cute little chick has me wanting to buy the chicken ramen and the ramen celebrated 55 years of being in 2014.  I have a blog post about chicken ramen here as it needs its own post.
Hiyoko Chan stuffy, mini chicken ramen, and Hiyoko ramen timer toy.
Hiyoko Ramen Timer Toy.  It also plays a few games with you.
You open the egg and by default, Hiyoko will be a timer, telling you that your instant ramen is ready in 3 minutes.
There is this store on the main floor of Divercity Mall in Odaiba (where the giant gundam is) that sells lots of Hiyoko merchandise.
Hiyoko gashapon machines.
You can decorate your house with the little chick.  I like the face towels in the little cellophane bags that mimic a pack of instant ramen!
5 Packs of Chicken Ramen!

Finally, Puzzle and Dragons, the android and iPhone game that has captured a whole pile of wallets in Japan and around the world.  There are all type of cool little characters from the game showing up. I'm a pretty big fan so I managed to snag a gold dragon gashapon dispensing machine based on the rare egg machine.
The gold dragon gashapon dispenser is fairly big.  Cat included for scale (not to mention she photo-bombed me)
Comes in a nice box.
Back of the box.
You load the capsules in through the mouth. Pull the arm to drop a capsule out of the tummy slot.
An assortment of puzzle and dragons merchandise.
Some figure I picked up on sale.  These things cost too much otherwise for me.
Evolution spirit figures.
Cell charms
Puzzle and Dragons screenshot, if you have never seen the game.  Basically a match 3+ puzzle game with a big monster team building and collection element.

That's all for now. 

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