After I left the luggage in my room at the Ryokan I asked for some information from the lady at the reception (she is also the owner) regarding where to go (not too far away from the Ryokan) while I was waiting for my Japanese friend Mari (we have known each other for about 12 years) she was meant to come at around 3 PM to show me around Tokyo more in detail. She suggested I should walk to Shinjuku and then gave me a local map of the area. I could not believe it I was in Japan.
Beauty of Shinjuku
After I left the Ryokan on the way to Shinjuku, I saw a traditional Japanese house with typical sliding doors (which at that time were open) and I noticed a man inside sleeping on the floor on a futon, this made my Japanese experience more real. It was not difficult for me to get to Shinjuku, apart from few turns at the beginning, the road was almost straight and I managed to get there with the help of my good sense of direction. When I arrived there, I went around walking into some small street looking for the real Japan. I saw many interesting things there such as a building that from the outside is decorated like a jigsaw with a brown color, a restaurant with a giant crab moving above the door (I should have taken a video but I just took a photo) and other colorful buildings.
Real Japanese Essence
While walking around, I saw some tall buildings traditional Japanese with big signs, and I said to myself that this is the image of modern Japan and I wanted to go to look what was hidden through the small streets in between of each building, then I a crossed the road and went where I felt like I should go.
Through those streets I could see the real Japanese essence, however, not long after I was walking through those streets, a young Japanese man stopped me and said to me something in Japanese that I could not understand (is not that I could understand any Japanese at all anyway). I said to him that I did not understand what he said (in English of course) and then he said to me ‘sex, sex’. He could not speak English at all but I could understand that he meant if I wanted to have sex with a girl. I refused by saying ‘No, sorry’. At that point I realized that, without knowing, I ended up in the red light district of Tokyo (or at least the red light district of Shinjuku). Then I kept walking around and I saw more men like that and was still morning and afternoon had not come yet, let alone evening or night.
After walking around Shinjuku I felt the need to grab something to eat, I was in Japan and therefore I wanted something Japanese. At that point the time was 1 PM and I had to start walking back to the Ryokan so I could meet Mari. On the way back I looked at different restaurants that could please my needs and then I made my choice to stop to one of them. It looked like a place where busy people go there to eat something quickly and then leave. I was surprised to see that many restaurants like that one had counter service, customers seat at the counter and have their meal there.
Other two things which I was surprised was that, first, I had to order the food through a machine, put the money in and the machine give you the ticket to hand to the person that serves you in order to get the food, second, the food was very inexpensive, I had a bowl of rice topped with pork (probably pork belly) for a very reasonable price, of only ¥370.
At first I didn’t know how the whole system worked so I asked someone to explain to me with hand gestures because nobody could speak a word of English. One of the customers came and explained me with his broken English. Once the food was on the table I was surprised that they gave me only chopsticks and no spoon for the rice (in contrast with Korean culture that you get also the spoon as well as chopsticks if you get rice).
I thought to myself if I should order a spoon but then I said ‘I am in Japan and I do like Japanese people do’. Another thing which I was surprised was that I could also get water (tap water) for no extra cost and other drinks were not offered to me (I know that in nearby Korea people do not trust tap water and they always buy water by the bottle). The food and the tap water were actually quite good. After the meal I walked back to the Ryokan waiting for Mari to come.