Thursday, July 14, 2005

Shiodome - futuristic shopping center

One of the spectacular buildings at the Shiodome shopping complex

Ramen discovery near Tokyo University

Man, was I unable to get out of bed this morning! My legs too sore, back too sore – I blame it on yesterday’s training and the thin futon I slept on. Plus, this hotel room must qualify for having the world’s loudest air conditioner – its buzzing noises kept waking me up throughout the night.
Anyway, I spent most of the day frantically gathering materials at Todai. I checked the computer room to see if I could check the Internet. Unfortunately, one needed an account, but I did bump into a former classmate. He looked at me, immediately recognized me, and said in Japanese, “Weren’t you here at this university before?” Like I said, these Japanese are memory machines! He didn’t know I had left for the States years ago, and thought it strange that I had suddenly disappeared. We then ate ramen near campus because Yoko wanted to try the vinegar ramen, which she used to eat a lot of in China. When we went inside, she said the restaurant smell reminded her of China. Yoko did not like her vinegar ramen, because she was used to a different vinegar ramen that she used to eat in China, and felt this version was inauthentic, but I loved my tan-tan men.

Vinegar Ramen - note the extra black vinegar in a shot glass

Regular tan-tan men below, and black miso tan-tan men on the top

Congratulating the ramen chef on a job well done

Visiting the Shidome Complex

I have lived in Tokyo and visited last year, so I already saw most of the trendy shopping places like Shibuya, or Roppongi Hills. This time, I wanted to visit Shiodome, a huge shopping and office complex that looks like buildings straight from Blade Runner. Now when we were there several years ago, the place, under construction, resembled a huge pit. But last year, I saw a Japanese language news special in which the bubbly young announcer with a measuring tape kept babbling about how large this place was, so I had to check it out. Here is a composite panorama shot I made of one of the buildings.

I have seen the future of shopping and it is Shiodome. All throughout, I felt as if I was an extra on a sci-fi movie set. Huge black buildings with shiny white lights towered over me. Third floor walkways to connect the buildings. Futuristic escalators that made me want to take out my gun and start hunting replicants.

Most U.S. shopping malls suffer a lack of imagination and so going there is boring. You go to the same Gap, or Old Navy, or whatever. You see bland, uninspired architecture that fails to stimulate the desire to shop. But go to a place like Shiodome, and it feels so futuristic, so out of this world, as if you have been teleported to the 21st century. Oops, I forgot, we ARE in the 21st century? So why does the architecture in the U.S. fail to remind us of the time we are living in? Anyway, the insides are decorated with non-futuristic yet stylish furniture.

Stylish chairs in the waiting room

We stumbled upon what looked like a wine shop, when I realized that this shop specialized in shochu, potato liquor. The Japanese used to consider this a working man`s cheap liquor, but it has gained popularity recently.

Major companies like Kyodo news wire service, Dentsu advertising agency, and Nippon Television, had set up shop in this office complex, guaranteeing a major flow of affluent customers for the restaurants and stores. Now the stores themselves did not seem remarkable, and yet I wanted to buy. The appropriate scenery and settings can stimulate one’s appetite to buy. Now travelling thousands of miles to be in Japan, I had to eat the local food. Then the glowing sign of Nathan’s hot dogs lured me to their shop like a moth to a flame , and I enjoyed their tasty hot dogs while enjoying the high-tech scenery of the sleek monorail trains running by. Strange, but true: Japan offers students and fans of sci-fi a taste of futuristic architecture. I should run a class field trip devoted to futuristic Japan.

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