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Friday, February 02, 2007

Nishi Shinjuku

西新宿

Nishi Shinjuku skyscrapers seen from Nakano Sakaue, Nakano ward.Nishi Shinjuku (i.e. West Shinjuku) is Japan’s biggest concentration of skyscrapers: no less than 30 in just a square kilometer or two. As expected, it is very much a business center and lacks the rough, streety charm of Higashi (i.e. East) Shinjuku just on the other side of Shinjuku station.

There’s a sound reason for Nishi Shinjuku’s glass-and-granite forest growing where it did: geology. Apparently there is a massive slab of bedrock under the whole area that absorbs seismic shocks. The lack of damage to dwellings in the area in Tokyo’s gargantuan earthquake disaster of September 1, 1923, first alerted people to its special natural endowments.

It wasn’t until the post-war economy started to boom, however, that skyscrapers began being built here, one of the first being the North Building of Keio Plaza Intercontinental Hotel in 1971 which, at 47 floors, is still a respectable height – about average for the area.

It is soon to be dwarfed, however, by the very boringly named Nishi Shinjuku 3-Chome Redevelopment made up of three residential towers and crowned with an office tower with no less than 77 floors, due for completion in 2010. That will make it about as third as tall again as the present tallest structure in the area, the 55-story Shinjuku Mitsui Building.

It’s worth a stroll through this area, head craned, taking in the clean silhouettes against the sky, the road and paths bathed in dazzling pools of sunlight reflecting off the surrounding glass towers, and, unlike the other side of Shinjuku, not having to worry about being accosted by anyone trying to lure you into a karaoke box, bar or strip club.

There is, however, a small cluster of down-to-earth commerce between Shinjuku Post Office and Shinjuku Station, full of little restaurants and bars, and dominated by the massive Yodobashi Camera electronics shop.

See a slideshow of Shinjuku's skyscrapers

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