Shinjuku would have to be one of the most surreal places in Japan, maybe the world. During the day, the weird gets shoved down in the cracks between the shoppers and the tourists. You have to search hard for it. Come evening, it fills with salarymen and office ladies, drinking away the work day stress. I was told about 90% of people in Shinjuku on a Friday or Saturday night are on gokon (Japanese style organised group dates). I'm not sure if that's true, but it seems likely.
Just after midnight, when the last trains run back to the suburbs, Shinjuku becomes a different place. That's when the hardcore drinkers and the people escaping from life come out to play.
Staying in the heart of Shinjuku gave me a chance to see another side. Early morning, the sun rises and the harsh light of day hits the dark edges. I've seen it from one side - the blurry-eyed, what the hell am I doing here side. But, when I woke up at 6am and couldn't get back to sleep, I figured I'd hit the streets with my brain unfogged.
As the hosts and hostess gather together after work and drinkers settle up their bills, others start their work day. The chaos of noise disappears for an hour or two and the neon signs are turned off. You can maybe get a glimpse of a million stories.
There is so much you can't capture. Things that happen in an instant or scenes that aren't safe or humane to get on film. An old man talking emphatically to the plastic food displays in a cafe window, a girl on her knees on the hard, stone apologising to her "pimp", couples who have been separated to each sell a temporary form of love during the night reuniting on the streets.
Shinjuku in the early morning is a sad place. After the bright lights and transient fun vanishes and the remnants of the night before have not yet been swept away, there is little comfort.