Monday, May 4th. 11:30. First day of Golden Week. Generally establishments are closed during this series of holidays, so as a precaution I ring up SHAFT’s “Filming and Digital Division.” After just one ring, a man answers.
“Yes, this is SHAFT.”
His voice is heavy with fatigue–as if he had just woken up, and this ringing phone had disturbed his much needed rest. Nothing but death comes through the receiver. I almost think it’s an answering machine.
“Uhh, yes. Is SHAFT open today?” I ask.
“Yes, we are,” he replies.
“Thank you,” I say in my horrible, horrible Japanese accent. Of all the words I can’t say correctly, it has to be 「ありがとう」.
After a quick errand in Ikebukuro, I find myself in the meandering maze that is Shinjuku Station. After exiting from some exit I’ve never been through before, I start searching for buildings that kind-of-sort-of look like the Prince Hotel. After being lead in the wrong direction more than few times, I finally find a public map to reorient myself. The course is now clear, and my sights are set on the Prince Hotel.
After a ten minute walk and a can of Grape Soda, I finally appear below the grand shadow cast by the Prince Hotel. Beneath its ritzy, five star rooms lies the Seibu Shinjuku Station. After walking around in a circle like moron upon buying my 200 yen ticket, I finally find my way to the trains.
Being used to JR’s typical setup, the Seibu Station is a touch off-putting. After some intense kanji reading, I manage to find my way onto the right train. It’s a rapid, so I have to switch to local somewhere along the line, since Iogi station isn’t really a happening destination, sad as it may be.
After about twenty minutes of sitting along with one train transfer, I am suddenly within walking distance of illustrious Studio SHAFT.
Once out of the station, I try my best to orient myself so the map provided on SHAFT’s site can at least be somewhat useful. The site only gives you their office address, but with the power of the internet I found out where their actual studio is, as well. As you can see, it does look like it may be some old guy’s garage.
Despite wanting to go towards the office, after about ten minutes of walking I notice I’m actually heading in the direction of the studio. Me being anal about the order in which I do things, I turn back and head towards the office. However, I do get a good opportunity to see the neighborhood in which SHAFT is located. Lots of nerd locations, such as this one. Their prices kind of suck, though. My dudes at SHAFT probably know where all THE GOOD SHIT is.
Once back on track, I find the Family Mart noted on SHAFT’s map, and moments later I manage to find the building itself. I am in awe. I can’t speak. My animal tendencies take over. I whip out my camera and take as many pictures as possible.
While snapping a shot of their information desk, and I hear a man’s voice coming from behind me.
“Uhh… who are you? What are you doing?” he asks in a puzzled, but not angered tone.
“Oh… this is SHAFT’s office, correct?” I respond.
“Oh, I am a big SHAFT fan!” I say with a touch of enthusiasm.
“Oh… is that so.” He still sounds puzzled.
“Is Shinbo Akiyuki in?”
“He hasn’t come in yet.” Still, sounds puzzled.
“Ah, thanks!” I run off. Partly out of fear, but mostly because my next target is the studio.
With the aid of SHAFT’s map in conjunction with some scribbles to help me find the studio, I walk about twelve blocks until I come across the seedy garage pictured on Google maps.
While blown away by the idea that SHAFT may just be run out of some guy’s garage, accepting it as reality is yet to set in. I approach the building slowly, and once I walk past the first door I hear a man screaming in rage, then a crying baby.
I walk about two or three more blocks looking for similar garages, but none are as dead-on as the first one. That has to be STUDIO SHAFT.
I go further in than I did last time into what appears to be an apartment building. I take a quick look into an empty studio with some slippers on the floor, and then look towards the mail boxes.
I see it.
「シャフト」, written in marker on the oldest, most disgusting piece of paper I have ever seen, against a stupidly rusty mail box. I lack enough guts to actually ascend the staircase, and instead decide to head back to the office.
I am lot more worried on this second visit–it’s around 15:30, and the building looks way more active. People are walking in and out. I suppose they just woke up. Furthermore, I’d feel awkward if the same guy who caught me taking spy photos saw me again, so I retreat to the park right across the street to think things over.
After about thirty to forty-five minutes of sitting, pacing in front of the studio, walking up and down the street, then sitting in the park again, I finally decide that I have nothing left to lose and push open the doors of heaven.
Once in, I hit the bell after some more seconds of hesitation. A man approaches.
“Excuse me,” I utter in a small, worried voice.
“Yes,” replies the man. He looks fairly young–probably in his late twenties or early thirties.
“I am a big SHAFT fan!” I exclaim once more.
“Do you know when Shinbo Akiyuki will be coming today?”
“Oh, sorry. He’s not coming in today.”
“Oh, is that so. One more thing–can fans like me go into SHAFT?”
“Ahh, sorry that’s a little…” He makes a cross with his fingers.
“Oh, ok. Thanks!” I rush out.
While somewhat anti-climatic, upon reflecting on it I’ve found the trip to be worth while– I got see where SHAFT works, and interact with two random staff members. Sure, I didn’t get my Tsukuyomi DVD signed, but maybe I’ll save that for when I appear in front of Shinbo’s apartment. Also, during that forty-five minutes of indecision, I noticed a SHAFT staff member photographing some of the swings in the park, so… look out for swings in Bakemonogatari, or something.