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Gotanda is a neighborhood in Tokyo, Japan. It's name in Japanese (五反田) literally means "Five Major Problems". And it's an apt name, for a visit to the neighborhood will force the visitor to confront at several of these immediately upon arrival. Check with your embassy before travelling to Gotanda, as most responsible government have Gotanda on their watch list, except for Myanmar and The United States, which support the regime of Gotanda's 893-san.

edit Five Major Problems

Gotanda is comprised of two unequal halves, being: Nishi(二四, Japanese for 24, as in 24-color-palette)-Gotanda and Higashi (東, in Japanese, a silent place-marker)-Gotanda.

edit Problem 1. Higashi-Gotanda

Higashi-Gotanda is a murky region marking the confluence of pollutants from major industrial concerns and National Road Number One and the "waters" of the Meguro (目黒, meaning "watering eye") river. Higashi-Gotanda is a region of poor moral fiber and wealthy gambling-hall owners.

edit Fun For Young Ladies

Young women of low self-esteem can get a real confidence-boost by alighting at the Gotanda train station and trying to do some shopping; it puts a bit of a spring in a girl's step to be harassed the countless flatterers who will approach anything in a skirt with priceless poems and earnest nothings. Perhaps it's the gravelly harshness of these love-lorn poets that defeats them, perhaps its only that these caring young men have but seconds to impress a passing University student, but many is the night when these talented young men fail to cause a young lady to dally.

And for those young ladies looking to earn a few yen, there are the walk-in cleaning services for "mostly older" men, cleverly referred to as "soap" operations. There, a woman who doesn't mind getting down on her knees for some earnest scrubbing can keep herself up to her elbows in rubbers any night of the week.

While there almost seems to be a connection between the "soap" businesses and the young poets of the nearby station, that connection will certainly elude the casual visitor. Hell, it eludes the police, and their box is attached to the station.

edit Higashi-Gotanda can't catch a break

When Godzilla comes to Tokyo, it's Higashi-Gotanda where he inevitably makes landfall, moved as he is to strike against sources of pollution. It is during these not-infrequent rampages that the cheap construction standards, appalling architecture, and overcrowding of the district become apparent. But, what's a Tokyosider to do? It's Gotanda or pay the 礼金 (key money, or reikin -- pronounced rake-in) that better district's command.

Only the strongest buildings withstand Godzilla's frequent rampages. In this manner, smaller businesses in weaker structures are demolished, and the larger operations in sturdier buildings are free to pick up the pieces. And so, Higashi-Ginza is slowly becoming over-run by パチンコ (gambling halls) and discount book stores.

edit Problem 2. Nishi-Gotanda

Nishi-Gotanda has a problem that few Japanese are willing to discuss, or even take seriously. That problem is the reduced verisimilitude of the place. Following one of Tokyo's not-infrequent 'incidents', this small district in the south end of the city's famous Yamanote loop was sharply severed from the normality so enjoyed by the rest of us.

Nishi-Gotanda has the appearance of a rather prosaic work of anime. Here, the laws of physics and the laws of good taste seem to have been given an indefinite suspension. Between the high-pitch squeals of the saucer-eyed, short-skirted and supremely masochistic girls and the constant macho and maudlin "epic battles" of the me, it's a tiresome and unhealthy place.

edit Problem 3. The Meguro River

Like most of Tokyo's rivers, the Meguro no longer has to wend through the frustrating curves and loops that slow and detain rivers in lazier parts of the world. The Meguro, in fact, cuts through Gotanda in an all but straight line, aided in this by a bed that was lovingly crafted out of concrete slabs and high walls of stone. The Meguro, in passing through Gotanda, no longer even has to concern itself with babbling, or with the the tedium of thirsty tree roots and thrashing fish. No, in Gotanda the Meguro has places to be and it doesn't linger.

Unfortunately, even the few minutes that the waters take to tear through the neighborhood are too long. Marked in its progress by the bobbing of styrofoam cups, bags of garbage and drunken salarymen , the nasty channel proves the wisdom of deposed 20th century Gotanda shogun Mankogaski Shinsake, who said, "At least we thirty-odd million are all packed into one corner of the country, where we can only strangle so many bodies of water."

The river does prove visually entertaining, keeping the viewer guessing by being alternately grey, livid green, and either russet or matte brown.

edit Problem 4. National Road Number 1

Technically wider than it is long, "National Road Number 1" was laid down by Imperial edict during the turbulent years that marked the many long centuries following the arrival of humanity in Japan. A simple trail in earlier and more innocent times, the arrival of humans in Japan during the 17th century saw the road subjected to frequent expansions, additions, branches, and the odd paving. Now wide enough to accommodate some four hundred plus lanes, this road would take more than ten minutes to cross on foot, if that were possible. But, given the nature of Tokyo's cabbies, couriers and -- worst of all -- post office drivers, such a feat has never been successfully undertaken.

The road charges down the long slope of the north, cuts under the railway tracks just adjacent to the station, soars over the world's widest bridge -- handily keeping the river out of sight for the equivalent of three city blocks -- and rampages to the south where it connects to such fabulous destinations as Yokohama, Sapporo, and Seoul.

edit Problem 5. Foreigners

Everywhere you look in Gotanda, you see foreigners. Oh, they might not be visible minorities, but they're out there. Koreans, with their fine restaurants and trilingual fluency, make up the largest and most troubling of these groups. Also present in growing numbers are Latin Americans and Southeast-Asians (as with everywhere else in the world, where you find one, you'll find the other), who, like their Korean fore-comers, are all too prone to establish good and inexpensive eateries offering strange things in generous servings.

Where it will all lead, no one can say.

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