This is a travel blog for desktop travelers and other ramblers who want to know the world just a little bit better.

Right now I am living in Quetzaltenango, Guatemala where I'll be settled for a while. Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Capsule Hotel - Prisoner #3075

It is Monday June 28, my first full day in Tokyo. Mika and her friend, Chie, have left Tokyo for a one night massage and yoga retreat. My plan is to spend the whole day in Tokyo and spend the night at a capsule hotel. I leave the apartment at 12 PM. I first have lunch at my favorite udon shop, then walk, ride the subway, and shop until 8 PM. The crowded sidewalks, humidity, heat, and weight of my bag finally do me in. My last stop is at a Kaiten sushi place near my hotel. Kaiten sushi is self-serve. The sushi passes on a conveyor belt and you grab what you want. When you are finished they count your plates to see what you owe. They quality is usually low, but it is cheap (about $1.50 for two pieces) and fun.

Here is a silly Kaiten sushi video - not for the easily offended

I start talking with the guy next to me. Taiga has been visiting his parents in Tokyo and will soon take the train back home. He has already eaten eight plates but is not satisfied with the meal. He invites me to go with him to a nicer sushi place. We end up each getting a set menu plate, and everything is really good. It is a fun, interesting evening just hanging out with a complete stranger.

He insists on paying. I refuse four times - my max is almost always twice - even getting money out. But Taiga is insistent. I never fight over bills. My father and Grandparents used to always do it, and as a kid I thought it was strange. If I offer to pay I don't want the other party making a fuss. If someone still insists on paying after my two time refusal, they are stuck with the bill. In Israel, I once picked up this hitchhiker who ended being a broke traveler from Chile. I treated him to lunch. So maybe this dinner with Taiga is the karmic universe staying balanced. He does accept my offer of a Starbucks coffee before his train.

Finally, at 10 PM I enter the men's only hotel and put my shoes in a key locker. I pay ¥2500 US (27.50). It is usually ¥4000 (US $44), but Mika found a coupon on their website. I am given a key on a plastic bracelet for my locker. My locker is #3075. My bed number is also #3075. I am also given a pair of standard issue green pajamas. The clerk takes my shoes key.

On the same floor as the front desk are the locker/changing room, computers with free Internet, a television area with sofas, chairs and tables, two massage chairs, vending machines selling drinks and ice cream, the public bathing area, and a display of items for sale that someone may be short like socks and dress shirts. The beds are on the second floor. When I check in I see seven other guests lounging around in their green pajamas. It feels like I am in a cushy federal prison.
I go to locker #3075 and change into my pajamas. I leave my things in the locker and strap on my plastic bracelet. After sweating all day in Tokyo, the first thing I need to do is take a shower. The bathing room is like a traditional Japanese onsen. The hotel provides towels and every toiletry necessary except for toothpaste. I use Internet for about an hour and go upstairs to bed.

I find #3075. The capsule bed is a single mattress. I have about two inches from my head and feet from hitting the wall. If I sit cross-legged on the mattress my head is just about at the ceiling. I climb in my capsule and pull down the shade. On the right side next to my head is a light switch, a radio, an alarm clock and a television switch. I flip on the tv, and it is fuzzy Japanese porn. I try pressing some buttons to change the channel, but they just dim the lights and change the volume. I then figure out that behind the tv there is a coin box and a sign in Japanese that I am guessing says 6 hrs. for ¥300 (US$3.30). I turn off the fuzzy porn and light and go to sleep.

Being in the capsule felt very similar to the bunk bed style sleeping cars on a train with the curtain closed. You do not see anyone, but you can feel that strangers are near. In the morning, I buy underwear because I forgot mine. For breakfast hey serve toast with squeeze butter and jelly with coffee and tea. Everyone gets booted out at 10 AM.On Tuesday again I spend all day walking and shopping. And again the heat, humidity, bag weight and mega-city crowds wipe me out. My feet hurt. I would love to pass out. However, it is only 8 PM. The Japan World Cup match starts in three hours.

This is my first foray into video. Hopefully they will improve as I go along.

Crossing a busy street for my final subway ride of the day.

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