So last night I arrived at the Asakusa Capsule Hostel Tokyo. There also happens to be another Capsule Hostel in the same area with pretty much the same name. This one was close to the subway station, and cost 2700. But I saved 500 yen (about 7 dollars) by walking like half a kilometre down the road, turning at a couple of intersections, into a dodgy part of town. Kinda regretted doing that. Anyways, only a few hours late, I made it to the capsule hostel. First you purchase a ticket for a capsule from a vending machine. Then you write your name on the ticket, and give it to the counter staff right behind you. Then you put your shoes in a coin locker, and then give the counter staff your shoe coin locker key. Finally, they exchange the ticket and key for your capsule key. Seems like an intense process, but who am I to judge.
The capsule was tiny. I mean literally, tiny tiny. I thought where I was staying in Osaka was tiny, but really it’s a capsule inside a small room. This place in Tokyo was just a capsule, with a small door closed with magnets. The door doesn’t even have a lock, instead being a small 15cm wide locker to put your passport and what not, and then another coin locker down stairs to put your larger bags. The room was about 1.3m at its widest, about 1m at the narrow end, and when I lay down, with my feet touching the back wall, my hands would touch the door. I’m 165cm tall, so if you’re a giant (anything over 6 feet), then good luck with that.
Did manage to have a good chat with some people though, talked to a couple of sisters from Bristol England, and some guy from Germany. Turns out that teaching English is a pretty popular career, and a good way to get to explore the world, though you’ll never get rich out of it. The main reason why I stayed so long talking to them was so I didn’t have to sleep in that damn capsule, but eventually I did.
Knowing a bit of Japanese is helping. I saw a sign that said “Shawaa 9am until” which means you have until 9am to have a shower. I mean seems straight forward, but you have to turn the word Shawaa from Katakana, the word “Ma-de” from Hirigana, and then know that Ma-de means until. Anyways, the shower experience in Japan relies on you sitting on a bucket in front of a mirror scrubbing yourself next to other people doing the same thing. You scrub yourself clean and then when you’re done, you sit in the big communal bath not to get clean, but to relax. I was terribly fond of the public hairs floating around, but Cest La Vie!
I checked out early from the Capsule, and headed towards the Tsukiji Fish Market. It’s a few subway stops from Asakusa down to Shimbashi, which is near Shidome which is near Tsukiji. While it seems like a lot of distance, it’s about a 1km walk from the train station past a whole bunch of skyscrappers. In the middle of all the skyscrappers is a massive bustling wholesale fish market, the largest fish market in the world. There’s a sign out the front gate saying where things are. Man I wish I saw that on the way in. Instead I just walked through the front gate, and then proceeded to not die by being run over by things. You can’t really comprehend how busy it was, with all these little vans, and big trucks, and forklifts, and people, all moving around with their boxes of fish and vegetables and fruit. I arrived at 7am and the place was winding down, yet it was still massive. Aparently if you start at 5am, that’s when the real madness strikes. Anyways, I walked past the vegetable wholesalers, and then got lost by the industrial chilling units. I think it takes a certain state of mind to say “Hey, here you are in a foreign city, lost in a massive fish market, but don’t panic. You’re not dead, and you can just keep walking until you see a road”, which is what I did. After about half an hour, I managed to escape finally.
After this, it was only about 8.30, so I decided to head to the Tokyo Imperial Palace East Garden. I tried to go there last time with Kathryn, but it was closed because we went on a Friday or something. This time I was prepared, and came on a day I thought it would be open. Turns out because it’s the end of the year, it was closed. Ace.
So I headed to Shinjuku. Shinjuku is a pretty big part of Tokyo, and is right on the opposite side of the Yamanote Ring Line. From there I walked down al lthe side streets, and found myself a game parlour. After giving a drum playing game a go (and doing pretty well, I can hit the coloured light as good as the next guy), I saw a Gundam Robot Simulator. First I went over to the pilot station and inserted 300 yen. Nothing happened. Then I touched the screen, and faked my way through some more screens to then put in 300 more yen and get a pilot card. Then you head into the Robot Simulator. If you don’t know much about Gundam, they are big giant robots that you can control. So you sit inside this capsule, with a projector above your head which creates this massivve curved view. There are two arm controls, and two foot pedals. You insert your pilot card, and 500 yen, and then the battle begins. The controls are much like that of a tank, move one arm forward to move one side of the machine forward, and move the other arm forward to move the other side. Move both arms forward to go forward straight. One pedal is to jump using a rocket pack, and the other is to dash forward with the rocket pack. Seriously, was great fun, and you get to keep the pilot card as a memory of your time.
By this time, it was about 12pm, so I had six hours to kill. I went to Akihabara. Akihabara, or Electric Town, is a place fun of electronic stores, and Geek culture. All the stores are surprisingly different, in terms of one floor will be cameras and mobile phones, and the next will be pornography DVDs. But be rest assured, Japanese censors have the good measure to blur out any of the particular detail, so it’s sort of like watching people have sex behind a perspex screen. Yet weirdly, the videos of people pooing aren’t censored at all. I don’t understand why. Some of the videos contain girls who are only 14 dancing around in their underwear, and would surely be considered illegal in any other Western country. I don’t understand why it’s not illegal here.
I did manage to get my good friend Kelvin a gift – a Vagina in a Can. It’s called an O-ne Hole. Have fun with that mate. Speaking of things people have fun with, also found the famed used panty vending machine. Jesus, why would you pay money for this?
After that, it was on to more electronic stores. Seriously, I’ve seen more digital cameras than you’ve had hot dinners. Once again I tried to buy a mobile phone, and again they wouldn’t sell it to me. Damn you Japan! Why will you not sell me a mobile phone! By this time I was running a bit low on cash, so I popped into a 7-11 dairy. They all have international ATMs that can take money out from Visa cards. Awesome! Then it was off to McDonalds to get a Small Grape Fanta and two Chicken Shakas, Cheese Flavour. Slowly my Japanese is getting better, and I can order some things from the McDonalds menu. Perhaps that’s not the best way to measure Japanese, but I’m happy with myself, and it means I can eathot stuff for a change. I’m sick of eating weird pastry things from 7-11.
I did manage to go into a random store called Jeansmate, a 24 hour Jeans store. Because there’s a whole bunch of New Years sales at the moment, one thing I saw was a whole outfit being sold as a bundle. Now this is a great idea, and something I think would really take off. Instead of buying just a top, you buy a jacket, a top, some shirts, maybe a scarf or a beanie, and sometimes pants. I even managed to ask the shop keeper “watashi no sizu wa, nan desu ka” or what size am I? She said Large, which seems reasonable considering all Japanese people can fit in my pocket. Anyways, I bought this outfit in a box for 10,000 yen, reduced down from 40,000 yen. I haven’t tried it on yet, I hope it all fits.
From here, it was time to head back to Tokyo Station. Akihabara Station was madness, but made it through, and caught the Yamanote Line two stops to Tokyo. Tokyo Station was another level of madness, but 24 platforms later, I was waiting for my Shinkansen back to Osaka for the night.
I did manage to get back to my hostel a while later, and talked to a really interesting American guy called Casper, like the ghost. He’s in the National Guard, and was just in Afghanistan. It was interesting hearing his views on the war, and his experiences in Osaka cheering up his spirits. Seriously, Osaka is such a friendly place, I highly recommend it, even over Tokyo.