Saturday, January 2, 2016

Omisoka capsule

I returned from Los Angeles on a late flight.  Tokyo was dead.  I was surprised.  I had expected a different kind of New Year's Eve revelry than Kyoto, something more like New York.  Maybe around Shibuya there was more life.  Not in Shinbashi.

I checked into my little hotel, or rather, my little room in an average-sized hotel.  When most people think of a "capsule hotel" images of Japanese businessmen tucked into a wall of beds usually comes to mind, something like a morgue for the living.  First Cabin Atagoyama thankfully was not that.  It was a stylish, compact accommodation that hovers somewhere between a ship cabin and a college dormitory.  

After getting my room key and a brief explanation in very good English about where things were and how to use them I went up to the Men only floor.  Yes, the floors are segregated.  No canoodling here; this is not a "love hotel".

I couldn't help but notice the similarity to a storage facility: a map to locate your "cabin" was just beyond the touch-key sliding glass door.   Rather than a door there was a rigid, accordion curtain, like the room dividers you might find in a school or hospital.  This slid open to expose the entire room.  I wondered why they offered earplugs when I was checking in.  Now I knew.  I was really too tired, hungry and dirty to care.

I checked my watch.  30 minutes till midnight.  I freshened up and dashed out to find a place to get a bite to eat and a drink to ring in the new year.  The streets were dark and quiet.  Down one street a massage girl came onto me.  She seemed to be the only one out, the only one open for business.

I found a warm, well-lit cafe and sat down for a beer and sushi.  The waitress rang a Salvation Army Santa-style bell at midnight and poured a round of sake for everyone.  At last, I thought, things are going to pick up.  Alas, after the sake and a polite exchange of "akemashite omedeto" nothing more happened, the energy remained just above the lowest setting.

I drank my beer and the free sake and left, the promise of a bed and some sleep too great a lure.

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