Saturday, January 2, 2016
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.