I arrived at Tokyo airport yesterday afternoon, and found an ATM to get some Japanese Yen. The maths took a while, as I tried to figure how much Y10,000 is worth. I didn’t want to get it wrong, and withdraw ten bucks worth, or try for a couple of thousand by mistake either! I am reasonably confident that I have about $400 worth of Yen with me now.
I found the bus that I needed to catch, and bought a ticket with a couple of minutes to spare, and travelled for a couple of hours through the centre of Tokyo and out the other side.
At the bus station in Shin Yurigaoka I called Connie, who had offered me accomodation with her family, and eventually met her husband Kazuyuki at the station, and took the metro with him to their home in the suburbs.
There I met Connie, and their four children, three boys, aged 12, 9 and 6, and a girl aged 3. We went out for dinner, the young daughter happily chatting to me on the way in the back of the car in a confusing mixture of Japanese and English. She had me laughing delightedly, as she seemed quite surprised at my lack of understanding. She tried teaching me the Japanese words for the colours of the traffic lights we passed, but I struggled to remember the words later on.
So this morning I was wide awake at 3am, body-clock still on Hawaii-time, and did some planning for the day. After an early breakfast with Kazuyuki, I gathered some stuff for the day, and headed into the city.
Tokyo’s railway system is mind-boggling, and although the section of system I was on seemed relatively easy to navigate, the ticketing system is a minefield of possibilities, with several different companies seeming to offer several different options and services. The complicated diagram in the picture below is just one route, not the whole system. I think!
Eventually I made it to the city, just in time to meet Kazuyuki for lunch. He showed me a nearby capsule hotel and he tried to book me in for the evening. Oh dear, everything had been going so well. Kazuyuki was too honest when asked if I had any tattoos! Unfortunately I found that a goal achieved earlier was now in conflict with this goal at this particular hotel. Kazuyuki’s only possible explanation was that maybe they had had trouble with tattoed gang members previously!
According to the list of restrictions, it would also be an issue if I turned up “deeply drunked”!
So we got directions to another capsule hotel nearby, where the possibility that I may be a tattoed thug didn’t seem to be an issue, but my lack of ability to speak Japanese would be. However, Kazuyuki saved the day by translating the many rules, and left his mobile number with the manager in case I proved to be too troublesome!
For the rest of the afternoon I wandered around happily soaking up the atmosphere of the city.
There are some amazing sites, and some completely unexplainable ones. I imagine that I wandered most of the afternoon with a look of puzzled amusement on my face. The huge array of schoolgirl and nurse outfits was eyebrow-raising!
I took a look in a few electronics stores, where I found myself in gadget heaven. The range of technology was fantastic, but the prices seemed a bit higher than they had been in the US, so my purchase of a new computer will probably have to wait a while yet.
Eventually I managed to tear myself away and headed to my accomodation where I tried out the tiny cubicle, and made use of the communal baths and sauna. The capsule hotel is for men only, no women allowed, and the choice of stations on the tiny TV in the cubicle reflected this, with channel 21 offering “adult-oriented content”!
I headed back out for a bite to eat, and a wander around gazing at the bright neon lights. I strayed into a video games arcade which spread out over six floors, filled with an array of amazing games I have never seen before. Somehow I ended up in the extremely busy red light district, and must have stood out like a sore thumb, as I seemed to get a lot of invites into little clubs hidden away down narrow staircases.
The whole place really comes alive and is so vibrant at night, and I could have walked around for hours. It is quite fascinating and so different from most places that I have experienced. Eventually though, I headed “home” for an early evening. I am still trying to get over a last lingering bit of jetlag, and this morning’s early start, I think.
And so now it’s time to complete the goal, by sleeping here tonight. I might just check out Channel 21 again though first!
The thing about Tokyo, for me, was I never, ever forgot for even a moment I was in a foreign country (unlike, say, Germany). I’d love to go back – enjoy your stay!