Japan is one place I have put a lot of thought into. I was expecting weird and my first night there did not disappoint!
So I arrive in Tokyo, I activate my JR Rail pass jump on a train and head for my capsule. It is about 11pm and I’m tired, I just want to get into bed and sleep! I walk out of Ueno Metro station and thankfully my Chinese sim card has a little data left and Japan allows me to use it at a ridiculous cost. But so long as I get to my bed, I don’t mind. After crossing 2 roads by waiting for the man to go green and walking across the white stripes, I have already forgotten the carnage of Chinese roads, similar to those of South East Asia. The alley my capsule is on is littered with Ramen restaurants closing up for the night and gaming arcades. But not with 2p machines and fruit machines like back home. Japanese addicts are pouring cups full of ball bearings into some vertical pinball machine. Giant robots and cartoon characters decorate the walls and signs with the Japanese lettering giving them a more authentic feel than the Namco and Atari we have in England, this is the home of Namco and Atari.
The capsule is inconspicuous in the bright lights of this alley, so much so I walked past twice. The guy on the desk doesn’t speak the best English, but I feel as though I am getting by. I leave my bags in the luggage area, put my shoes in the shoe lockers. All seems fairly normal, then he gives me another locker key and a pair of shorts and a shirt, apparently you can only wear hotel dress in the hotel. He then points me to the changing room… so I go to the changing room with my new attire. I start getting undressed, not questioning it, just wanting my bed. I then notice the guys changing around me are all taking their underwear off. I guess you don’t wear smalls with the hotel dress either. So when in Rome, the pants come off, and the yellow shorts and tie up shirt come on. I put my clothes and valuables in the locker and head back to reception, the guy still hasn’t told me which floor, which room, which bed etc I am staying in. So I tell him I want to go to bed now, which room am I staying in. With no response or hesitation, he leads me around the corner to another changing room with an entrance to an onsen. It was as if I had asked for the onsen. I ask for my room one more time, at which point he points towards the door leading to the onsen… At this point I give up. I’m tired, but if it means I get to go to bed, I will have a bath.
This is where I realise why everyone was getting all naked under their prison outfits. you leave your top and shorts in the changing room and take your naked ass into the baths. But there is etiquette in onsens. You have to be clean before you get in, so unlike the shitty showers you get at swimming pools in the UK, you need to have a full wash. Around the edges of this room are washing stations, kind of like a hair dressers, you get a mirror, a small stool to sit on, shower gel, shampoo, tooth brushes, razor blades, flannels, ear buds everything you could possibly need. So this is just a room full of grown men washing themselves, with non of the self confidence issues that you get in the west. It’s totally normal to be walking around naked. At first I am a little put off. People making eye contact with me, when my is Johnson on full show, felt a little awkward. But after 5 minutes you don’t even think about it. I was strutting around the place like it was normal.
So after I have cleaned my self to the receptionists standards he gives me a tag for my bed. 5th floor, bed 521. Finally. A picture tells 1000 words, so heres a photo of my capsule…
These places are where business men stay as they are cheaper than hotels, it certainly was submerging my self into Japanese culture and I would 100% stay in a capsule again.
Bring on the rest of Japan!