Monday, October 01, 2007

Capuseru Hoteru Asukasa

(Or, カプセルホテル、浅草, if you have Japanese fonts installed!)

Thanks to an excellent bilingual map of Tokyo[1] I knew exactly where to find the capsule hotel, and even which exit to leave Asakusa metro station. Check in was a little more difficult - I'm not used to having to go to a vending machine to pay for my night's stay (I swear to you - an actual vending machine that actually vends an actual ticket that you actually take to the receptionist to exchange for a locker key).

I didn't go out much the first night - I mainly walked around Asakusa, trying to position myself so that David could find me on the webcam:

[Webcam on the cheap - I'm the orange splodge by the phone box!]

By 10 o clock I was attempting my first Japanese bath, and my word was it hot. 40 degrees C sounds quite warm, a few degrees above body temperature but copeable with. Until you try it for the first time. I didn't get in any further than my knees. I've jumped in post-sauna, ice-cold plunge pools with greater alacrity than this, and I don't particularly like the cold. To every lobster I've ever eaten - I'm sorry.

The panoramic baths were only available to men. For some reason, the women's bathing arrangement's didn't involve huge floor to ceiling windows :) There was a common balcony where tea and coffee were available. It made a nice perch to watch the city from.

The heat and journey by this point were enough to make me feel like some capsule time was in order. And that's why you're here, right - to see photos of those crazy capsules. Well wait no longer dear reader:

The women's floor bathroom. I may be wrong but I'm assuming the chaps don't get flowers and a hairdryer.

Women are assigned a single floor of the nine storey hotel. Not many capsule hotels cater for women at all, as they exist mainly for the convenience of salarymen who've missed the last train home after a night on the sake. Apparently they aren't great company.

On Saturday night, the women's floor was camaraderie personified. Japanese grandmothers visiting grandchildren whose apartments are too small to take guests and lone female travelers sharing stashes of sweets and being sweetly considerate about noise.

The capsules themselves were somewhat hivelike. I do think this is what the first spaceships to colonise other planets will look like. I've always thought that the living conditions on Red Dwarf were much more plausible than the ones on the Enterprise.

The capsule interior feels surprisingly spacious - there was room to sit and read, and to watch some Simpsons on the laptop. The radio unit doubles as a handy shelf and the dimmable light makes things very cosy indeed. Nothing about the experience felt in any way strange, and the capsule was easily big enough for someone of my height (5'10"). I've never slept so well on my first night anywhere.

The photos of the inside of the capsule don't do it any justice, but I have some video coming up that will show you a capsule in all its glory. I'm off to explore Sendai.

[1] Tokyo City Atlas: A Bilingual Guide, Kidansha International, 2004. ISBN-13: 978-4-7700-2503-6. I got mine from Stanfords.

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