Asakusa, Tokyo, Japan

Japan…. All I really have to go on is Lost in Translation and The Fast & The Furious Tokyo Drift. Oh and Memoirs of a Geisha, but i’m guessing it’s changed somewhat in the last 60 years. However  for as long as I can remember it’s always been high on my all time visit list.

First stop Tokyo. Even the map of Tokyo scares me. The sheer size of it is incredible – Population: 12.5 million, Size: 1359(ish) square miles.

The other thing that scares me are the prices:

(You probably won’t flinch at this, but all economists can tell you coming from Thai Baht to Japanese Yen wasn’t the brightest ideas for my bank balance)

(And yes, these are not the most essential of items, but they did outrage me the most)

A Big Mac Meal: 650y (£5ish)
An Apple: 180y (£1.50)
6 Slices of bread in Seven Eleven: 199y (£1.65)
Postcard & Stamp: 350y (£3)
My Capsule Hotel: 1500y (£14)

So the Capsule Hotel. Had to be done didn’t it. I was lucky to find one as they normally only let men stay in them, and are normally reserved for when you miss they last train at midnight after too much sake and karaoke.

Rather than being inside an MRI scan or a shoe box, it’s actually disappointingly spacious. I have a mini TV and everything. Maybe i’ve been on too many long distance trains of late but it’s exactly like the little 2nd class births you overnight in. Just without the rocking motion.  That said, I did spend the previous night on a bench in Haneda Airport Arrivals Hall (it was midnight/ I couldn’t be bothered and taxi prices were out of the question). Although it turned out to be the best 9h i’ve ever had. They were so friendly they almost rolled me out a futon, and even played dreamy lullaby type music all night. Free wifi too. I swear it was nicer than most hostels.

It matters not that I cannot afford food, clothes, going out etc. The fun is to be had just walking around gawping at oddities. Here is what blew my mind today:

  • They have the following restaurants: Ninja restaurant (served by Ninja’s) Cat restaurant (where you sit and play with cats – not eat them, just to clarify), Maid restaurant (served by made up dolly girls in French maid outfits.) According to Justin Lee Collins and the Japan special he did they also have a Monkey restaurant (where the waiters are monkeys) but that’s in a far out town North of Tokyo.
  • What else. Magazines and books that all have the spine on the right. I honestly stood in awe of this for 5 mins.
  • Space age heated toilet seats, and a button that imitates the flushing sound but doesn’t actually flush. Why would you want/need this?!

My capsule take off/check in was at 3pm, so I spent a few hours wandering around Asakusa in the sunshine. It’s perfect Autumn weather that I haven’t felt since Santiago Chile, and is gorgeous.  You can pretty much pick any one spot (i.e the benches in the gardens outside of Sensoji Temple) and watch this parallel world go by.  I wish i’d made a list of all of the curious stuff I saw. Most striking though, and the stats back me up here (Japan has an aging population, disproportionate to the annual birth rate. And not related, but interesting –  a 99% literacy rate!) Anyway it was the number of, shall we say, older people around. The lady in my capsule hotel was about 200 years old, and the absolute sweetest. Despite her no English/My no Japanese apart from”Arigato?” (Thank you) she managed to bring me endless cups of lemon tea and even a sausage roll for no apparent reason.  (The place is a bit of a Scooby Doo hotel, which technically makes her the creepy old cartaker) but I loved her none the less.

I don’t think I mentioned it at the time, but it reminded me of something that happened at the Bolivia/Peru Copacabana border saga. Amoungst all of our winging and hysteria at having to walk miles through the protests between those random villages, one Japanese girl, despite being tiny and carrying her own backpack, stopped to carry the stuff of an older Korean man. Us brats were all baffled by this but she explained it as a kind of “respect your elders” thing, which everyone Toyko seems to live by.

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An.an.tas.in : The Anantasin is the name of a shipwreck just of the coast of the Sensi Parasise, Mae Haad Bay, Koh Tao, Thailand. It’s one of my many favorite places.

Lit.tle: Just because it’s cute.

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