Since Jim has arrived we have been everywhere and seen pretty much everything the main island of Japan has to offer. Jim has had fun and I have had fun showing him everything there is to see and do. Jim thinks I am a good tour guide and has invented an index to rate my effectiveness as a guide. This index is called, TIT or "Trust in Tyson". Right now my TIT is very big and thus, we are both quite happy.
In his week here, he has seen Tokyo, Mt.Fuji (we actually saw it from the train, I might have been happier about this and went kind of nuts upon seeing it), Hiroshima and the Flower Festival held there, Himeji and the castle, Osaka and Den Den Town, and lots of Kyoto. He has been more places than most Japanese people and has enjoyed most of it.
Now it's time for a fun story.
Yesterday, started like any other day. We got up, got on a train, and went to Himeji. Though it was raining pretty good, we saw Himeji castle and the surrounding areas. We were also going to go to Kobe but to be honest, there isn't a ton of stuff to see or do there other than shop and Jim isn't too into that. We then went to Osaka.
We went to Osaka with one big goal and that was to see Den Den Town, the electronics section of Osaka. One very important thing happened at Den Den Town, I managed to show Jim that he did not want to be a McRefugee. Japan has an odd problem at the moment. Almost all of the McDonalds here are now open twenty-four hours a day and as long as you buy something, you are free to stay as long as you like. This has given rise to a growing group of people that will buy one coffee (free refills) or one hamburger and then proceed to sleep in the dining area over night. For some people, hotels are too expensive, as are internet cafes, but almost everyone can afford 100 yen for a coffee. These people have been labeled, McRefugees. I had told Jim about this odd trend and he was intrigued; neither of us could deny that it wasn't a bad idea for someone that might otherwise be homeless to do and Jim had even thought that that would make for a fine documentary topic. Yesterday, while in McDonalds, we sat by a man that was definitely a permanent resident in Ronald's house and Jim realized that maybe relying on the Golden Arches for residential status was a bad idea. Glad I was able to overt disaster there.
As the day went on, Jim and I formulated a plan. We had tossed about the idea of finding and staying in a capsule hotel that night and then getting an early start in Kyoto or Nara the following day. Since it was raining and was supposed to do the same the next day, we decided not to go to Nara, but instead chose Kyoto. Therefore, it was time to find a capsule hotel and Jim again placed his trust in me to hunt one down.
Explaining a capsule hotel is somewhat difficult. They are very cheap, one night only costs about $25.00 and there is really only one ground rule for staying in a capsule hotel, women are not allowed. This lack of feminine order leads to several slightly unsettling occurrences. Picture your uncle, your whacky-kind-of-black-sheep-of-the-family uncle, the one that doesn't shave, smokes two packs a day, and has never been known to turn down a drink, even after the liver and kidney transplants. Now, make that uncle Asian looking and put him in slightly oversized pinstriped pajamas with soothing color tones. Next, multiply your uncle by two hundred and place them in an odd hotel. In this hotel, you will have a common room with a TV and on the television will be the first Spiderman movie playing in Japanese. About twenty of your uncles will be enjoying the web-slinging wonder while sipping on a beer and conversing with each other. Some of their pajama tops will be unbuttoned with a middle-aged gut hanging out and others will be lounging with one hand partially down the front of their pants while the other holds a smoldering cigarette. There is a public bathroom and shower area and a communal sink area for doing your hair and brushing your teeth. Each hotel guest also has a locker for all of their belongings and clothes and the locker room is monitored by the watchful eye of a security camera. When it is time to go to sleep, you step through a pair of doors that would look more fitting in a meat packing plant and into sleepy land. Here, it is pretty quiet and dark. You have now entered a honeycomb of sleeping chambers stacked two high and one after another. Some of them are dark and empty, others are emitting a warm glow of light from behind a woven screen pulled down over the sleeping chamber's entrance. Occasionally, you will hear one of your uncles’ farts or burps but other than the random bodily outburst, you are enveloped in an eerie calm.
Jim and I's capsules were next to each other in the back aisle on the top tier of chambers. Jim being the spry half-monkey person he is, had no problem swinging himself into his chamber. I on the other hand, took a slightly more careful and planned approach to ninja'ing my way into my pod; big feet and tiny steps make for treacherous going in the dim light of slumbering slobs.
On a Freudian level, I can see why men like capsule hotels. Climbing into the sleeping chamber is probably similar to lounging in a rectangular-ish plastic womb. Each chamber is floored by a mattress, has one pillow, and one blanket. There are also several nooks for wallets and whatnot, and each chamber has a clock radio built into the wall and a nine inch television built into the ceiling, just like mother's womb. When we were babies, we needed the nourishment of proteins and vitamins, now that we are men, we need porn. In anticipation of this craving, each television has free porn beamed directly to it. Free. Porn. Knowing that most men have the attention span of small furry animals, each scene of carnal frolic is limited to ten minutes before changing starlets and studs preparing to embark on a new, lustful adventure. Though it may seem like a know all of this information about the porn channel first-hand, all I have told you was gleamed from the whispered conversations between several of the slightly creepy uncles......really. Free. Porn.
Though we were not able to speak for fear of waking up a grumpy uncle, Jim and I were able to communicate with each other using our Nintendo DS Lites. It was kind of like being in a plastic prison and hashing out a new, high tech form of communication between the inmates. It worked very well and we were able to figure out what time to wake up the following morning. After making our escape plans we left our prison Gameboy chat room and were each left to our own devices to while away the time.
After not watching porn, I decided it was time to go to sleep so that I could be fresh the following day. What new adventures awaited Jim and I? Where would we go and who else would I end up playing tour guide for? Only the future knew the answers to these questions. What I did know was that I felt rather at home in my little plastic pod; it was warm and comfy and within minutes my snoring joined the symphony of bodily acoustics singing out from my uncles surrounding me.
So you can get an idea of the size of these amazing sleeping pods, I have included a couple of pictures:
The pod without me.
And the pod with me. These things are probably not for the claustrophobic.