Oniko's Travel Diary:
The Three Mountains

(August 5-31, 1998)

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Wednesday-Thursday, August 5th-6th, 1998
I'm off! (In more ways than one!)
The trip started simple enough, no problems getting to the airport or finding my plane; of course, I did get the once over with the metal detecting wand because the security guard didn't believe me when I told him my boots had zippers in them (so I can slip them on and off easily, a must-have skill in Japan). But other than that, no problems.
It was an eleven hour trip, and I hadn't slept the night previous as I was fussing over what I was taking... and, unfortunately, my flight left during the day, so I got no sleep the whole trip. Allow me to explain; I have a real problem sleeping during the day... in fact, I sometimes sleep in my closet, because the lack of light lets me sleep in on mornings. Now, when you fly to Japan from California, you're traveling in the direction opposite to the Earth's rotation, and keeping pace with whatever's in the sky when you leave. Leave California at night, and it's night all the way. Leave during the day, as I did, and it's a long sleepless flight. With bad movies.
Needless to say, I was really starting to need sleep by the time we reached Narita Airport. So I dragged myself to customs, hoping to breeze through and head into Tokyo for a good night's rest... but no. I must have looked like a trouble-maker, because I had a rather young security guard direct me to -- carefully -- open all my bags and show him what was in them; then he had me take off my boots so he could search those, and then he patted me down (just barely missing the hand grenades I was smuggling into the country!). At one point he thought he had me, until a older and wiser security guard pointed out that the plant he found in one of my bags was by no means marijuana... it was, in fact, some sage I brought with me. Oy.
Sorry, ladies... Capsule Hotels are for men only. I'm not sure what single women are expected to do if caught out late at night; then again, maybe they're not expected to be out late at night. To read more about Capsule Hotels, Click here!

After that useless experience, I exchanged some of my American dollars for Japanese yen (but not too much!) and hopped on a train for Shinjuku, where I had on a previous trip found a 4,000 yen (about $30) 'capsule' hotel. Capsule hotels are the infamous "dog kennel hotels", as they have been described by American newspapers in the past; their 'rooms' are 3 feet by 3 feet by 7 feet... just big enough to lie down in and go to sleep. It's a cheap alternative when you've missed the last train for the night (public transportation in Tokyo stops between 1am and 7am every night), or when you're too damn drunk to take a train (it happens a LOT in Shinjuku). Of course, you get more than just a place to crash... each cubicle includes a radio and television, and the hotels often have a community vending room for food and drink, and sometimes a hot tub and shower area. Bathrooms, of course, are communal, though I'm sure attendants have to clean up all sorts of interesting messes in the cubicles when the now-sober businessmen leave in the mornings. But basically, you get a box to sleep in... and that's what I needed right then.
It's probably a good thing I was so tired; it prevented me from panicking when plans went awry. I couldn't find the capsule hotel I remembered. Either it moved, died, or I'm just stupid... I haven't yet figured out which. And I needed to crash. So I started to walk the streets in a pattern, occasionally attempting to ask for a hotel with my broken Japanese. After hopelessly confusing two or three people, I found a hotel -- the Central Hotel -- and the fact it wasn't cheap no longer mattered; I needed sleep. Besides, it would be just for one night. So I bit the bullet, paid way too much for way too little, dumped my stuff in the room and went back out just long enough to get some decent food (I was on an airplane for eleven hours, after all)... then I became comatose for several hours.

On to August 7th, 1998

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All illustrations in these pages are copyright (c)2002 Garth Haslam, and shouldn't be used without his permission. To contact him Click Here!