Just kidding, I wasn't trapped. But I did take advantage of an extra night on my lonesome in Tokyo when Francois headed back to Manila a day earlier than I did. I decided that you only live once (there's that term again, durnit) and why not try a capsule hotel? So I checked out Agoda, found Shinjuku Kuyakushomae (right? Say that 10x supafast), paid the equivalent of PHP 1,200 (or like USD 30) and got myself booked for one night.
Shinjuku Kuyakushomae is a bit tricky to find (near a postal office in Shinjuku) and takes some doing to spot it since it's not a typical hotel at all. If you're looking for a hotel lobby... don't. The reception of this capsule hotel is on the 4th or 5th floor so you get into an elevator, wondering what the hell you're getting yourself into.
Once you get off the elevator, you're in a madhouse of lockers, people and tons of bags. Be warned that you can't check in AT ALL until the check-in time so you have to surrender your bags in the lobby, unless you want to lug it around Tokyo. Also be warned, the lobby person is kind of snotty and so not Japanese (Japanese people are the politest people in the world. They will say sorry to you for you bumping into them).
Once you do get to check in, you get a key to put your shoes in and a little care package of pajamas and slippers. For the love of God, embrace that kimono pajamas like anything because I swear to you, it was one of the most comfortable things I ever tried on for sleeping! (And yes, I stole it. So there, snotty concierge person).
If you're a female, then you also have to lean over the counter so the concierge can whisper the access code into your ear in a whisper. I thought this was super weird at first but really, this is the best thing for your security and peace of mind if you're a woman. Unlike the men's floors which go from 5th to 7th, people can move in freely (including women, if you really wanted to). But the women's floor is totally secure with the bathrooms and capsules strictly for females only.
I admit to a little trepidation every time the elevator opened into each floor and all I saw were men walking around in their bathrobes like cult members in plain white surroundings. I was thinking "this seems... super crowded. And sort of like Heaven if God didn't want to interior design."
And then it opened to the women's floor, decorated in bamboo with muted themes and looking like a spa. And my first thought was "suck it, men."
You get a little place where you can store your bags (it basically looks like a hotel storage) before you head to your assigned bunk. And then you climb into your little castle and it looks like this:
It's surprisingly NOT claustrophic! I mean, granted, I'm 5 feet flat but even someone who's like 5'6" could do okay (no supermodels in this establishment). There's a ton of space that another me could probably fit in comfortably side by side to me. It's also completely a bed. Now if you're like me and you wouldn't say no to a bedroom with a floor made entirely out of bed, then do go and book a capsule. There's a teeny tiny little rack to fit smaller items, a radio and an alarm clock (handy since there are no windows in this place at all). Unfortunately, everything is in Japanese. So challenge your tech skills and decipher the little things on your own.
Once you're down instagramming and taking photos of your little palace, go to the bathroom. I tell you, Japanese bathrooms are a thing of art. I went inside the bathroom, a bit wary of locker room showers and entered into a little luxury palace. In the sink area, you have rows of every single kind of body product and some I didn't even recognize. Exfoliant? Body scrub? Body wash? Body thingamajiggy? The Japanese obviously are very concerned about your skin regimen. And of course, you have the regular normal stuff of blow dryer, cotton buds, shampoo, conditioner, soap, everything.
And then the shower areas are another awesome thing. It's so much roomier than it looks. Your shower stall literally has another room that serves as your tiny little hallway/entryway/doorway/place to store your clothes. And the toilets have all the important things like the flush, the little button to mask the shocking sound of your pee, the deodorizer, the butthole washer and other washers (there are so many) and all the wonderful assorted things that you never thought you needed but realize you do.
When you tear yourself away from the bathroom and your peaceful little capsule bunk, the rec areas are pretty amazing. There's a restaurant and the wonderful, wonderful vendo machines of Japan. You can get softdrinks, coffee, wash your laundry, get ice, get ramen, anything in those little boxes.
If you do get a chance, DO BOOK THE CAPSULE HOTEL. If not to feel like a thrifty traveler, then book one just so you can marvel at how little space you actually need when you travel.
I love Japanese Toilets. Really, I do.
The first time you go into a Japanese toilet, you will be stupefied. The first time I finished doing my business, I turned to face it, befuddled by all the buttons. And after three minutes of being unable to figure it out, I said out loud (and to myself!!! I swear!) "I just want to flush..."
And I am not kidding you, it flushed. On cue.
(Japanese toilets are the first step to artificial intelligence).
After a few dozen stops in the bathrooms (those things are fabulous. Consider it a Modern Museum of Art), you end up figuring the buttons. There's the normal flush button, but let's be honest. That thing can tell when you're done and will flush it for you, you're welcome. And then depending on what you want, you can wash your butt or your hoohah!!! It goes beyond a bidet!!! And you can determine if you want it soft or hard based on this uncomplicated degree of o o o o o (soft to the left, hard to the right. You probably don't want to injure yourself in some pretty private places so the second to the left or middle button should do you nicely.
And then there's what I consider the embarrassment buttons. Have you ever gone into a cubicle with someone you know and you're talking to them and then you start peeing and the sound of it is so loud, you're thinking "dear God, I hope they don't think I have a problem." The Japanese people have solved this for you. You can "mask" your tinkling sounds with the sounds of actual delightful music. Again, you're welcome.
And because, you know, number 2 smells, you can again mask real nature with a press of the deodorizer button. Thank you again, Japanese people.
There's also another wonderful thing about these toilets. After one too many bathroom spots, Francois finally said "bathroom again?!" when I excused myself. Look, okay?? We arrived in Tokyo at the cusp of winter ripening into spring, which as beautiful as my written word is, really just means rainy, freezing cold.
My secret? I was escaping into the toilets because those seats are heated. HEATED. Not only are you comfy cozy on the porcelain throne, you're WARM. Sometimes, you just need to sit on those things to warm the heck up! I will also admit to not even needing to use it but hovering my frozen hands over the toilet seat (not touching the seat!!! Mind you, that is gross and I have limits) but just trying to use it as a fireplace.
Oh, Japanese toilet. I miss you.
For someone who claims to love travel as much as I do, I'm a failure at actually finding time and the energy to actually go and do it. So a few months ago, I surprised myself by throwing planning to the wind and booking a ticket to go to Tokyo. This was the first time I've ever gone somewhere I hadn't planned to death, from researching neighborhoods, scouring guidebooks, figuring out weather conditions and memorizing exchange rates. I was right in the middle of managing my first emergency response and had no time to even think about a vacation. I'm glad I did though (and extra thankful for my amazing boyfriend, Francois!) because it turned out to be one of the best trips, if not the best trip I've ever gone on. (Tip, get a Francois of your own! He planned everything perfectly!)
If you hadn't noticed, I'm a failure at actually updating my travel blog so it's actually up to date!
Tokyo is AMAZING and even if I only spent a few days in one pretty tiny part of Japan, the whole country amazes me in its efficiency and politeness. I love the Philippines but admittedly, it is one of those crazier countries in Asia where chaos seems to rule the order (especially in traffic, traffic, and oh yes, did I mention traffic?). In contrast, Japan seems amazingly well-run, down to the second.
Our adventures in Japan started literally the second I arrived in Narita on the evening Philippine Airlines flight. It had been drummed into my head by my sister and dad about how expensive Tokyo could be so I was hyper-aware that I was a half-hour away from missing the last train to Shinjuku and thisclose to spending a bajillion bucks on a taxi. I flew through the immigration (because have I mentioned how efficient everyone is in Japan?) and sprinted to the train station and literally made it to the train with 1 minute to spare. I know because they have little monitors that show the time the train will arrive and I watched the seconds tick down, trying to catch my breath because my IQ had dropped enough so I couldn't figure out the ticket entry thingamajiggies.
“Travel is little beds and cramped bathrooms. It’s old television sets and slow Internet connections. Travel is extraordinary conversations with ordinary people. It’s waiters, gas station attendants, and housekeepers becoming the most interesting people in the world. It’s churches that are compelling enough to enter. It’s McDonald’s being a luxury. It’s the realization that you may have been born in the wrong country. Travel is a smile that leads to a conversation in broken English. It’s the epiphany that pretty girls smile the same way all over the world. Travel is tipping 10% and being embraced for it. Travel is the same white T-shirt again tomorrow.Travel is flowing in the back of a bus with giggly strangers. It’s a street full of bearded backpackers looking down at maps. Travel is wishing for one more bite of whatever that just was. It’s the rediscovery of walking somewhere. It’s sharing a bottle of liquor on an overnight train with a new friend. Travel is ‘Maybe I don’t have to do it that way when I get back home."
-Nick Miller, Isn’t It Pretty to Think So?
New discovery (I'm waiting for the book to come out here in the Philippines. I'm still reluctant to order stuff from Amazon since I feel like it will take FOREVER and I have the patience of a gnat. And I am apparently an old-fashioned-old school-no online shopping-shopper). It got me thinking about a recent conversation I had with a new friend (actually, a couple of new friends) about the kind of travel we prefer. I'm not one for the planned tours, held-up high flags, matching visors and following the leader type of travel. I'm one for the make your own plan and go with it type of girl.
Abbi is a 28 year old petite human bean, blogger, amateur photographer, permanent humanitarian, avid traveller, culture addict, giant bookworm and impossible foodie.