Last day in Tokyo

Trip Start Oct 21, 2006
Trip End Mar 21, 2008

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Wednesday, December 6, 2006

Sleeping in a capsule hotel is a little like sleeping in a coffin, then waking in the morning and realising you aren't dead.  In fact, it is a very comfortable night's sleep.  When I turned in last night at around 10:30, only three of the 40-odd capsules on my floor were occupied.  When I wake up, almost all have been or are being used, so I guess it's a late night type of thing.  However, I hardly heard a noise, apart from the odd cough or fart, surprising considering the close quarters we were all sleeping at.
For a shower, you need to take the elevator to the 9th floor.  From there you get a panoramic view of the Sumida River and, perhaps, the traffic on the bridge gets a panoramic view of you in return.  First you strip off and soak in the hot pool for a while, presumably to meditate a little and soak away any loose grim.  Step two is to sit on one of the little upturned buckets that surround the hot pool and wash yourself with the shower head provided.  It actually works rather well.
Staying in a capsule hotel is definitely an experience I recommend.  It is totally surreal, odd and confusing but has a wonderful Japanese-ness to it.

Back in the world of regular-sized things, we start to look for something to do on our last day in Tokyo.  Strange as it sounds, the Tokyo Fish Market is supposed to be quite the sight to behold so we head off for there.  Thus far our luck with the labyrinthine Tokyo Metro system had held out but today, for the first time, we get a wee bit lost and disembark at the wrong station.  Going with the flow, we decide to check out the area known as Ueno, which turns out to be quite rewarding.  Its main feature is a large park that contains the zoo and the major museums of the city.  The park looks as though it was built in the 50s or 60s; the landscaping combined with the predominantly black and grey clothes of the local people makes it feel like walking through one of those technicolor postcards from back in the day.  There are pockets of more traditional Japanese culture such as the serene shrines and pagodas that always seem to be tucked away in the quiet, sheltered areas.  The Metropolian Museum of Modern Art, another postwar throwback, is good for a brief stroll-through, and we also slow down to watch orderly lines of primary school children march along in their buttoned-up uniforms and berets.
In the early evening, before collecting our luggage, we stop for another deliciously mysterious meal.  Jane's comes with a raw egg that, having observed a local, we know is to be whisked up by the diner and poured over a steaming hot plate of rice and meat, causing the egg to cook.  It turns out to be marvellously tasty, a common description for every single thing we have eaten so far in Japan.
It would be fair to say that, following our two forgettable overnight bus rides in Australia, we are not particularly looking forward to this evening's 12-hour journey from Tokyo to Hiroshima.  Our fears are completely allayed by the comparative luxury of our coach.  For a start, we have the bus almost entirely to ourselves, so are able to stretch out for as long as our legs will reach.  Not that we need to because the seats are almost fully reclinable, with foot and thigh (?!) rests, blankets, free tea and coffee, cupholders and slippers.  There is a driver plus a 'bus attendant' who attends to passengers' needs, opens and closes the curtains at appropriate times and reads out important announcements, such as those regarding the location of the washrooms and upcoming stops.  These announcements are then read again in English by a pre-recorded voice for the benefit of Jane and myself.  Compared to the bus rides we've had already and particularly with those yet to come, this is luxury, and we sleep accordingly.
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Where I stayed
Capsule Inn Akihabara
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