Saturday, May 22, 2010

Japan/SoKor Day 17: Osaka and Capsule Hotel

December 27, 2009
Japan Trip Day 17: Osaka and Capsule Hotel

While at the hotel in Kobe, I made good use out of the free hotel wifi and did a bit of journal writing, rocked some Facebook, and so on. I then re-packed my bag a bit while I still had the luxury of a private room!

I left for Osaka in the mid-morning and had to take a couple of transfers to get to Namba, the area I am staying in. Today at the train station, I decided not to ask people for directions, just for fun. I had a rough plan of how to get around, and since I had plenty of time to get lost on the way to Osaka, I thought it might be fun to see if I could figure it out on my own. So I just went by "the plan" - but it already stopped making sense once I got to the Osaka station. There was something called the "Osaka Loop"?!?! This appeared to be a ring around the city on the train, but it was totally not on my plan, and I had no idea if it was the right way to go or not. After reading some signs, I found what I thought was probably my train, and I jumped aboard.

I got to the "Capseru" (Capsule Hotel) at about 12:30, and dropped off my stuff. I then wandered the famed Dotonbori shopping district which was close to my hotel. I went to the Main St shopping arcade which was insane and SO busy, even in the mid-afternoon. I saw a pile of the ABC-Mart stores (sports store) where I'd originally seen the insane New Balance Rainbow Running shoes, and I went into a few of them - I didn't see the shoes anywhere! I decided it would be fun to give myself a mission for the day and see if I could find them somewhere in Namba. I also went on a mission for a cool "Engrish" t-shirt! The shirt was easy - the shoes, not so much. :)

I wandered for several hours, just doing big-city shopping/wandering stuff. I had an awesomely non-adventurous lunch: Macku-Donahlds! Damn I love that Teriyaki McBurger. Also, the name is SO funny. Haha, "McBurger".

I kept wandering and eventually got back to the Capsule Hotel. I checked into my "room" and it was SOOOO tiny! I was really excited to try one evening in a Capsule Hotel and thought it fitting to use a Capsule Hotel in a busy city like Osaka. I'd heard that one of the benefits of Capsule Hotels in a big city was for "salarymen." The Capsule Hotel allows these businessmen to go out after work on weekdays, drinking with clients and partying into the evening with potential business partners. Then, they would stay out too late and miss the subway train back to their wives in the suburbs. So this hotel is open 24-hours, and they can stumble to the Capsule Hotel at any time of the night. They get a nice quiet, somewhat sound-proof, simple room, and they can get their suit pressed and ready for a bright and early day at work the next day. They are also still in the city, so they can go straight from the Capsule Hotel back to work, with a cleaned suit! In reality (and maybe because it was during the December holidays), most of the people I met there were businessmen, but they seemed to be treating the hotel more like a spa/relaxation place than a short-term sleep-off-my-hangover location.

Anyhoo, back to the hostel. I got there and checked into my capsule room for the night, complete with a little TV and fan in the capsule. You leave your bags and clothes in a small locker, which contains a robe and 3/4-length pants to wear. Your key for the locker is on a necklace keychain, and you have to store everything in the locker because the room is way too tiny for anything other than just you and your necklace keychain! I checked it out for a little bit and then headed back outside with my camera.

I wandered the main streets in Namba and found the big Namba "Hips" Modern Entertainment Complex. I had seen Kurt Philips's videos of a roller coaster on the roof which looked cool and I thought it would be lots of interesting rides and so on - turns out it was mostly pachinco parlours and slot machines, so I took some photos and kept wandering. I then got to "Amerika Mura" ("America Town"), which was CRAZY. This area is sortof the Japanese interpretation of American culture, kindof like a bad voice-over dubbing of an American movie in Japanese, personified in several city blocks of clothing stores. MAN, it was nuts. There were some very unusual fashion stores, and lots of horrible bright coloured knitted Mickey Mouse-y sweaters - a drunk Mickey Mouse, an Alien Mickey Mouse with 3 eyes, and so on. Also, plenty of neon and jumpsuit material, and jackets that were shiny and had fake fur hoods. It was weird as heck!!

Along with the weird-ass fashion stuff, there were several stores that were fancy, but not American: Louis Vuitton, Dolce & Gabanna, etc. Funny. I also ran into Nike Osaka, and an Osaka Apple Store, which was super cool! I kept a look out for my shoes, but no luck. I got back to my hotel and googled "Osaka New Balance"... and there was actually an official New Balance store, 3 blocks from my hotel?!?!! I couldn't believe my luck, and it was to close in 1 hour. I'd be leaving in the morning before it opened again, so I zoomed right back out of the hotel and raced out the door, literally running down the street to find it. After running for 5 or 10 minutes, I actually found it!! I got in there 20 or 30 min before close... and I saw the Red version of the shoe on the wall. I asked about the bright colour variety of the shoe and... they were SOLD OUT?!?!?!! Nooo!!!!!!!! Haha I figured this was a sign that I was really just not meant to get these shoes (or maybe I should save my money for something more important) :)

I walked back to the hotel, and thought, "well, maybe I'll check out the onsen tub". I then went through the complicated series of multiple-key exchanges: Arrive at hotel, take off shoes. Put shoes in "shoe locker". Take key from shoe locker. Show receipt for hotel stay with room number to the attendant at the desk. Give them shoe locker key. They return with the necklace keychain in exchange for your shoe locker key. Then, walk to the changeroom and unlock your personal locker with the necklace key. Change into 3/4 pants and yukata, and get whatever you need from your backpack. (Whew!) There was now another additional step, since I wanted to go check out the onsen bath: Go downstairs. Switch to a 2nd locker. Put yukata and 3/4-pants and boxers into locker, and leave your necklace keychain in there. Close locker and take new key which has a stretchy wristband attached to it. Now, you are completely naked save for a key on a stretchy wristband. Get a "modesty towel" to conceal your, uh... crotch... from all the people wandering around. At this point you ARE in an area only with people of your gender, but still it was a bit disconcerting until I got my "modesty towel". Haha.

The 100 steps of multiple-key-exchanging left me pants-less and ready to shower. You shower in the room with the baths in it. It was similar to the previous onsens I had been to already - you sit on a plastic stool and scoop hot water with a small plastic tub/scoop onto yourself. There was a shower head and soap too. Then, off to bath with your modesty towel folded on top of your head!

I was VERY glad I came down to check out the bath area - I ended up staying for several hours! I thought it would just be junky but it was the main attraction of the entire hotel! It was fantastic and very relaxing. While sitting in the bath some dude strolled over to me, and started a full-on conversation, totally interested to chat! Haha, this was hilarious, as it made absolutely NO difference that this was a communal bath... this is "the norm" in Japan, so it would have been unusual for him NOT to strike up a conversation with someone else in there. This was really funny and a strange cultural oddity for me to grin about while ignoring any Britishy embarrassment that was clearly not necessary. He was a businessman from the Chiba Prefecture, and he was interested to know where I was from, where I was traveling in Japan, and so on. We chatted for 5 or 10 minutes and he then shook my hand and said it was nice to meet me, and he thanked me for giving him an opportunity to practice his English! So funny.

I then got out of the tub and got that modesty towel back in it's rightful location. I then hung out in the sauna for a while which was great and there was even a TV in there! Then I headed back to the 2nd locker and got back my prized yukata robe top and 3/4-pants. There were tons of vending machines down there which was great. I got an ice cream, and then put a few coins in a chair massage machine. That was sweet. I then wandered around to find a nice TV room, where I caught up on some journal writing. There were lots of cool reclining chairs in there, pointed towards 4 TVs, each playing a different thing. The chairs themselves had a selector, a volume knob, and individual speakers for the TVs inside of the chair itself, so you could select which TV channel you wanted to hear the audio for! So cool!! I watched Back to the Future 3.

After some relaxing, I was very tired from all the walking, but was feeling super relaxed and ready to go to the airport tomorrow morning after the awesome spa place! This was a perfect, relaxing end to the Japan portion of my trip, what a great idea it was to stay here.

It turned out the main attraction of the Capsule Hotel was actually the tub and the lounge, who knew?!!! I then bought a chocolate milk in a glass bottle from the vending machine and got another foot massage from another foot massage machine thing. Great stuff. I leave early for South Korea tomorrow, so I am heading off to bed soon. South Korea should be great, I am really looking forward to traveling with people again.

All packed up, showered, shaved and cleaned up nice in the hotel in Kobe. Ready to roll to Osaka!

During busy commuter hours there are certain train cars labeled for "Ladies Only" - I finally saw one of these signs!

"Get your ideal in California"

"Glico Man" and other neon art, during the daytime

Namba Hips building during the daytime

Ahhh... some "big city" food for lunch :)

Cool building

Best movie ever!!! This was an advertisement for a new Monsters, Inc ride at Disneyland Tokyo.


Cool iPhone ad

Shrink those Yen!

Dotonbori getting busy during the day

Crazy artwork

Glico Man in the afternoon

Interesting clothing here

Weird "Engrish" t-shirts

More weird "Engrish" t-shirts

Cool Japanese hippie clothes


More hippie stuff

Wall-E in Japanese!

Japanese Mickey Mouse

Himeji Castle in Lego


Girls excited and looking at makeup

Nike Osaka store

Apple Store Shinsaibashi

Inside Apple Store Shinsaibashi

Cool Osaka streetlamps

The area near my capsule hotel, called "Amerika Mura" ("America Town")

Lockers where you drop off your clothes and bags and change into shorts and a top

Press for your business clothing

Capsule Hotel room!


Rows of capsules, it was not very busy in our area. I think they let the foreigners have our own wing of the building so we didn't disturb the businessmen staying in the same hotel!

Walking back downtown in the evening

Cool signs and the moon

Funny faces

A girl posing with the faces

Temple on the street

Dotonbori still busy as the evening rush hits

Namba Hips building at dusk

Cool streetlights

Dragon noodle place

Bright neon streets

The neon goes on and on!!

A vending machine ticket restaurant. Their claim to fame was the guy from Prison Break ate here!

Weird costumes with ears

Bright lights and a fish

Cool store

Deer and an interesting clothing store with cartoons of the Glico Man

Random crazy advertisements

Glico Man at night!!!!

Wigs for your dog

New Balance store, where unfortunately, my shoes were out of stock!

We generally couldn't take photos inside the sauna area, so here's a few from the Capsule Hotel's website, with some quotes.

From their website: "Oasis in the city with 441rooms, Osaka's largest scale capsule hotel Capsule Hotel Asahiplaza Shinsaibashi. Everyone who wants to work and play fully comes here. Working hard and enjoying your leisure time as much as you want, and yet you will not feel tired the next morning. This is a hotel for such energetic businessmen."

"Front deskAnytime!! Check-in anytime during the night. Even after midnight check-in is OK. There is a chic and spacious lobby at the entrance area. Enjoy the luxurious atmosphere and warm services. Dress shirts, ties, and underwear can also be purchased."

"Public Bathes / High and Low Temperature Saunas Feel good!! All night Sauna & Massage
All guests have unlimited access to the sauna and bathes free of charge. There are both high and low temperature saunas. Choose the one appropriate for you own condition and enjoy a sauna anytime. Non-guests are invited to enjoy our sauna or massage services before going home for the evening."

"Good sleep!! Sound-sleep capsule
Each has a spacious sleeping booth equipped with a TV and other facilities. Guests can sleep soundly and wake up refreshed. Morning bathes are available and the toilet kits provided ensure that guests can go to the office looking good! Also, our rates are attractive, approximately half that of a Business Hotel!"

No comments: