Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Tokyo Drifting, Part 1

The 2,080 foot high Tokyo Skytree in Sumida, Japan’s tallest tower and the 2nd tallest structure in the world, was just opened to the public in May. The Azuma bridge stretches across the Sumida river in the foreground.

From last month’s Tokyo travelogue:

The late night scene is frenetically colorful here in Tokyo, even on a weeknight. I was out WAY too long last night, but no regrets! I’m finishing up this blog entry from the hallway outside my capsule bed in the Hostel Kawase Tokyo and Capsule. Checkout is any time now, so I’ll be brief. Check back soon for the pics that I’ll upload from the U.S. when I fly home [Photos added 7/3/12].

Here’s how it all began:

Anyone quick enough to catch my earlier “Sumo Pipe Dream” blog post (on another platform, before I took it down) knows about my trashed plans to catch the Sumo wrestling championships here in Tokyo a couple weeks back. Basically, I left church on that Sunday morning too late to catch my flight from Portland to Tokyo.

This time around, I took matters into my own hands. Immediately before I flew out yesterday morning, I worked late at Delta and then stayed awake until sunrise to preach at Aloha Church of God for Pastor Tim (on Sabbatical for the month of June). Since I planned the worship service, missing another flight due to a church service that ran into overtime… would’ve left me with no one to blame but myself. Clever, eh?

The nine hour flight to Tokyo in Delta’s Business Elite cabin would have been the perfect opportunity to make up for more than a week’s worth of extreme sleep deprivation… if only the food, service, and comfort weren’t so extravagant!

CameraZOOM-20120611013308484.jpg I landed in Japan at Tokyo’s Narita airport/train station with nothing but a small backpack and my 7” Samsung Galaxy Tab containing a few Tokyo club listings that I had downloaded before my plane departed from Portland.

CameraZOOM-20120611190651871_orig_1_Greg_Vignette.jpgFor the entirety of the 70 minute Keisei train ride from Narita to Tokyo, my face was buried in a couple of city maps that I had snagged at the airport. I’ve visited Tokyo a few times before, but this was the first time that I had made even the slightest effort to find my way around without asking for directions.

My plan of attack for the visit was mostly developed before I even made my first connection in Aoto, off of the Keisei Main Line. I ultimately hopped off the Oshiage Line at the Asakusa district…CameraZOOM-20120611191913941.jpg ...and checked in at the Hostel Kawase Tokyo and Capsule with a Fistful of Yen-- if you didn’t get that reference, then you are a much better person that I am.

Would I find any unsuspecting souls to join me on my quest for the best live music and dancing in Tokyo? Not yet. It was early evening, and my hostel was still a ghost town.

Stalling, I killed an hour or two roaming the streets of Asakusa.CameraZOOM-20120611212317580_edited-1.jpgCameraZOOM-20120611191312589.jpgMy first act was to get booted out of a poorly visible, deep underground restaurant [Photo removed] that I discovered off the main strip. Apparently, they only cater to the menacing looking, well dressed Yakuza gangster crowd. 

I kid. Please refrain from marking me for death.

The more mainstream Japanese diner Watami accepted me with open arms and served up a steaming dish of extra spicy goodness, by request. The only thing missing from the menu, or from most of the neighborhood for that matter, was a single word of English.

Back at the hostel, I ran into a couple of college guys from SoCal (whom shall remain faceless and nameless, for the sake of their relationships back in the States- I feel so dirty now). I convinced them that heading out beats hanging out. They were less enthusiastic about the Japanese reggae/funk band that I planned to see, so we compromised and started talking non-live venues. I whipped out my nightlife breakdown from the train ride into Tokyo, and we narrowed our options down to a few of the most popular clubs.

The nightlife dense Shibuya district was a straight shot from a nearby train station. The unmarked, well hidden club would have been nearly impossible to find without my directions and my friends’ GPS iDevice thingy. The floor was packed solid, though, with a diverse crowd bouncing along to beats from an allegedly internationally famous DJ with an unpronounceable stage name.

Much later, we all parted ways (with different, ahem, opinions about an appropriate ending to a non-single guy’s night out in Tokyo) way too late for me to catch the last train back to Asakusa. As usual, I improvised.

I have yet to see either of those guys return to their capsule beds this morning.


Bob said...

What does a capsule hotel cost and is it comfortable?

Garth Hamilton said...

My original Tokyo capsule was only $19, but I stepped it up to the Hostel Kawase for $30. The location near the Asakusa train station alone made it worthwhile. Calling it comfortable would be a bit of an overstatement, but it was functional (if you can overlook a kaput bedside wall outlet and surly staff).

I'll make sure to include a picture of my capsule on tomorrow's blog, Bob!