As I have mentioned in previous Japan posts, we had a lot of Spring-time showers while we were visiting. Today was no different. I should preface the story with our experience the evening before. Being a bit of a tourist, I decided against my better judgement to spend the night in a "Capsule Hotel" I dragged poor, long-suffering C along on my hare-brained scheme. We both decided it would be a 'cultural experience'. There is a reason why Capsule Hotels are nicknamed "Coffin Hotels" I don't think it's necessarily the shape, either. I think it's the concentration of nicotine and hostile salary-men that inhabit the place. We checked in at the room-vending-machine in the smoke-choked lobby. An older Japanese man with nicotine stained fingers flicked a raffle ticket across the desk, and a key for the shoe lockers in the lobby. The house rules were: Shoes stay locked in the lobby. Exchange shoes for slippers. Exchange the shoe-locker key for the human-locker key. Curfew is 3am.
I made my way up the the ladies dorm and was shown the door code, and told to make sure I kept the door locked behind me. Once inside, there was a row of about 20 capsules deep, two high, stacked either side of the aisle. A few pairs of slippers scattered outside various capsules showed that someone was home. My capsule was on the bottom row (I HATE the bottom bunk). I had to crawl through the concertina door and squiggle around to get inside. I could sit up, but the ceiling was only an inch or so above my head. There was a broken locker to secure my belongings, a little exhaust fan and a coin operated television with a set of earbud headphones alongside it. A couple of English girls were having a very quiet slumber party. We whispered a few words to each other along the lines of "This is so weird" and "Why are we doing this?!" C and I then met in the lobby for a little dinner outing before retiring for the night.
My experience sleeping in the coffin was not the best night I've ever had (and I have slept on many a floor, couch, concrete...) Someone crawled into the coffin above mine at about 3am and I lay there petrified that I was going to be crushed inside. The exhaust fan did little to circulate the air and the heat was absolutely stifling. The walls were nicotine stained, and although it was non-smoking in the dorms, the thick stench of cigarette smoke permeated the air so I could barely breathe. C had an even worse night, with drunk salary-men swearing, grunting and smoking inside the dorm. We were very bleary-eyed when we emerged in the morning and decided to take in the fresh air of nearby Ueno Park to try and cleanse our lungs and capture some cherry blossoms before the rain soaked them to pulp on the cobbled paths.
Ueno park was gorgeous. We explored a temple and had our fortunes read by this dragon. We tied our fortunes to the fence, after photographing them for posterity. (They were good!)
We wandered the park and witnessed the Hanami (flower-viewing party and celebration) clean up from the previous evening, and the junior staff arriving to mind spaces under the cherry blossoms for their colleagues' party that night. The blue tarps are used to claim a spot, and we saw many people settling in to shiver through the day to secure the best seats in the park. They played Uno and drank from thermos cups to keep warm.
We walked until we could no longer feel our fingers or faces and the relentless drizzle threatened to soak us through. There was a lot of Ueno Park left unseen, but that gives us an excellent reason to return!
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