Sunday, 5 June 2016

The Japan Files ~ Gateway to Sleepytown

Imagine this.

A night out on the town with your mates. You just got off work on a Friday or you're dolled up to the nines on a Saturday. The pre-drinks. The bar hopping. The club stomping. The midway beers and after "shots". And by about three o clock in the morning, although you're exceedingly happy, you are absolutely, completely trashed. But the only way you're getting home really is a taxi. And we all know that cab prices double come the early morning. So you're stuck on the street somewhere dying in your heels or freezing your bollocks off as you wait for the first train. And maybe you feel it. And maybe you don't. But not only are you drunk, you're also exhausted. So what do you do? 

Well, in England, you'd stick it out - biting cold and all; stiff upper lip. But in Japan? Well, you've certainly got a bit more variety to keep you warm after a drunk-filled evening. So allow me to introduce the many ways in which you can find yourself some sort of bed in the land of the rising sun.

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Hotel

We have these almost anywhere. And you might have to shell out a bit of money depending on where you are -cough- Roppongi -cough- but you're definitely guaranteed a bit of luxury if you opt to stay at a hotel. Some come with kimono and slippers - potentially the Japanese equivalent to indoor wear so you can get comfortable. No need to worry about shampoo or toothpaste because in addition to towels, that's usually provided too. And what's better than actually sleeping in an actual bed? I very rarely get this luxury these days. What's better still however is that you're actually divided by walls so providing the person in the next room doesn't sound off like a foghorn, you're guaranteed a relatively peaceful and uninterrupted sleep at least until the 11am check-out.

Capsule Hotel

Brilliant if you're a man. There are some capsule hotels about that do cater to women however - (and couples apparently). Things are changing these days (even I managed to stay in one). A little bit cheaper than a typical hotel because all those little luxuries I mentioned above are pretty non-existent and you're pretty much sharing space with around thirty to fifty other people. You're allocated a locker for your belongings before making your way to the morge-style booths that are stacked next to and above each other in two storey fashion. The only real privacy you get is separated by a curtain usually. Check-out time is typically even earlier at 10am because staff need to clean in preparation for the next set of guests. But a good place to crash temporarily after a night out. Heck, you won't even notice the snoring if you've drunk enough.

Manga Cafe

Even cheaper still, the manga cafe or mangakisa is a comic book nerd's fantasy. Wall upon wall of manga, unlimited drink bar and food if you order it, and you're own personal computer-with-internet booth to enjoy it all in depending on what package you select. Some even have a shower and a ladies area for those of us who wish to be away from prying eyes. Of course, before you think about staying in one, you usually have to become a member first. Japan has a thing about loyalty after all. Then of course, there's the fact that a lot of manga cafes allow smoking and even if they have non-smoking areas, there's always going to be some crossover. The one I stayed at offered darts, billards and karaoke as extras but all I wanted to do was crash. Then there's the incessant clicking if you're a light sleeper. An 8 hour package was not enough in my opinion but if you're only going to stay until first light, then it's no problem

Karaoke Booth

I have very fond memories of singing karaoke into the night and then leaving and passing by the room next door only to see a gang of about six guys completely flaked out on the sofas. I smirked at the time but I look back now and think to myself, why not. Karaoke bars usually offer a "freetime" package during their least popular hours - usually either in the middle of the day or in this case, the early hours of the morning. This means that you can karaoke all night long usually from around 11pm to 6am all for one price. And of course, you're drunk. All night karaoke is going to seem like a viable possibility. But evidently, you will lose your voice and you will fall asleep, but at least you won't be waiting outside in the cold.

Train

Picture courtesy of jprail.com
There are so many stories about Japanese people flaking out on trains after an evening of hard liquor (or even just hard work). People so drunk that they sprawl out across three or four seats, suspend themselves from the hand rails swaying side to side, or sometimes using their fellow commuters as a pillow. But in some cases, there are actual trains that are designed to accommodate sleepers as their travel from one part of the country to the next. Creatively called "Sleeper Trains", these trains offer bedtime accommodation for the overnight traveler so as a tourist, you can travel from one part of Japan to another without actually losing a day. Of course, it doesn't come cheap and some in-carriage areas are a lot less luxurious than others. You definitely get what you pay for, but it is definitely an experience and if you're already drunk, luxury won't really matter to you. Just don't miss it obviously.

Floor

I'm starting to think that this is some sort of rite of passage for Japanese salarymen. To get so drunk that you simply end up rock bottom...literally. And I have seen it all - an old businessman completely knocked out in the middle of a train carriage. A young twenty-something rather uncomfortably conked out in a bush. A middle-aged commuter who decided that the park bench would be the safest bet. I've yet to see a foreigner end up in this predicament but I'm sure it has happened. Because come Friday or Saturday night, people just seem to wind up anywhere. And Japan is safer than most places, it really is. But even I wouldn't want to wake up in the middle of Tokyo somewhere wondering exactly what happened to me the night before.

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So seriously folks, take note of all that opportunity. In England, it's either cab or bust for most people but in Japan, you've certainly got a lot of variety. Take advantage of it.