On July 16 the wife was going to visit an old friend in Odawara. I was going to catch up on some internet time, and then meet up with her at Odawara station at 5:00pm. From there we were going to Tokyo for the night. Since we were planning on looking around Akihabara, I booked a business hotel not too far away.
During the day, the in-laws took me out to their favourite curry restaurant in Numazu. Japanese curry is like a stew with meat and veggies in a rich delicious sauce, naturally served with rice. The restaurant’s lunch special was beef curry, salad, dessert and a soft drink for 980 yen. After taking one bite I could understand why the in-laws liked this place – it was one of the best Japanese curries I have ever eaten. Rich, creamy and a little spicy. Yum!
I took the regular Tokaido line from Numazu to Odawara, giving me an hour to read (always bring a book). I met The Wife and we got a ticket for the Romance Car to Shinjuku. Unlike my experience a few days earlier, this Romance Car had no children running up and down the aisles. In Shinjuku we followed the signs to the subway line. Subway signs in Tokyo can be very misleading. Sometimes you will see a sign that indicates that the subway entrance is just up ahead, but what they really mean is just up ahead after 500 meters of tunnels and probably a few flights of stairs.
After waiting for a very rare train delay that featured continuous updates and apologies from the good people at TOEI subway, we made a quick subway ride across Tokyo with one transfer and got out at Kuramae station. Our reservation was at APA Hotel Asakusa Kuramae, which described itself as close to the station. In previous experience, “close” to the station could be anything from right outside the station entrance to a 15 minute walk down unnamed side streets. Fortunately this hotel was, in fact, actually close to the station, and cross from a 7-11 as an added bonus.
We checked in and went to our “double room” to drop off our bags. I have stayed in business hotels in Tokyo and Osaka before, and they are usually very small. However, this was, in fact, the SMALLEST hotel room I have ever seen, not counting my stay in a Capsule Hotel (story to come in the future). It was literally too small to take proper pictures. The main room space was about 2 meters square. It had a bed just smaller than queen size and a small desk. Under the desk was a small fridge that you could probably fit 3 beers in. A flat screen TV was mounted on the wall. The Wife and I were both traveling with backpacks, which went on top of the “desk”. There was literally no place for a suitcase if we had one.
The bathroom was one of those ubiquitous all in one units that can be found in small Japanese hotels. It was a molded plastic one piece unit with a toilet, small sink, and small, deep bathtub. A dial on the sink distributed the water between the shower and the sink, but not both at the same time. I am not a tall person (about 170cm or 5’7 for you Americans), and I was able to stand and put my hand flat on the ceiling.
For the record, there are “normal” size hotel rooms in Tokyo. You just have to be willing to pay much more for them. Our room cost 9400 yen for one night, breakfast included. It was close to popular tourist areas and a one minute walk from the Tokyo Metro. Like most business hotels it was a clean and quiet place to sleep, and nothing else. For 1000 yen extra we could have watched the entire catalog of PPV movies until checkout time. Don’t get me wrong – the room was okay, it was just really, really small. Hobbit small.
Once we got over the hotel shock, we went back to the station and made our way to Akihabara. Our late dinner was at Gyu-Kaku, a yakiniku restaurant where you cook at your own table. We stuffed ourselves on beef, pork, chicken, scallops, and a few veggies as well. If you are in Japan and like meat, eat at Gyu-Kaku. You will not regret it. English menus are available!
We rolled ourselves out of Gyu-Kaku and took a quick walk around the station planning out our shopping for the following day. During weekends in the daytime, Akihabara is packed with people and is difficult to move around. Tuesday evenings are not very lively, so we had a unique experience of being able to wander around without bumping into people everywhere. Despite being a fairly quiet, slow night in Akihabara, we were well aware that we were in Japan’s geek paradise, full of anime stores, video games, maid cafes, model shops, and porn porn porn everywhere. Seriously, so much porn.
At this point the food and long day started to kick in, and we returned to the hotel. We got into the bed only to discover that our “bed” was actually futon on a frame and not a mattress. I had been sleeping on a thin futon on the floor at the in-laws house and had been really looking forward to a soft, spring filled mattress. The futon was okay, but was a bit lumpy in places. Since I was less likely to get up in the middle of the night for the bathroom, I had to sleep against the wall. There was almost no space between the foot of the bed and the wall, so the only way I could have gotten out of bed was by crawling over The Wife, or by waking her up and making her move. Fortunately for both of us I was asleep within minutes of my head hitting the pillow and didn’t move until morning.
As I drifted off into sleep, I found myself, for the first time ever, being thankful that I was not a tall man.