8.25.2008

The Beige Capsule

I arrived at Narita Airport around 17:00. If I wanted to get to my new home that night, I would have to reach the housing office by 19:30 - by subway and foot, lugging a gigantic backpack, a surprisingly cumbersome duffel bag, and my trusty man-purse. Needless to say, I did not make it, although I give myself endless credit for trying. It was a valiant effort, but Japanese customs and a confusing map got the best of me.

I headed to Kabukicho - an area in Shinjuku known for it's seedy clubs and less-than-reputable businesses - to find a capsule hotel, my back-up plan. From the Lonely Planet guide: "Smack in the middle of sleazy Kabukicho, Green Plaza Shinjuku offers standard-issue capsules as a last resort." So, this is where I ended up spending my first night: a nondescript beige capsule. Perfect.

Walking around, I'm pretty sure I actually heard somebody offer me some "sucky sucky." I didn't think they said that any more. One man (a pimp, presumably) made the universal sign for a blow job: fist in front of mouth, tongue substituting for cock in cheek. It was the least enticing thing I'd seen in quite a while. Maybe if a good-looking girl were to do it while longingly gazing into my eyes, it would be different. But this man did it with a mechanical, detached movement; it was a hollow gesture meant for hollow eyes.

The capsules are for men only, and include access to a sento (public bath) in the same building. When you check in, you leave your bigger bags in a holding room, and head to the locker room. There, you find your locker (it's the width of about two thick books) which is stocked with your official uniform: short pajama pants and an oddly fitting tunic that ties around the belly, like a robe. Then, it's off to the sento.

The whole place sort of felt like an overnight camp - or maybe a prison. We were all stripped of our possessions at the door, and dressed the same. We all had the same standard-issue clothing, furnishings, and accoutrements to work with. Simply in these similarities, some sort of group harmony was to be found. I woke up at 4am, thirsty. Going to the bathroom, I saw several guys sitting in the lounge area in their identical pajamas, watching a documentary on ducks.

The next morning, I found the garbage looking like this. I guess we weren't all watching the ducks. Maybe this is the beauty of the capsule hotel for the Japanese man: it's a place where one can go to sort of disappear. With so much homogeneous conformity around, it's easy to turn the environment into white noise, and concentrate on - ahem – oneself.

2 comments:

Dalton said...

"There, you find your locker (it's the width of about two thick books) which is stocked with your official uniform: short pajama pants and an oddly fitting tunic that ties around the belly, like a robe. Then, it's off to the sento."

A picture of one self would help clear up what I can only imagine. Alex, i'm glad you finally made it.

The best of luck to you.

Dalton

danny said...

Happy that you made it safely, my man. I'm sure all of those eye-popping edibles create instant flavor explosions that are unmatched by "americanized" Japanese cuisine. Enjoy the new aromas! You are indeed at large, so live it large! And be NICE!

Yours,
Danny the Manny