we spent the rest of our time in hiroshima checking out hiroshima castle. the castle, like most of the other castles here, was actually a reconstruction of the origibnal. it looked really cool from the outside, but the inside was just converted into a museum, and not a very interesting museum at that.
for dinner, we got some indian food. it was so wierd! it’s always interesting for me to see how other cultures interpret different foods. for instance, we’ve now tried mexican food in several different countries, and it’s never been quite right. the indian food here was sorta reminiscent of real indian food, but the sauces all came in these weird pastel colors. all of the spice i think came from little red chili flakes, and the three dishes we got, despite their different colors, tasted fairly similar. still, it wasnt all that bad.
the nex day, we left randall’s uncle’s house to go to fukuoka. his aunt and uncle insisted on driving us to the train station. once we got there, they insisted that they wanted to see us off on the platform. this would mean that they would have to pay the minimum charge to get into the station. i cant believe they paid extra money just to see us off. randall’s aunt and uncle are just so incredibly nice. we were so glad that we stayed w/ them for a few days!
fukuoka is one of japan’s larger cities. after some delicious korean barbecue, we went to check out the asian art museum. this museum is exclusivlely for modern art, and i was really glad to see it since i really am into modern art but pretty much havent seen any since we left on the trip. after the museum, we found this store that sells all the crazy little japanese robots. they have all these cool dogs that can sense when you walk by and turn their heads. they can also fetch balls, respond to touch, and they can dance too. it was cool to check them out, but i think there’s still a long way to go before these dogs are really all that good. many of them kept breaking down, not working, stumbling around, etc. maybe in a few years, they’ll be much cooler?
it had been ages since we had been online (hence all my really late entries recently), so we found an internet cafe. i just cant get over how cool the net cafes are here. first off, they’ll have like 10 different kinds of free drinks ranging from sodas, to coffee, to cocoa. when you use the net, you get your own little booth and the booth will usually have not only a computer, but a tv and a playstation 2. you can also pick out dvds you want to watch, videogames you want to play, and all the walls are filled with shelves and shelves and shelves of manga. these shelves have a ridiculous amount of these comics, and usually the shelves reach the ceiling and sometimes even have ladders cause there are so many shelves. most of these netcafes have really cheap prices at night, so people will actually use them as a hotel and just sleep in their booth… the cafes even provide pillows, blankets, and even slippers!
fukuoka is famous for its ramen. it has some of the best ramen in all of japan. we found a restaurant recommended in the book and went to go look for it. of course the place didnt have a sign in english, so we had to walk around and try to match up the japanese characters in the book to the signs we saw on the street. it was tough, but we finally found it. inside, there werent any menus, just some pictures on the wall w/ japense above them. we pointed to a random one. when we got the ramen, we sprinkled these random unknown toppings on them and chowed down. it never ceases to amaze me how random our experiences are around here. here we are, eating some unknown kind of ramen, with unknown toppings, and all of this in a restaurant that we had to search for using japanese letters. the ramen here is made from stock using pig bones, so it’s a bit on the greasy side, but the broth is sooo good! super flavorful!
sleeping in a capsule
we had read about capsule hotels in our guidebook and had really wanted to try them out. basically, to save valuable space, these hotels, instead of having actual rooms, just have capsules built into the wall. these capsules can be stacked 2 or 3 high, and basically you just crawl in. they are high enough so you can sit up, but that’s about it. inside, you have a blanket, pillow, alarm, radio, and a tv. that’s it. oddly enough, the capsules dont even close. they just have this little screen that you pull down in front. since you dont have a shower or anything in your capsule, the hotels will usually have a communal bath/shower/sauna for people to use. usually these hotels are male only, but sometimes they allow females too, in which case the sexes are segregated on different floors.
we checked in, were given lockers where to keep our stuff (you dont bring anything w/ you to your capsule), and then went off to our respective floors. and this is where the confusion begins. most of the signs are in japanese, and i really didnt know the protocol for the bath system etc. when you sleep, you’re given a robe, so i thought i needed to get one to use between the lockers and the shower. i went to the room next to the showers, and tried to ask the attendant what to do. he spoke no english. in the end, i got a robe, little shorts, and a towel, and headed back to my locker. at this point, i realized that the robes were for *after* the shower, not before. instead of the robe, i guess you’re just supposed to wear a towel from the locker room to the showers. hrm. these towels werent really bath sized towel.. more like hand sized towels. i wrapped it around me and it barely reached all the way around… plus it only went down about a foot so it barely coverd my bits and pieces. yikes!
i felt *really* awkward walking down the hall like this. it seemed like this is what other people had done, but i was still really nervous. it’s one thing to commit a faux-pas by passing food incorrectly in a restuarnt, it’s a whole other story to do something wrong by getting butt-naked when you’re not supposed to be. that would be so much more embrassing. anyways, i walked into the shower room. crap. there was no one else in there. if there were other people, i would at least see what they’re doing and know what to do. *sigh*. oh well.. what can ya do? so i ditch my towel. so, i’ve never really been one of those dudes that has no problem wandering about wearing no clothes at all. in fact, that’s usually something i would tend to avoid. but, whatever, i guess.
there were all these little stools near the wall, each in front of a little handheld shower, soap, shampoo, etc. so i go, sit down, and start showering. it’s a bit weird showering sitting down instead of standing. at this pont, two other people come in. now i’m feeling even weirder. am i doing anything wromg? i notice that there’s a table w/ disposable razors. sweet!! i really need a shave! but, do i just shave here? what do i do w/ the hair? just rinse it out on the floor? is that weird? do i use this toothbrush to brush my teeth here? where do i spit? i decide maybe i shoudnt shave. sheez.. what am i doing here?! i’m kind of trying to peek around to see what other people are doing so i know what to do. then i start worrying that maybe they are wondering if i’m just hanging out trying to catch glimpses of naked dudes. at one point, one guy gets up and switches showers to one all the way across the room. crap, was that cause of me? am i weirding people out?
there are 3 huge baths in the room, but no one had gone in them. was it ok to just go in? i deliberated for a while, and then decided i would just go for it. the water was insanely hot, and it was really nice to just chill in there although i was still feeling nervous. eventually i got out, went back to the shower, and shaved after all. finally i left the showers, put on my little robe, and headed upstairs to my capsule. *phew* i had made it through the showers! upstairs, in the capsule room, people were snoring. lots of the people hadnt even put their screens down so you could see directly into their capsules. weird. i found mine. hrm. it looked really small. all of a sudden i started worrying that it would be hella claustraphobic. but i got in, and it really wasnt all the cramped. perfect size, i guess. i watched tv for a while, and then tried to go to sleep. it was at this point i realized one huge drawback. with no door, i could hear everything going on in the capsule room. at 3:30am, some dude’s alarm went off. he didnt switch it off. it went on blaring for hella days. great. i’m sure tomorrow morning there will be alarms going off every few minutes and i’d hear *all* of them. surprisingly though, i was able to sleep ok.
view from inside looking out
the next morning, we met up w/ randall and decided that we’d go see a baseball game at the fukuoka dome. baseball is a really popular sport here and we had been wanting to see a game for a while. the game we saw was very weird. at one point, they announced that there would be a pinch hitter and a girl came out on the field and tried to bat. later they had another pinch hitter who was this crazy looking guy and when he hit the ball, everyone in the audience blew up these yellow balloons and let them fly through the stadium. then, after the 8th inning, they had this really old guy, who had been the announcer during the game, bat. i dont know why. then, they just ended there and didnt even have a ninth inning. so weird. it was still really cool to check out.
after the game, we met up w/ adrian. he is one of my cousin’s friends who went to school w/ her in paris, and i had met him a couple of times before. he’s now teaching english here in japan. we went out to ramen with him and a few of his friends. the ramen place we went to was really cool. everyone sits down at a bar w/ lots of partitions. you fill out a form and get to specify exactly how you want your ramen: how spicy, fat content, saltiness, sweetness, amount of garlic, tenderness of noodles etc. when they serve you your ramen, they do this crazy bow and then close the drape in fron of you. it’s just you and your ramen. and the ramen was soooooo good!
we had been wanting to go out, so we got some recomendations from adrian. the area of town we were staying in, tenjin, was the main nightlife area of town. the whole place was full of clubs, bars, etc. the streets had tons of young japanese people wandering around searching for fun. we went to this one club called keith flack. it was ok, but there was hardly anyone there. the music was deep house, and although deep house is kinda cool, it got boring after a while. drinks were surprisingly cheap though at 5$ a piece. at midnight, we left and met up w/ adrian again. we went to a bar downstairs from keith flack and had some drinks and talked. it was pretty cool to be going out in tokyo. i just kept thinking to myself “what the hell? i’m here at a club, in tokyo, and tonight i’m going to go sleep in a capsule. so weird!!”
eventually we decided to go somewhere else, and adrian suggested a club called the “happy cock”. this place had a 10$ cover, but you get 2 free drinks with that. quite a deal! or, you can pay 30$ and you get free drinks all night. the club itself was pretty damn cheezy. the music was all the super cheezy dance hits mixed in w/ some trance. the place was a total pick-up joint. i guess fukuoka is close to a US marine base, so there were a bunch of marines there trying to hook up w/ local women. it’s funny, the bar actually has a sign out front saying that they only allow 20 marines into the club at once. i couldnt believe they actually have a quota on how many marines are allowed! i’m glad we were there just to see the crazy scene, but it definitely wasnt our kind of place. eventually we said good night to adrian and stumbled off to mcdonalds for a late night snack (open till 4am!)
then, back to the capsule to sleep!