Staying in a LOVE HOTEL in Japan… by mistake.

First and foremost I would like to advise that this post will not be suitable for persons under 18, anyone of a sensitive nature and also my parents!!

The airport in Tokyo isn’t actually in Tokyo.  It’s in Narita which is about an hour away.  We thought we would be clever and book a hotel in Narita so we didn’t have as far to travel on the morning of our flight.  This was our first mistake.  Tokyo is very well connected and if we had stayed at our hostel another night we would have had a five minute walk to the tram and then got the train straight to the airport.  Although geographically nearer, we had a forty minute walk with our heavy backpacks to get to the train station.  So although the train was only ten minutes, it was a much more gruelling journey.

The second and most obvious mistake was that we booked a love hotel.  Which is a sex hotel – there wasn’t much emphasis on love here!  We had discovered this fact a few days before staying.  We had booked everything in advance in Japan, including this hotel.  On the Agoda app there is no mention whatsoever of it being a love hotel other than in the small print which nobody reads.  (I might start doing so in future)  We thought it might be fun to stay in a weird themed hotel and chose this one as it was a Christmas  theme.  We were excited about having a second Christmas and even bought cheap presents for each other from a 100 Yen shop.


However when we looked on the map a few days prior to checking in, we noticed it said “adults only”.  We started to feel a little apprehensive about the cumming of our second Christmas.

Andrew did some research and the oddest thing is that Japanese people think Christmas is a sexy time.  What in the hell is that about?  It’s so odd to put these two things together.  But there are two main traditions for the Japanese at Christmas.  Firstly they have sex on Christmas eve and secondly they eat KFC.  Honestly – Google it!!  Love hotels in Japan are  a big thing because couples who are dating can’t have relations until they are married.  And even when they are married they often live with family and the walls are paper thin.  So they come to these kind of hotels to “attend to their needs”.


So we arrived quite late on (so we thought) at about half 6pm.  At reception a lady scurried out and said we couldn’t check in until 7pm.  We thought that was weird.  Then realised that people hired it by the hour in the day.  I was really wishing I had a blue light so I could check that the room had been properly cleaned!  Or maybe I would be better off not knowing!

We sat in the waiting room until we were allowed to check in.  It was the strangest waiting room I have ever been in.  Three couches sat facing the walls with their backs to each other.  This is clearly for privacy for the couples, but it felt icky, especially surrounded by christmas trees and Santa with his overflowing sack.


The room was actually really nice.  There was a huge bed and the biggest bath ever! Plus lots of products to use – shampoos, conditioners, body lotions etc.  I did have to read everything very carefully – I didn’t want to end up with lube in my hair.

You couldn’t escape from the fact it was clearly a love hotel.  Just flicking through the channels you went straight from BBC news to porn.  The room service menu was hidden in the magazine rack nestled between porn magazines and lingerie catalogues .  There were two vending machines – one was for drinks.  I looked excitedly in the other, thinking it might be food.  It wasn’t food.  It was a vending machine for vibrators.  Never in my life have my poor innocent eyes seen anything like it!


There was a hair dryer and even a hair styling blower for volume which I was excited about.  I’d had “backpacker hair” for the past three months! Nearer the bed was another box, about the same size as a GHD box.  I wondered if it could be straighteners.  My hair hadn’t been straight since January!  I opened it and was faced with a giant wand style vibrator.  It was packaged in a plastic bag which said “sanitised”.  So… a communal vibrator.  Umm OK then.  (In it’s defence it did come with a giant condom-thing which you are to put over it for hygiene.  A toy sack – in a Christmas hotel)  


We settled in for the night and we soon came to the conclusion that the people upstairs didn’t like the way their room was laid out. They were definitely moving furniture.   It wasn’t anything else as it went on for far too long.  Also later there were some shouts of glee from another room.  It was nice to know that someone else was just as excited about the hair products as I was.

So overall – I would recommend this hotel although more for the experience of trying out an odd Japanese custom rather than for the convenience of the airport.  If you would like to nosey at it – it’s here – http://www.chapel-hotel.co.jp/chiba/h05/  But be warned, if you stay here, I don’t think you’ll ever look at Santa in the eye again!

Fujikawaguchiko

The first thing about this place is learning how the hell to pronounce it.  When Japanese people asked where we were going and we replied Fujikahubleurghko we got some blank looks.  It is much easier to say Mount Fuji!  Although it would have been fantastic to climb Mount Fuji, it was off season and only recommended for experienced climbers and we were in no way fit enough to tackle it!


We arrived on a lovely clear day and got to our hostel which had an amazing view of the mountain.  Also the hostel deserves a mention here – If you do find yourself in this area this hostel was the best we have stayed in so far.  I’m writing this in New Zealand and this still holds true.  We stayed at K’s House Fuji View (http://kshouse.jp/fuji-view-e/index.html) and it was so well equipped.  The kitchen was miles better than what we have at home!  The only thing that was confusing about it was the sign for the women’s toilets.  Looks kind of…male… to me!


The first day we arrived, we walked round the lakes and got some lovely views of the mountain.  I have seen some things on this trip that were meant to move me.  People said that when I saw the Taj Mahal I would be moved by it.  Meh.  But I could have looked at this mountain all day.  I actually stopped for about half an hour just to gaze at it!  I’m glad I filled my eyeballs with as much of it as I could because the next day the clouds descended and it was like it never was!

We went on a hike to a viewpoint which would have been amazing but alas there was nothing there.  We had to improvise.  

There were still lots of lovely things to see on the walk including a stunning little temple half way up with some interesting statues.  Andrew did the Shinto Buddhism cleansing hand-washing thing.  There was a point on the walk in the woods where we stopped to listen and could hear nothing.  I mean actually nothing, no birds, no cars, no wind.  Nothing.  I could hear the blood in my ears pumping which was so weird!  


We walked 18km in total and were knackered when we got back!  We treated ourselves to two helpings of the japanese curry!  I had just ditched a lot of my clothes in Bangkok as they were too big and bought smaller ones.  As I shovelled in my curry I could feel my waistband tightening – I hoped I wasn’t going to have to upsize again!  I buried the thought with some Meji chocolate and 7/11 cookies.

We were really lucky that we arrived on the day we did as the next day (the day we were leaving) was also cloudy.  We met a guy from the states who had only come for two days and hadn’t managed to see it at all which must have been gutting for him.  


Grateful for our experience we got back on the bus to Tokyo.  We were headed to a hotel in Narita before flying out the next day.  As we were on the bus Andrew decided to check the flight.  As it turned out I had made the most delightful mistake ever!  I had thought we were leaving a day earlier than we were.   We had a whole extra day in Japan!  Luckily the hotel let me move the booking til the next day and we quickly found a hostel in Tokyo and set to making the most of our last 24 hours.

Nara – A deer do

If you come to Japan you HAVE to visit Nara!  At the bottom of Nara near the train station, all the hotels and guest houses sit together in the town centre.  Ours was a good walk away but was actually inside the deer park.  

The location was amazing. You walk out of your door into the park and headfirst into deer!  The only drawback to this place was that we had to walk two and a half kilometres to get food and drink! You had to be reeeeally hungry to motivate yourself to go to town!

The deer park in Nara is the primary reason that tourists come to visit.  The deer are very tame and come up to you for crackers (which you purchase from any of the shops in Nara).  They are also trained to bow politely for a cracker although there are some greedy individuals that head bump you trying to get in your pockets, and leaving deer drool all over your legs!

The park is amazing.  It is very busy in the day, mainly with Japanese school children on English lesson field trips.  They come up to you and ask if you mind answering some questions.  The same questions every time… “Where are you from?” “What’s your favourite food?” This was, in the beginning quite charming, as the children were so well mannered and eager to learn, but after the twelfth time in one day you find yourself being mean, and quickly turning down another path when you see the gaggle approaching.  

After 5pm though, the park is deserted and it is really serene.  Just you and the deer!

In Nara town we made a fatal mistake of going into a Coco-Ichibanya.  The pictures outside looked innocent enough.  It was just an ordinary japanese curry like a Katsu which you could customise to your tastes (spice level, sauce base, topping etc). However once we had eaten it, it became apparent that it was laced with meth.  We just couldn’t stop eating it.  We ate it the next day and the next.  And when we realised we were going to kill our budget there, we found 7/11 boil in the bag alternatives that almost hit the spot so we ate these instead.  Although we wanted to try the different foods in Japan we ate the curry eight times as it was so damn delicious.  We even found one in Singapore to my delight! – The next one on our route is LA and I will sure as shit be going there, no matter how far the detour. Its the ONLY thing I’m looking forward to in LA! Serious jawgasm!

The last couple of days in Nara we did some walking.  There was a little “hill” in front of our hostel which we walked up the back of and ended up doing 18km. 

The view was astounding though and well worth it, although the next day we couldn’t move!  There was also a strange inscribed rock formation at the top, where a lady was collecting flowers.  I presume it had something to do with Shinto buddhism, but it had a very eerie feeling.  

Nara was stunning!  Do yourself a favour and go there! I would come back in a heartbeat (and not just for the Coco-Ichibanya!)

Kyoto, Japan

From Tokyo we took an overnight bus to Kyoto.  We used a company called Willer express. Warning for those who are used to the overnight buses in Asia.  The buses in Japan are not the same.  Instead of being able to recline almost fully back, you have about a two inch recline on a Japanese bus.  Plus, because Japanese people are so very polite, nobody reclines and you look like a wanker doing so.  So we spent a full night in a chair sitting up, getting bum ache.  The redeeming features that the Japanese sleeper bus had were charging points on every chair (which is unheard of in Asia) and a cute little hood that comes down over your head like a pram hood! This, again, is a very Japanese manners thing – it is rude, for the ladies especially, to be seen asleep and potentially drooling over yourself. 

We arrived in Kyoto super early and decided to walk to our hostel which was about an hours walk.  I immediately noticed it wasn’t quite as perfect as Tokyo, although was still pretty.  

It was a grey day and we were shattered. 

Our hostel was a capsule hotel.  If you go to Japan you definitely need to try one of these!  We stayed at 9 hours kyoto (https://ninehours.co.jp/en/kyoto/) but there are others too. I just loved how minimal everything was!

The men and women were on separate floors with separate bathrooms, locker rooms and even separate lifts!  If I am honest, it was a nice break from each other!  Travelling with the same person, seeing each other 24/7 can start to make you feel a little “stabby”. Upon check in we were given a pack with toothbrush and strange but very comfy black pyjamas set and slippers.  

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The lockers and bathrooms were on one floor and the sleeping capsules were on another.  Although these look claustophobic, they were actually really roomy.  Andrew just couldn’t get over how clinical everything looked.  He said he thought he was going to wake up in a bath of ice with his kidneys missing!

In Kyoto we visited a couple of temples. One completely by accident, which was stunning and within walking distance of our hostel.

The other is a famous temple called Fushimi Inari with sprawling orange gates over a circular walk.  At the bottom there are hundreds of tourists and school children all trying to get the perfect selfie with the gates in the background.

 

However once you walk up nearer the top past the lazy instagramers, there are less people and you can take some pretty photos. 

 It was a bit rainy on the day that we went but luckily we had our raincoats and an umbrella, fortuitously purchased (just in case) the day before!

We only spent two days in Kyoto so we didn’t manage to see everything, however we would definitely visit again and hope that we are luckier with the weather. Also we would get the bullet train instead of scrolling and getting the bus. We thought we had saved on a night of accommodation when in reality we just lost a day to being tired and cranky! Remember – cost and worth are entirely different things.

Japan – Tokyo and my existential crisis

People had said to me that we would get a culture shock when we got to Japan.  Everything was going to be so scary, strange and alien.  People wouldn’t speak any English, menus would all be in Japanese, they ate weird stuff, listened to Babymetal and watched tentacle porn.  However arriving in another country had never felt so much like coming home.  

When we met Hajime from Japan in Laos, he had shown us a map of the Tokyo underground and it looked scary as hell.  So, as we landed and made our way nervously through the airport, we were already stressing about how we were going to find our air bnb using this multicoloured tangle of a map.

Immigration took a matter of seconds.  No queue.  No messing.  Just pure efficiency.  We were off the plane and reunited with our bags within fifteen minutes.  We went to the train station in the airport and braced ourselves for the communication problems.  The lovely lady explained to us in perfect English, how to get to our subway stop.  She gave us a map (which we used the whole time) and highlighted our route and explained the subway changes we had to make.  It was so easy.  The subway is really so simple once you understand what the colours and numbers mean.  And it is super efficient.  I mean we noticed when a subway was thirty seconds late – that’s how impeccably on time it is!

So within no time we were in our cute and tiny air bnb with the most delicious store bought cheap sushi and chocolate that tasted like an eighties easter egg (when chocolate was still good).  I was in heaven!

We spent the next two days exploring Tokyo.  I loved it all.

I ate the most delicious mackerel that I have ever tasted in a little restaurant near our air bnb. (They had an english menu and it was fine!) I had no idea what all the little side dishes were or how I was meant to eat my seaweed but it was all delicious. I’m getting a juicy mouth just writing about it!

We went to the government building which is one of the tallest in the city.  

You can get some great photos there and if you hang around before dusk you can get both day and night pictures.  Plus they have some really cute things in the shop up there whilst you are waiting!

We went to Golden Gai, which is a collection of over 200 bars, most of which fit less than ten people! They are so cute – Many have themes such as the Troll pub, or Halloween.  We were obviously in “Death match in Hell”, a metal and movie bar, complete with Japanese Wayne from Wayne’s world.  We met some great people in there and had an amazing (and toe curlingly expensive) night.

We went to the famous Shibuya crossing and I just happened across a mall with a whole floor of stationery.  Hundreds of diaries, bullet journals, stickers, and washi.  All there for the taking, and all ridiculously cute.  I had to walk round with the mantra of – “everything I buy I have to carry on my back.  everything I buy I have to carry on my back” (It would be worth a spinal injury I think).

We bought a subway day pass and just hopped between areas – Tokyo really is enormous but the subway is so easy.  And the places are so different – upmarket Ginza with it’s offices and upmarket shops, is a couple of stops from Akihabara, which is geek central – with it’s teens dressed in anime costumes and many games arcades with crazy Japanese music. It’s a city of contrast but with a common thread of perfectionism and good manners.

We went to a few parks in the city. If Japan does one thing impeccably (and it does everything impeccably) it’s parks.  In the middle of the biggest city in the world and I can’t hear a sound other than birds and the soothing music they play in the park (which was randomly “auld Lang Syne”).  

It was in the first park where I contemplated the fact that I might be dead,  This was heaven or some kind of perfect holding place until I accepted I was dead.  Actually, if I remembered correctly there was really bad turbulance on the flight in.  Maybe that’s when it ended and I didn’t know.  Why else would food taste so good, the air smelll so sweet and the temperature be so perfectly just right?  And as if there would be so many planners and stickers in one shop? And what the hell is Japanese Wayne doing here?  Why are the trees growing up out of the ground? 

Surely it’s not real.  Everywhere I go smells like flowers mixed with my childhood and everyone I meet is lovely and polite and sweet.  I look at Andrew and wonder if he died too?  I asked him and to my surprise (I thought he would ridicule my idea) he agreed.  It appeared we were in heaven.

So we decided the test would be that, if when we tried to leave Japan we couldn’t, we would know we were really dead.  I’m writing this in Cairns, Australia so we know we are alive. But we also know that we utterly and completely love Japan and will definitely return.