Capsule hotels and Japanese hair
I woke up in a big, wooden coffin.
Inside the capsule there is space enough to stretch out fully (I’m 1.83m) and sit upright. There is no air-flow so it’s a little hot during the night. The room is shared with ~25 people, in a sort of hive dormitory, and the only barrier between you is a 3mm thick pull-down curtain.
If you can handle all of the above, the place is actually not that bad. The sheets are changed daily and facilities are shared but very clean. You are provided with a locker, slippers and there’s a common room to store your luggage. Personal hygiene necessities can be bought from the front desk.
I was expecting to meet a lot of travelers in the hostel, but getting out of the capsule I found myself surrounded by polite and quiet Japanese businessmen (I assumed). I have no idea why, and this was not the case in the other hostels I would later stay in. I was greeted with a few nods of the head and took a place at the sinks to perform my morning ritual.
While I was brushing my teeth I noticed some guys beside taking care of their hair. It was about 15 minutes later as I was leaving, fully dressed and packed, that I noticed they were still there. These guys were serious: hair products were heavily applied, hairs were being put into place individually and I could swear I saw one of them add what looked like glitter…
I didn’t even think to bring a hair-brush to Japan.
At this point it’s worth mentioning that as a rule Japanese people have beautiful hair. We are talking raven black, shiny, styled, Loreal-commercial niceness. Almost none of them are bald, and most men have relatively long haircuts. Apparently this comes at a price.
Walking to the train station, I was struck again by the cleanliness of the streets and general aesthetics of the city.
These two photographs show serene smoking spots I noticed along the way, the second being right next to a Shinto shrine. It is not unusual for them to be this nice. Smoking laws are a bit different in Japan:
Unlike in Europe and North America, [..] smoking in Japan is not made illegal by Article 25 of the nation’s Health Promotion Act, which merely urges smoking restrictions. Limited indoor bans have been enacted [..], but not nationally. Other restrictions may be implemented by the choice of public and private property owners, managers, employers, etc.
Many of the wealthier wards of Tokyo […] have designated special smoking sections in areas and it is punishable by fine if caught smoking outside these areas. Chiyoda-ku banned smoking while walking on busy streets […].
I did not use Photoshop to clean up the floors and walls; this is what Tokyo city looks like.
Tokyo Imperial Palace
We took a ~10 km walk all around the outer border of the palace and took our time exploring its gardens.
Yoyogi Park & Meiji shrine wedding
The shrine is located inside this beautiful park and we were lucky to witness a wedding ceremony. On the way we passed through a couple of huge Torii gates.
The wedding procession was a solemn affair – no dancing or even smiling involved. On Japanese weddings:
Japanese wedding customs fall into two categories: traditional Shinto ceremonies, and modern Western-style weddings.
Western-style wedding ceremonies are currently very popular in Japan. These ceremonies are modeled on a traditional or stereotypical chapel wedding. […] The “ministers” of these marriages are often not actual Christians. In general, even true Christians administering the marriage are discouraged from actual proselytizing.
There is no perceived contradiction in participating in a Western wedding with Christian iconography. Japanese people are culturally Buddhist and Buddhism still remains the religion of the majority. Most couples choose their wedding style, not for any religious reason, but rather as a fashion statement.
Harajuku and Shibuya
We walked from Yoyogi Park to Shibuya [~3km] via Takeshita Street, which we lovingly called “Hipster Street”. I estimate that about 30% of the shops along the street sold shoes. How many feet do Japanese people have?!
It is customary in the Japanese workforce to go out with colleagues to get drunk and silly after work. Notice the man-bags that are neatly stacked up next to them. This isn’t something you just see now and then; each man on the streets in Japan (or at least Tokyo) carries some sort of bag or even a purse with them. I wish I’d thought to ask what they carry inside.
Shibuya Crossing is to Japan what the Times Square is to New York:
Every day is cosplay day in Tokyo, but this was the week before Halloween so I’m pretty sure we got to see them put in some extra effort:
We found Waldo.
We finished off the night with a street performance of this awesome band, right next to Shibuya Crossing:
Looking back, the days in Tokyo were probably the longest and busiest days of the trip, full of long walks in the city and exploring multiple sites and activities from early morning to midnight. Still, I got the feeling that I was only seeing the tip of the iceberg – Tokyo is a city alive with possibilities and has many layers to peel. It deserves a couple of weeks all on its own.
Japan day 0: airports and flights
Japan day 1: Tokyo [Asakusa and Odaiba]
Japan day 2: Tokyo [Imperial Palace, Yoyogi park, Shibuya] (You are here)
Japan day 3: trains, Nikko and Robot Restaurant