Category Archives: I heart Japan!

Capsule Hotel 101: Hacks & Etiquette

Thanks to the relaxed visa requirements enforced by Japan about two years ago, it has become easier and more convenient for Filipinos to enjoy Japan. The upcoming Summer Olympics in Tokyo, slated for next year, has also seen a boom in new AirBnB’s, new hostels and new hotels being built — in fact, one thing I noticed is there are also a lot of new capsule hotels, especially around the Taito (where Asakusa is) area.

Capsule hotels were formerly a novelty — first gaining prominence in the early aughts for overworked, sloshed salarymen who missed the last train home. While Tokyo (and Japan) is considerably safe that you can literally plonk yourself on a train station bench to get some zzzz’s; capsule hotels provide a temporary respite with a clean, sterile bed, a place to wash up and brush your teeth preparing the harried salaryman to another day at work.

When it first gained prominence, everyone was fixated on the novelty of it all: the cramped, tight spaces was the stuff of nightmares for claustrophobics everywhere. A close friend even compared it to sleeping in a coffin.

Well, lemme break it down for you. A capsule hotel or sleeping inside a pod is very far from being inside a coffin — think of it as your typical bunk bed when you were still dorming in university, or a mean cardboard fort you used to sleep when you were five.

tube

tube2

I finally got to experience what it’s like to sleep inside a pod during a recent trip to Nagoya and Hokkaido with my sister. Our flight to Nagoya arrived at almost 6AM; following midnight departure from Manila. We landed in Chubu Centrair International Airport, (which is Nagoya’s main air hub) hungry, sleepy and a bit cranky since we’ve both been up since the previous name. After a quick breakfast, we weighed our options given that check-in was still pegged at 2PM: a) we could slum it at the airport and leave at 1PM so we could be at the city in time for check-in; b) leave for the city right away, drop off our stuff at the hotel and explore Nagoya or c) sleep at the airport first, freshen up before heading to Nagoya at noon. Of course, we chose C.

The solution to our problem came in the form of Tube SQ, a sleek capsule hotel located at the Welcome Garden on the first floor of the Chubu Centrair Airport. The friendly receptionist advised us that we could avail of their promo rates if we will book online – so, we parked our butts on the beaches nearest the hotel and started booking online. While the standard 3 hours rate was at Y2,900 (roughly PHP1,450), we were not above taking advantage of the Y1,800 (PHP900) 3-hour stay online promo. So, in between smiles and fiddling through the Japanese-language website, my sister and I were able to secure pods which the receptionist then dutifully honored. In case you’re wondering, here are the standard pod rates for the capsule hotel:

tube4jpg
courtesy of Tube SQ

Upon check-in, you will show your passport to the receptionist for record-keeping, confirm payment online and collect the key from the reception. The “key” was actually two keys hanging from a nylon rubber-scrunchy type that you can wear on your wrist for safety. You have a key for the locker where you will keep your stuff and another key which you will use to open the door leading to the ladies’ sleeping area. Before you head inside, you can freely pick a hot towel or wet wipe, a toothbrush kit and even hair ties on the side table near the entrance.

The first door you will likely see in the entrance is the women’s locker room. This is where you will deposit your luggage, coat and other stuff you have with you; and then change to the yukata provided for you. In the photo above, it’s the red top and pants neatly folded inside the locker. When staying at a capsule hotel, you are not allowed to use your every day outside clothes inside the sleeping area, hence the yukata. You will also need to change into slippers, and leave your shoes inside the locker. Aside from the yukata, you will be provided a bathrobe and towel in case you want to take a bath.

After changing: you have two options – you can take a bath or immediately head to the sleeping area. The bath is usually situated near the locker/changing areas; with a specific area for showers and for the toilet (should you need to do your business). The shower area also had beauty products (like shower gel, shampoo, and conditioner) per stall and a row of facial wash, lotion, hand soap on the sink, as well as cotton buds on the sink. There was also a row of blowdryers and baskets to keep your stuff in while you shower.

But since we’re really, really sleepy – we opted to sleep first and then freshen up later before we head to Sakai (which is central Nagoya and where our hotel was located).

Usually, capsule hotels have two large rooms, separating the men’s and women’s sleeping area. Tube SQ has a huge sleeping space and their pods are equally large as well. You will be allowed to carry your personal belongings (like a backpack or shoulder bag) inside the pod. Before parking your stuff just anywhere, look at the keys provided to you – usually, there is a number corresponding to the pod assigned to you.

The photo below was taken inside my pod, while I was trying to get work done before I become incommunicado for the day.

As you can see, it’s roomy enough to sit down and lay your stuff should you need to work. Inside each pod is a button to control the light and temperature; a hanger for your coat, an emergency flashlight, a small mirror, and really thick sheets and comfy pillows so you could sleep in peace. I was basically out of it for a good two hours, right after I’ve sent the email I was composing when I took the photo.  As someone who’s claustrophobic and hated tight spaces, I did not feel uncomfortable at all. Actually, I felt snug and comfortable and it was one of the deepest sleep I had. To think that just a few meters from where I sleep, planes were coming and going to and from the rest of Japan and the world. Instead of a door, we had plastic-like blinds which we pull down or up to open up to get in and out of the pod.

Promptly after three hours, we woke up and decided to head to the lockers to freshen up. We checked out as easily and went back to the concourse for our bus which will take us to the city.

A few things to remember when sleeping in a capsule hotel:

  1. Eating and drinking are not permitted in the pod area. Most capsule hotels have reception areas or dining lounges where you can eat in peace
  2. Silence and consideration for others are required when staying in a capsule hotel, especially when in the sleeping area. If you are with friends, avoid loud conversations. If you are on the phone, speak softly. Avoid unnecessary noises like playing music on your phone without headphones or rummaging for stuff in your bag where everyone can hear the loud rustling of papers or plastic.
  3. Observe cleanliness at all times. In the showers, clean after yourself and don’t leave used tissues or any stuff you discarded in the sink
  4. Basically, be considerate and always remember that you are sharing the space with other people.

 

So, if you have a Japan trip coming and looking for a cheap place to stay, why not try a capsule hotel?

 

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MaotsuJun

Psssst….!

In other news, Jun Matsumoto and Inoue Mao are said to be getting married.

This, according to the wonderfully dirty, unreliable world of Japanese tabloids.

pic not mine
pic not mine

Read all the dirt here

Thing is — it’s really not an issue if Inoue Mao and MatsuJun end up hooking up and getting hitched. Imagine the happiness of the whole HanaDan fandom! Domyouji-Tsukasa get married in real life!

GOD – these so-called are idols are human beings, too. They deserve happiness and a shot with eternal love. Crazy fans should take a chill pill and get a life, too.

Transform yourself into a Manga Character!

How’s this for a time-waster?
Discovered ANA (All Nippon Airlines) Manganizer website and I am seriously hooked.

From ANA-Manganizer website
From ANA-Manganizer website

I spent a big chunk of my time this evening just playing with the site. Plus, I wanted to know if I look like the perfect manga girl. My appropriated face is far from it — in fact, I look like a stunted chibi.

the girl on the cover of the manga, is apparently, my cartoon version
the girl on the cover of the manga, is apparently, my cartoon version

The site is very easy to use and follow: upload your pic, modify according to your expectations and generate the cartoon version of yourself. The finished product will be used in developing a manga story viewable also online. Such an engaging time waster that I ended up calling it a night without me finishing the article I am supposed to hand in by tomorrow.

In a statement, ANA revealed that they created the site in order to entice young people to come and visit Japan. It is also their way of bringing back by promoting tourism and the company of course.

Would you live here? Not for the claustrophobic and the faint-hearted.

Yes, one of my dreams is to live in Japan. Not just visit, but to actually live there.
But would you even consider it if this is your living space?

photo not my property
photo not my property

Nope, the guy above is not a small person stuffed inside the locker by bullies. He actually lives in that space, as featured in a Japan news program and picked up by this website. Called “geki-sema share house,” the building houses a common toilet for its tenant and lots of locker-type rooms built on top of the other rented to people who can’t afford their own house in Japan. However, note that the rent is not actually cheap going for Y55,000 and Y45,000 for a smaller room. In Philippine peso, that’s about PHP27,500 and PHP22,500 respectively, enough to get you a two bedroom house in a nice apartment. However, note that an actual house (and not just a shoebox) can be rented in some areas of Tokyo for the same price. The thing is, from what I learned from various Japanese lifestyle websites, renting in Japan is very complicated and expensive – with key money, rent money, guarantee money among many other things.

The guy has no space except for a tatami mat. In the article and in the news feature, it was explained that living spaces in Japan were sometimes measured according to the traditional means of using the sizes of tatami mats.

This girl meanwhile has a bigger space but her rent is also bigger (the aforementioned Y55,000). She has enough room for her mat, clothes and even a flat screen TV. She also has the luxury of a small window, ensuring circulation of fresh air.

I don’t know if I can live in a space this small, especially since I tend to be wary of small spaces. The walls also seemed thin so imagine the things you’ll get to hear if the guy living on top of your box is doing “something.” Besides, I am really crazy when it comes to using bathrooms so a communal bath room is really not possible for me.

You know, what this reminds me of? These guys:

All Hail, K!
All Hail, K!

All photos used (except for the locker aliens) are from this SOURCE

Mad Love

In honor of St. Valentine’s Day–where people dress in red and try to compete for candle-lit tables located in over-booked restaurants, serving over priced steak–I bring you this adorable albeit, obviously crazy way these hapless Japanese salarymen show their love to their wives.

Shout it out! Love drives people crazy!
Shout it out! Love drives people crazy!

By shouting their messages of love stark raving mad in front of a very amused crowd:

In a society like Japan who puts much emphasis on “what’s proper” and ultimate propriety, these brave souls obviously made their wives flutter like never before. They are part of Japan’s “Devoted Husband’s Organization” where members show their appreciation to the missus every “Love your Wife Day” which falls every 31st of January.

Aishteru Yo!
Aishteru Yo!

Here are some of their messages:

“I can fly higher because you’re with me. Please stand by me forever.”
“I’m sorry that I’ve gained weight over the last seven years,But that’s because the meals you cook are so delicious.”
“I’ll hug you very tight tonight, Thank you for your love.”

Awwww. As a married woman myself, I know there are days when husbands seem to evolve from the Prince Charmings we all married (and fell in love with) to pompous jack-asses that you want to gift wrap and send back to their over-protected moms.

But, there are also definite days when you are glad you are married to the bugger. It maybe simple things like him fixing you breakfast or cooking you Omurice for your office bento, or taking care of you when you are sick and/or feeling shitty.

I wish there are more events like “Appreciate your Wife Day” or maybe, “Appreciate your Husband Day” because quite frankly, more than the syrupy gimmicks of Valentine’s Day — it’s when you feel that you are truly appreciated and cared for that you feel most loved.

SOURCE here

Minami Minegishi’s shaved head is just so wrong

I guess by now everyone knows what happened to AKB 48’s Minami Minegishi.
Minami, one of the pioneer members of the leading Japanese girl was caught by a photographer Shukan Bunshun leaving the apartment of Generations member Alan Shirahama early in the morning. (SOURCE)

Of course, the tabloid implied that Minami is having a relationship with the boy band member…and who knows what they probably did during the night she spent there.

Following the publication of the scandal, a video showing Minami in tears, apologizing to fans, AKB members, her family and the management, for “lacking self-awareness” and for causing the scandal. What made the video more heart breaking is the 20 year old, known for her shiny long locks, had shaved her head as a sign of utmost contrition.

Minami went from this…

pic not mine
pic not mine

to this:

pic not mine
pic not mine

I’ve seen the video (of her apology) and it is one of the most heartbreaking videos I’ve seen in a very long time. You can sense her agony and her desperation. And her shaved head — you could see light and dark patches as if it was done in haste (an interview released by her management revealed that after the scandal broke, she went to the make-up room, cried her heart out and emerged with a shaved head). In the video, you can sense her desperation and just how sorry she was, bowing long and deep near the end.

In a related note, tried to watch the video again this evening but most of the links are gone and now labeled as “Private Video”. I was only able to see it at DailyMail.com after searching for it for about a while.

So what do I make of it?

A part of me wants to say that I hope she just gives AKB the finger and embark on a solo career of her own. After all, she is 20 years old and been with the group for 8 years as one of its original members. If the management can’t see her loyalty — then, might as well embark on a solo career, enjoy her life as a healthy 20 year old woman who enters relationships and probably do all the things that come with it. Surely, her talent can take her anywhere after a near decade stint with AKB 48.

Minami, like all idols before her who managed to hurt their careers by doing the unthinkable (…sarcasm here *cough*) by falling in love like any normal human being, deserves to live her life the way she pleases. A part of me wants to believe that the fandom has grown up and in fact, would never mind their idols starting to have healthy relationships.

Though, the other part of me emphasized that in the first place, Minami knew what the rules are when she first joined AKB 48.She knew that there will be no dating, that liking someone should only be one-sided and made private and that there’s no chance in hell that she should be “doing the deed,” in order to preserve AKB 48’s image of innocence and purity to its fans. She signed and the dotted line and now she’s paying for it when she broke the law. Hence, the punishment is expected and should be meted.

First of all, doesn’t she event think that one day, she’ll grow up and find a man she likes?

Secondly, I’ve seen a lot of comments from different news sites and blogs about people commenting how extreme that she had to shave her head when a very contrite sorry would have been enough. I agree on one commenter I’ve read somewhere that we, those who live outside Japan, would never understand the culture of penitence and asking for forgiveness in their country. There, shaving one’s head can be considered as one of the ultimate signs of penance and asking for forgivenes. Hence, when Minami shaved hear head, it is to show her remorse on her “perceived mistakes.”

At the end of the day, I think Minami has shown enough how much she valued and cared for AKB48. Maybe, for this time, they can reinstate her to the group and just move on, wisened by the experience. But, like we all know, the decision lies in the hands of the management. She has been re-assigned to the “trainee group” and God only knows how she will rise from this chapter of her very young life.

Whatever she chose, I am certain that she’ll do just fine. After all, this particular news has spread world wide and already made Minami a household name world wide. It’s just a matter of time before she bounces bank, puts on the skimpy school uniform and show the world what she really got.

How NOT to sell a boy band: DRESS THEM LIKE FREAKING POPCORNS!

While writing the earlier post and searching the internet–I came across a picture so disturbing, so horrifying–I almost fell on my bed.

This.

Holy POPCORN, BATMAN!

I don’t know who to blame, but I want specifics. Is it that danged stylist again? Is it you, Johnny? Is it any of the boys? I want specifics because YOU DON’T DRESS A BOY BAND LIKE OVERCOOKED CORN KERNELS!!!

I am really confused. Is this really the way we want to package our boys (arguably, one of the most sought-after boy band in Japan)? Like corn kernels placed in a microwave? I can look beyond the stripy uniform that seemed like it was stolen in a long-forgotten diner…but it’s the fracking headress that’s giving me headaches.

And frack, did you even see the faces of these boys? Ninomiya looks like he wants to punch the photographer, the stylist, the road manager, even Johnny himself, for bringing this kind embarrassment into his life. My MatsuJun is like two seconds away from crying. Who wouldn’t? You used to be the mighty and obnoxious Domyouji Tsukasa and now you are dressed like a giant pop corn and the suit you are wearing is worse than stupid!

I’ve been saying this over and over again. Arashi’s stylist or whoever is in charge of their branding and imaging fracking hates them! I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: Arashi has to update their costumes because it’s so pathetic!

As far as I am concerned, Arashi are IDOLS, not some two-bit variety show act. These boys are icons, the most that can be given to them are good styling tips!

Again, I bemoan the fact that I can be an Arashi stylist and save them from any more theme park costumes. Their fashion style affects the sellability of an Idol.