Japan 2012 (Tokyo)

I did get some sleep on my night bus to Tokyo, luckily. I arrived outside Shinjuku station, the busiest train station in the world according to Wikipedia. So it was appropriate to take most used metro system in the world from here to find a hotel. For $9, I got a day pass for the Tokyo Metro and I could ride it as much as I wanted. Just like my plan in Osaka, I headed to the area of Tokyo with the most homeless people near Minami-Senju station. The Wikipedia page gives a clue why only homeless people and backpackers. It used to be the location of an execution ground and over 100,000 people were executed here over 223 years.

I had no reservation, so I tried asking at a few hotels if I could stay. All said no except for Juyoh Hotel which happens to be the same hotel I stayed in five years ago. $36 for a private room is about as low as you can go in Tokyo. You have to keep in mind the room is smaller than most bathrooms.

I went to see the new Tokyo Skytree, currently the second tallest structure in the world and a replacement for Tokyo Tower. It opened to the public a month after I visited. I walked across the river to Asakusa. The cherry blossoms were falling away. The park next to the river was covered in pedals. I walked to Asakusa shrine and afterward saw something that is only in Japan:  An escalator for bicycles. The bicycle parking in underground, so to help get the bikes back out to the street, you put them on a narrow escalator wide enough for the tires, press a button and it pulls the bike up while you walk beside it.

Next I visited Toto Super Space, the most famous maker of toilets. They have a showroom on the 26th & 27th floors of Shinjuku L Tower, very prime real estate. A lot of model bathrooms and kitchens to look at there. Oh and the hand dryers are double sided, drying both sides of your hands simultaneously.

Next was Kabukicho, an area featured in the Yakuza video game series. In the game, they recreated this district of Tokyo so closely, I felt like I was in The Matrix when I got there for real.  Taxis parked in the same place, entrance leading to underground shopping mall level, and then parking level below that (first car I saw had a V12 badge on the side), Club Sega in the same place with Sega UFO Catcher inside, I even think convenience stores were in the same locations.

Later I spent some time in the Akihabara electric town, but then it started raining a lot. The next day I left right away from my hotel to catch a bus to Ibaraki Airport and my flight on Spring Airlines to Shanghai, China.

A note on change machines in Japan. They are everywhere. Even in buses, no need to have exact change. Some buses are a flat fee, so simply dump whatever money you have into the top and your ticket and change comes out. Other buses have a distance based fee, so you get a ticket out of one machine when you board and then put the ticket in another machine when you exit. A display will say how much you need to pay. I noticed supermarkets have a similar machine. At the checkout counter, the clerk inserts all my money into a machine and the correct change comes out. And then vending machines are ubiquitous, requiring no people, and you can get everything from food, coffee, beer to cigarettes from them. Personally, I think it is nice not having to rely on people so much.