When I went to Tokyo, Japan, I spent a night in a room that was orders of magnitude smaller than your average prison cell. It also involved me seeing more Japanese penis than I would have liked. I was not coerced into this. I chose it of my own free will. I paid $40 of my US dollars for the pleasure. And I don’t regret it.
Kiba was its name (the name of the hotel, not the name of the elderly penis I saw). I arrived with my female companion and we checked in. Reception was manned by friendly staff who spoke good English. There was also a small lounge area close by with half a dozen tables at which some visitors were playing cards and drinking tea or else drinking sake and hundred-yard-staring into the distance like they’d seen unspeakable things.
Reception staff told us we had to leave our big suitcases by reception and to only take smaller backpacks filled with what we’d need for the night’s stay: a change of clothes, phone chargers, toiletries, etc. Then they led us through a curtain into a locker room and gave us our key and told us the floor we were staying on and the location of the showers. All very relaxed. We opened our locker and found some disposable slippers and a pair of dressing gowns and towels.
Our “capsule” was on the 5th floor, so we took everything and hit the “5” in the elevator. Someone was on the elevator with us: a Japanese woman wearing nothing but her slippers and dressing gown who got off at the 3rd floor. As the door opened at that floor, we saw another couple of tourists looking at two curtains – one blue, one pink – looking quite concerned.
The 5th floor consisted of two hallways of cells (sorry, capsules) stacked two-high, each one with its own pull-down blind. It was some privacy but if one was so inclined one could just lift the curtain and play peekaboo. Our capsule was a double, which apparently meant it was about 1.2x the width of a single. Height-wise, the capsule was tall enough for a very small toddler to stand up in. Length-wise, probably long enough for someone a little over six feet tall to lie in. The hallways were impeccably clean, albeit scattered with slippers and visitors’ outside shoes.
Bathroom time. 8pm-6am meant the big bathroom was male-only. I took my slippers, dressing gown, towel, and toothbrush to the 3rd floor and went inside the blue curtain.
Now, other people’s nakedness doesn’t offend me, although, admittedly, I’m maybe more used to it than other people because I ride the NYC subway every day which involves seeing people masturbate more often than I’d like to admit. It’s the human body, it’s natural, however many things you have on your body that’d make doctors go “ehh, what’s that then?”. But being naked in front of other people is another matter entirely. Here I was going to have to shower in front of other people. Maybe a wrinkly old Japanese man would even ask me to soap his back for him. Like often in life when I’m facing a tricky situation, I turned to alcohol. I left the hotel, went to a 7/11, bought a bottle of sake, drank it quickly, then returned to the bathroom. Now I could do this.
With alcohol coursing through my veins, I yanked back the bathroom curtain, marched past the marble basins with giant mirrors at which stood several naked men brushing their teeth. I ripped off my shirt and beat my chest with my fists. I was king of the bathroom. I stripped and glided into the hot tub. I gave my only other bathing companion a long, hard stare until he looked away. That’s right, baby, my pale skinny body is ruling this place!
Despite the alcohol numbing my senses, I could still feel how mightily hot the hot tub was and I quickly reconvened myself at the showers. Each shower consisted of a stool, in front of which was a shower head attached to a pipe in the ground, which in turn was in front of a mirror and shelf with an assortment of shampoos, conditioners, body washes, and many things I couldn’t identify. There were a dozen showers split between three walls. There were three other men there. One old Japanese man, one younger Japanese man, and a white European guy. We didn’t make eye contact but it wasn’t awkward or weird. It felt totally natural, with a slight undercurrent of surreality, like a world without marzipan. I showered, I toweled off, I snuggled into my gown, I brushed my teeth, and I went to bed in my capsule. Zzz.
Really, I made a big deal out of nothing. Once I got over my own reservations (thanks, alcohol) this was just a story about a shower I took in a hotel. I repeat: you just read a blog post about someone who took a shower in a hotel. Well done, you. Tune in next time when I tell you about the time I bought a bottle of water and a Twix from a supermarket in Paris.