It was a no brainer that the very first place I explored in Tokyo was Tsukiji Fish Market. It was to orient myself how to get around in the city. More than that, I was curious to see what would come out from this popular tourist attraction. And it turned out that it gave me the main direction to explore the city.
While the inner wholesale market relocated to the new Toyosu Market a few months earlier, shops and restaurant in the outer market were still open. I’d be more interested in Japanese street food than fish auction in the early morning anyway.
To be honest, the place didn’t awe me as I’d expect from any tourist-filled place since it had been showcased in many media outlets. However, some nuances shifted my perspective. Apart from obvious street food shops and their customers, rooted traditions and orders emerged. Knife shops, specific recycle bins, old and new carts, and especially, bicycles—the ecosystem of the market.
Moreover, it eventually set photography focus for rest of the trip. It was where I first notice something unique about the city. I was fascinated by the relationship between bicycles and the city. Since then, it became my trip’s main obsession.
Because of that, an urge to go deep into the market’s ecosystem was overshadowed by the bicycle theme. Therefore, this photo set turned out not to reach the bar I set for my own standard. Nonetheless, it was a blessing that this first Tokyo exploration shaped up my theme for the rest of the trip.
One thing I got excited about Tokyo trip was the first time staying in a capsule hotel. The vibe couldn’t get more local than that. It was truly a worthwhile experience.
Apart from a very good deal from a booking website, the hotel—Sauna & Capsule Hotel Dandy—seemed to check all the boxes I was looking for. It was just a walking distance from Ueno Station and easy to locate even though there was no hotel signage on the street. Above all, as the name stated, it’s got an onsen.
It wasn’t just my first time staying in a capsule hotel but also the first time in the country. Surely, I was expecting some orientations with some new norms. But I didn’t expect it would be even before checking in.
First of all, before anything else, shoes off. Taking off shoes in the house wasn’t an etiquette I wasn’t accustomed to. But that custom in hotel was the next level. Basically, there was a small step up to the lobby. You were not allowed to have shoes on beyond that point. After taking off the shoes, you bring them to a shoe locker, keep them there, and take the key to the reception to check-in.
At checking-in, they kept the shoe locker key and gave you a set of towels, a robe, a pair of boxer shorts, and your locker key that matched your sleeping pod.
My previous concern was the luggage. Actually, they could store them during the stay. But you had to organise your stuff, taking things in and out, i.e. clean cloths.
The sleeping pod
was not too bad at all. It was equipped with a power outlet and a TV. There was
a blind covering the pod for privacy. Usually, you didn’t hear anyone from
others except some snoring. And I could be able to sleep every night.
One minor hassle was that you had to be out by 10 am for cleaning. Luckily, with the time difference, I got up around 4 am and couldn’t get back to sleep anyway. And you’d have to clear the bill when you ate, drank, or got a massage each day. But they left your locker alone so that you could keep something there. When you were back at the hotel, you’d get the same sleeping pod.
Did I mention an onsen in the hotel? Dipping in a hot bath was the best thing you could treat yourself after the long flight from Washington DC. I was aware of their etiquettes and could be able to relax.
To be honest, I didn’t find it awkward being naked amongst other men. No, it wasn’t my first time in a public bathhouse. But it was the first in a straight one without sexual intention. That was such a difference. Somehow, it was a humble expression of acceptance and tolerance.
Speaking of acceptance, there were a no-tattoo sign in Japanese. Tattoos have been associated with underworld gang in Japan. That unnerved me to expose my inked body the bath. However, there was not any sign of disgust from any patrons or staff. Not even a cringe (that I could notice). Everyone seemed to mind their own businesses.
Staying in shared facilities let me observe some social behaviours without having to interact with them. I found that was a great experience.
The year of 2018 has been a quite a ride. Like 2016 and 2017, I have to go back and forth between Washington DC and Bangkok. In addition, I got to explore some territories I’d never been to. Here is a quick summary:
In Bangkok from December 2017 to the end of January
No wonder that by the end of the year, it feels exhausting. The plus side was that it triggered some thoughts of possibilities.
It was a long time ago since I spent some time in a country, like Russia, I didn’t know their language. That made me realise how I missed an exploration that somehow Bangkok or Washington DC could not fulfil.
Also, I got to focus on Animated Doodle. That was a personal accomplishment that I had been struggling since I left Sydney. It was started during the mid-year break in Bangkok. The pace slowed down when I was back to work in Washington DC until it was done months later. That gave me some confidence that a personal project could be managed and achieved.
On the other hand, there were
also some downfalls during the year. Some accumulated issues have emerged and
caused me a fair amount of stresses.
I don’t mind this lifestyle—living in the two capitals back and forth. But that might not be sustainable in the long term and security has never been certain. There was a prospect for a longer contract that I could stay put in DC for a year or two without having to leave the US every three months. But that didn’t happen. Not to mention personal finance mismanagement.
Those possibilities and mishaps during the year have given me a lot to think about on goals, directions, and actions. At the moment it feels like sailing in a haze. However, it is a kick in the butt for me to move forwards. Hard works ahead and I need to get on it.
Tokyo is one of the most visited cities in the world and there are abundant stories about it. I wonder if there would be any angles that I would discover and get me anchored during this trip. That was the relationship between the city and bicycles.
I would say that it was the first time that I’d experienced one of the most bicycle-friendly in the world. Without any previous knowledge about it, it was fascinating to this urban transportation in full range. From moms to a salaryman to a homeless man, they all had a bike at some point.
Bicycles were everywhere, so also parking: on the streets, in subway stations and apartments. I found those bikes on the street added another unique characteristic to the Tokyo urban landscape.
Rules and regulations about bicycle parking were apparent. Of course, there would be some mischief and mistreatment. We are human after all.