Bright Green Gaijin Pants, Post 3-2

avatarMy first blog, titled Bright Green Gaijin Pants, was a chronicle of my time as an exchange student in Kushiro, Hokkaido, Japan. I’ve decided to repost its contents on this blog. For a full list of all these posts, click Bright Green Gaijin Pants on the menu, above.

The first blog post of any real worth that I published from Japan was far larger than it had any right to be. It was actually several posts combined and posted at the same time because I didn’t have internet access when I first got to Japan. I will be reposting them seperately, as they were meant to be. They’re still long, though. I’m sorry. I was a noob.

The Hotel

Originally published on October 16, 2005.

One thing which is just flippin’ awesome is the key card I received. American hotel key cards each have a magnetic strip, which is somehow swiped in the door to unlock it. This key card did not have a magnetic strip. The door did not have a place to swipe it. what it did have was a shiny black dot about an inch in diameter above the door handle. When I moved the key card in front of said dot, the door unlocked.

What’s even cooler is that just inside the door was a little fixture on the wall that said, “Please insert card. When I did, the lights turned on.

light_switch

Best light switch ever.

Sweet-tastic. So I plopped my stuff on the bed and looked around. Let’s start with the bathroom.

Hotel-Bathroom-Overview

It’s not uncommon for Japanese hotels to have communal bathrooms only.

It’s a nice bathroom. Removable shower head, like just about every Japanese bathroom has. Sink, toilet — dude, the toilet!

Hotel-Toilet

The sort of thing you hear about and don’t expect to encounter on your first day.

It’s one of the high-tech toilets, complete with bum-washing mechanism. Well, I needed to go to the bathroom anyway. When I sat down, the toilet beeped and the standby indicator started flashing. I’ll tell you what, the idea of a spray of water coming from the toilet to wash your bum is weird, but it works. The water is warm, so there’s no discomfort. The blue setting was aimed too high, but the pink setting (does anyone know what bidet means?) was practically perfect in every way.

OK, toilet aside. Bring on the desk!

Hotel-Desk-1

What’s that handle for?

Hotel-Desk-2

Surprise!

Hotel-Desk-3

Also, a flatscreen TV.

The left side is your average hotel desk stuff. Lamp, tissues, memo paper, phone. It’s made much niftier by the lift up mirror with compartment. The right side, however, is a treasure. That’s one sweet TV. The left-hand remote is for that. The right-hand remote is for a heater or something in the corner — I’m not sure what exactly it does, honestly, because the middle remote was for the air conditioning. Hallelujah!

Embedded in the wall over the bed was the clock/alarm clock and some light switches.

Hotel-Clock-and-Switches

He’s not the king, but he’s still so proper.

There was also a trouser press.

Hotel-Trouser-Press

Ironing boards are SO last country.

At this point, I made a choice. A bath (so longed for), or food and a bit of exploration? Well, I needed food. There was a cafe downstairs, and vending machines on all floors, and I wanted a picture of the fountain across the street… bath would make me sleepy, so exploration.

Pictures! This is what I had seen upon first exiting the elevator on my floor.

Hotel-6th-Floor

Just in case you forgot which elevator button you pressed.

And the vending machine on my floor.

Hotel-Vending-1

Anti-climactic, after all the things you hear/read about Japanese vending machines.

Hmm. Drinks only. Floor 2 is supposed to have a vending room instead of a vending corner. I’ll have to check that out. But first… those fountains!

Green-Fountain

Reminds me of Slimer.

Pretty awesome. I think the building they (there were actually two of these green fountains) were in front of was another hotel, but I wouldn’t swear by that. I took this next picture of my hotel’s foyer on the way back in:

Hotel-Foyer

Step into my hotel, said the Japanese to the Lena.

Both sets of doors slide open; the second set has bars. On the right-hand side of the foyer is an intercom for use between 2:00 and 7:00 for the purpose of obtaining entry. On the left is an umbrella rack.

Hotel-Umbrella-Rack

It wasn’t until much later that I realized how awesome it is to have an umbrella rack like this.

It’s a coin-operated, lock-the-umbrella-in-place umbrella rack. One of the foreign exchange students had told me that the thing that struck her as most weird in Alaska is that no one uses umbrellas. I think I’m gonna find out, on the first rainy day I encounter, that I’ll be surprised by how many people have umbrellas, even though I have warning.

The last leg of my jaunt, the second floor vending room.

Hotel-Vending-2

Yeah… still kinda anti-climactic.

Excellent, there’s food, too. After some deliberation, I decide to grab a random instant noodle bowl — but not before taking a couple of pictures of other things in the room. Like the laundry machines.

Hotel-Laundry

In retrospect, I don’t think I saw dryers outside of hotels the entire time I was in Japan.

And what is (I think) related to fire safety. I saw very similar fixtures at the Narita and Haneda airports.

Hotel-Fire-Alarm

The right-hand compartment has a fire extinguisher in it. I believe the lower left part has a fire hose fixture.

So I returned to my room and contemplated my food.

Food

I hoped, since there was no microwave in evidence, that the directions I had no intention of translating stated that I just needed to add hot water. So I added hot water and prepared, otherwise, for a bath. I turned on the TV at this point, too, watching first a movie (which had a character named Benkei — maybe had a connection to the Tale of the Genji?) then a wacky variety show going over some guy’s best pranks, dating back to at least 1980.

I also discovered that I was having an interesting time with the whole slippers thing. In case you are unaware, the Japanese take their shoes off at the door, donning in their place a pair of slippers. These are worn around the house, unless one needs to use the toilet. At that point, one switches into toilet slippers. That way you don’t go tracking things from the bathroom floor into the rest of the house. Pretty ingenious, actually. (If there’s a room with tatami mat floors, you take your slippers off at the entrance and walk in your socks, but this hotel is a modern hotel with no tatami.) The hotel included free slippers for the room, but I kept accidentally wearing them into the bathroom or slipping them off in the middle of the room for no apparent reason. Oops.

I recalled my food when I went into the bathroom and saw it sitting on the counter. It was not so hot anymore, but the noodles were soft and pliable. I looked at the flavor packet. It had two sections. I poured in the contents of the big section. Then I opened the small section and started pouring that on, but O SNAP! It was schechwan stuff. Didn’t put all of that in there.

It’s at this point that I wish to instate the Taste-O-Meter. It works on a scale of 1-5, as follows:

1 = OMFG, get this out of my mouth!
2 = Somewhat untasty, but edible in a pinch.
3 = It’s food.
4 = Hey, this is pretty good stuff.
5 = I think I shall actively seek this out from now on.

Taste-O-Meter!

Random Green Instant Noodle Bowl: 2
It had some sort of bread on top that complimented the flavor nicely and was easy to eat after soaking up some of the water. The noodles were odd; they didn’t even taste like rice noodles in the states do, so I’m not really sure what they were made of. But it was edible, and I was hungry.

After that I tried to go Japanese style and shower, then take a bath… however, I was so drowsy by the end of the shower that I was afraid I’d fall asleep in the bath and drown (though I’d have at least done so in Japan! :D) so I just went to bed. The bed was harder than I’m used to, obviously made to emulate a futon on a floor. Fortunately for me, I like that. It was shortly after 21:00 at this point. I set the alarm for 4:30 and laid down to sleep. Initially I planned to have the TV on all night, but for once the noise was distracting, so I regretfully turned it off.

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