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Tokyo: From the Streets to the Stars, Sort Of

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Day 26: June 1, 2015

This is my last full day in Japan. All the museums are closed. Perhaps I’ll see what lands in my lap.
First I visit Starbucks, pick up a Japan Times, and enjoy breakfast on a bench. Despite it being Monday, I see people suffering from the “morning after the night before.”

Once I’ve bought a new watch in the Bic Camera store in Shinjunku, I consult Rough Guide for lunch recommendations. Hey, it was spot on for supper, so why not? I set my targets on J.S. Burgers Café. The thing about Tokyo streets is that they don’t follow the same logic as Western streets. Had the Romans dropped by, perhaps things might have been different. Even when I drop all pretense and just ask locals, I get nowhere. Actually, that isn’t true. I end up in what looks like a red-light district. Unlike the West, I have no fear of being accosted. I’m a fortysomething woman, wearing travel pants and a T-shirt, with a backpack and a camera slung around me, carrying a well-thumbed Rough Guide. I have nothing to sell nor services to render. I am, however, hungry and end up at Burger King. Sad but true.

The lack of personal space is getting to me. Ueno Park? Shinjuku Park? I need WiFi too. Where the hell do I find that? Despite having eaten, I’m in a foul mood. I feel like a hot, greasy lump with no plan. Quick, Rough Guide, find me something! Ah, yes, the Konica Minolta Planetarium Theatre!


I am sitting on a the patio of the World Beer Museum at the Skytree gawping at a massive beer list. The food menu presents the usual fare, so I settle on fish and chips (there’s nothing distinctly Japanese) and Hitachino Nest White Ale (5.5 %) brewed by Kiuchi in Ibaraki, Japan. It tastes a bit citrusy, but a little weird too. From the label: “This white ale is brewed with wheat malt and flavoured with coriander, orange peel, and nutmeg. Please enjoy the soft and flavourful taste.”



Interesting. The Japanese couple seated at the table to my right get better service than I do. They seem to be drunk, so perhaps they’re spending more. He’s older than she is and they’re giggling over what appears to be a script. I’m dreaming up a salacious story about them. To my left are a pair of young Japanese twentysomething guys who also get quicker service than I do. Me, I have to wave people down and I don’t get the same server but three different people who keep me waiting for my bill when I’m clearly ready to go. Surprising since this this tourist attraction, not a local neighbourhood bar.

Now it’s time to recline in the planetarium. The pleasant staff equip me with the English headphones. The room darkens and the movie transports me to a dark-sky reserve in New Zealand. Simple but lovely. I resolve that once I leave this crazy light-polluted city and return to my own light-polluted city, I will seek to escape to the dark and see the stars for real.


Harajuku: Art, Rockabilly, and Splashing Out

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Day 25: May 31, 2015

Even when I’m settled in, I’m on the move—or at least my bag is. Apparently, the hotel needs to move me to another room Did I mention that I think this is a love hotel? I guess, this single lady gets a smaller room with less “love.”

Breakfast today, a bun and an apple, is procured at a grocery store, with coffee from McDonald’s. The apple is rotten; the coffee is passable. I hope this doesn’t portend the rest of the day.

I walked through part of the Imperial Palace to reach the National Museum of Modern Art. Wonderful! So good to see something relatively contemporary. The exhibit that strikes me the most is the war painting. Like most nations, Japan commissioned artists to document the Second World War. The paintings that emerged demonstrates how the Meiji era, or one of open borders, affected art. It’s interesting to see how official depictions of war contrast so dramatically with works completed after the conflict: heroic soldiers versus broken men. Not unlike the West.

Lunch then Harjuko. Maybe I’ll splash out for dinner.


Harajuko is a fashion centre, but it’s best known for youth culture: cosplay, kawaii, Goth—whatever you want to call it, teens wear it. This is what I’m prepared for. What greets me is utterly different. For the past thirty years, men (and now one woman) have gathered to have a rockabilly group “dance off.” It is amazing and compelling and everything I’d hoped it’d be. You see, I first learned about these guys when I was eighteen and watching New Music when it was hosted by Daniel Richler. Now I get to see them in all their Doc Elliot–pomaded glory, sweating it out in tight jeans, leather vests, taped-up boots, dancing to obscure Japanese fifties rockabilly pumping out of their boombox. It’s glorious!


After watching them for a while, I walk through the park. Families, picnickers, lovers, students enjoy the warm spring afternoon reading, lounging, playing, sleeping, eating. People congregate around buskers and artists. In such a big, dense, crowded city, sprawling treed parks like this are such a relief.





I wander back to the greasers. I could watch ’em all day. They pose for the abundant cameras, but you have to respect their space. One guy doesn’t and it gets a little tense, a little Jets and Sharks. But the cats cool out and get back to rockin’ out.


They wrap for the day and it’s time for me to navigate toward dinner. Rough Guide recommends a restaurant in Aoyama district, which is similar to Yorkville in Toronto. Naturally, I’m not dressed for it, but that’s never stopped me. Besides, the one thing I’ve learned is to plan to get lost, so I don’t have time to wash up. Off I go—and, yes, I get lost.

Eventually I find the restaurant, A to Z, which Rough Guides describes this way: “Enter the offbeat world of artist Yoshitomo Nara, whose pieces decorate this impressive café—part art installation, part kindergarten for the art-school set.” I have the avocado and tuna with spiced cod roe rice bowl. It’s light and a nice change from what I’ve been eating so far. I wash it down with Aomori cider, which is very dry, tasting more like champagne than apple cider.


It’s a fashionable restaurant and I feel a little out of place (then again, I always feel a little out of place). The lovely view begs to be photographed but I’m not seated close enough to the window to be discrete, so I simply enjoy and relax in the experience.

Returning to Tokyo

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Day 24: May 30, 2015

After reviewing Rough Guide’s list of must-sees, I’ve concluded that I’ve seen most of which are possible to see in May. And I have three days left, so I decide to return to Tokyo.

I quietly gather my belongings and leave the hostel to catch the 7:30 a.m. train out to Hakodate.

As I load my bags in the overhead rack, I feel a pair of eyes on me. At this point, I’m used to this. I’m not used to hearing, “Excuse me, do you speak English?” being uttered by an Asian person.

Jing Lee is a young Chinese woman studying at a university in Vermont. She’s been dying to talk to anyone who speaks English. We embark on a wide-ranging conversion about Asian people, white people, America versus Canada, travel, and Chinese versus North American culture. Jing Lee is visiting a friend in Toya and has a cake for him, which leads to us discussing drinking culture (she does’t understand it at all).

At 9:30 we wish each other well, and she leaves to deliver her cake. I’m left with no one to talk to. The passing scene occupies my eyes: I had travelled at night and missed the beautiful hills layered in fog.

After a while I shake off my ennui and search for a place to stay. Unfortunately, the Anne Hostel is fully booked, so I reserve a room in hotel.

Arriving at Hakodate at 11:20, I change trains for Shin-Aomori. Two hours later I change trains again, this time in Aomori. I don’t remember if I did this the first time. Did I board the wrong train? It’s all a blur at this point, but I’m going to Shin-Aomori . . . again . . . I think. At 1:52 I’m finally leaving for Tokyo, with no idea how long this leg of the journey will take.

The travel guides advise you to pack a snack or buy food outside the station to avoid being fleeced. Uh huh. Not happening. I inhale an ¥1100 bento box and an apple juice. Later, I scarf down a package of potato sticks washed down with a cola. Still no idea when I’ll hit Tokyo. My watch strap breaks. I pull out my book and escape to Discworld.

At 6:00 p.m. I arrive at my hotel, accompanied by a young mum and her adorable baby. The woman tells me her husband is from New Zealand. I sense she’s keen to break up her day with adult conversation with a foreign tourist.

The room is a bit stale and soulless. I was hoping for a better send off. Oh well. It’ll feel better in the morning. Meanwhile I need supper.

I wander around the district a bit. It boasts plenty of neon but so little character that I forget what it’s called. Eventually I land in a family restaurant called Jonathan’s, because I lack the appetite for ramen and the imagination to try anything else. My meal? Fried chicken sandwich with a sweet sauce, fries, and a small beer. Not great.

Lying on my bed later that night, my mind wanders. I want to plan a trip to Spain or somewhere where I have a better handle of the language. I miss the ocean and I need a proper beach. When I get home I’ll spend more time at the lake. For now, I need to sleep off my glum mood.

Shiraoi Poroto Kotan: The Ainu Village and Museum

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Shiraoi Poroto Kotan

Shiraoi Poroto Kotan

Day 23: May 29, 2015

My right knee is very swollen. I’ve fared pretty well without my walking stick, but I feel a sharp pain below the patella around the bursa. I get over a cold only to be hobbled with knee problems. Hopefully, it will subside for the trip to Poroto Kotan, a recreation of an Ainu village.

I make my way to the subway then the train where, by some serendipitous miracle, I find a cobbler who sells rubber ends for canes! With my stick sorted, I board the train. At first, I seem to be the only foreigner aboard, but as we near my destination, I spot another foreigner. Michael is a Swiss Italian who is also visiting Shiraoi Poroto Kotan. As we disembark, we wonder aloud if we are in fact at the right place. Luckily, we meet Kyoto who speaks English and is headed to the museum.

We pick our way along the poorly maintained sidewalk, which I find strange as everything seems to have been very orderly so far. But this is a rural part of the country and I have spent most of my trip in cities. We cross railway tracks and eventually find a gate. The tourists who visit this apparent outpost do so by car or tour bus, so foreigners on foot are a bit novel.

Welcome! The entrance to the Ainu Village and Museum.

Welcome! The entrance to the Ainu Village and Museum.

Novel as we may be, we and our 800 yen apiece are welcomed in, as each of us is given a schedule of the day’s performances. Poroto Kotan resembles a Canadian living museum. Buildings are traditionally built and maintained, and house representations of how Ainu used to live. Two of the buildings, similar to longhouses, serve as performance halls.

Before the first show, I wander to where the animals are kept. Four dogs and four bears appear to live in dismal cement cages that lack any stimulation, companionship, and nature. I haven’t visited any zoos on my trip, so I’m hoping this is anomaly. For all the love of nature and pets that I’ve heard about and witnessed, these poor animals see none of it. I’m torn: Do I say something or keep my own counsel? I decide on the latter . . . and feel a little sick about it.

As I walk away, I find Michael wandering around. We chat a bit when another foreigner (I’ll call him John), joins in. He has white hair, appears to be in his sixties, and doesn’t stop talking. In the maybe ten minutes we’re listening, he tells us that he’s from Sydney via the UK and Canada, that one of his ancestors fought in World War I and has Canadian ties. He stops long enough for me to remind them that the show’s about to start. Then, without missing a beat, he suggests we meet for dinner while I’m in Sapporo. Me? Or Me and Michael? He’s not clear, but I say, um sure maybe not sure what my plans are oh looks the show’s about to start. Creepy.

The stage where traditional dance music is performed for tourists.

The stage where traditional dance music is performed for tourists.

People begin to file into one of the performance halls, so I follow. The stage is surrounded by raised benches, where I find a spot and ready my camera. The room fills up. I spot Michael and Tony elsewhere. The lights dim and the MC comes out.
He speaks enough English to say that he doesn’t speak English then carries on in Japanese. Based on the laughter and the pointed looks and the fact he nods his head at me, I surmise that I’m the butt of some his jokes. I smile and roll with it despite feeling uncomfortable. It’s one thing being teased in your own language; it’s entirely different in one you don’t understand.

This is the fellow. You see how he's looking at me? He's laughing on the inside.

This is the fellow. You see how he’s looking at me? He’s laughing on the inside.

Finally, he leaves and a young woman comes on, again apologizing for not speaking English, then the performance begins. Musicians play traditional instruments, including a mukkuri (a.k.a.: “Jew’s harp) and they are followed by dancers. Without understanding the language, I understand that they perform a bird dance and another to honour hunters. (The fierce young guy with a spear was a dead giveaway. I’m clever like that.) During the break between performances, I head out to photograph more of the area and grab a bite in the rustic canteen.
Out of nowhere John sneaks up on me, asking about my food. It’s soup. It’s fine. I don’t make eye contact. So weird. I drain the bowl and quickly exit. The beautiful lake outside the canteen clears my head and I capture a few images.

Weaving Room

Weaving Room

Eventually I return for the next show hosted by the same young woman. She asks for volunteers for the group dance…and looks straight at me. I don’t do this. I sit at the back at comedy shows for a reason. This reason. The room looks at me, all smiles, all clapping. What can I do? I’m the solo white woman with a camera. I have go on stage with a gimpy knee, no coordination, and dance an Ainu dance in front of people who were joking about me an hour ago. So embarrassing. So utterly goofy. So fun.

Traditional dancers who are much more coordinated that I am.

Traditional dancers who are much more coordinated that I am.

After the show, John finds me (again) to tell me he has video of me dancing (naturally). Michael catches up with me too. He has audio of the players in the previous show. We all exchange emails. Great! Look forward to it. So I’m gonna wander now. See ya!

Most museums have an indoor exhibit, so I make a beeline for it. As I walk through the exhibits and read the cards, I realize that the Ainu culture bears many similarities to Canadian First Nations’, or least that which I’ve seen in person, in books, and in the news. Sadly, the history is similar too, minus the horror of the residence schools. What I must remember is that this exhibit targets Japanese tourists who expect things to be nice, polite, and orderly. But history never meets those expectations, and it makes me wonder what, if anything, has been left out. I exit through the gift shop.

Traditional roofs being maintained.

Traditional roofs being maintained.

It’s 3:15. The next (and last) train leaves at 5:02. I’m stuck here for a bit. Might as well wander around some more, take some photos. More coaches pull up and I can’t help but think Ainu are “dancing monkeys” for the tourists. Open-face artisan shops are set up by the gate, where creators sell their carvings and whatnot. It reminds me of a lyric from the REM song “Cuyahoga”: “Take a picture here, take a souvenir.” But these shows, these trinkets, all of it brings revenue into the community. Surely someone must learn something from this museum. I did.


As I make my way slowly toward the exit, I notice some totem poles. Of course these are replicas and don’t look like those carved by various Canadian First Nations, but there is a resonance, a connection.

Sapporo Beer and Shopping

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Sapporo Beer Museum

Sapporo Beer Museum

Day 22: May 28, 2015

Today I’m visiting the Sapporo Beer Museum then walking to the fish market.

Further evidence that Sapporo doesn’t get many English-speaking tourists: I can’t make myself understood at the bus terminal despite my phrasebook Japanese. Nevertheless, the clerk tries, consulting with a co-worker who spoke limited English. Then, once she figures out more or less where I want to go, she walks me to the bus stop across the street from her post.
On the bus to the museum, I meet a lovely elderly couple who speak not a word of English, yet take me under their wing and guide me to the museum. They remind me of my parents. I’m certain that I’m on the right bus. (The driver waved me on, nodding as if to say, “Yes, tourist, the beer museum, I get it.”) Nevertheless, the couple act as my interpreters despite not knowing what I am saying. Amazing! I nearly weep. I’ve encountered this a lot, especially in Hokkaido. Perhaps its the lack of foreign visitors that they want to show hospitality and encourage tourism.


Kettle o’ beer

The Sapporo Beer Museum  is pretty standard. I chat with the English-speaking tour guide, who had lived in Halifax for a year. Our conversation starts with beer, meanders to history and my trip to Hokkaido, wanders to Ainu, then ends with genocide of First Nations (cheery, I know). She excused herself to go back to work. I think I horrified her. Sigh. I should know when to stop talking. One of the perils of solo travel, or is it just me? Just me, I suspect.
Aside from my ghastly breach of protocol, I learned a bit more about Japan There have been two major openings to outsiders: the Edo period, during which Japan traded mainly with the Netherlands, the China, and the Portugal; and the Meiji period when trade opened up to include the United States and other countries. Both periods brought scholarly, cultural, and technical expansion. The guide suggested Japan’s aversion to such openness was/is because of its fear being taken over (her word). Sounds familiar.

With the tour over (most of which was self-guided), it is time to taste the wares. Beer samples are 200 yen each, which includes a bag of crackers. I enjoy the Sapporo Black Label, but I miss Canadian craft beer. Yes, I’m a snob.

Sampling the Wares

Sampling the wares

Apparently, Sapporo is known for lamb, of all things. So at the Sapporo Beer Garden restaurant I order  a beer with the fresh lamb jingisukan and veg, which I cook my table.

Ordering Lunch

Ordering Lunch


A lump of beef fat melts in on the hot iron cooker

Ingredients for Lunch

Lamp and veg


Lunch will be ready soon

Full of food, I waddle out of the restaurant to be greeted by American folk music pumping out of the gift shop: “I don’t want your greenback dollar/ I don’t want your silver change/ All I want is your love, darlin’/ Won’t you take me back again?” Ironic for a gift shop, I’d say. Still, I could sit in the sun and listen all day. . . and fall asleep.

In keeping with the boozy theme, I make my way to the sake museum, which isn’t much of a museum at all. I walk a few blocks to the fish market, which is renowned for the king crab.

Sapporo is known for its king crab

Sapporo is known for its king crab

I'm about to find out just how "king" this bad boy is

I’m about to find out just how “king” this bad boy is

Almost there

Almost there

Sweet god, it's huge!

Sweet god, it’s huge!

...and none too pleased

…and none too pleased

In fact, I'd say he's pretty crabby

In fact, I’d say he’s pretty crabby

The fish market blends into the shopping district, where I find a vintage shop selling kimonos. For 3240 yen, I pick up a bright pink, orange, and purple yukata (a cotton summer robe) festooned with fish and flowers. The clerk wraps me in the robe then ties various lengths of cloth around my waist, trying to convince me that I look kawaii in this impromptu kimono. I thank her, but I’m as far away from looking kawaii as I’m going to get: I’m sweaty in my grey T-shirt and green travel pants, with my frizzy hair pulled up into a pony tail, and any makeup I applied this morning has long since melted away. Nevertheless, I am happy with my yukata and leave to check out the rest of the shops.

The clerk is far more kawaii than I

The clerk is far more kawaii than I

I happen upon a record shop. As you may recall, the Beatles were crazy popular here, as elsewhere. Perhaps they were the first Western pop band to coin the phrase “big in Japan.” At any rate, I covet a lot of records here. Too many. Photos must suffice.

Record shop, "vintage" style

Record Shop



Beatles, big in Japan


I wonder how many of these are boots




Note that Michael McKean is the musical coordinator

Having walked off my big lunch, I trek to a recommended ramen joint. Everything about this meal is wonderful, especially the slightly spicy broth.

So good!

So good!

Back at my digs, I meet a new roommate. Tam is a designer from Switzerland who thinks everything and everyone is owned by the Americans. He wants to travel to North Korea because he doesn’t believe the media reports. I protest. He tells me I’m brainwashed. I look for his supply of tinfoil. You meet all kinds.

Sniffles in Sapporo

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Day 21: May 21, 2015

I woke up with a cold. Dammit.

My JR Pass expires today and I have to exchange my second voucher. So I went to the visitors’ centre at Sapporo station where I chatted with the lovely clerk who helped me plan the rest of my stay. Apparently she lived in Toronto for a year and loves Canada. She suggested that I skip the national park that I was so keen to see as it was too far and best seen with a tour group. Instead, I should visit the Historical Village of Hokkaido, the Ainu heritage park, and the city of Otaru, if I have time.

Welcome to the Historical Village of Hokkaido

Welcome to the Historical Village of Hokkaido

Brochures in hand (or shoved in pocket, more like), I found my way to the Historical Village. It’s a charming open-air museum, much like many living museums I’ve visited before, except that it has few people bringing it to life. Featuring reproductions of mid-nineteenth- and early-twentieth century buildings, the village depicts how Western culture influenced Hokkaido traditions.

"Get out of the way of my speeding horse!"

“Get out of the way of my speeding horse!”

I’ll attribute the quietness to it being a weekday, but everyone here is Japanese; few foreign tourists, which is a shame. As the only foreigner here, I’ve caught the attention of some seniors in a tour group. They’re eager to chat, but lack the English. One fellow tells me his nephew lives in Edmonton. This is a common story, I know, but endearing as it demonstrates that people want to connect, to talk. I smile, bow, speak some Japanese from my phrase book, then smile and bow some more, hoping I don’t seem rude. Ugh for my lack of Japanese.

Oh how I covet this naturally lit studio.

Oh how I covet this naturally lit studio.

After a few hours of empty buildings, my cold makes itself known. Time for lunch and the second museum. Hokkaido Museum is a compact institution, chronicling the region’s history from prehistoric times to present: standard stuff but a good overview with an introduction to the Ainu, Japan’s First Nations people. Like most of the Japanese museums I’ve visited, it’s staid and orderly. Everything is just so. Each country and city tells it story in its own way, I suppose.

Hokkaido Museum

Hokkaido Museum

Next on today’s sightseeing list is the Mount Moiwa Ropeway, which promises a spectacular view of Sapporo at night. This means navigating the JR bus, the local subway, a tram then a shuttle to the ropeway up the mountain.

Mt. Moiwa Ropeway

Mt. Moiwa Ropeway

Tunnel vision

Tunnel vision

The promises are kept. Hills to the south appear layered in shades of purple. The city lights to the north sparkle in every colour. The land stops at the black ocean, and the sky overlooking it all darkens to indigo.
The View

Capturing it all is a phalanx of photographers, bristling with tripods and telephotos. My tripod frustrated me so much, I gave up on it in Tokyo. But I need to improve my low-light photography and I don’t want to leave Moiwa without shooting Sapporo at night. So I make judicious use of rails and suchlike.

Phalanx of Photographers

Phalanx of Photographers

As the sun goes down, so does the temperature. Couples cozy up. Apparently, this is a romantic spot to do so, as the love locks testify. Arrive without a lock? You and your sweetheart can buy one in the gift shop.

Love Locks

Love Locks

Alas, I am without a sweetheart and have no need for a lock. Feeling cold in body and spirit, I return to the ropeway.

On my way back to the hostel, I stop off at a drug store in the hopes of finding something to relieve my cold symptoms. Naturally, no one speaks English. My phrasebook is only helpful in finding a pregnancy test. Huh? Whatever. So how do you use hand signals for a cold? You don’t. Instead, you wander around looking for things that go with a cold in Japan. And there they were: face masks. Beside them were cough candies, “nazal” sprays, Vicks VapoRub, and other accoutrements that I couldn’t decipher. Regardless, I found what I needed. Pulling out the phrasebook (skipping the pregnancy bit), I found out that the spray was unmedicated. Perfect! I pay for my armload of remedies and return to my digs. And, no, I did not wear a mask.

Back at the hostel, I re-heat my Seico Mart supper, spray my nose, spread the VapoRub, and get an early night.

Hours later I’m sick to my stomach. So much for Seico.

On the Move…Again

Day 20: May 26, 2015

Good morning, Hakodate. I’m exhausted, but I can’t dawdle too much. I need to be on the train to Sapporo, which is a few hours away. First, I need to shower, gather my stuff then head downstairs for the free breakfast.

Free hotel breakfasts aren’t anything to write home about, but they’re on budget and I don’t have to search for food. It also gives me time to go online and book a room in Sapporo at Guesthouse Waya. Because I absolutely don’t leave things to last minute, me.

As I clean up my dishes, one of the servers notices my Canadian baggage tags. She lived in Vancouver and Niagara on a work visa. She loved Canada and Canadians and very much wants to return. That makes me proud.

Thankfully I’m within walking distance and I meet the 10:36 train.

Speaking of Canada...

Speaking of Canada…

The landscape of Hokkaido is much different than that of Honshu. It’s lush and uncultivated; much more like Canada. As I look out the window to my right, I see Uchiura-wan Bay; to my left, thickly treed hills. Yeah, I love train travel.

Lunch on the train

Lunch on the train

There’s little to do but read, eat, and answer Nature’s call. Normally, the latter isn’t an issue, but when last I checked this was an old train with traditional Japanese squat toilets. I’ve avoided them the whole trip; arthritic knees make squatting pretty much impossible. Alas, I may not have a choice. On a moving train, no less. It’s all part of the adventure. So, I take a deep breath and gird myself. My stalwartness is rewarded with a western toilet! Hurrah! It’s the small things.

The train pulls into Sapporo at 2:45 and I follow the detailed directions to my hostel. A steep staircase leads me to Guesthouse Waya, a quaint place that’s a little rough around the newly built edges. I’m greeted by a young guy, Takahashi, who checks me in and shows me around. It’s more “open concept” than I’m used to, but I’m here now and, well, I don’t have much choice. Besides it’s only four days. Waya has been open for about six months and is owned and operated by Takahashi and his friends.

Unfortunately the all-female dorm is booked, so I’m assigned to a bunk of my choice in a mixed dorm. I score the lower bunk, because I absolutely cannot climb ladders with my knees. Takahashi leaves me to sort myself out. I fall into my routine of pulling up the sheets and mattress on the lookout for bugs, then proceed with parking my stuff. As I crawl in the surprisingly roomy bunk, I realize that I’ve stopped moving. It’s the first time in about two days that I can rest without being jostled. I snap on the reading lamp, pull the curtain closed, and hole up to decompress.

After an hour or two, I’m off to get some dinner. Takahashi recommends a place around the corner called Cowlicks, or something like that. It serves hearty curry at a reasonable price. When I arrive, I realize that I’ve left my phrasebook at my digs. Naturally, no one speaks English and the menu features few pictures. Somehow I manage to order a meal and a beer. I’m full and happy.

Curry supper

Curry supper

My next stop is the Seico Mart (which I’ve dubbed Psycho Mart) where I buy beer and chips for now, and break and marmalade for breakfast. Finally, I’ve learned my lesson and will make toast in the morning instead of going out to eat. It also helps that there’s no coffee shop nearby.

I return to the hostel, retrieve my tablet from my bunk, and join my hosts and hostel-mates in the common room. My plan to check email is thwarted by fun conversation, chips, beer, and plum wine. This would definitely not happen in a hotel.



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