Grilled fish of the day is salmon for the third day in a row. After breakfast, I return to my room and return my room to a state that looks exactly as it did before I arrived. A hotel habit of mine. After that, I check-out and head to Popeye Media Café to write things up.
The Internet café doesn’t just offer the Internet. The following things are offered at a cost of ¥0. Bath towel, body soap, shampoo, conditioning, drier, hair iron, toothbrush, skin toner, shave, shaving foam, drinks from three vending machines (“over 50 kinds of drinks!”), cellular phone charging, two plugs per person (“you can plug in a thing!”), wireless Internet, shower, and a sunbed. All for free.
They also have a ¥360 hot food vending machine, but that seems to be the only thing you need to pay for. The café also offers a library of comic books, better known as manga. The amount of manga on offer is insane, bookshelves spread forever in every direction. Where there isn’t a private booth with a computer, there is a bookshelf. The café has an amazing 179 computers.
I pay ¥980 for five hours, day rate. I have actually been here twice before, those times I foolishly came during the evening, and paid ¥805 for two hours, and ¥1330 for three hours.
Today I am given booth twenty-two. My computer runs Windows XP, and Google Chrome has already been downloaded. Next to my monitor is a menu for Domino’s Pizza. If I want I can select a pizza from the menu, the front desk will order it for me, deal with payment when it arrives, and deliver it to my desk. The pizza would get added to my ‘check’, and is paid for at the end.
I lounge in my reclining chair and write for five hours. All the while, sipping on my free drinks. Today I am going to Nagoya and can’t check into my hotel until 2 pm, might as well kill time with writing, that’s what I say.
I like it here; dingy, comfortable chair, feels good. I can see how people can end up spending a whole night here. People do just that too. Because of the free amenities on offer, and that private booths are available to rent for a special ‘all night’ rate, people actually sleep here. It works out cheaper than a hotel, and you can read all the comic books you desire.
When I am done, I pay up and leave. Outside, the sun is far too bright; especially after sitting in the dark for five hours. At 3 pm I take the Bullet Train to Nagoya. ¥6760 for 52 minutes. It costs me twice as much as the local trains, but they take three times as long and I can’t be doing with that. I reserve a window seat so that I can make use of the ‘free’ plug socket. I realise that this might well be my last ride on the Bullet Train. Quite saddening actually; the Bullet Train really is a treat.
I arrive in Nagoya at 4.02pm; the time it says on my ticket, efficient as always.
The station exits out into the heart of the city, and a beautiful city it is. Thunder sounds in the distance threatening rain, there are a few flashes of lightning in the sky, but I only have to walk five minutes. It does start to rain ever so slightly, just as I arrive at the hotel. The lift doors open as I approach, “Welcome in,” they say in a robotic female voice.
In my room, I find that I am given loads of free stuff. Comb, toothbrush, toothpaste, slippers to keep, shower cap, razor, bottled water, cotton buds, tea, coffee, and my own individual Wireless network. It feels like I am back at the Internet café. The complimentary toothbrush says, “Thank you for use. Slowly, please relax.”
Outside, Nagoya feels right; especially after Osaka and its indecipherable road layouts. Sometimes a place grabs you like you instantly have a good feeling, Nagoya has just that. Some might think that Nagoya is like everywhere else, tall buildings, concrete and neon. They would be right too. But something else about the place, about my initial first impression, draws me into the neon of the night.
I walk around for a good few hours. One of the things I enjoy about visiting a new place is thoroughly exploring the backstreets and restaurants. Reconnoître. I see small rectangular holes cut into a wall, just the right size for a hand. On the other side of the hole is an anonymous person; hand wrapped in a white glove, a small tray for exchanging objects or money. Worthless Pachinko parlour prizes are swapped here for cash. discreetly. No one sees anyone else’s face.
It is 8 pm but feels like eleven. I head into an ‘Irish’ bar. American punk is playing and ‘J Sports 2’ is showing a Japanese baseball game. How very Irish indeed. I order half a Guinness and a Glenlivit 12 on the rocks. They cost ¥600 each. The Guinness tastes poor at best, far from the standard I am used to from the pubs back home.
I am asked to pay up front, which is unusual here.
The music changes to the Libertines. I can’t complain. I consider the instructions on my receipt, ‘enjoy and enjoy and get dead drunk’. After my drinks, I stand up to leave. As I do, one of the barmen stops me. “It is our eight year anniversary, please choose a colour,” he says.
“Okay …” I mull over the question with a considerable amount of thought. “Green,” I reply. With that, the barman reaches into a box under the desk and pulls out a bright green t-shirt.
“This is free for you,” he tells me as he hands me the t-shirt. Amazing, even more free stuff. I thank him and leave.
Nagoya, capital of Aichi Prefecture, is very much a place of business. Everywhere I look, men in white shirts and black trousers and black shoes. Salarymen. Swarms of them. The horizon awash with a sea of black and white and neon. Nagoya’s GDP accounts for 1% of the global economy. Toyota started here too, in a town called Toyota, in a city, also called Toyota. Nice that the car manufacturer took on the name of the town where it all began, a nice gesture, no? Nope. The city was originally called Koromo, but changed its name to Toyota in 1959. The town also changed its name to Toyota. Capitalism in Japan, a wonderful thing.
With the Domino’s Pizza menu from earlier today playing on my mind, I decide to go for another healthy traditional Japanese meal. Italian food. The menu is written entirely in Japanese, but the waiter prints me off a fresh, crisp, English menu. I order a tuna pizza, and it comes with a lovely bowl of minestrone soup.
As far as pizza goes, this is probably one of the greasiest pizzas I have ever had. But it is good. Very good. I pay what seems like a lot, and steal a couple of the ‘free’ complementary pieces of nutty caramel flapjack. Very Italian. ¥2667, my change a delightful ¥333.
Back at the hotel, I fall asleep watching ‘Back to the Future’.
Read the next part of my Journey in Japan, where I make the most of what Nagoya has to offer, including voodoo dolls in abandoned arcades, dinosaurs disrupting Industrial Heritage and a castle in the distance by clicking here.