Happy New Year everyone! I hope you are already off to a good start. I had a great New Year’s Eve / Day: I started in Asakusa after spending the night in a capsule hotel there. Jay and I both decided to check it out the night before because we hadn’t arranged a place to stay and it was on both of our agendas as something to do in Tokyo. It turned out to be really cool. When we checked in, we bought tickets from a machine next to the front desk. 1 night is Y3000 / person, with an extra Y500 charge if you arrive after 2am. We were then given keys to a shoe locker, a larger storage locker and assigned a capsule. Inside the capsules we were provided:
- Fresh bedding
- A bar of soap
- A razor
- A toothbrush
- Radio with an alarm clock
- Temperature control
- A comfy pillow
It was surprisingly comfortable and not as tiny as I had imagined. I think I’ll end up doing it again as it is cheap, easy and check-in is possible in the middle of the night if necessary. At most capsule hotels women are not allowed, but this one had a section for women as well.
In the morning I walked around beautiful Asakusa and visited two of the major temples there which were gearing up for the New Years celebrations. I took a lot of breaks (had a mister donut along the way!) as I was lugging around my full backpack, but managed to walk a couple miles before meeting Jay, Maddie and Dustin to catch a ferry to Odaiba. Odaiba is a sort-of tourist center by Tokyo bay that has a few major attractions like the Fuji TV headquarters and some giant shopping malls. When we arrived there was some Japanese girl-band performing on a stage in front of the Fuji building which was rather entertaining. The Fuji building has a large observatory that is open to the public and has an amazing view of the bay and the Tokyo skyline that includes the Rainbow Bridge and the Tokyo Tower (above) so we went up there and expected nothing more than some good photo-ops. We had no idea what was in store. Up in the observatory, they had everyone stand behind rows of railing in the middle of the room. Windowshades lowered, music came on and after a brief weird little light show a video started. It was a hilariously cheesy (and thus fantastic) virtual flyover tour of Tokyo complete with a cast of uniformed narrators. The best part, though, were the cameos by Hard Gay. Hard Gay is a popular comedian in Japan who does a lot of ass-shaking, woo!-ing and arm-waving. I have no idea what to make of it or what most Japanese people think about it but they seem to love him. The camera would fly by a big landmark and then zoom in and he’d be dancing around shouting something. I don’t get it, but I love it.
After that we joined up with Mayu, Shige, Kiyomi, Derek and Michelle at Palette Town (no idea why its called that) and hashed out the plans for the evening. Another great think about Japan is that you can buy alcohol at any hour and drink in public, but no one seems to abuse the privelege. So we hung out, enjoyed some chu-hai, sake and arcade games, then went to Shibuya for dinner. Our group was 8 people so we had a large room to ourselves and ate a delicious dinner together before attempting make it to a temple by midnight. Trying to mobilize the group proved difficult and we ended up being part of the massive crowd on the street in the famous giant intersection in Shibuya. It was madness.
From there we went to the temple, made some New Years wishes, had some New Years snacks, then went to Shinjuku for… Karaoke! We found a place that offered an all-you-can-eat-and-sing-and-drink all night until they close at 5am so needless to say thats what I did until 5. So much fun. Then Mayu and I went to Meijijingu temple, the largest and most famous (and most crowded) temple in Tokyo. Even at 5:30am it was full of people who had been partying all night.
Then, finally, sleep. Such a great New Years.