23 July 2006

This is Japan... again

Been back for about a week now but have been too busy at work to write anything.

Basically, Tokyo was a blast. Not that a great deal happened but it was nice being able to wander around and do whatever I wanted without worrying too much about time.

I stayed at this wonderful ryokan (traditional Japanese inn) called Ryokan Shigetsu, located at the quaint district of Asakusa in Tokyo. The rooms cost only about 250 Ringgit a night (single room) with an attached bath, nice tatami mat floors and a fluffy futon to sleep on. I forgot to take pictures of the outside but this is what my room looked like:

The ryokan even has a public bath with a nice view of the nearby pagoda (see the website!!!). Unfortunately, the water was WAAAAAY too hot - just five seconds in it and I was starting to doubt my ability to procreate after.

Considering that it was the middle of summer (temperatures reaching 32 degrees Celsius, with high humidity), it was a little pointless to have a boiling hot bath anyway.

There are actually two public bathrooms - a bigger one with huge windows that give you a view of the city (the baths are on the 6th floor) and a small one with only a small slit near the ceiling.

But what's rather dodgy is that people in the neighbouring tall buildings can actually look right into the larger bathroom at night.

Which is why the Ryokan swaps the male and female baths, so that the girls get the bigger bath in the morning (with a nice view) while they get the smaller, more private one at night.

The problem, of course, was that when I walked into the big bathroom one morning (which had been a 'male' one the night before), I hadn't realised that they swapped the male/female signs at the doors (wasn't wearing my glasses). Thank God no women decided to have early morning baths that morning... -_-" (free show!)

I highly recommend this Ryokan, especially for the whole Japaneseness of it. It's also really convenient, being only a 3 minute walk from the Asakusa Tokyo Metro station.

They also serve darn good breakfast in the morning, although you have to order it the night before (it's about 30 Ringgit). The other problem is that all the rooms are cleaned between 10am and 3pm, which means that you have to vacate your room.

The ryokan is located right next to the Asakusa Kannon Temple and the shopping district.

This is the famous giant lantern at the entrance to the shopping district. It's normally crowded but I took this shot at 5:30am.

The shopping district itself is full of stores selling souvenirs, food and traditional Japanese stuff like fans, kimonos, tea sets, swords, etc. It also stretches across into the neighbourhood, with a huge collection of restaurants and other souvenir shops. Oddly enough, I ended up eating at McDonalds here pretty often (it's cheaper than most restaurants here).

Asakusa is perhaps the closest link to olden Tokyo, with old aunties (and the occasional young woman) trotting around in their latest summer kimonos.

Compared to the rest of Tokyo, Asakusa is a relatively nice, quiet place. Almost like a small town. This photo's actually been altered - the sky is untouched, but i increased the brightness of the foreground for a better look.

During my stay, I had to pay a visit to the neighbourhood coin laundry (the Ryokan didn't offer such a service). Summer was so hot that I had gone through all of my shirts halfway through the trip (I sweat. A lot). Had the opportunity to mingle with some old uncles and aunties, which was great fun. Really.

In fact, the only problem with Asakusa is that everything closes so darn early. By 7pm, half of the stores in the shopping district have closed. By 9pm, it's a ghost town.

Nice place to stay, though. I'll be back with more pics and updates!


Tan Kit Hoong said...

Yes, but is it...JAPANORAMA?!

The Wanderer said...

very nice. didn't see no naked guys with fig leaves placed conveniently running about, didja?


mel said...

Wow, i didn't know ladies still went around in kimonos. Cool.

Emily said...

At the risk of being called a know-it-all, a summer kimono is called yukata :)

On the other hand, the sun sure rise early there huh? 5.30am and already so bright!