Japan — Stranger First Impressions

This is one of a series of blogs which describe my trip to Japan in April 2012.  To see further blogs in the series, click on “Japan Odyssey” in the Tag Cloud.

Our Tokyo hotel is the Mitsui Garden Hotel in the Ginza district.  You enter through an uninviting closed solid panel door at the bottom of a 24 storey office block.  It opens automatically when you approach, but no concierge is at the door to greet you , just a starkly bare and small lift lobby.  One “up” button on the outside of the lift and inside just one button with “16” on it.   A controlled and controlling entry.

The lift opens onto a spatious lobby on the sixteenth floor, with a panoramic view of the city and Tokyo bay.   A brilliantly set up piece of design !   The reception counter is minimalist  —  a brown topped counter, with no clutter to be seen anywhere.    Three reception staff who must be related to the taxi driver — black trousers, white shirt, black jacket, black ties  — no white gloves.   Check-in only takes a few minutes, then with a smile and a bow of the head, you are presented with a plastic card and shown to a second lift.

The second lift lobby is as stark as the first, except the lift has more buttons and there are three lifts.   Only problem is none of them work 😦 not until you realise that you have to use your plastic card to summon the lift 🙂  Tommy San, who is practically Japanese by now, quickly realises this is a proximity card.   (We are both jet-lagged after 20 hours of travelling and a nine hour time change.)    Then the lift doors open  — in we get — more buttons 16 to 24.    We press 19, but the lift is broken again  😦   the button lights up but the lift does not move  😦   The lift does speak to us, but it is not helpfull as it is in Japanese  😦    Then Tommy San realises that we have to use the proximity card again  🙂    I’ll bet no-one breaks into Japanese banks.

Up on the 19th floor we arrive at our rooms.   Tommy San is into his straight away.   I take a while to understand that swiping the card doesn’t work.   Inside the room the magic card becomes a light switch.   I have seen this before, so it wasn’t a surprise.    Except that there are no other light switches  ?????    Eventually I find one for the bathroom, but once inside that’s a whole new technological adventure.    The loo has a control panel like I imagine the cockpit of the space shuttle.   Only the instructions are all in Japanese —  an inconvenient convenience.    A simple chain with a pull handle would have been good enough for me.   The control panel also has pictures, but I don’t know what they mean either  😦     I decide to press the one with a capital W.    This turns out to be a bad idea, because a fountain of water spurts out of the toilet.    Thank goodness I wasn’t sitting on it at the time !   I only manage to  stop the fountain by pressing another  W.    By now the toilet is fully illuminated and the seat is getting hot.    It is only a matter of time before we go into orbit.   I don’t figure out how to flush the loo until I accidently lean on the control panel, at which point there is a loud  WOOSH.   This must be the take off.    Several days later I am still learning how to drive the loo.

One more surprise came with another anonymous button, with a clue in English  —        ” Press this switch to enjoy the view” — curosity got the better of me.  With one touch I am standing in the bathroom as the opaque glass window becomes transparant and I have a view onto the world outside my bedroom window.   Fortunately there is no-one looking in from outside the 19th floor !   Although I do wonder if there are lots of telescopes in the distant office tower blocks ?

And this is still the first day !

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2 Responses to Japan — Stranger First Impressions

  1. davidwfreeman237 says:

    Japan, What a shaggy dog story or collection of stories! I have found them interesting, but rather sombre. The Hotel which starts on the 24 floor and rooms on the 29 Floor? The Japanese must have great faith in their earthquake designs-Just a thought. It sounds a wonderful country with pleasant people! Not what screams out at me from the history books. I look forward to a little blosum time and trips to Mt Fuji, or a realisation of what IF! Like Nakasaki, or Hirosima. Best wishes for your sojurn.

  2. Maureen o'Neill says:

    I really enjoy your travels in Japan and look forward to more amusing and interesting events. The toilet sounds a wonderful event.
    Had you been desperate to spend a penny (so much easier in the old days ) one wonders what would have happened!!
    Incidentally I had to explain the phrase to two of our young hairdressers they had no idea what going to spend a penny meant Come to think of it they didn’t know what a penny was.! Keep writing John

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