August 03, 2008

Brickmuppet in Japan II: The Emergency Backup Flophouse


I almost didn't`t come.

After medical bills, missed work, being put on convalescent leave from the Coast Guard and thereby loosing not only that income but my tuition assistance as well, my finances were extremely tight. The need  to purchase a $279 textbook was very nearly the final straw However, I got a tuition deferment pending my GI bill application and while my credit rating took a hell of a hit this past few months all non-tuition related debts were eventually caught up. Given the money that had been sunk into the trip in the halcyon days before my finances experienced a fit of FUBAR and the fact that  said money sinkage had paid for the ticket, the apt, and the rail pass...the trip seemed less irresponsible than it perhaps should have. I figured it would give me a fine chance to practice Japanese in full immersion, network and examine the job field for English teacher/tutor jobs that might be open in 18 months. and, given that I lost 17 pounds on the last trip, loose weight. Of course the prospect a real vacation  after what had been a hard and painful year was welcome too....of course there was also a very strong argument to be made about not throwing good money after bad, cutting ones losses and building up ones savings.

All of this was running through my head as I stood in the alley looking at the vast emptiness that was supposed to be filled with the Boarding House I was  to be staying in.   

After several walks around the block to confirm that the weedy vacant lot with the charred timbers was indeed the grave of CASA NOVA, I set about trying to find some other accommodations for the evening. By the time I got back to the station It was nearly midnight and the trains were about to shut down. It was JUST BARELY possible to make it to Shinjuku or Shibuya and hope against hope  that I could find a webcafe with vacancies at that late hour. As there was a train switch in Chofu I found myself standing on the platform looking at the various light signs in the town. One caught my eye, for it contained the hiragana for manga, and the katakana for internet...indicating that there was an internet cafe right there. I dashed out to it and missed the last train to Shinjuku.

It was not in fact an internet cafe, but rather seemed to be a sort of maid cafe that caters to men who have a fetish for nerd girls. This was dismaying not only because I had missed the last train out for nothing, it indicates that the devil has my number and is actively pursuing me.

I eventually grew weary of carrying 65 pounds of stuff around the Tokyo in the wee ( and humid) hours of the morning, I finally threw in the towel and got a rather overpriced room in a hotel for the evening. The next day I went to Shinjuku and zipped into a MangaBoo, checked my E-mail and then looked up Green Forest. Their website was out of date and the numbers were wrong which filled me with all sorts of dread. I did finally get a hold  of the manager, who put me in touch with one of his non-incinerated guest houses. The phone conversation did not go well, I was tired having had 4 hours of sleep in the last 36 which was playing havoc with my already poor Japanese and the person on he other end of the line did not speak much English...nevertheless I did get name of the guest house which allowed me to look it up.

GREEN HOUSE is slightly more expensive than CASA NOVA was and it is rather out of the way from Shinjuku. I`m rather proud of the fact that I was able to negotiate the Seibu Train Line to get there with no mishaps...particularly since the Seibu line dos not have english on their station maps (they do have  place names in English on some of  their on-train charts). None of the station signs are in fact, there is far less English labeling here than most other places I`ve been and less English comprehension still. I had not fully realized how much of a crutch the English recordings and subtitles on the JR and Keio Lines had been for me. I had patted myself on the back about being able to negotiate the rail system here but I am vastly more sucky in Japanese than I realized. This is an important reality check.

I finally got to GREEN HOUSE, which is about a click and a half from the station. I was initially taken aback by its outwardly dilapidated appearance. Casa Nova had looked somewhat run down too but was very nice on the inside...this structure however has a face that matches its inner beauty.

The showers look like a set from "The Thing" and are coin operated to boot, the floor sags unnwervingly in places and  the house creaks like an old sailboat with every step, the toilets are the Japanese conundrum type and the place is haunted by one of those horrible hopping one legged umbrella cyclopses.... (OK I made that last part up).

The room I got was the last one and was actually not generally rented out. It came with an old mattress...not a futon..a mattress...with some foeted bedsheets and a spread on it that had been there since he last tenant had been in the room...a long time ago...the refrigerator  had been unplugged to save current...and contained whatever the last tenants foodstuffs had evolved into. There is a kitchenette with no vent.

On the other hand I can afford it, I`m not going to be staying there much except to sleep as I plan to be doing much sightseeing, the neighborhood is nice and there is an awesome bathouse about 74 steps away.  Unlike a lot of these places living here is quite casual...there is no curfew, one can have food or guests in ones room. I am also one of only a few non Japanese people in the place....which is full. This is interesting too, although thee hasn`t been much interaction thus far its interesting to observe the ebb and flow of the apt life of over a dozen Japanese families. These sorts of places are not seen much any more as they are being replaced by more western style accommodations which are, admittedly, rather an improvement. These types of semi comunal apts however,were, I am told, very much the norm for most of postwar Japan. you can see them portrayed (sans showers of horror) in shows like Chobbits and Maison Ikkoku.

 My biggest complaint is not with the guest house, but rather the fact that the local coin laundry has.....hours...meaning that my old trick of washing clothes at 3AM and avoiding the heat and the crowds in not feasible.

Lunch was tankatsu curry from an automat.

Anyway,the day was spent washing bedthings, cleaning the room and doing my laundry.

One final bit...the room had been used for storage of late and amongst the things that I found were several pillows from Sams Club....indicating that Bob has been here before me.

I may explain that last bit at some point.

Posted by: The Brickmuppet at 05:44 AM | Comments (1) | Add Comment
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1 I'm glad that you found a place to stay, however grungy. This sounds like the beginning of an exceptionally memorable trip. I hope everything else goes better for you.

Posted by: Don at Sun Aug 3 07:27:04 2008 (7TJKJ)

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