March 22: On the train

Shinkansen. Why can't we have trains like that?

Shinkansen. Why can’t we have trains like that?

Today is a travel day. First a brief trip on a local train, now four hours on the Shinkansen to get to Okayama. I think the distance is comparable to Chicago to DC. It wouldn’t be four hours on our trains.

In this week since I left Pittsburgh I have stayed at three radically different hotels. My criteria for selecting hotels had to do with location and, of course, price, preferably under $100, better yet, under $75. Which was paramount depended on how much I understood about the destination. The first night, in Chicago, location was important. I wanted something close to the airport and to public transit. The O’Hare Inn and Suites offered seemingly constant shuttle service to the airport and the blue line train. It was not a great hotel; clean enough, but shabby with the inconvenience of stairs for second floor rooms and ; badly in need of renovation. The shuttle driver took my bags to the room and brought them down when I left. There was no way I would be able to manage it. I think this was one of the more expensive places.

I have two bags: the largest 21” carry-on I could find, (Did you know the 21 inchers come in different sizes?) and the small overnight I took for that previous three night stay in Chicago. Dealing with both at once is not pleasant, but I don’t anticipate doing it often. I am shipping the larger bag and skipping hotels I will only stay at one or two nights. In Atami I had only the overnighter. My other bag is supposed to meet me in Okayama.

My Tokyo hotel, MyStays Inn, Asakusabashi, was stylish and looked new. The room was, as I expected, miniscule but comfortable. I think the bed was great but I was so exhausted every night I couldn’t say for sure. I had to put the suitcase on the bed when I wanted to open it. There was no room for one of those luggage stands and no closet. Three hangars were on a rod overhanging a full-size mirror. The bathroom, as most Japanese bathrooms, had a raised threshold. I’ve never figured out whether this enables them to flood the room to clean it or to keep the evil spirits from leaving the bathroom. The tub was deep, great for soaking but not great for getting in and out to shower. I never soak. Not anymore. That was the worst inconvenience. The staff was helpful; I was even able to manage with the ones who did not speak English. It was also convenient to the train.

Basin and tub

Basin and tub

Train station I missed entirely on my first try

Train station I missed entirely on my first try

Bento Box, from the 24 hr. supermarket down the street.

Bento Box, from the 24 hr. supermarket down the street.

As you may have gathered, my experience in Atami was something of a shock. The hotel entrance at the bottom of the hill was hugely inconvenient. I come from flatland and don’t like climbing hills or stairs, up or down. But climb I did, taking taxis only when I was carrying the little suitcase, which was not light. I liked the room in spite of the lack of a comfortable chair. I like sleeping on the futon on tatami mats. I find it comfortable and I sleep well. Only the up and down is bad.

IMG_4019 IMG_4020

The room was long and narrow. About a third of it, as you walked in, was lined on both sides with utilities: a tiny entrance area with a shelf where you can leave your shoes (no walking with shoes on tatami mats) and keys or whatever else you didn’t need inside the room. On the left were separate compartments for the toilet, the shower and soak tub; and a large storage cabinet entered from inside the room, for the futons, pillows and duvet.

On the right side was a closet with a wardrobe, a basin with a mirror and some shelves in the corners for toiletries, a tiny sink and single burner stove with cabinet underneath with some dishes and pots, a microwave, a rice cooker and an electric kettle. No teabags, but I had some from the Tokyo hotel. I used the microwave, the kettle and a couple of plates for already prepared stuff I was able to purchase, including some tasty green stuff I hope was spinach.

The actual room was fairly large with a TV and some shelves for other equipment and a large, sturdy table that I finally decided to sit on. I am amazed it took me 24 hours to figure I could sit on it. I just don’t usually sit on tables. The first morning I couldn’t get my support stockings on while sitting on the floor. I just don’t bend so much any more. I finally went and sat on the toilet, the only thing in the room that resembled a chair.

I bought an Obi in Tokyo to cut up for a book cover. It’s a lot of fabric and it is heavy. I was able to get it in the suitcase, but as the weather gets warmer I will have to think about getting rid of stuff so I won’t have to wear the two jackets I am using now. I think it could get very warm here before I am ready to leave. Chicago was supposed to be cold the day I was there. I took a scarf and an undershirt that kept me too warm most of the time so I left both things I almost never wear in the hotel room. I have two pairs of shoes with me. Took a good look at the pair I was wearing when I arrived in Tokyo and decided they could go. First, I have to make sure I am comfortable in the other pair. I tend to walk on the outside of my feet and I break down most shoes before they ever wear out otherwise. Since I started wearing Merrell’s I find they wear on the bottom long before I can break them down. I never took a good look at the other pair. They could be awful, also, in which case I guess I go barefoot, or it might now be possible to buy shoes here. I’ve noticed some very large feet.

I am also considering jettisoning the jackets. The outer one is probably thirty years old. It’s in amazingly good shape. Eddie Bauer made great stuff back then. The lighter one is also nothing special. I’ll have to see how much I buy and wait until the weather is really warm. Presently it has been fluctuating between very warm days and much cooler days. Also depends on altitude. On April 10 I will go to Mt. Koya, possibly a cold trip.

I’ve got about 40 minutes left on the train. The weather forecast was for cooler temps, but it didn’t seem very cool before I boarded.

Posted this from my hotel in Okayama where it is very cool, damp and gray. Originally planned to visit Korakuen, my next garden, today, but I hope tomorrow will be a better day. My suitcase, entirely encased in a plastic bag was waiting for me. I could get used to this kind of service.

4 thoughts on “March 22: On the train

  1. It’s nice to see inside a Japanese hotel room. Small but tidy, but I’d miss a cushy couch or easy chair to sit on. In the first photo I noted the street signs are all in Japanese. Besides language, I am direction impaired. How do you manage your cash flow, or is it easy to use ATMs of their equivalent?

  2. Hi. This is sandy Kalnitz gold…Ruth and George’s daughter. I’m enjoying your journal. I went to Japan a couple years ago to visit my son Matthew. He has been teaching English there for about 2 1/2 years. He’ll be home in may. He’s loved the Japanese experience. You are a wonderful writer!

  3. Don’t leave a trail of your things behind. Fed X them home. That’s what we do. Ship the Obi and the Eddie Bauer….yes, both are probably heavy and you would miss them later.

  4. I’ve been wondering when you’d start to leave clothing in hotel rooms. Based on your exploits, I wonder if some Japanese think it’s an odd kind of American tradition.

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