Our man in Japan: ‘The idea was to grab one more beer…’

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Words by Bill Hill

Bill Hill is living in Japan for the next few months learning the language and catching some rugby on his travels. This month he gets lost on the streets of Yokahama.

Evening of Saturday 2 November through to early hours Sunday 3 November …

Reeling from the spectacle of a successful England team defeat to South Africa in the 2019 Rugby World Cup Final in Yokohama, I went with Robert from Gloucestershire, who I’d met at one of the games and then miraculously bumped into three times in three weeks at various rugby venues, to Yokohama station. The idea was to grab one more beer somewhere near my digs in Yokohama Station’s  “Sky Spa” capsule hotel, after checking in,  which had to be done before midnight. Finding the place, and checking in, is a story in itself. I’ll spare you another long sentence… until the next paragraph.

We wended our way out of the Sky Spa, in search of beer; which we found.. in a nice little bar, God knows where. All I know is that it was a mere pebble toss from the station. One beer became three, approximately. I haplessly managed to help Robert get a taxi, drawing on my increasingly broken Japanese to communicate the destination to the driver. Might never know whether Robert got to his hostel.

I then managed to not know how to get back to the capsule place, even though I’m sure it was very very close. Ended up asking the police who seemed to intimate it was right around the block …Within a few steps, however, the around-the-block route started to look both confusing and daunting. Asked a couple of guys outside a bar (looked like they worked there) who advised me to get a taxi and helped me stop one. I couldn’t understand why I was getting a taxi to a place that was surely extremely close. I think the police had said the route through the station was now closed, so I’d have go in a different entrance.

I chuntered away at the taxi driver when he dropped me outside a place called Sky Spa.. ie the correct name, but I was convinced this must be a different branch, as we’d been driving for a few minutes. Entered the building but couldn’t work out what to do or where to go. Saw a black chap and figured he might be non-Japanese and therefore know some English. He was “Thomas” the American.

He asked around and gleaned that the Sky Spa was on the 14th floor. We ended up having an hour’s conversation, outside the lift, about what lies beneath the lovely Japanese exterior. He’d been in the country 15 years and had a marriage, couple of kids, a divorce, and God knows what else safely under his belt. We talked, sex, racism, relationships … in fact, no stone unturned on the conversation topic front, I’d say. His take on life in Japan for a foreigner was imbued with what I’d call a healthy dose of realism, cynicism, or both. Message along the lines of “not all is as it seems” / “enjoy, but be ever so slightly wary”.  Interesting. I’m not sure how to arrange Thomas’ gems of advice and pearls of wisdom in my head.

14th floor and the capsule beckoned….

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