I had been traveling and walking in the rain all day. If only I could sit down and have a cappuccino or a beer, and people watch ….
But there were no coffee shops or bars in the covered mall. I didn’t want to duck under the restaurant curtains into a restaurant without knowing what awaited inside. Were they empty at this time of day, or packed? I didn’t know if it was okay to sit and nurse a cappuccino for an hour, taking up a table that could seat people spending a lot more than me.
I walked back to the hotel, hoping the abrasive landlady would let me into the room early, and she did. This hotel, the New Tohoku, ranked 5th cheapest out of the eight places I lodged. It ranked #1 as the most run down.
The carpet looked like it had been installed in 1972 and never shampooed. This was the bathroom; I shared the photo already in my post about Japanese bathrooms. Yes, you could swivel the sink faucet over the sink to wash your hands, then over to the tub to fill that up. The tub was stained yellow, and the shower curtain was composed of the flimsy plastic used to make Walmart shopping bags—and spotted with blackish mildew. Couldn’t they have spent 100 yen to buy a clean shower curtain? I am halfway tempted to buy one at the Dollar Store and mail it to them.
The good thing about a grotty hotel is that you aren’t tempted to spend a lot of time there. I changed into dry clothes, drank a couple mugs of green tea to fortify myself and perused the guest book.
Most of it made absolutely no sense, especially the opening line, “Enjoy the TOKYO empty-handed.”
I headed back out into the rain.
On the other side of the station lay Ueno Park, a vast urban oasis with museums, shrines, restaurants, and gardens. There was a sparsely-attended festival in progress but it looked like the few attendees were all teenagers so I kept walking. The hydrangeas were unendingly gorgeous, and the rainy weather made the colors—cobalt blue, violet, lime green—appear all the more saturated.
I crossed the park and walked down a hillside toward an enormous water-lily-filled lake. I wondered if I had missed the water lilies blooming, or if they might be in bloom when I returned to Tokyo in ten days’ time.
There was a land bridge with food stalls which to my disappointment were all closed, and it led to a shrine. This bull was at the entrance.
If you look closely you may be able to see the crow on a post and ginger cat sitting below it. I watched them for some time, wondering if they might start talking—they looked so much like an illustration from a fable.
These were the prayer plaques being sold at the shrine; they looked like sitars.
I bought a couple, putting my money in the offering box. So there, Mr. Judgmental Buddhist in Nikko! I am not a thief!
I found an open restaurant back in the park and made the mistake of ordering the Chinese special. I’ve been wondering—I’ve had great Chinese food in London and Minneapolis and elsewhere. Why not in Japan? Again, it was a pile of gristly meat on top of white rice and doused with a shiny, gelatinous sauce.
Back at the New Tohoku, I pulled back the 1981-vintage polyester bedspread with trepidation and was relieved to find crisp white sheets. My RLS was a living hell that night. I gave up any hope of sleep at 4am and fiddled around online and drank instant coffee until the breakfast service began, at 7am. Brekky was served in a storage room. Paint cans, pieces of scaffolding, and tarps had been pushed aside and three tables for two squeezed in. But the food wasn’t bad.
At 8am I was out the door to meet Keiko, her parents, and my nephews at a seaside amusement park. I usually arrive before anyone else, but today I was a whole hour early. Keiko had proposed meeting at the west entrance of the train station, but none existed.