Kanto Maigo – Day 4

Morning. I look out the window over the empty intersection. Credits to Villa Fountaine for the comfortable and wide bed. Points off for strangely having the kettle in a cabinet all the way by the door instead of below/next to the desk like most considerate hotels would. The room is big enough, why put it so far away?


早晨。我從窗戶俯視空蕩的路口。不得不誇一下,Villa Fountaine的床大又舒服。至於把燒水壺擺在遠在門邊的櫃子裡而不是像其他旅館放在桌子下/旁,扣分。房間挺大的,何必放那麼遠。

View from Villa Fountaine

Complimentary breakfast at 7am. I’m not sure why they choose to call it complimentary, other hotels are happy enough to just call it what it is, free breakfast or breakfast included. Calling it complementary to make it sound like a gift? Something extra? Perhaps it’s an escape clause in the event they can’t provide it that day?




One can tell what guests a hotel targeted by how early its breakfast is. 7am was for people who were in business but not in a hurry to get where they were going.




Thankfully today I was also not in a hurry to get where I was going.




Kumobaike, a famous pond in Karuizawa was closed because of trail maintenance in the off-season (the word is going to show up alot). Without it there wasn’t much point in trying to arrive earlier than 10am when the shops begin to open. From Tokyo to Karuizawa takes about an hour so I only needed to head out after 8am. That’s plenty of time for transfer at Tokyo station.




The breakfast at Villa Fountaine was barebone. My theory is they are not initially setup to provide breakfast and had to begin offering to compete. Most items were simple to prepare. Yoghurt, cereal, salad, bread, soup. The hot dishes were scrambled eggs, wieners and fried rice. All dishes that could be done without a proper kitchen. There was no Japanese dish such as fish or pickles. Coffee and hot water for tea was served in pre-prewed coffee pots.


Villa Fountaine的早餐算簡陋。感覺上一開始是沒有提供早餐的,在競爭激烈才想辦法變出早餐來。大部分是容易準備的菜色。優格,麥片,沙拉,麵包,湯。唯一的熱食只有炒蛋,小熱狗和炒飯。都是不用廚房就可準備的。沒有日式早餐的漁或醬菜。咖啡和泡茶的熱水是裝在過濾咖啡壺中。

Villa Fountaine breakfast

Villa Fountaine breakfast

They were laid out on fold out tables put out in one side of the lobby, a temporary set up that was cleared out once breakfast was finished.




The food was okay. Above Smile Hotel, below Comfort. About 4 out of 10. The lack of variety really hurt it even if the quality was not bad.


口味還好。比Smile Hotel好,比Comfort Hotel差。大概給40分。主要缺點是沒有什麼菜色,雖然品質上不插。


The nearest metro station Jimbocho was poorly positioned to access Tokyo station. I head to Suidobashi, transfer by walking across the platform at Ochanomizu. There was still half an hour till I needed to get on the shinkansen. I wandered about Tokyo station, checking out the layout and the position of the breakfast place I planned to go to on Y’s first day.


Tokyo Gransta

Breakfast being considered on Y’s first day






Finally with a cup of Doutor coffee (it’s tradition) in hand it’s time to hop on the train.




The train was relatively full. I had to go to the second carriage from the end to find an empty row. Had thought it would be really empty, Karuizawa was not served by the super express bound for Kanazawa, people would only get on this train if they were headed for the smaller stations. Either the smaller stations saw a ridiculous number of people or the slower train would still get to Nagano and Kanazawa earlier than the next express.




There was a huge elevation change from Takasaki to Karuizawa, it was part of the reason the E7 series was made to tackle the steep gradient. One could feel the angle of the train and the changing pressure as it sped through the mountain tunnel.




First thing noticed as the train pulled into the station, it had snowed overnight. Karuizawa was covered in a sheet of thin snow. The next thing, the station was really small and basic.


For being one of the premier holiday location for Tokyolites, I had expected something more fashionable and architecturally designed. The main waiting area wasn’t closed off from the platforms and was not heated. There was no convenience store, only a small bento stall. The small tourist centre, generously described for such a small room, where I got a map of the town also doubled as a souvenir store.







Karuizawa Ekiben


Karuizawa station

Outside the station a young couple from Taiwan excitedly posed against the snow.


A big reason Japan is pushing heavily for foreign tourists is to balance out the huge differences between peak and off-peak seasons. Winter hits the tourism industry especially heavily in Japan and tourist numbers drop off a cliff. Foreign tourists are less affected by winter. People from warmer parts of asia are thrilled by the prospect of snow, some come to get a taste of skiing. Christmas and New Year is holiday season for westerners and Chinese New Year brings another tide of tourists.





Station courtyard covered in snow

The station is 1.5km from Old Karuizawa or Karuizawa Ginza where the main street is.




Most bloggers recommends renting a bike which I question the wisdom of during winter. For one it isn’t very far and the terrain flat. Secondly one have to find parking. Thirdly biking over snow or iced over grounds is an accident in waiting.


During my walk several bikes wobbled by. One ridden by a middled aged woman from Taiwan almost skidded off the sidewalk coming to a stop at an intersection.





Iced up street

Carved reindeer

The street was quote deserted. Outside of the few biking past there weren’t anyone else on the road. The buildings on either side were loosely positioned, most weren’t open due to the off-season. There was an art museum, a few fancy hotels and resort clubhouses.



A hotel

An antique store’s shop sign caught my attention. Kino, it was called, written in yarn like font. It was a little shop with personality, the items were tightly arranged without feeling cluttered. I was most impressed by an old fashioned typewriter like calculator/register, and letters made from rusted together nails and wires.



Antique Kino

Continuing on, I reached the intersection where the main shopping street begins. Much livelier.



Xmas shop

The shops of Karuizawa was different from other tourist areas in that in had a good few fashion clothing stores, probably why the name Ginza. The clothing stores were advertising closing down sales if not closed already. Then there were antiques, wedding planners, crafts and the sweets shop.



Croquet shop

Main street

Most numerous were the jam shops. Karuizawa is famous for its jams and spreads. This odd local specialty is deeply linked to the town’s history.




Karuizawa had been a small village on the Nakasendo, then in 1886 a missionary Alexander Shaw happened by and noting its cool climate and beauty, decided to build a summer villa here. Other westerners soon followed suit and Karuizawa grew to be vacation resort for foreigners and contributed to many Karuizawa’s western architectures. Locals learned from the westerners and began making jams and spreads for the the westerners and other Japanese who had adopted a western lifestyle.


輕井澤曾是中山道上的一個小村落,1886年一位傳教士Alexander Shaw路過時注意到這裡涼爽的氣候和美麗的自然景觀,決定在這蓋個避暑小屋。很快的其他西方人也跟著效仿,輕井澤也發展成了外國人的度假勝地,也是為何鎮上有許多西式建築。當地居民從西方人那學習到了果醬和塗醬的做法,開始製作好提供給來度假的西方人和西化的日本人。


These days there are many jam shops along the shopping strip selling jams and spreads of all kind made from local ingredients. Fruit jams, red bean spreads, honey spreads, garlic, herbs, savoury spreads.




I had actually forgotten about the jams till I wandered into the Church Street shopping arcade and was invited into the Fine jam shop by the staff working there. Every single flavour of their jam and spread was available for taste test. Open jars were laid out with trays of small biscuits. One after the other, scoop up a small spoon of jam and spread onto the biscuit, enjoy.


我其實整個忘了果醬了,直到晃到Church Street商店街被Fine果醬店的店員請進去後才想起來有這一回事。Fine的每種醬料都可以試吃。打開的試吃罐跟小餅乾擺在起。一一用小湯匙挖起一點果醬塗在餅乾上,吃個痛快。

Church Street

Karuizawa Fine

Fine jams

Church behind Church Street

The other jam shops weren’t as generous, some only had a few flavours out for taste test, some didn’t even have any. It could be they were reluctant to open jars in the off-season for fear of the jams having to be thrown away, or business wasn’t good enough to afford it. Without the taste test people were going to be reluctant buying though, especially some of the more exotic flavors. Fine Karuizawa had an anchovy flavoured spread which I would not have bought were I not able to try it first.



Jam shop

The streets while not packed was by no means empty. Bus loads of tourists were dropped off at the carpark behind the shopping plaza and what shops that opened were filled with activities.




I’m not sure why more than 1/4 of the shops were already closed and another 1/4 had signs up saying this was their last week and they would soon close up until February. If one come in December or January, as I had considered originally, half the shops will no doubt be shut and the town lifeless.


我不確定為什麼超過1/4的店都已經歇業了,或是為何另外1/4的店告示這是他們最後一週,開始休息後要到2月才會開。如果12月或 1月來,如我原本有考慮的,超過半數的店家肯定會沒開,鎮上也會毫無生氣。


There looks to be enough tourists around, is it really necessary to close up? With this many shops closed there is going to be a vicious cycle where people avoid Karuizawa during winter times thus even more shops close up. Rent still had to be paid right? I have a hard time imagining wages being so high and business so bad that it is better to close up entirely. Somewhere like Like Towada is understandable, the place has its road snowed 2 metres deep in winter, but Karuizawa has the shinkansen and is not far from the expressway, those will be open even in the coldest winters, and Karuizawa has many nearby skii fields and a shopping outlet that ensured a minimum amount of traffic.




Karuizawa is nice town, very well kept and interesting. I can imagine it being very nice to visit in spring or autumn when all the shops are open and the streets more lively.




The tourist centre at the shopping street had a section exhibiting the history of the old railway. Karuizawa and Takasaki used to be connected before the shinkansen was built and the line made defunct. The Usuitouge pass was so steep special rack rail locomotives had to be connected for trains to navigate the pass.



Tourist centre


There also used to be a small railway from Karuizawa to Kusatsu, must have taken incredible effort to build a railway through such mountainous terrain. The old station of the Kusatsu-Karuizawa railway can still be found at the intersection at the entrance to the ginza strip. It’s a large souvenir shop nowadays.



Leaves in the snow

More jams

Shaw memorial chapel

Soft cream on a cold day?

Sure why not


Old Karuizawa station building

It’s approaching noon and I head back to the station and the outlet right on the south side of it. I’m here not for the shopping but for its food court.




The outlet also has a skii field attached to it. The slopes didn’t look very big nor very steep but more than enough for first timers and beginners, with unmatched convenience. One can do some skiing, food and shopping all in one day, as a day trip from Tokyo no less.




I grabbed a chicken stock ramen from Ramen Nishiki, it was one of the higher rated places to eat at the foodcourt. The taste was good but nothing of particular note, other than being chicken instead of pork stock.


The foodcourt also provided disposable teatowels and drinking water. I suppose this is a standard feature of foodcourts in Japan.






Ramen Nishiki

Chicken ramen

Towels and water

After lunch I walked around the outlet. The place is big, broken up into 5 or 6 sections, each having a score of stores. Except a section focused on souvenirs the stores appeared to be grouped in no particular category or commonality.




Attached skii field

The place is meant for someone who can recognize more brands than just Gucci and La Creuset.


這裡對品牌認得出超過Gucci和La Creuset的人較有意義。


As it was, after a quick walkthrough I headed for the Hoshino resort area. The Shinano railway was co-located next to the shinkansen in the same station. One stop away was Naka-Karuizawa station where a shuttle bus service to Hoshino was available.



Shinano railway station

The Hoshino resort area was…. peculiar. I still have not figured how it intends its guests to use its facilities. It’s a loose collection of close but not too closely located facilities. An onsen, a wilderness tour office whose outside pond doubles as a skating ring in winter, an upmarket eatery/restaurant, a shopping village selling very expensive bread, sweets and afternoon teas, massage service and handicrafts. A hotel (that’s too far away from aforementioned facilities) with two churches on its grounds, a villa village that’s still some hundred metres to the onsen and restaurants. If the facilities are meant to provide service to the guests, then the guests must walk there themselves, navigate the lack of signage and paths connecting the areas.




The main attraction here is the two churches. The stone church is particularly well known for its design of stone arches whose exterior blended into the landscape and awe inspiring on the inside with its spiral lines and filtered lights. Alas, the place was hosting a wedding and was off-limits to visitors.



Stone church entrance

Highland church

Garden decoration made of apple?

The area is actually quite small and I had seen everything by 3:30pm. Should I leave early? Or should I stay to see the christmas decorations.


Well, I had come this far already…might as well stay a while longer to see everything, I decided.






The sun was falling beneath the treetops, the temperature plunged. I had to take shelter in the cafe at Harunire Terrace shopping village. My glasses fogged up and it was a while before I could follow the server to a seat. The cafe was most definitely upmarket, there were over two pages of different blends of coffee. I picked the basic seasonal special blend and it came in a french press. The cafe had books on its shelves for guests to read, none interested me however and I just read stuff on my phone to kill time till 5pm.



Harunire Terrace

Pond turned skating rink


French press coffee


I was starting to understand how the resort was meant to work. It was truly aimed as a resort for relaxation. There seemed to be little to do because the guests wasn’t meant to be kept busy. Grab a coffee, sit down and read a book, gaze out at the forest and creek, chill out for the afternoon.




The lights came on. I lingered for a while longer still, seduced by the cafe’s warmth. Finally I gathered my weary focus and said farewell to the empty coffee cup.




The light was much less impressive than their promotional photos. The area was very poorly lit and the christmas lights lacked vibrancy to overcome the cold. People moved about quickly, in no mood to look at the decorations. And neither was I.



Lit terrace

Lit terrace

Xmas tree

I took my photos of the Terrace and the tree outside the onsen. A group of Taiwanese passed by, talking of going to the onsen before finishing the day’s trip.




My mind was frozen by this point and could barely think. The first shuttle that went all the way back to Karuizawa station was still not due for another 40 minutes. I could either try to hang around for that long or I could take the next shuttle to Naka-Karuizawa and go from there.




I decided there was no point staying and took the shuttle to Naka-Karuizawa, then back to Karuizawa via the Shinano railway.




At Naka-Karuizawa there was a 10minutes transfer time and I huddled inside the small waiting room with a handful of other tourists, similarly waiting to go back to Karuizawa. We waited until the train approaching announcement came on before going through the gate, none brave enough to spend any more seconds than had to in the freezing wind on the platform.




There was just enough time for me to grab a rice ball from the 7-11 at the outlet before the next train back to Tokyo.



Outlet at night

Outlet at night

Rice ball for now

Between the station and the outlet there were again several groups of Taiwanese. Karuizawa might be unusually popular amongst Taiwanese, similar to Takayama which if I recall sees twice as many foreign tourists from Taiwanese than the next highest country (either HK or China).




By the time I’m walking down the street of Suidobashi it was past 8pm. I’ve only had that riceball I ate on the train as a stop-gap and I looked for a place to have dinner.




Two buildings before Villa Fountaine was a soba/udon shop, they promoted that they made their own noodles and looked decent enough. I was far too tired to go look elsewhere and just stepped inside.


到Villa Fountaine兩個大樓前有家蕎麥烏龍麵店,門口張貼說自家製麵,看起來算可以。我已經筋疲力盡無心另外去找了,於是我跨進門。

Cheap soba/udon place

I punched for the oyakodon set at the meal ticket machine and gave it to the cook at the counter. He asked something and I paused for a second. No, it wasn’t parsing to any question I was expecting, I could not break out the key nouns or verbs. I asked him to please repeat the question again.




The man gave a nod as if he suddenly understood something. He fished out a printed sheet from the cupboard. It was a common English question and answer sheet. He pointed to the one that asked if I wanted it hot or cold.




Doh, of course!


Hot, I replied. I’d be crazy to ask for it cold after almost getting frozen up in the highlands.






Being next Villa Fountaine must meant they got a lot of foreign customers, thus the english sheet.


在Villa Fountain隔壁大概常會有外國客人吧,所以準備了那張英文問答。


The meal portion was very generous for less than 600Y, and it was quite delicious. A good hearty meal.



Dinner Oyakodon and udon set

After a long and exhausting day there was still tasks ahead. It was time to wash my clothes. I planned to sleep early tomorrow so despite having clothing for another day I wanted to get some of the washing done.




What I initially felt about Villa Fountaine manifested when I went to use the coin laundry.


一開始對Villa Fountaine對住客不太體貼的感覺在投幣洗衣房被證實了。


The machine was old and more expensive than other places and required an extra 50Y for detergents, something which I had never had to pay for. The Matsue City Hotel had a sign saying one needed to pay but the front desk just gave them to me free, every other hotel had the machine add them automatically.


機器比其他地方老舊昂貴,還需要另外50Y買我從未需買過的洗衣精。松江的City Hotel雖然有告示說跟櫃台買,但櫃台其實還是免費給我的。而其他住過的旅館都是會自動加入。


Annoyed, but what had to be done had to be done.




I threw the more needed change of clothes into the laundry and settled into the eating area of the lobby to research what to do the next day.




Kanto Maigo – Day 3

Morning. I already ate what bread the hotel provided last night as a late night snack. To find breakfast I went out to the 7-11.




Snow had fell thick overnight and the roofs and grounds were covered in snow. Not the roads though. Kusatsu ran hot water from their onsen heat exchangers beneath the roads and made them snow proof.



Kusatsu morning

Kusatsu morning


Jizou no yu

After breakfast I grabbed the towel and handbag and headed to the Sai no Kawara bath. It was too cold for yukata, it’s okay though since Sai no Kawara was a paid bath with changing rooms and supposedly had lockers.



The shops were still closed, quiet, except the manju shops filled with activity behind the shut store front, steam rising above them as they steamed manjus in preparation for the day ahead.




The snow covered Sai no Kawara park was yet another feel different from yesterday and yesterday night. It was frozen and still, the spell broken only by the rising steam. The snow covered Jizou statues wearing hoods and cloaks were a delight out of Japaneses folktales.



Snow covered jizou




Sai no Kawara


Sai no Kawara onsen

Sai no Kawara onsen

The Sai no Kawara onsen was famous for its large outdoor bath, since there was plenty of onsen water it could afford to be wasteful. Despite its size its water remained very hot. Above average, not as hot as Shirohata no Yu yesterday. Near the entrance the water was the coolest as the hot water was fed in from about 2 /3 down the length of the bath. There were three other bathers but they soon left, and I had the huge bath to myself. I floated in the water, watching the steam rising all around toward the cloudy skies, losing track of time and self, in that moment the whole universe was contained in that bath. It was a strangely unsettling experience.




After the onsen bath the shops were starting to open. The shops here also opened early, no doubt to take advantage of people who stayed overnight who were now looking for souvenirs to take home. Especially the manjus which has to be eaten fresh.




A small incident happened on the way, I dropped my tripod and something came off. I picked it up and looked it over. The plastic head holding the mount to the pole had completely snapped in two and was unrepairable. A lot of little accidents on this trip so far. This one could be addressed, have to make time to go out and buy a new tripod once I get back to Tokyo.




I return to the hotel and checked out, leaving my luggage there to be picked up later. There was one last thing to experience in Kusatsu.




Because Kusatsu’s onsen is so hot, people in ancient time had to wait a long time for it to cool before able to take a bath, so overtime there developed a special tradition of cooling down the water by stirring it with a giant paddle and jikanyu “timed bath”, where one paddles the water to cool it, pour the water on one’s head and then bathes for exactly 3 minutes on the command of a bath leader. Overtime the paddling became a song and dance tradition which is still performed in the Netsu no Yu. For those interested in the full on experience there are baths in Kusatsu that hosts timed baths.




The Netsu no Yu puts on about 3 performances each morning and afternoon, the later afternoon sessions become quickly packed as this is one of the first things guests would think of doing after checking in.




The performance itself is only a few minutes. To create a more complete experience they added more elements to create 4 segments The first is a traditional dance performed on stage, then the yumomi performance, then audiences are invited to try to paddle the water as part of the yumomi themselves, then finally a slightly different yumomi performance that ends with a giant splash of water.



Dance performance


Final splash

After watching the performances I bought some sweets and manjus to bring home, picked up my luggage and went to the bus terminal to begin the journey back to Tokyo.



Matsumura manju, a famous manju shop in Kusatsu

The bus was full. Wait what?




If I couldn’t get on this bus, the next bus was not due for another hour and half.




Thankfully the staff explained that they were bringing in another bus and that there was a 30 minute transfer time at Naganohara-Kusatsuguchi, there was no worry about missing the train. Looking around, there were almost 20 people in the waiting area waiting on the second bus.




I wandered around the bus terminal for abit, checking out the souvenir shop and eatery here. The souvenir shop occupied a small space in one corner of the waiting room. What’s sold here did not defer much from what’s sold in other shops. Mostly sweets and onsen made beauty products. There’s an eatery downstairs, the menu looked like it would be a decent choice for lunch or dinner if one wasn’t picky.




About 10 minutes later the bus showed up. The driver asked if there were anyone who was not going to Naganohara-Kusatsuguchi station. There were none. So the driver turned the bus into an express and drove directly to the station without stopping instead, arriving only a few minutes later than the previous bus.




The train was once again a local train except this one didn’t go all the way to Takasaki, instead everyone had to transfer at Shin-Maebashi, about 3 stops north out from Takasaki. The transfer was simple and well timed like most Japanese connections, simply walk across the platform to the waiting train.




The communities along the line likely didn’t have enough patronage to support frequent services, combining tourists going to Kusatsu onto the local trains was a way to increase the number of trains and made life a little more convenient for the locals. Still given the number of people visiting Kusatsu I could not help but think that they could add one or two more express services a day. Currently there were only two express trains on weekdays, both timed to be more convenient for tourists coming to Kusatsu (noon and afternoon for check in at hotels) but not quite as convenient for those leaving (leaving in the afternoon and late afternoon, none if one wanted to leave in the morning).




By the time I got to Takasaki it was almost 1pm and I was starving.




I planned to go the Daruma temple in the afternoon and there was only one train every hour. The next one was at 1:22, I had less than half an hour to toss my luggage into a locker and get lunch. Doesn’t look like I have time to go to that kamameshi (rice in a pot) place.




First thing first, I followed the signs to the lockers, downstairs and past a food court. I didn’t have enough changes on me, stupid locker only takes 100Y coins. I looked about for a coin exchanger and noticed there was also a row of lockers that used suica to access. Even better. I chucked my luggages into the locker and swiped my card.




Now, as to the problem of lunch…. I turned to the nearby foodcourt passed a moment ago. There was the same Nagasaki noodle place I had last time in Hakata, a ramen place, some rice don place. Oh, a Mos Burger, perfect.


那麼,午餐怎麼解決呢。我轉回剛經過的美食街。有家上回在博多吃過的長崎麵店,拉麵,丼飯。喔,有Mos Burger,正好。


Unadventurous, quick, not too pricey and easy to take with me if time runs short.



Mos Burger

I ordered a seasonal special and found a spot to sit. The food court provided drinking water and paper cups and disposable teatowels to wipe down the tables. Never noticed that on previous trips.



Warabi Katsu Burger

Daruma temple in Takasaki is said to have been founded several hundred years ago original as a temple of worship of the 11 headed kannon. During a flood a piece of black wood was seen giving off miraculous light and was preserved. An old man later dreamt of Daruma commanding him to carve a figure of him using the black wood. Thus the temple was born. Daruma was a legendary monk who was said to have also started the kungfu tradition at the Shaolin temple. The temple’s full name is Shorinzan Darumaji or Shaolin Mountain Daruma Temple, whether there’s any connection between Shaolin in China and this one is unclear to me.




There is a tradition involving Daruma dolls, a rounded doll in the image of Daruma. The dolls are created with blank eyes. People who wished for something was to paint the left eye of the doll when making their wish, then complete the other one once their wish become true.




This is why there are mountains of dolls piled up on either side of the worship hall.




The temple is just a short 5 minutes trail ride out from Takasaki. Get off at Gunma-Yawata station then a short 1.5k walk to the temple.




The road went through low density suburb area. On either side were mostly one or two storey houses, except for a strangely located rice shop and what looked to be a car parts factory. Finally cross a busy bridge over a river and one arrives at the foot of the temple.




I mistakenly went up via the parking access road on the side. All for the best as the main entrance was a very long flight of steps that would make all who visits bow in respect.




The autumn leaves were at their peak, the temple halls nested amidst the steep hillside brushed with vibrant orange and red.



Daruma temple

Daruma temple

Couple taking wedding photo

It was a weekday and there were few people about. There was couple in traditional clothing getting their wedding album taking and two or three others here to pray and see the autumn leaves.



Autumn leaves and Daruma hall

There were many dolls presented to the temple, some big, some small. Most were presented by businesses wishing for successes, the biggest ones were over a metre tall.



Daruma hall




To one side was a small museum displaying hundreds of different Daruma dolls. On one wall was a map showing how the Daruma dolls differ between areas of Japan. Daruma from Takasaki was the quintessential round squash shaped, some area had ones that were slender, some cylindrical, some more egg shaped. Some were cute, some had a regal expression, others stern and serious.




I spent maybe 30 minutes at the temple. There was also only one train an hour back to Takasaki and it would take at least 10 minutes to get back to the station.



Daruma temple main stairs

After returning to Takasaki I picked up my luggage and hopped on a Shinkansen, this time an E7 train. The trip back to Ueno took 45 minutes and I estimated that I’d get to check in about half past 4pm.



The transparent milk tea.. tastes worse than the real one.

My hotel for the next two day was Villa Fountaine Kudanshita, a strange name since it was closer to Jimbocho station, even the Suidobashi station was closer.


接下來兩天的旅館是Villa Fountaine九段下,名字怪怪的因為離神保町比較近,連水道橋站都近一點。


Coming from the shinkansen I had to first go from Ueno to Akihabara, transfer there onto Suidobashi. If I had known better I might have transferred at Tokyo station since transfering there to the Chuo line then transferring again at Ochanomizu required much less walking and stairs than Ueno and Akihabara despite the same number of transfers.




The area immediately outside the Suidobashi station was filled with izakayas, restaurants, pachiko and karaokes, before giving way to quieter office areas.




Villa Fountaine was in one of those quieter areas, some 500 metres from Suidobashi and another two blocks to go till the busy main street above Jimbocho station.


Villa Fountaine是在這比較安靜的區域,離水道橋500公尺,距離神保町站上熱鬧的大道還要再走兩條街。


Villa Fountaine felt more western (not sure why, just a feeling). Its offerings is supposed to be on the higher side of business hotels and catering to foreigners (it has airport limousine and some of its hotels has shuttle bus running to Tokyo station) and comparatively does have a larger room.


Villa Fountaine感覺比較西式,說不上為什麼。提供的服務理當在商務旅館中比較高級,也偏外國住客(機場接送車有到,有分店有到東京車站的交通車),房間有比較較大。


Something felt amiss however which I could not quite grap. It could be the darker decor or the barebone amenities offered, it didn’t felt as welcoming.



Villa Fountaine Kudanshita

Villa Fountaine Kudanshita

By the time I have settled in it was past 5pm. I grabbed a bento from the nearby supermarket and had dinner while browsing for where to buy a new tripod.



Bento, milk ,fruits

BIC CAMERA at Akihabara was the closest and I decided to check out there instead.


BIC CAMERA秋葉原看來最近,就去那吧。


Not realizing that each BIC CAMERA might stock completely different items. Akihabara turned out to be not the best choice to look for tripods. They had a good selection but all too professional; none of the cheap, small travel tripods I was looking for.


完全沒意識到BIC CAMERA每家擺的東西可能完全不一樣。結果秋葉原可能不是最適合買腳架的地方。不是說沒有選擇,選擇很多,但都太專業沒有我要的便宜輕便的攜帶腳架。



Akihabara station was having some gatcha festival

From their websites stock levels I deduced that the shop with the most selection was the Ikebukuro store. It was half an hour to get there. I had actually gotten to Ueno before realizing the Yurakucho one, a station south of Tokyo station, had almost as good a variety and it showed to have the one I wanted in stock. Immediate reverse, hop off the train and onto the one on the other side going the other way.




The BIC CAMERA is right outside the station, it did not seem bigger than the Akihabara store, just a different focus. Cameras had half of B1 allocated as opposed to the small corner it occupied in Akihabara. Here there was a huge variety of tripods, from travel ones to big, heavy clubbing weapons aimed at professionals. Curiously, some of the funky super compact tripods I saw at Akihabara were nowhere to be found here.


BIC CAMERA就在一出車站對面,看起來沒有比秋葉原的大,只是重心不同。B1有半層樓分給相機部門,不像秋葉原只有一個角落。這裡的選擇就多了,從旅行攜帶型但巨大,可以用來捶人的專業用腳架。有趣的是,在秋葉原看到的超炫摺疊腳架這裡卻沒有。

BIC CAMERA Yurakucho

I bought the tripod I had came here for then decided I might as well wander through the other floors and see what they sold.



BIC CAMERA Yurakucho

I was genuinely surprised when I found they had an entire floor dedicated to cosmetics and pharmaceuticals. The store was catering to Chinese tourists, I realized. Indeed, there were more tax-free counters than there were regular ones.




In the games section, PS3 games were on clearance for 500 to 1000Y each. I thumbed through them, finding nothing of interest. A shame, would have been a treat if I could get the rest of the Atelier games.




On the way back I went to the chemist store next to Suidobashi station and bought a small tube of handcream. BIC CAMERA sold handcream too but they were big bottles. I had meant to get handcream before going to Kusatsu but the lost jacket that day took away all the time, now my fingers were hurting from exposure to the cold dry air.


回旅館路上我在水道橋站旁的藥店買的一小管護手霜。剛BIC CAMERA有賣但太大罐了。其實去草津前就有打算買的但搞丟外套耗去了時間,現在手被凍的破皮有點痛。

Kanto Maigo – Day 2

Maybe it’s the time difference, I woke up fairly early, the world outside had only just begun to lighten with a shallow blue. The original plan for breakfast was to check out then go to Sushisei in Tokyo station’s Gransta. That opens at 7 which was still over an hour away. I decided to grab an onigiri and enjoy it with some coffee in the lobby.



Picking a riceball at Lawson


Global Cabin lobby


Global Cabin provides many mangas

After an enjoyable light breakfast I headed upstairs to pack up my things, reorganize items such as moving the inflight reading book into the suitcase.




My jacket was nowhere to be found.


As Tokyo was not warmer than expected, I had not worn my jacket yet and it was still bundled in its special bag, almost like a rolled up mini-sleeping bag.






When did I lose it?


I searched the cabin, then the floor, then the lobby. The jacket was nowhere to be found.






Panic set in. Kusatsu Onsen was high up in the mountains, the temperatures was in the single digits and might even be below zero at night. I had better find that jacket or I would have to buy a replacement. At least Uniqlo was everywhere, it was a problem that could be solved with money, albeit an expensive one.




I asked the front desk if anyone had found a jacket. No one had. Someone might have taken it but it seemed like it would be a silly thing to steal. I checked out all the same and decided to check outside, backtracking my path from the station last night.




The streets looked very different in the day, hard to tell if I was looking at the same streets so I sweeped an extra one or two to be sure. Nothing was found.




At this point I was sure I had lost it between the station and Global Cabin, since I had a vague memory of adjusting the straps tying it to the backpack before getting on the train at Shinagawa and if I had lost it on the train other passengers were sure to call out.


這時我可確認我是在車站到Global Cabin中間掉的,有個印象在品川上電車前我還調整過把外套綁在背包上的提帶。若在電車上掉的一定有人會喊一聲。


I ran back to the Cabin front desk and asked them if it’s better if I ask nearby convenience stores or check with the police. The police, was the reply, and they pointed me to a police post by the station.


我跑回Global Cabin問櫃檯若是這樣我該問附近便利商店還是警察。問警察,他們回答道,同時跟我指說車站附近有個交番。


The police station was located in front of the station, at the corner of the main street and the bus loop. I walked up to them and explained to them that I had lost my jacket and described my jacket to them.(I had called mom to confirm the brand of the jacket)



The police post before Gotanda station

In retrospect, my Japanese had really improved enough that I could explain the situation without looking up words and speak pre-translating from English in the head.




They asked me about the jacket’s appearance, when I lost it. They nodded when I mentioned the jacket’s brand. A good sign.




Someone did bring in something similar to what I was describing, they said, but it was not there.


Wait, they found it but it was not there? I was thoroughly confused and my heart dropped.






One of the policeman gestured for me to follow him out. He pointed to a map on the giant board nearby. Someone did bring it in, and they had sent it on to the main Osaki police station, I would have to go there to pick it up.




I was relieved. The trip was going to be delayed but it looked like I was going to get my jacket back. I thanked the policemen and they fared me well, wishing me to take care.




Osaki police station was about 10 minutes walk from Gotanda station. There was a policeman standing on duty outside and after explaining, he pointed me to the second floor.




Inside, I was asked to fill in some forms and waited for them to bring out the jacket. There were some confusion because apparently my jacket had been brought in with another bag full of things which they assumed belonged to the same person. They had to call the police post to double check whether the person who brought them in said the jacket was found with the bag or near the bag.




I was asked to check the jacket to confirm it was mine. The strap of the jacket’s bag had snapped which must be why it fell off the backpack.




After about 30 minutes, I finally left happy with my jacket in hand. I returned to Gotanda and thanked the policemen at the patrol post, then resumed my planned day.




It wasn’t such a bad experience. The lost and found in Japan was as legendary as people said. Still, best take extra care going forward.




It was by now after 8:30 and way behind schedule. I had not had breakfast yet and I had not bought my rail pass either. I was definitely going to miss the direct express from Ueno to Naganohara-Kusatsuguchi. The best hope was skipping breakfast and see how much time I could make up by taking the shinkansen to Takasaki.




I got my pass at Tokyo station at the JR East tour office at the Marunouchi north exit. Unfortunately looked like I was going to miss the shinkansen train by a few minutes that would have allowed me to catch up to the Kusatsu express at Takasaki. I checked the connections timetable. Was not too bad, I would have to take the local train from Takasaki to Naganohara-Kusatsuguchi and arrive about 30 minutes later than I would have with the express.



Marunouchi North

The shinkansen train was a soon to be phased out E4 series, the only double decker shinkansen train type.


The E4 train was being phased out because it was old and too slow compared to the E7 on the Hokuriku line which shared some of the tracks. An accidental luck that I managed to ride the double decker before it was gone.





E4 train


E4 stairway


The train definitely had an aged feel to it. The lighting was not as bright and the seat cushions a little faded. Because of the double decking the vestibule area felt crowded, cramming in an elevator for the onboard service trolleys and stairs heading up and down.




Originally I headed downstairs as there were less people, then I thought it there were still seats, why not go upstairs to enjoy the better view. That was one advantage with the double deck, the upper deck offered a high vantage point often over the sound barriers by the tracks.




After Omiya when the buildings begins to thin out, I noticed a small white peak in the distance. It was Mount Fuji. Even if Hakone failed to give a clear view of the mountain, I can say I have once seen the great Mount Fuji.



Mount Fuji from the shinkansen

There was almost 30 minutes transfer time at Takasaki. The station was smaller and basic than expected despite being the junction of the Hokuriku and Joetsu shinkansen lines. Had expected something closer to Okayama. (Okayama actually sees twice as much traffic than Takasaki so what was seen was appropriate, really shows how sparse the population in eastern Japan gets once outside of the Kanto area)




It would be past 12 by the time the local train gets to Kusatsu and I only had a single onigiri for breakfast. I grabbed a drink and an eki-ben to eat on the way.




The stationed sold daruma shaped eki-bens. Takasaki was home to the famous Daruma temple which I planned on visiting on the way back.



Bento shop Takasaki

A surprising number of people boarded the train. Even well past the small township dotted rural areas there were still a quarter of the people left on board. Guess there were just that many people headed for Kusatsu.




The view outside reminded of when I went to Yamadera. Steep mountain valleys of red and orange basked in a golden light. Occasionally a few homesteads popped into view across the river before the train disappeared into narrow tunnels.



Hello Kitty daruma bento


Bento. Taste is okay, may have needed some pickles to refresh the taste.

90 minutes later the train finally arrived at Naganohara-Kusatsuguchi. Almost 3 hours since departing from Tokyo and there was still some way to go. There was still another 25 minutes bus ride from here to Kusatsu Onsen. Scores of passengers streamed through the station and onto the connecting bus.




The bus accepted suica which I used. One could also take a boarding token and pay on disembarking. The bus had undercar storage so luggages are no problem.




After winding through the mountains, the bus finally pulls into Kusatsu bus terminal. On automatic mode, I followed the others to the Yubatake, the famous onsen field that flowed through the middle of town. I had walked the length of it before realizing I had been looking at the map the wrong way. The bus terminal was on the same side of the Yubatake as my hotel which meant I had walked way past it already.




Grumpily I dragged my luggage back up the road.




My stay in Kusatsu was Futabaya. A small hotel with a special focus on catering to foreigners (I chose it only because it’s close to the yubatake). It was early however and only the owner was there, a slightly grumpy old man who had thought I had showed up expecting to check-in. His tone improved when I told him in Japanese I just wanted to leave my luggage there.




Time to hit the onsen town streets. Since I did not intend to visit the onsens till after check-in (obviously), I took the opportunity to check out the Yubatake and many shops lining the nearby streets.




Kusatsu could be described as the postcard onsen town. Even its layout was perfect, I could not tell whether this was by design or very good fortune of geography. The town was of course centred by the Yubatake which was a long oval dividing the town into roughly 4 directions. Top (where the source of the onsen pours forth), down (where the onsen pours in a magnificent waterfall into the pool below) and left side, right side.




At the top was a large open courtyard sits the community onsen Sirohatanoyu, the imposing public onsen Gozanoyu. At one end of the courtyard a flight of steep steps lead to a shrine on top of a hill which provided excellent view of the town.



Shirohata onsen source

Onsen source flowing down through the channels in the Yubatake

Shirohata public onsen


View from the shrine

On the left side was a footbath and rows of shops in traditional looking housing.



Foot bath

Shops around yubatake

From the bottom the main road leads out to the other many community onsens dotted throughout Kusatsu.



Yubatake onsen channels

Yubatake waterfall

To the right was the Netsunoyu where the traditional Yumomi performances was performed (more on that later), and a very well situated 7-11. There were other convenience stores in Kusatsu (there’s a Lawson opposite the bus centre), though in more out the way locations. Between the Netsunoyu and 7-11 leads the main onsen street to Sai no Kawara park and open air onsen.




It was very well laid out, the streets were compact giving a cozy feeling. The constant steam from the onsens whirled and danced in the cold air, ever changing. The Yubatake was a sight to behold and could be viewed from many angles. The onsen street to Sai no Kawara was not long but packed with all kind of interesting shops, sweets, grills, manju (steamed bun), souvenirs, traditional crafts. In comparison Yufuin had way more shops and variety, however because they tended to be more modern and fashionable they lacked a sort of cohesive charm.




Yufuin’s onsens were also all hidden away in the hotels and ryokans, there were barely any public baths, felt more like a resort than a traditional onsen. In Kusatsu the presence of onsen permeates its every stone and wood.




It was snowing lightly. The woods and roofs were covered in a thin layer of frost, the weather did nothing to dampen the spirits. The streets were busy, filled with tourists and air of excitement.




I went back and up to the bus terminal where the community library was also located. In the library was a section detailing the history of Kusatsu and how onsen is tied to the town’s development.


Bus center


Library, showing the effect of the strong acidic onsen on concrete and metals

Wooden onsen pipe

Then proceeded to walk the length of the onsen street to Sai no Kawara Park, then went fooding on the way back. There was plenty of food to try if I wanted, but I settled on the onsen egg and pudding. One of the manju shop was generous enough to offer every passerby a freshly steamed manju, a cup of green tea, and a welcomed seat inside the shop. That earned them a lot of customers.



Onsen street

Shop in onsen street


Grilled fish

Cooking onsen egg outside the shop

Pickle shop

Sai no Kawara park

Statue at Sainokawara park

Giant onsen footbath


Sai no Kawara park


Onsen egg



Pudding shop


Shop selling rice crackers

Onsen street


It’s soon time to check in. The front desk was attended by what looked to be a young man from the middle east or southeast asia, who spoke decent enough english, one of the foreign workers that Japan is feverishly recruiting to make tourism more welcoming to foreigners. He handed me a discount voucher to various baths and shops (every accomodation in Kusatsu give out these to guests) a map of the town and recommended some of the onsen baths to me.




He also gave me a bag containing a bottle of juice, a yoghurt and two pieces of bread, what was described as a “light breakfast” so they could qualify as providing breakfast on the booking websites. Would have rather they lopped 500Y off the price and I’d buy what I wanted from the 7-11.




Futabaya was not what I would consider a proper hotel, instead it had a bed&breakfast feel to it. The room was above average size but decidedly bare bones, there was a desk but no reading lamp, the small fridge and kettle was simply placed on an slightly raised section of the room. (Feels like it used to be a Japanese style room before being converted with a western style bed)




They did provide two sets of towels, a set of yukata and a handbag for easy carrying. A much appreciated offering. I changed into the yukata and headed out to the onsen.




In the lobby there was another group of foreigners checking in. They were thoroughly confused when they saw me in the yukata. Did they have to wear them to go to then onsen? they asked. Only if they wanted to, the young man attending the front desk told them. But it’s much more convenient if you wear them, I added.

Futabaya room



My first stop was the Shirohata no Yu, the one in the main square and also the closest one to the hotel.




Entry is free, the bath is maintained by the Kusatsu town community. The place was tiny, in the peak season this place had to be packed. In the small rustic wooden building there were barely any divisions between the entrance, the changing area and the bathing area. There was no need for any heaters in the changing space because of the constant steam pouring over from the baths.




There were 3 baths, each large enough to maybe sit 5-6 people. There were no showering area, before entering the bath one was expected to fetch water from the baths into a bucket then wipe down the body with a towel (which you must bring yourself). No soaps.




The onsen water was hot. The hottest I had ever experienced. According to the descriptions, because the source water in Kusatsu are so hot, some as high as over 90 degrees, most of the baths also tend to be quite hot. A few minutes was all I could stand at a time before getting out of the water.




When I got back to the hotel the staff told me that Shirohata was actually one of the hottest bath around, the map he gave me actually had a hotness rating next to each bath.




It was nearing nighttime and I head out to get something to eat from the 7-11. There were some food places around, I just got lazy again.


After dinner I got out of the yukata. It was getting cold and snowing and there was no hanten provided for warmth.





Dinner, some kind of noodle with soup

One thing that was very different about Kusatsu was how late the shops open. The main onsen street still had saw activity up till about 6pm, the shops around the yubatake area opened till 9pm, there was plenty of time to wander around and visit the shops even if one arrived late in the afternoon. Bus loads of people who stayed at hotels on the outskirts were being dropped off in the square, the illuminated yubatake elicited many impressed sounds from them.




The yubatake was a marvelous sight to behold at night. The colours changed every so often, shining through and reflecting off the dancing steam. The whole square was awash in contrasting lights and shadows, almost magical.



Yubatake in twilight

Yubatake at night


Yubatake at night


Yubatake at night

I grabbed a hot coffee from the 7-11 and sat down outside a souvenir shop, beneath its eaves. Watching the light snow flicker in the spotlight against the dark skies, observing the crowd passing by. feeling the cold breeze and the warmth of the coffee.




It was a shame it took me this long to come here. And I wished I did not come alone.




The Sai no Kawara park was similarly lit up. Here it had an almost ethereal feel, almost would be a little creep if there weren’t the sparse bath goers heading to and from the Sai no Kawara onsen bath.



Sainokawara at night

Sainokawara at night

They might have chose this presentation because of the legends of the onis (demons). It was said that the sounds of the bubbling hot springs were mistaken to be the sound of oni playing sumo wrestling.




There was a small flight of steps that led to a path on top of the ridge going to the other side of the park. At this time of day there were no one else on the trail, it was covered in snow and I left a clear trail of foot prints. The paths was lit by a line of lights that were broken at intervals. The story of the snow witch from the Kendaichi manga for some reason flooded the mind, in which people stranded in a snow storm were brutally hacked to bits by a machete wielding snow demon.



The desolate trail

I decided to turn back. There might be bears about. Definitely not because of the possibility of snow demons.



Saino kawaraat night

Sainokawara at night

My camera’s battery was almost flat at this point, the shops in the square was also closing up. The last of the tourists were getting on the last shuttle buses to go back to their hotels. I decide to also call it a day.




Yubatake at night

Kanto Maigo – Day 1

Day 1 begins monotonously with the ever renovating Sydney Airport. The larger change this year was the every traveller’s harbour – McDonald, being moved further off toward the second concourse. A much posher but crowded space.




The flight to Hong Kong was uneventful. Because of the tight transfer there was no time to hit the lounge in HK. The flight to Haneda was also went uneventfully. Actually, I did find out that Cathay can cook up decent flight meals (still not as good as EVA or China Airline, but it’s night and day compared to their usual fare). Why they don’t put in the effort on their other routes is beyond me.



Cathay food to Haneda. Curry rice and soba

Arrival in Haneda was almost half an hour early. Now looking at checking in by 10:30 if things went smoothly.




I walked down the moving walkways at a brisk pace and breezed through customs. Haneda Airport was unexpectedly large, I had thought most international traffic went through Narita (though I suppose Narita does now have 3 terminals). If I had the time I would have liked to take a better look around.


On to business first. First and only item on the agenda was getting a data sim.






On previous trips I had gotten data sims beforehand, more reliable and time saving that way. Australia however had few sim options and the ones available was very costly for what few megabytes I needed to access google map and emails.


Haneda supposedly had plenty of options, from umobile to Japan Travel, Freetel and many more. Worse come to worse, there was always the option of getting one after getting into the city centre from BIC CAMERA.




羽田似乎有不少選項,從umobile到japan travel, freetel等等。就算真沒有的話也可以等進入市區後再到BIC CAMERA買。

7-11 outside Keikyu Haneda

I first checked the 7-11 on level 3 just outside the Keikyu station area. On the shelves were the umobile sims, but not the nano-size I needed.


No worries, the Air Lawson on level 1 was supposed to stock them too.




沒關係,一樓的Air Lawson應該也有。

No nano size sim

I got lost initially as there were two level 1 areas accessed by separate escalators. An area directly below Keikyu station area lead out to the taxi stands, the Air Lawson was in the area below the main area and leads out to the bus stands.


一開始迷路走錯了,一樓有兩個區域,分別用不同的手扶梯上下。在京急正下方的通往計程車站,而Air Lawson是在主區樓下通往巴士站的一樓。


Already annoyed by the wasted precious minutes, I stared blankly at Lawson’s empty shelves. They had no umobile left, or hardly any sim card. Only a few J Travel sims hung angled like rejected goods.


I would have even settled for a umobile 14 day since I was there for 8 days plus however many hours left till I get to the capsule hotel. Alas there were none.


浪費了時間有點心煩,我又無神的看著Lawson空蕩蕩的架子。沒有剩下任何umobile,連其他網卡基本上也所剩無幾。只有幾張賣不出去,歪歪掛著的J Travel網卡。


如果有umobile 14天的話我也可接受,畢竟這次要待8天+我今晚到膠囊旅館前的這一段時間。可嘆就是沒有。


I ran through the options.


  1. Settle for a different sim card. Not desirable as the ones on the shelves were total data over a given period instead of quota per day with unlimited throttling. It’s not likely that I would use that much data, still, accidents were possible in this age of automatic updates and synchs.
  2. Continue to the capsule hotel and get a card from BIC CAMERA next morning. Problem was this required waiting for BIC CAMERA to open and delay getting to Kusatsu.



  1. 買別牌的網卡。這不太妥當,架子上的網卡是算流量總量的,不是每天給多少流量超過降速繼續無限使用。我不太可能用那麼多流量,但現在一堆自動更新,同位下載的,意外絕不是不可能。
  2. 繼續到膠囊旅館,明天早上再去BIC CAMERA買。這的壞處是必須等BIC CAMERA開門,影響到草津的時間。




I went back to the 7-11 upstairs, grabbed the umobile standard size sim and went to the counter. “Is the nano-sized sim of this one sold out?” I blurted out, then realized it was asked in a very counter intuitive way. “Nano sized, do you have nano-sized ones?”




我回到樓上的7-11,拿了包umobile sim卡一般大小的到櫃檯。請問nano大小的賣完了嗎,我說完立刻意識到這是個很彆扭的問法。有nano大小的嗎,你們有沒有nano大小的。


“What kind?”


The staff was not sure what sized sim I was asking (I wonder how nano could be pronounced in Japanese). She did get enough hint that I was asking for one that’s not the one I was holding.






I typed out nano on the phone. She turned around, fished about in a drawer and produced a nano sized 7 day umobile sim pack.(7 day, 2376Y)


我在手機上輸入nano給她看。她轉過身,在抽屜內翻了翻找出一張nano大小的7天umobile網卡包。(7天, 2376Y)




Despite the delay I got what I needed. I hopped on a Keikyu train for Shinagawa.





Keikyu platform



Global Cabin Gotanda is two stop away from Shinagawa on the Yamanote line, all up just over 20 minutes from Haneda.


It was about 10:30 when I reached Gotanda, still plenty of buzz on the streets. The area felt like a typical station district. A very confusing station front with a bus loop, a pachinko of sort and lots of izakayas.


Global Cabin五反田在山手線上距離品川兩站,從羽田車程加起來20分鐘多一點。




I almost missed Global Cabin as I had miscounted the intersections and had to double back a block. Note to self, stick to the main road where one can’t miss.


我算錯了交叉路口差點錯過Global Cabin了,結果必須折返回上一個街口。提醒自己,還是走不可能錯過的大路。

Global Cabin, the Lawson is right downstairs

Global Cabin was chosen because I still wasn’t fully committed to the idea of a capsule. Felt too claustrophobic and nowhere to put luggages, going to the lockers or front desk was too much of a hassle and will have to open and organize things in public. Global Cabin offered a halfway solution between a capsule and a room, what is now usually called a cabin. Basically a capsule with extra space and privacy.


選Global Cabin是因為我還是對膠囊有點不放心。太小了,又沒地方放行李,若要去置物櫃或櫃檯放太麻煩了,要整理行李又必須在公共空間弄。Global Cabin是一個介於膠囊和房間的解決方案,在膠囊上多提供一些空間和隱私。


The most well known cabin chain in Japan is probably First Cabin. They offered two types of cabin, one with extra headroom (no capsule on top) and full cabin where it’s essentially a full room minus bath/toilets, oh and one gets a curtain instead of a door.


日本最有名客艙連鎖是First Cabin。他們的房型有兩種,一種是增加頭頂上空間(上方沒有膠囊),另一是完整的一等艙,基本上就是一個房間去掉衛浴,還有沒有門只有簾子。


Global Cabin offers their own take. The capsules are still stacked on top of each other, but they opened on opposite sides where each individual gets a small narrow “room”. Again, no doors, just curtains. One still get bothered by the neighbors climbing into their bed below or above, but otherwise gets entire isolated space and never sees each other. One the floor one could leave the luggages, and lock the valuables in the small safe provided when going to the bath or when asleep.


Global Cabin客艙有另一番的設計解讀。膠囊一樣是上下堆疊,但往反方向開,連結個人窄小的一個房間。一樣沒有門,只有簾子。當隔壁間的人爬入上面或是下面的膠囊時仍然會互相影響到,不然的話每個人擁有獨立的空間,更不會見到對方。地上可以放置行李,去洗澡或睡覺時貴重物可鎖在小保險庫內。


Global Cabin belonged to the Dormy Inn chain, probably the most premium business hotel chain (they get free soba/ramen at night), some level of quality was assured.


Global Cabin歸屬於Dormy Inn系列的分支,這系列差不多是最高級的連鎖商務了(晚上有免費蕎麥麵/拉麵),可確信有一定水準。


I checked in and was given a cabin number and an access card. The card granted access to the floor my cabin was on and also the public bath on the top floor. It gave some level of security from non-guests and men off the lady-only floors.




The cabin floor was cool, dim and quiet. The curtain door had a magnetic clip so it stuck to the door frame and required some effort to close and open with a snap. While the sound of opening and closing the curtain was going to be a little annoying, it gave an extra feeling of security, it took effort to go peeking around and anyone that tried to sneak into the cabin was not going to do it quietly.



Rows of cabins

Cabin, the capsule is on the left


Capsule bunk


On the bunk (I had chosen an upstairs bunk) was a basket containing towels.




I quickly shoved my valuables into the safe (it’s big enough to stick the camera inside) and headed for the bath.




In addition to the rows of showers each floor had, Global Cabin also have a public bath on the top floor (men only). The bath had a Japanese traditional onsen decor, with plenty of wood, soft music and warm lightning. Next to the wooden sliding door and blue curtain was a few potted plants on a pebble stone bed. One could almost forget one was on the top floor of a concrete building.


除了每層樓有的一排淋浴間外,Global Cabin在頂樓還有一個澡堂(限男性)。澡堂走的是傳統日式的風格,有許多木頭,輕音樂和暖色燈光。木頭滑門和藍色門簾旁的碎石床上擺著盆栽。幾乎可忘記自己是在鋼筋水泥建築的頂樓。

Bath entrance


Changing area


The bath was large enough for maybe 6 or 7 people. Since it was late there was only one other person and he was gone by the time I finished showering.




The bath is what’s promoted as ultra soft water, supposedly more gentle on the skin. Did not feel any different. Was very relaxing to have a hot bath after flying.




After feeling very refreshed, I headed downstairs to have a stretch outside. Directly below Global Cabin was a Lawson (lobby is on the 2nd). I took a quick look and headed back upstairs.


感覺清醒多了,我下樓出去伸展一下。Global Cabin樓下就是Lawson(旅館櫃檯在二樓)。我稍微晃了下後回到樓上。


The lobby had a row of counter seats by the window with power sockets for charging. There was also a coffee machine offering free beverages, a fridge where bottled water was offered (one per guest, honor system) and to my surprise, free Dormy Inn brand instant ramen.


大廳窗戶旁有一排座位,還有插座可充電。有咖啡機提供免費咖啡,冰箱裡有礦泉水(一人一瓶,自我約束),還有另外的驚喜,有免費的Dormy Inn自己品牌的泡麵。

Dormy Inn Ramen

Global Cabin coffee

Not a fancy ramen, delicious all the same. A hot bowl of ramen with smooth Japanese coffee late at night, it was as luxurious as lobster at a five star hotel.




Things were quiet, broken by the occasional check-ins and people getting coffee. One, joined in with a late night ramen.




After the meal I went back up to bed. The capsule space was more spacious than expected, high enough that I ran no risk at bumping my head when sitting up, and wider than a full roll to either side. There were two kinds of lightning, a spot light for reading and a general illumination emitted off two LED strips to either side of the backboard, angled so they would not shine directly into one’s eyes even when looking up the capsule.




A flat TV mounted on a folded arm could be swung out and adjusted to comfortable position. Not much interesting on the late night shows.




I drifted off to sleep. The occasional closing and opening of curtains in the distance hardly bothering a weary traveller.