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YMCA – Asia Youth Center – Chiyoda, Tokyo

1 Dec

Front entrance to the YMCA in Chiyoda

I try to offer accomodation tips when I can, but often do not find the time to do so. However I recently stayed at the YMCA Asia Youth Center in Chiyoda, Tokyo and thought I would share my thoughts. If you, like me – were heading for Tokyo Dome, this place is quite inexpensive and an easy 15 minute stroll to the YMCA.

Finding this YMCA is relatively easy. From JR Suidobashi Station, take the East Exit and turn right – walk along the busy Hakusan Street for about five minutes. Walk on the left hand side of the road and you will pass a Fed-EX – Kinko’s Shop. Turn left on the street after this (there is a bank on the corner) – walk straight and you will walk past a Catholic church of you. Walk past the church and the YMCA is straight ahead. (If you are heading for Tokyo Dome, you’d turn left from the East Exit of Suidobashi Station and the vast Tokyo Dome complex is straight ahead and within sight).

Reception staff spoke minimal english, but it is a good opportunity for you to use your basic japanese phrases. You can also just show them your accommodation reservation which may be simpler. This place has free wi-fi, but there are also a couple of internet PC’s on the front counter, alongside a nifty (and free) international telephone.

The room was basic, but clean. Walls were a little thin and the walrus-like snoring from the drunk salaryman adjacent me did not make for a pleasant night’s sleep. Always carry those trusty little foam ear plugs. My booking including breakfast which was tasty. Again, if you cannot speak japanese, just hand over your breakfast coupon and point to the photograph of your choice in their menu. Japanese and western meals available.

As is common in Japan, upon checkout I was given a discount coupon for my next stay, which I will definitely use when my next Tokyo Dome visit approaches.

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Capsule Hotel in Tokyo: Green Plaza Hotel – Shinjuku

2 Mar

Entrance to Green Plaza Capsule

Over the years I’ve stayed in a few capsule hotels and I am endeavouring to now write about them for folks who may be thinking of staying in one when they visit Japan. The system of how they operate is usually pretty much the same across the board, with only minor differences. The check-in and other relevant information which follows, applies to most Japanese capsule hotels.

Recently I lobbed into the Green Plaza Capsule Hotel in bustling Shunjuku. I am informed that this hotel is indeed one of the original Capsule Hotels in Tokyo. Do not immediate assume ‘old and run-down’ there as that is not the case, it just means they were one of the first. First off let’s talk about finding the place. It is very centrally located and should be simple to find, but if you are not familiar with Tokyo I’ll give you some directions. Take the East Exit at Shinjuku’s JR Station. If you’ve never been here, you’ll be surrounded by zillions of people in Shinjuku Station all scrambling for their exits, but just focus on finding the East Exit. The Green Plaza Capsule Hotel is only about a five-minute walk from here. From the station, turn left as if you are heading for the West Side of Shinjuku. Look for the corner where there is a McDonald’s Restaurant. You will see Seibu Shinjuku Station at left. Walk along this road (bizarrely  known as American Blvde) and you will also pass the stylish Prince Hotel. The Green Plaza Hotel is on the right hand side of the road. There is a sign in english which states Green Plaza Hotel so look for that ! Also easy to spot by the large arch at the base of the building. This area is technically classed as Kubikicho, which is one of Tokyo’s red-light areas.

The hotel is men-only, and again, as is generally the rule – if you’ve got some tattoos, you won’t be allowed in. The foyer is usually unattended, so go down the flight of stairs and you will take an elevator to the hotel reception where you check-in. There are small boxes with windows to the right of reception where you place your shoes (as is often with these kind of shoe lockers, there is a small button which you push to release the key). There are two check-in lines, but if you are checking in for a capsule overnight, it’s the left line for you. Staff speak minimal english, so bear that in mind. It is not that much of an obstacle if you use commonsense and if all else fails, just stand back and observe what goes on – that is sometimes the best way to follow procedures ! You will require a passport or alien registration card when checking in. You also hand over your shoe locker key. You are often asked at Capsule Hotels if you have any tatts, and here I was also asked if I was aware of the length of the capsule.  If you wish, the reception area can mind wallets, mobile phones and other valuables. After you pay, you are given a plastic wrist bracelet which includes your capsule and number, a key (to your clothes locker), and also a set of japanse style pyjamas – (traditional robe) with shorts. At left is the locker area. Locate your number (on your bracelet – which is also your capsule number). You change into your bed-clothes at your clothes locker. Usually clothes lockers are not very roomy and these ones are only thin enough to hang up your jacket, jeans and maybe a briefcase – catering for the well-sozzled salary man I’d guess. If you do have a backpack or large case, there are larger coin lockers available at the foyer before you enter the left. Once changed and armed only with your plastic wrist bracelet and a curious mind, you might want to check out your capsule. There are signs around so read carefully, but from memory the capsules are located on the 2nd and 3rd floors (the 3rd floor had a smoking or ‘lung cancer room’ as I like to refer to them as). Many westerners have an image of a capsule hotel which is often wrong. Some think they are coffin-like and all stacked up on one another, or that they are like a plastic cocoon like tube which has no turning space. The ones I”ve stayed in have always been quite roomy, but in saying that, I ain’t clausterophoic, so if you are, you might want to call the Hilton. There is also a myth that some westerners have legs too long for a capsule. Well I am nearly six foot and can fit in there (albeit only just). So now it’s bath time. Head to the 6th floor. You walk left to another group of wooden boxes where you strip off and store your clothes. I should say that if you don’t like nudity, or are embarrassed etc, again, call the Hilton. But why not lose your inhibitions and go for it huh ! Walk through naked to the bathing area. As is the japanese custom, you must wash yourself before entering the bath, so find a seat (hose it down with hot water first) and get clean. There are usually razors, and shaving foam, shampoos, body soap etc etc. When you are done, go relax in the large hotbath. It always blows my mind to think that you can lazily relax in a hot bath at the top floor of a capsule hotel, soothing your aching feet whilst overlooking the hectic mass of people, cars, trains and neon of East Shinjuku ! It’s nuts.

So that’s pretty much it folks. The hotel offers other services like paid massage, a restaurant, Sauna Room, laundry etc. You can also buy snacks and beverages from the vending machines via your wrist band (which has a barcode) which you obviously pay for when you check-out.  There was only one western toilet and most were japanese style – bear that in mind, or adopt the ‘when in Rome’ attitude. The capsule itself was quite roomy, though I found this one quite stifling – it was a warm late February day and maybe the floor heaters were still set ? TV is available but you have to purchase a charge card and headset when checking in. Ear plugs are usually a good ide as well as you often get a hammered salaryman who can snore the freakin’ house down.  A sheet and blanket are always inside the capsule as well. Pull the curtain down at the end of your capsule, lights out and I’ll see you tomorrow morning. At a tad over 4000 yen, it’s not what I’d call bargain accommodation (I’m always on the look-out for the 2000 yen price!). But it is very central, well run and quite clean. Oyasuminasai folks, and don’t forget to brush your teeth (as is common in many Capsule Hotels they provide toothbrushes with a bottle of teeth cleanser which you brush and rinse with). Good luck ! I will also include some footage on youtube.

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Also read a previous post on the First Inn Capsule Hotel in Kyobashi, not too far to walk from Tokyo Station