The end of April and the beginning of May, Golden Week; as it is known, here in Japan, saw loads of action, with the family coming down, road trips far and wide across Japan, fun unlimited… All about that in later posts.. What am writing today is, what happened on the last day of the holidays.
My uncle, aunt and Appu, were returning to Tanzania, that day. They were flying from Kanasai International Airport, Osaka. It being a Saturday, the penultimate day of the holiday season, me and my sister decided to go with them to the airport, and see them off. The initial plans were to go till Osaka-Uehonmachi, by Kintetsu train, put them all in the Airport bus and then come back. On reaching Uehonmachi, the plans were re-made.. we decided to take the bus, go till the airport and then come back.
We reached the airport at around 7:30 pm. After checking in the baggage at the counter, we strolled around the shops, and ended up at the food court. Now, it being late, and we all being big time food lovers, ended up deciding to have dinner there. We split into the 洋食 (yōshoku) group, deciding on subway sandwiches, and the 和食 (washoku) group, deciding on the Japanese spread. After elaborate dinner, and ice creams, and more strolling around, me and my sister decided to get back to Uehonmachi, and catch the train back to Tsu. We left Kansai International at around 9:30 pm, and reached Kintetsu Osaka-Uehonmachi a little after 10:00 pm.
The railway station presented us with a deserted look. Most shops were closed, and even the guy at the ticket counter was more sleepy than awake. Now, if this was Tsu, I could understand this, but the second largest city in Japan, going to bed as early as 10:00 in the night was kind of shocking. Even more shocking, was what the ticket counter guy told us; he put it as simple as this, “No trains”. A couple of seconds passed, before realization dawned.. I was at Osaka-Uehonmachi; a city already half asleep, with my sister, with no place to go to, and no means to get back home!
The first response, a result of all the ‘Indian experiences’ accumulated over years, was the simplest and the most practical of all the later ideas that cropped up; ‘find the waiting room in the railway station; there got to be one somewhere!’… Well; there was none, and by the time we got around the first few of the numerous corridors, they started closing the railway station down! This again was new to me… Forget a railway station with no waiting room (back in India, the small railway stations don’t have one either), but a railway station being CLOSED at night! (I had this notion that hospitals, police stations, railway stations, and churches never closed….. Well, I was proved wrong)
Time, being time; kept ticking through all this, and before we knew it was almost 10:30 in the night. We got out of the underground corridors, and started looking around. The sign board ‘Sheraton’, welcomed us. Now, I know, that is not the place for someone like me, but the idea; that we could sit in the lobby for sometime, pretending to be reading books, may be have a coffee or something, a light snack, and continue being there; made us walk in. First, the lobby was very close to the front desk, second, there was no coffee shop anywhere near the lobby, third, a cute girl ushered us to the front desk, as soon as we entered the main door… result, I was talking to the front desk girl (another cute girl, most girls here in Japan are cute, some of them being super cute, this was one of those), in what I would say was half English and half Japanese. So we wanted a room, to spend the night, and all Sheraton had to offer was the deluxe suite and the royal suite, and they would cost just about 70,000 Yen (about 800 USD) for the night. The funny part of the talking was when the cute girl got a paper and pen, and started drawing the floor plan of the room with the dimensions of the bed and started describing the bedding material, and the colour pattern of the different rooms. I did not interrupt her, even kept asking her questions about the carpet and the varnish used on the tables, for, one thing, this was a cute girl, and two, I had nothing better to do. At around 11:00 we left Sheraton, on the pretext of getting a late dinner, with promises to the girl, that we were coming back, and continued on our hunt to find a place for the night.
Google places, and Find Near Me running on my iPhone, showed a bunch of hotels around where we were standing. One thing that looked odd though was their names. We decided to walk, the now empty streets of Uehonmachi, and find these places. Hotel Angelic, and Hotel Purple Eye, were just across the street, and down the alley, and that’s where we went first. If the names were odd, the hotels were crazier. Well lit sign boards, bright colours and Christmas lights (pink and purple taking a big share) dangling from the windows, a very narrow door leading to a narrow passage painted in odd colours, and lit with more Christmas lights, glittery stuff hanging from the roof, weird music, and more strange no front desk, but a wall which had photographs of the different rooms available, and buttons next to every photo for selecting the room, and a small key pad where in you could punch in how long (in hours) you wanted the room for!
This was like the “Hotel Decent” scene from “Jab we met“, but, for the fact that, there was no guy at the front desk giving the funny look, and I was with my sister!! Rushing out, we found that, the whole street was filled with these hotels, and most, if not all the hotels that showed up on Google places, and Find Near Me, were of the same kind. It was close to 11:30 now, and all we were getting way too sleepy for any more walking around, plus the streets were so deserted and the night so still that, there was a creepiness all around.
Then we found this place, called the For Leaves Inn, which looked different from the other hotels, for, one, there was no purple sign board, and two, there was a lady at the front desk. She told that the hostel was full, and asked us, what we were doing at so late, at that part of the town. On, hearing our story, she said, she’ll try to help, and started calling different places checking for availability of rooms. Every place she called (she made about 10 calls, if I remember right) was full, thanks to the holiday season. She suggested that, we could go to an internet café, and spend the night there. She gave us a map of the town, and marked on it, the two nearest internet cafés.
Armed with this map, and too sleepy to even think of anything, we walked back to the railway station, where the first of the internet café where. Close to the café was another hotel, the name of which I forgot, where we went just to find that, the cheapest room on offer would cost only a 100,000 yen.
Okay, Internet café it is.. Media Cafe Popeye, (I will never forget that name), was not a bad place. They charged 2,000 Yen per person; lesser than a hostel, and had small cabins, where 2 people could fit in. The couch, a comfortable one, I should say, took most of the place in the cabin. On the desk were a computer and a small TV. They also had a common room kind of place, with a wending machine serving free drinks and snacks, and loads of books (most of them cartoons), couple of shower rooms, and toilets, well you won’t regret ending up at this place.
We got into our cabin, got couple of soft drinks and a packet of hot dogs, and settled in. I should say, I had a pretty good sleep, the only disturbance was the smell of smoke, from a dozen of old people, every single of them trying hard, to be the biggest smoker in the whole world.
Early next morning, we got into a train, and were back in Tsu by around 10:00 am. Next time, I get stuck at a place, at night, I know where to go!