"If we could not confirm your arrival by 1:00 in the midnight, we consider the guest as NO SHOW CASE."
What did that even mean? You have to check in by midnight? 11 pm? 1 am? 12:01? The permutations seemed endless... especially when it was 12:15 am and you were chugging across Tokyo on a subway line that only ran 'local' at that time of night.
Homeless in Sapporo, I had dropped south to Tokyo to collect the keys for my new apartment. I would be meeting with the letting agency the following afternoon. In the meantime, I'd decided to keep indulging my obsession with capsule hotels. The one I had booked for tonight was for Samurai.
Admittedly, this didn't bode well for being let in past curfew. A late Samurai was doubtless left on the street to die on his sword.
The Khaosan chain of hotels range from family rooms to quirky themed hostels. The Khaosan Tokyo Samurai had the historical decor its name suggests, with the entrance to each enclosed capsule covered with a flap reminiscent of the front apron from the traditional male undies, Etchu-fundoshi:
So when you climb inside your bed, you're really passing through.... nevermind.
The capsules themselves were like enclosed wooden bunks and on the hostel's top floor was a seating area with leg-less Japanese wooden chairs on tatami mats. It is located in Asakusa; the western area of Tokyo and home to its oldest temple, Senso-ji.
It was also fortunately open to 1 am.
When I arrived, the door was locked with just a pin pad available to guests who had arrived at a less ungodly hour and already checked in. I pressed the buzzer and hoped for the best.
"Are you Elizabeth?"
Confusingly, the question came from behind me, not from within the hostel. Either there was a second exit, or pedestrians on Tokyo's streets late at night had some serious psychic powers. Both sceanarios left me mildly impressed. The guy who appeared was not Japanese, but was on late-night desk duty at the hostel. He was cheerful, spoke perfect English and rented me a towel for ¥50 (50c / 37p).
Geared towards tourists, this dormitory room was mixed gender like that at Sapporo's Untapped hostel. These capsules / enclosed bunks / Samurai pods actually locked from the outside with a padlock: behind the fundoshi curtains was a sliding door with the appropriate hooks for such a bolt. This was pretty awesome since you didn't have to fumble stuffing your valuables into a locker when you went to take a shower. It was particularly useful when those valuables were a phone plugged in to recharge from too much Pokemon GO playing.
There was also a small shelf that I could put my laptop and phone on to stop me lying on these during the night. The bed came equipped with two folded sheets and a blanket but DIY was required to make this a sleep-able arrangement. Strangely, this is quiet challenging to do while not tumbling out your capsule. Maybe part of the "Samurai" theme was to coach balance and precision. I confess it may have been lost on me.
My only complaint was there was only a single toilet (although two showers) for our group of 6 beds. This left me hopping in the morning when a fellow guest spent several lifetimes ensconced on the porcelain. I concluded when she emerged that she'd been straightening her hair.
(For the record, I visibly judged her for that. Then I used the toilet and changed in the shower room in the time it took her to clean her teeth at the sink. Who needs language to do passive aggressive?)
The hostel also boasted some of THE BEST signs in the history of signage:
The following morning I paid the princely sum of ¥3,100 ($30 / £23) and was given some sweets. Back on the road.
... that makes it sound so hard core. I was actually heading to brunch by the river.