Well, I'm back. Was shocked to look at the blog and realized I hadn't posted since February 22. Good lord, I was actually out there living a life instead of blogging it. Well, the moving is basically finished, and I found myself at a 24 hour internet cafe, which I feel very compelled to write a few words about.
Tokyo nightlife revolves around the trains, safely whisking hordes of exhausted businessmen and lithe young partygoers home every evening. A Japanese train station at 12:30 am is a harrowing experience: red faced men in business suits and long black coats jogging as fast as their bodies will allow, people crammed in to the subway car, ear-to-mouth, the normally ice-cool conductors struggling to get this one last metal beast of drunken fools off safely. The doors shut... and open to accomodate a few more stragglers who shove on it, then shut... open to let an umbrella free, then shut again, and the whole smelly mass of humanity lets out a collective sigh. The overpowering claustrophobia is a bit alleviated by the fact that, even standing straight up, you can relax and feel your full body weight supported by the people crammed around you.
For anyone who just can't bear to leave the party or stomach sweating through the last train, there are a few options. Most bars and clubs stay open til 5, when the trains start again. The cheapest option is the ekimae hoteru, "Station-Front Hotel": admission is free, and there is almost always space available. Grab a bench or a concrete corner, pull your jacket tight, settle down for a long night. Wake up call is 5 am, with station gates clattering open and the public address system wishing everyone a good morning, the first train will depart at 5:05.
Moving up the scale, there are the infamous capsule hotels, whose name is remarkably misleading. They are basically rows of well furnished bunk beds shaped more or less like gel caps: long enough to stretch out, high enough to sit up. There is usually a pretty good shower, bath and sauna room in the basement, and when you waddle up to your capsule, scrubbed and wrapped in hotel robes, you'll find a set of clean sheets, a radio-alarm clock set into the wall and a personal TV with a coin slot on the side for anyone who would like to drift asleep watching young Japanese women being ravished in wide spacious hotel rooms.
Then there is the good old manga-kissa, the cafes that provide small libraries of comics and free soda and coffee refills for a small hourly fee. They have gradually incorporated internet as well, giving you a personal cubicle with a PC, a TV and a cup holder for all that soda.There's usually a shower somewhere on the premises, making you the cleanest and soberest individual on the first train out, everyone else a bleary mess, hungover from another night in the tooth-and-nail struggle for happiness in central Tokyo.