Don’t touch the robots!

I stayed in Tokyo for a night before continuing on to Nagano Prefecture. I don’t think I was prepared for the kind of reception I got at the hotel.

Play the video below to see and hear for yourself…

The “Don’t touch the robots” phrase, as it turned out, came up a few times while in Japan, especially in Tokyo. Most robots I saw during the rest of the trip were kind of “cute”, but these two, I thought, were borderline creepy.

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So, it worked like this, you selected your language on the large touch screen, then scanned your passport. The machine next to each robot would issue your key card and was also setup to receive payments by cash or card upon check out. Very efficient, and the robots added a “human touch” if you will, nicer than just having the two machines that looked like ATMs, I guess. What do you think?

The Room – Full of surprises

This Hotel, I figured, was designed to host office workers mostly, that don’t make it home due to a very late workday. As you may know, the Japanese is a workaholic culture, especially noticeable in Tokyo. It seems to happen very often that workers stay at the office so late that depending on how far they live, they are better off staying at a nearby hotel than heading home and having to commute back to work just a few hours later. All workers stay at work as long as their boss is there. I was told that no one leaves the office before their boss, so if you’re “lucky” to have an extra workaholic boss, you’re in for very late nights.
The room was pretty small, in comparison to our western standards, but I was expecting this. Some aspects were quite unexpected, though. I love learning new ways of doing things, especially in this such unique and far away culture, I was in for a treat. These are the top three!

Heated toilet seat: Toilets are in fact state of the art machines in Japan. They even have a control panel with button to activate and manage all its functions! The most prominent one is that seats are padded and heated. It was the first time I ever experienced this feature, but it turned out to be an extremely popular thing all over Japan. Every toilet I encountered, yes, even public toilets, or in the middle of nowhere, in a campground, as I found out later in my travels. I got so used to it that after two weeks of enjoying this very comfortable feature, it was a shocking experience the first time I used a regular toilet back home.

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Suit Fridge: What? I know it sounds weird, but I could not find any other way to call this device. At first glance, it looked like a full-size fridge, which was odd to see in such small room. When inspected more closely, I figured out what it was. Going back to office workers staying here, and the fact that they would be forced to wear the same clothes the next day, this device refreshes and steams their suit and shirt, (everybody wears a suit to the office). It even creases your suit pants. I HAD to try it of course… I did a shirt, jeans and even the socks came out fresh!

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Free Smartphone Service: I scanned around the room for another toy or novelty, besides the huge LED TV that was almost as big as the side wall, I spotted a phone in a cradle charging. I’ve been out of the corporate world since I came to Germany 3 years ago (which my body and mental health thank very much), so this was the first time I saw this service. I found it extremely cool. Basically, while you stay in this hotel you have a free smartphone that you can carry with you and enjoy free internet access and local and international calls. Dang!

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Out for dinner – A whole new world to explore

As I said earlier, I had no idea what meal I was having next, it looked like dinner, but it was the middle of the night back in Munich. I just went out to explore the neighborhood and check out the restaurant scene in that part of Tokyo. The streets look like narrow alleyways, and the restaurants were tiny hole in the wall kind of setup. Many had tables outside for that matter. Everything looked very clean and the roads had huge bright signs almost freshly painted. I noticed a few of those office workers in their suits even though it was 7:30 pm local time. I guessed they were looking for a place to have dinner, (or lunch?) I got pretty excited because the best way to learn about a culture is through food and I was in the best spot, where locals go, no touristy places around. Then it happened, I spotted a Japanese beef place. Tiny like the others, with a lot of weird equipment hanging from the ceiling. I figured it out when I saw these tiny gas grills on each table, self-grilled Japanese beef, count me in!!!

The moment I stepped in, I felt like a very important person, all the staff started screaming, repeatedly “Konnichiwa” and “Yokoso” (Hello and welcome) while doing that quick and snappy head bow. I could only hear “..chiwa” and osooo” but later I realized what they were saying. Really cool.

Very thankful that the menus had large pictures of every dish, this was a local joint, so nothing was translated to English. After a lot of pointing and a lot of emphatic “Hi” which means yes, I got my order. Man, I could not care less about the jetlag anymore, or what time it was.

When the amazing looking raw beef mini steaks and fresh veggies arrived, they turned on the gas grill and pull down one of those pipes hanging from the ceiling. Individual chimneys with an extractor fan inside. I also ordered Sake, of course. This was the beginning of my two week Sake tasting tour.

Enjoy the pictures and try not to drool too much.

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Besides the chopsticks, I had a mini pair of BBQ tongs and scissors to cut the meat with. Never ate grilled meat before with either of those utensils, chopsticks & scissors. It was delicious, and I had seconds, I tried two other types of Japanese beef. They catalog their beef as fancy wine in other countries. Each with their ”Terroir” and type of grass or grain they’re fed with. Very impressive, and very satisfied, I was absolutely ready to call it a night…

Travel TIP: When you are planning your trip next year, allow for at least one extra evening in Tokyo on arrival day. This extra day in advance of the rest of your plans will be extremely helpful to process the jetlag and to get your body used to the new time zone. The first few hours are very confusing, you just traveled your whole night (12 hr flight from Munich) and by the time you get to the hotel after you arrive, it is basically night again, so you don’t really know what meal to have next, let alone what day it is.

Next, we will learn about the famous Japanese Rail system, and more shocking  behaviour (in the best possible sense)


2 Comments on “Virtual Japan – Day 1 – Part 2 – Tokyo Hotel & Dining

  1. Thank you for a very interesting report. Your observations are very unique for me, because I don’t pay attention to in my daily life.

  2. I loved reading this, I particularly like your joy and wonder at it all, it put a big smile on my face. Gosh I miss travelling!

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