Another Tokyo Game Show, another round of pictures from the floor. Not much ever changes from the convention, which just had its largest show on record and still growing. Bethesda and the big Western games dominate the banners on the walkway in, and yet totally vanish once you get inside. The main hall in the middle houses the traditional gaming giants, indie and foreign games off to the right, booming mobile companies to the left.
The absence of green is ever more noticeable now that Microsoft no longer attends, but the booth girls line up everywhere as they are not yet out of style in Japan.
And once again, I couldn’t work up the nerve (or the time, really) to go and take some selfies with them, like a total gentleman. However, I did get a snapshot of myself with the official Tracer model at the show. I didn’t find Mei, though… oh Mei…
The show’s most popular bit of swag came from Square Enix this year, as the company was handing out Noctis masks that stuck to your head like those old Burger King crowns. Convention goers were strapping them onto the sides of their head and punching out his eyes, meaning I had Noctis’ dark, hollow stare following me throughout the show, judging me as I stood in line waiting for my next demo.
Tokyo Game Show 2016 was a good time, but this year, I spent most of my photography efforts on other aspects of my trip, like my first capsule hotel experience!
Not sure what a capsule hotel is? Imagine a small hostel in which you get your own refrigerator-sized bunk to sleep in, and not a whole lot else. For budget purposes only (and certainly not for any procrastination on my part), I rented this tiny little fortress of solitude for just $23 a night! From within, I cranked out my articles and hands-on impressions on my Galaxy tablet (certainly not because I forgot my Bluetooth keyboard) and managed to squeeze a few nights of sleep in between the show.
I had heard of these hotels before, but finally, in my 9th year of being a Japanese resident, I managed to stay in one. First impressions? It was stinky, smelled like the mold that used to grow in a friend’s old basement, and didn’t exactly remind me of the typical clean places I stay at when I travel across Japan.
When you arrive, naturally, the first thing you’ll want to do is plug in your smartphone to charge after a long bus/train ride, but you’ll have to get there early to do so. Otherwise, your fellow bargain-sojourners will have scooped up all the extension chords and lured them into their own bunks with the drapes pulled down.
No, there are no outlets inside the capsules, either. Very obviously, the hotel had been constructed decades before the idea of smartphones or even old-timey cellphones were necessary for travel. The hotel’s colors, the plastic bed, the television sets inside, the buttons that didn’t provide any service, and the control panel on the side. All of it very clearly indicated that this place was constructed and slapped together in 1970s or 1980s Japan, made for the businessmen who traveled back during the bubble economy days.
Which was strange, because the actual hotel itself was a really nice place. No doubt, the main building was somewhat old and in a busy part of Tokyo, but the area for normal rooms and travelers had been refurbished over time. The capsule hotel, reached through a shadowy hallway in the back of the lobby and separated by its own sliding door, had not.
Major Tom to ground control…
Now, I’m a pretty big guy, standing somewhere in the range of 6′ to 6’1″, and the hotel clerk was sure to remind me of that, slipping a Japanese comment about how the capsules were sometimes too small for the Japanese guest let alone such a tall foreigner. I don’t think he got that I spoke Japanese, or else I’m sure that he wouldn’t have made that point. No offense taken, but he wasn’t exactly correct.
The bunk itself was pretty comfortable, and I got two decent nights of sleep, waking up at 7AM to trek myself down to the convention center by 9 to get a good spot in the press line. I had been really smart this time too by remembering my own pillow, possibly the reason why I got such good sleep. I’m very picky when it comes to pillows, and Japanese hotels provide bricks that are just the hardest and the absolute worst to sleep on.
A few additional tips and pointers from this rookie of capsule hotel life? One, there are shared bathrooms and shared showers. I have plenty of experience at hot spring resorts at this point, so that idea is no problem for me. For safety purposes, women are not allowed to stay in these hotels given how secluded and self-service it is from any member of the hotel staff. It’s a shame it has to be this way, but for practical purposes, it seems like it could be a legit concern.
The only vending machine in the place sold nothing but beer and fruity “chu-hai” drinks. No soda, tea, or even water, meaning I had to hike to the nearby 7-11 to tuck myself in with a drink at the end of the night.
Strangely enough, you do get a room key even though the drapes require none to open or close. The key itself is for the thinnest locker you’ll ever find, clearly not big enough for a suitcase. I was able to slip my tablet and valuables into it with no problem, but for my clothes, I joined in a silent pact with the rest of the guests that we wouldn’t bother each other’s luggage. Other guests left huge bags lined across the top, and I left my adorable blue and yellow rolling suitcase in the corner of the locker area, feeling far more secure in Japan than I would in America that nobody would steal my clothes.
Maybe I’m lucky nobody knew I was carrying my high-quality TechnoBuffalo t-shirts.
Capsule hotel life was a surprisingly fun time. Although I had my initial revulsion towards the smell and lack of outlets, I will be far better prepared if my procrastination habits ever get the better of me when searching for Tokyo Game Show hotels in the future.