Japan, June 26, 2000
If I'd only found the dirty schoolgirl panties vending machine, I'd be a happy man!
Ever see 'Blade Runner,' the futuristic thriller with Harrison
Ford? Remember the city the movie took place in? Well I lived it this
weekend. Its called Shinjuku, and its only one section of the mass of
humanity called Tokyo, Japan.
Street to sky neon canyons, rivers of people flowing at the bottom and more stimuli than a Thai sex show, Shinjuku is where the world is headed. We're at six billion people now, and if we keep on urbanizing, or worse, suburbanizing, these neon canyons are headed to a neighborhood near your great grandkids. And into this chaos, I dove headfirst. Actually, I dove headfirst quite literally, for I stayed in one of Japan's famous capsule hotels.
Built specifically for the high human density of this island, it crams the most people into the least space in a very futuristic way. Imagine a honeycomb, but instead of cells filled with honey and capped with wax, they're filled with a little bed, a little TV, and closed by a little screen. With a communal bath, dressing room, and private lockers, its hive living at its best!
I could've opted for the more spacious and more interesting love hotels but my budget and unaccompanied situation did not warrant the maneuver. I would've loved to see what everyone told me about though. The love hotels, for the lovers with cramped apartments full of relatives or even spouses, sport the best in anonymous romance.
You enter a corridor to be greeted by lighted photos (occupied rooms being unlit) of the different theme rooms. You pick which fantasy you wanna live, from office, to school, to Vegas, put your cash in the vending machine money slot, and runway lights lead you to your pleasure dom.
Don't think this automation is all that odd. Everything you could ever want comes in a vending machine. The Japanese have automated the usual beer, cigarettes, and condoms, but with a twist. The beer machines turn off at 11pm, somehow stopping kids from drinking, cigarettes come with a lighter, and condoms are available by blood type (I never did figure out if it was the guy's or girl's blood type you'd buy.).
Also, food, train tickets, money, ice cream, coffee, and even porno and dirty schoolgirl underwear come out of the omnipresent glowing boxes. Yes, I looked for the panty machine, but could only find clean, not dirty panties ready for my yen.
Oh, and yen did I need! Japan is as expensive as ever, though this surprised me. See I'm used to the simple correlation of prices to quality of life. Northern Europe is more expensive than Russia because the quality of life is better, and Scandinavia, even nicer and more expansive than Northern Europe. Japan, the most expensive country I've ever been to (and arguably the most expensive on the planet) isn't any nicer than the USA.
In fact, I found Korea to be a more holistic country, with better layout, greenery, and social interaction, at a cheaper rate. Japan is not expensive due to a higher quality of life, its expensive due to the massive trade surplus and resulting exchange rate imbalance with the rest of the world, and the USA in particular. We keep buying their technica, regardless of cost, while they only import oil and wood in any relative quality.
The really should import a personal touch. Yes, Japan has countless greeters and random customer service reps, but no number of 'hellos,' matter when they are all fake. All that automation, and the automated 'hello's,' the real people say, add up to a land where people are so lonely, men pay just to talk to a woman.
After a week wandering the country, I was ready to pay to talk to a woman too when I rolled into Tooyoka, where my friend from DC, Dave is teaching English. Thankfully, he, his Tooyoka friends, and even a random Balinese are giving Japan a human feel before I split on a slow boat to China at the end of the week