dalliard.net

He didn't get where he is today by stealing somebody else's catchphrase.

Beetle Bird

Just a quick post today. Last week, I took Chicken to the vet for her annual checkup (which all went OK). However the temperature was exceedingly hot that day (30 degrees+), so I drove home from the vets with her sat on my shoulder - and she was a very well-behaved passenger. Here she is after we stopped in a lay-by for a bit of fresh air, whilst we waited for the traffic to clear.

edge
She's adjusted so well to being on the harness and most loud outside noises now don't freak her out. Keep an eye out for further photos/videos of her outdoor adventures over the coming months.
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Velcro

As November comes to an end, I shall be running for the razor blades. No, I've not turned emo, but as a participant in Movember, I've realised that facial hair of any sort really isn't me. My mo' looks like velcro, works like velcro and even sounds like velcro. I have no doubt that Mrs Dalliard shall be pleased to see it go.

However, as it’s the only time in my life that I’m ever actually going to have any facial hair, I thought I’d make the most of the situation and take a picture or two. You may have seen this in my photo gallery:

I apologise, it's the 70s

This is my dad and me in the good ‘ol seventies, a time when a moustache was a mandatory requirement for a man. I’m about four in this picture.

Here’s the “modern day” version with me and my son:

IMG_5119

I participated as part of a team of fifteen people and we’ve raised nearly £600. If you sponsored me, thank you. I think that’s enough facial hair, though. I can’t see me taking part in Decembeard, worthy cause that it may be.

And if you have a moustache or beard during the other eleven months of the year, credit to you. You’re more of a man than I am.

Contributions are still welcome. You can donate a nugget or two
here.
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One a day

Have you ever tried to encapsulate a year of your life in pictures? It’s not as easy as it sounds. Read More...
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Crunch

As property prices nose-dived and banks went to the wall, the bottom fell out the toast market.

Toasty Toaster
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Worth remembering...

From the fire information council...

Public Information Sign

...it's always worth remembering, folks - "All year round, fire works".

Perhaps if fire works, that's why everyone else gets a bank-holiday.
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Face-ache...

... or not as the case may be. I am now minus a wisdom tooth.

Not so wise.

Praise be for 21st Century dentistry.
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Ger'orf moy carrrr....

A typical Dartmoor scene....

- Lumps of rock - check.
- Sheep and horses - check.
- Gorse - check.
- German film crew that creep up on you whilst out for the day - check.

Not what you usually expect to see.

It's not often a film-crew move in whilst you've been away for the day. I had to politely ask them to move so I could escape the car park. (The guys on the right are the ones leaning against my car)
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Beware

Sheepie McSheepFace

See that cold, menacing stare?

He knows where you live.
He knows what you eat.
He watches you when you sleep.
He'll always be within visual range of you on the moor, following everything you do.

Scoff at Psycho Sheep. Oh yes, scoff you may - but you won't be scoffing when you find two lamb-chop shaped pieces of flesh removed from you when you wake up one morning. It'll be a bigger nightmare than that kidney-removal story.

Consider yourself warned.
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Sorry

Plymouth City Council get something right for once. It's a very sorry lift. It's rusty and smells of wee.

Sorry. So sorry.
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Batspex

With the war on crime won, Bruce Wayne diversifies into other industries...

As patronised by Clark Kent
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2 Down, 98 To Go

Dartmoor letterboxing - is it just a form of obsessive train-spotting? I'm undecided, although I enjoyed it regardless. In the meantime, I'll let you make your own mind up... Read More...
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Blub

It's not quite Gloucestershire, but here's the closest we have to a flood. I guess that's the benefit of living in a hilly area.

The water is about a foot deep.

Canoe Required

Pedants alert: Yes. I'm stationary. I didn't drive and take the photo.. etc.. etc..
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Can you tell what it is yet?

For the last week or so, I've been playing around with photo mosaics. No doubt you've seen them - the pictures that are a huge image of some sort, composed from thousands of little ones. They're quite interesting to build and look at - miles better than all those crappy magic eye pictures that everyone used to go on about. I just used to end up with aching eyes and could never see the dragon/kitchen sink/ninja or whatever that was supposed to be there.

There's loads of bits of software out there that can do the task of assembling a photo mosaic for you - if you're a Mac user, you might be interested in having a look at MacOsAix, which does a good job at using Google Images, Flickr or your own iPhoto collection.

Of course, you can be just plain lazy - and use this tool instead. It works really well.

In short, you upload an image to it, then the application trundles over flickr for you - and in about 5 minutes, you've got yourself a mosaic.

Here's a test image I tried out. You should recognise who it is...

Oz!

What I had generated was this (click on the image below to see the bigger version):

Here Oz is, in his mosaic-like glory.

Good, eh? Go on, run along and play.
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Daddy Or Chips?

You've got to give it to those Sainsburys chaps for comic juxtaposition. It's a tough decision when you're shopping...

Smoothie or lard?
Smoothie or lard?

Smoothie...... or ...... lard?

Not so innocent.

Lard - obviously. You can't make pie with smoothies.
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Neighbourhood?

I'm embarassed to say that I've lived in my village for nearly two years, but I've explored is very little of it.

OK. I'll be honest, I've not explored at all.

So when South West Water started some work in the village, I had to take a detour on my regular commute to work - and as a consequence, I stumbled onto this. I didn't even realise it existed.

An easy job. Everywhere is empty.

Surely, you actually have to have a neighbourhood to watch?

At a guess, there's about thirty or so houses down this way, spread around two main streets - population zero, bar me (at the time) and a cat. Most have some degree of graffiti, smashed windows, missing fixtures, open doors and partially gutted garages. However, they could have some potential - a couple of thousand pounds would see them restored back to something more pleasant. They've also got reasonble gardens to the rear.

There's a shortage of good, cheap housing around at the moment and as a consequence, they should be sold off as soon as possible. I think they're M.O.D. property. There's a board at the entrance to the area with a website address, but details are scant.

As a consequence of this, I've made a decision to have a really good exploration session on Thursday - it's about time. Who knows what else I might find?
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Plymouth Mafia

Solely responsible for the increase in organised crime in the South-West.

Thieving Bastards.

"Hand over the chips and nobody gets hurt..."
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The Bedford Mile

If you ever wanted reassurance that communities can still pull together for a cause and have fun, this would be it. Tavistock's residents joined forces, so that they could start to raise the £300,000 necessary to build a full-size running-track for the benefit of the town. The idea was to get a thousand participants sponsored £100 for an activity, thus providing one third of the project cost in one go. The activity in question was "The Bedford Mile" - and I was one of many who took part yesterday. It was one of the most fun sporting events I've been to in ages.

Of course, running the mile was a pretty easy affair, because of the way that Tavistock was laid out. Quite simply, you run from one end of the main road into the town to the other - hardly taxing for the marshals. Nonetheless, a mile it is and whilst there were a good few "serious" runners there who wanted to clock up a good time, there were also hundreds who came in fancy dress like the Chinese dragon, as snapped by myself and shown below...

Random shot of the Bedford Mile.

... and not forgetting those who also came as fairies, did it on roller-blades, unicycles or three-legged!

As for me, well I wore my gi as part of the ju-jitsu contingent - and we really had good fun, using it as a good bit of publicity to let everyone know that we existed. I don't think I've ever had that much fun running. It was more like a carnival.

More info on the event is available on the Track4Tavistock site (*clicky*) - perhaps it might turn into a yearly event?
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Happy Birthday, Paul

30 This weekend - Have a good one.

He has longer legs than that, honest.

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Eclipse Schmeclipse

10x Zoom, ISO 800 and 3 second exposure. All I get is this:

A crap eclipse photo.

Not very impressive. Significantly more impressive to watch.

This could be me looking under a microscope, photographing a streetlight or indeed the inside of my mouth. Not to worry.

At least I only have to wait about a year to try again.
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Dissapointment guaranteed...

...or your money back!

Disappointment is guaranteed.
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Family Pub

Spotted in Plymouth - a drinking establishment for the discerning customer.

Classy Establishment

Yes, that does look like two sea-mines and a speared dolphin. Classy.
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The Sign Of A Worthwhile Christmas...

Could be a swan, a snake, anything really.

It's a swan. I think.
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Flash

Some people still deny it, but I don't care what anyone says - climate change is happening. Year on year, things are getting warmer. Probably the most notable evidence I've seen recently has to be the quantity of thunderstorms we've had. I've seen about eight in the last six weeks.

Anyway, I set up my camera and made an attempt to capturing the lightning - with a certain degree of success, as you'll see below:


3:45am

...if want to see a quick flash of lightning, click here (*clicky*) - not bad in my barely awake state at 3:45am...
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Thermae (2)

You may remember that I mentioned a little while back (*clicky*) about visiting the only natural hot spa in the UK, mainly out of curiosity as to whether the complex would have any similarity to Japanese Onsen culture. Well, I've been now - and it was an interesting visit, so read on....

The place is relatively easy to get to, because it's right in the centre of Bath - so head for the City Centre and you'll be fine. As a pedestrian, you'll see signs to "Thermae" everywhere, so I defy anyone not to find it.

As you enter, you get the distinct impression that money has been spent. This is not just some jumped-up swimming pool, it's architecturally much more. The stonework is something to behold. Everything is curvy and smooth and impressive, even down to the welcome sign behind reception.

The prices are on their website (*clicky*), but at the time of writing, a two-hour session cost £19. For a spa in the UK, this is cheap (although when in Japan, most Onsen entry-fees are more in the order of 200 yen / 1 pound) and a session such as this is a good way to get familiar with the place.

When you enter, you're given an armband. The armband has a chip in it, which is too damn smart for its own good. It knows when you came to the place. It knows your locker number. It knows if you ate at the restaurant. In short, everything is charged back to the armband - you then settle up for anything outstanding as you leave.

Changing is in a unisex area, which is full of little cubicles. Facilities exist for families and the disabled.

The building has five (I think) floors. Probably the best way to start, though, is at the top and work your way down. The rooftop pool is great. It gives you a view across the top of Bath and over to the countryside. Here's a shot of the pool. (It's OK to use these images - they're on the PR section of the website).

That rooftop pool is awesome at night...

I have to say it's much more fun sitting in the pool if the weather isn't sunny. When it's raining, it's great. It's probably great by moonlight. It's also probably great on a freezing icy day. It was certainly interesting during the rain, mainly because of the cold rain on your face contrasting with the 40+ degree water temperature.

Anyway, head downstairs and you enter the steam room, which looks a bit like something from Doctor Who, but it's sooooooo cool.

Like being in the tardis?

The steam room has four separate sections, each with their own distinct smell. For example - floral in one, wood in another. It's worth going to all four to experience the difference. The steam room also has individual foot spas, so you can soak/bubble your feet away. Nice. Finally, there's the central shower, which makes you feel like you're being pelted with pebbles. It works a treat at removing dead skin from every pore of you, but that's probably a thought you don't want to linger over.

There are other treatment rooms on the next floor down and by the time you've got to the ground floor, you're in a place called the Minerva Bath, which is more akin to something swimming pool-esque, but it's not - if that makes any sense at all.

All the pools seems to have this random controller built in to them, so bubbling spas pop up in places you didn't expect, along with water cannons operating from the side of the bath, which work a treat at leaving your back squeaky clean, combined with some nice lighting and high pressure pumps, which make you feel as though you're getting a massage. The surface of all the baths is covered in a paint that can only be likened to a sandstone with bits of pumice in it. It's like all the time you're in there, the nasty dead skin is being removed. You do come out squeaky clean - and you feel great.

I was in there for just two hours, but want to go back. I'll probably do a four-hour session next time. This place is a distinctly British affair and is nothing like the Japanese spas I've been in before - this is much more grand. The water quality here is great. There are drinking stations around the building and the water is exceedingly soft and pleasant to drink. The place has had so much money spent on it, that I hope it doesn't go under. It deserves to do well. Some of the layout is occasionally non-sensical, but being such a unique building which has been so tastefully renovated, it deserves to be supported.

Go. Go now. You won't regret it.
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OooooooOOOoooh! AAaaaAAAaaaaah!

Last night, I went to the second evening of the 2005 British Firework Championships (clicky). The displays are shown over two nights, and on each night there are 3 ten minute firework displays. Each is a pretty impressive affair, with the Hoe area providing a really good backdrop - we sat on the side of the hill at Stamford Fort, which gives an even better view looking back toward Plymouth.

Insert random squeaks of joy here.

If you'd like to have a look at one of the displays, here's a link. I took it on my phone (It's a 3GP video. Quicktime 6 or better required. Do a "Save as.." - It's 5.6MB), so yes, it's shaky. Yes, there's the noise of the crowd, but it's not bad, considering it's a mobile video. View it at double size to get a reasonable view.

Top tip: To get the full firework display feeling in your home at any time of year (without the parking problems), simply show the video fullscreen on your computer, switch the lights off and sit in the opposite corner of the room on a carrier bag. Cook yourself a couple of burgers until they're burnt and generate enough smoke. If you have any chip-pan fat that's seen better days, warm it up and let the smell waft around the house to generate that "Do-Nut" stall atmosphere.

Eat the burgers whilst watching the display and set fire to a fiver for that real firework evening feeling.

Disclaimer:
I am not responsible if you burn your house down.
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Bins²

Disposable Bins

So the bins are disposable? Does that mean that when they're finished with, they go in the bin?
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Farewell Mr Bucket

You can stuff your fancy cars, blingy jewellery and expensive clothes - I've got a toilet that works.

Yes, you heard me right. I can push a little flushy button, or a big flushy button - and whatever is there disappears, a bit like standing on the outside of the TARDIS.

Sheer unadulterated luxury, I'm sure you'll agree.

For those that haven't heard my story before, I shall just for a moment turn into a house bore. When I moved in, my bathroom was frankly disgusting, providing spacious accommodation to several hundred dead flies. It's now undergone something of a transformation.


Bathroom conversion.

The smallest room has had:

A new window.
A new door.
New electrical work.
New paint.
New tiling.
New bathroom suite.
New fixtures.
New lighting.
New plumbing.
A new floor.

In fact, there's virtually no trace of the previous room left. It's been quite a major project, which will soon come to a close. Probably a few more days of work will complete it. In the meantime, I'm just going to enjoy the fact that I no longer have to flush the loo with 2 buckets of water - and that friends can actually come around and use it.
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Unfortunate..

..not a personalised number plate, surely? I'll let you decide.


Might have trouble spitting that one out.
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In the wrong place...

...I was wondering why the door wouldn't close when I got home this evening... poor chap. At least he managed to hop away ok.

Coming to a chocolate box near you...
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Powerball High Score

Wrists of steel.

Don't know if you've seen what a Powerball is, but they're funny things. Once you pick one up, they're very hard to put down again.

The thing is marketed as a solution for people who suffer from R.S.I. (I should add that I don't), or do sports and want to improve their arm/hand strength and co-ordination (a bonus in martial arts). Whilst I treat such claims with a healthy degree of scepticism, I do have to say that it is good fun to play with (and you can feel your arm/hand muscles working). Back in October, I got roped in when I first played with somebody else's. I ended up buying my own.

Whilst I haven't played with it solidly (apparently, I have a life), I have now managed to work up a respectable score - 11,055. It used to rank quite reasonably on the main high score table, but now wouldn't get an honourable mention.

Ho, hum.

If you've got one of these things and can beat me (probably not a hard thing to do), I'd be interested to know your score.

Updated: 7/2/06 - 11,461! Gasp)
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Rats with fluffy tails.

Squirrel Innit?

Having received a shiny and lovely telephoto lens for Christmas, I'd not really had much opportunity to test it out, until a couple of days ago when looking out of my window, I caught the common country thief known as the squirrel, thieving food from my next door neighbours bird-table. I think it did a rather good job.

On the higher res version original I've got, you can even make out each individual hair on the body. I was rather chuffed....

If things work this well, it should allow me to take some pretty good pictures come March. (And I need not say what's happening then, do I?)
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Fish-Tastic!

DIY Project - Before & After

My first little project with the house is done. The disgusting 1960's style integrated glass cupboard that was in my front-room has been ripped out. I've filled up all the holes, painted, got power rigged up (thanks Dad!) and a little tropical fish-tank rigged up in the space that remains.

It now looks an awful lot better than what was there before. You can just see the original nastiness in the image on the left, whereas the slight improvement is on the right...

As for the fish, I've started off with three little Tuxedo Platies. I've been informed that they're hardy little blighters, but I've decided to call them Breakfast, Dinner and Tea on the premise that I don't think they'll live that long, as it's a new tank which will take a couple months to settle down - and might take a few casualties along the way....
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Needs no explanation...

No explanation required.
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Japanese Bathing

As I didn't get around to it when discussing Capsule Hotels (*clicky*), I thought I'd write about the whole bathing thing in a separate article, so here you go.

The Japanese have pretty much got bathing down to an art form. Whilst us Brits just get our kit off and dunk ourselves in a bath, it's nowhere near that simple for the Japanese - so I'll do my best to explain.

In Japan, you can bathe in loads of places, but this list of three sums up the most common places:

a) Japanese homes.
b) Ryokan/Minshuku (Japanese-style inns) and many hotels.
c) Public baths.

I thought I'd show you a pic of what a public bath looks like. As a tin shed, this is a pretty basic one (although it was free, so I wasn't going to complain).

Some baths are more glamorous than others....

But the more seriously cool ones look like this:

A slightly more grand affair.

Should you ever want to find one, you'll need to ask for o-furo. (The "o" is honourific. One always talks about baths nicely). Alternatively, if you're looking for one of the baths that are heated naturally by volcanic activity, you'll be looking for an onsen. The characters are shown below:


温泉

Bathing prices in most public baths are around 200 yen, although some "sauna" complexes in capsule hotels will add up to another 1,000 yen for the privilege of visiting theirs. When you enter, they'll probably ask if you want one of their towels. Unless you've already bought a special Japanese bathing towel (in which case, you probably don't need this guide), get one. They're usually only about 200 yen and are about the dimensions of a facecloth, but about three times longer. They're marvellous things - I'll explain why in a moment. Don't bother using your regular Western towel. The Japanese call towels ”タオル” (taoru).
Of course, the first thing to do is find the changing rooms.

The men's is: (otoko).....

Whilst the women's is: (onna).

It's usually the case that a big curtain with the character concerned is hanging over the doorway - so you shouldn't be able to miss it.

The next thing to do (and this might sound like a stupid thing to say) is to take one's clothes off. Whilst in Britain we keep ourselves generally covered in a swimsuit in baths, it's not the case in Japan - get your kit off. That said, most (but not all) Japanese baths are segregated, so you'll only bump into people of the same sex, anyway. When you take everything off, you should find that you've either got a locker to put things in, or a little basket. Stick everything in there and then walk your way through to the main bathing area - everything in these places seems to be separated by sliding doors. Don't forget your little towel!

You should discover two things as you go through:

1) That there appears to be something that looks like a huge bath or appears vaguely swimming pool-esque.
2) That there are loads of low-level showers with little stools to sit on next to them.

The key thing to remember here is:

DON'T WASH IN THE BATH.

It's purely for relaxation purposes. All scrubbing must be done at the showers. To be remotely soapy when entering the bath is a bad thing and will lead to much scowling on the part of your fellow bathers.

Now, this is the fun bit. The scrubbing. Without going into too much gory detail, the towel is a multi-purpose magical item that works as facecloth, loofah and all sorts. In most baths you'll see a little hand-bowl next to the stool. The usual protocol is to fill the bowl with hot water and work with that and keep refilling it as you use it. That said, the Japanese quite like throwing their water around and emptying the contents over their heads. Washing with gusto is just fine. Soap/shampoo is usually provided - so there's no need to take your own. They usually have a few bottles of it right to your shower.

Anyway, wash away and just make sure that you don't have a bit of soap remaining on you. Once rinsed, it's time to enter the bath.

Most people tend to enter somewhat gingerly, as there's a tradition of having the bath water so hot that it nearly causes burns and turns your skin pink. Simply easy yourself in and relax. After an exceedingly hot Japanese day, it's a really good way of unwinding - and even on a cold day it works nicely too. Sit in it for as long as you can stand (usually a few minutes, at best).

In some places, they have cold baths too, so once you've boiled yourself, you can die of shock. I've not worked out what the benefit of this is yet, although I have tried it, weird a sensation as it is.

Once you're finished, it's time to exit, dry off and get dressed. If you wring out your towel you bought earlier well enough, you can dry off with it too. They're marvellous little things. It's usually good protocol to get rid of the worst of the wet stuff on the wooden stands that are usually by the bath door - this saves you from dripping all over the place. If you're staying at a Ryokan/Minshuku, this is the time you then put on your yukata (bathrobe) and go vegetate somewhere.

...and there you go. Hopefully, that's enlightened you a bit (if you ever were curious). It might seem a bit daunting at first, but actually, it's thoroughly enjoyable. Bathing is such a deeply ingrained part of Japanese culture that should you ever go to Japan, it'll be hard to avoid. As usual, feel free to e-mail me with any questions - I'll take the answers to the bottom of this post for the benefit of everyone else.

Questions....and answers!

Q) Would it be bad form to wash, soak, wash and then soak again?I only ask as on the few occasions I've had a Turkish bath, the theory was to wash, soak out the grime in a sauna, wash (cold shower), sauna again then get a two stage massage involving a harsh scrubbing then a full on deep tissue massage. The point being I think to get a deep cleanse by sweating out any impurities. As the Japanese are bath experts do they have a similar system where you can wash, soak, wash, soak, shiatsu?

A) No. In fact, it's ok to wash, soak, jump in another bath of cold water (does things for the pores) and then hop back in the hot one again - that's a common thing and would probably replace the second scrub. Another thing is that you can almost get in the bath without scrubbing - as long as one washes one's genitals first. Nice. I didn't go into that originally. A lot of saunas are "gentlemen only" establishments and for an extra fee, one can be "scrubbed" by a lady. I kid you not, it's pretty commonplace in a lot of capsule hotels and the like to go for massages/scrubbing as well as the bathing. Shiatsu or an alternative is fairly commonplace.
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Dolls & Dominoes

Sometimes I have a peruse around Youtube and random Japanese blog sites to have a look at what's around - today I found two gems that I just had to share.

The first is called Cantomoko and is basically a blog, written by a Japanese sex doll. However, the author has taken great pains to make this doll look like a normal person, posing them, fully clothed in normal situations. My favourite pictures have to be these two:

1) Near the summit of Mt. Fuji.

Tori

2) Snowboarding!

Errr, right.

This guy has obviously spent a little too much time and effort on doing this, but it's funny nonetheless, especially the temple visits (how did he get away with that?). The blog finishes at the end of last year, but is still well worth reading. Even if you can't read Japanese, don't worry, as there's a link for a (somewhat rough) English translation.

Have a shufty here. (*clicky*)
(Click the bottom link to enter the site)


Secondly, this Youtube video is amusing - don't worry if you don't understand Japanese, just watch and it's quite evident what is going on:



Take all the rectangular domestic items in your house that you can - and make a domino chain from them! Marvellous!
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Capsule Hotels

When I tell people that I've been to Japan a few times, it seems to be that the first question isn't, "did you eat lots of raw fish", or "did you see a geisha", but "did you stay in one of those funny hotels"?

Well, the answer is "yes", I have - so I thought I'd put a little entry on here about it, so that if anyone who is going to Japan wants to try it, they've got a little background knowledge (which is always useful).

Capsule hotels are wonderful things - they're just hi-tech dormitories and there's nothing to be afraid of. In fact, if you're visiting Tokyo on a budget, it's worth using them, as the price per night is about 3,000 to 4,000 Yen, meaning that you can live/stay cheaper in Tokyo than you could in the rest of the country!

Firstly, you might want to see some pictures - so here goes. The first shot is an entire floor full of 'em. (The capsules are usually stacked 2 high).


It's not as claustrophobic as a it looks, honest...

Secondly, you'll want to see inside, so here you are:


More comfy than it looks....

Think of it as a bunk bed, but with privacy.

Each capsule usually contains:

a) A fan or aircon, to keep cool.
b) A TV
c) A clock
d) A radio.
e) A light.
f) Bedding.
g) A blind (that's your door).

Secondly, you'll need to know how to find one. They exist in most major cities as well as Tokyo and they're usually found near railway stations. They're usually the place to stay for drunken salarymen who don't want to go home to their wives. This means that many become a men-only environment, although a few take women. Drunken salarymen are harmless. Honest. They're good to talk to, as their curiosity takes over.

Most capsule hotels have big neon signs somewhere, which look a bit like this:

カプセルホテル

This literally says, "Capsule Hotel". Sometimes, you might just see the red bit, saying "Capsule".

Next, I'd better say this at all costs - take your shoes off as soon as you get in the door! All capsule hotels have a little locker to put your shoes in. Just bung 'em in, take a pair of the hotel slippers (sexy things, they are) and keep hold of the key.

Luckily, as most of Japan seems to run on vending machines, this makes your life easy, as you won't need to ask for anything. Just put your money in the vending machine, press a button (it will be obvious what the right button to press is) and out will come a ticket, which you give to the receptionist as proof that you've paid. Some do require a formal check-in at a reception, but these are a minority. They will give you a capsule/locker key. The key will probably be on a velcro strap (so you can keep it on your person - useful when bathing) and the strap will have a number on it.

Immediately after reception is usually the locker room. Your key will fit in a locker here. Put on your funky Japanese pyjamas, (which have a habit of making you look like an old man) and grab your towel - it's bath time!

Most baths are on the top floor. Bathing is another matter entirely, which has it's own protocol. I'm not going to go through that during this entry.

Anyway, once your bath is done, you can crash in your capsule. Most capsule hotels have more vending machines and occasionally an eatery, so you can top up on food/beer/whatever. Check out time is usually 10am. You simply do everything in reverse - i.e. go back to your locker, get dressed, hand your key back and grab your shoes from the diddy locker!

As for tips on which capsule hotels are good ones, well, there's a really good one at Asakasa (Tokyo), which also takes women. It's about 3,000 yen. If you want cheap, however, there's one in Ueno, but this is a very ropey establishment indeed and doesn't justify saving the 400 yen. (It's 2,600).

Feel free to contact me if you've got any questions....
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