Arriving in Osaka late last night, I dragged my suitcase to Kikuya, which according to the semi-toothed proprietress, is “the oldest hotel in the New World”. (The New World refers to the greasy stick Shinsekai district in central Osaka). The hotel room was rotten; it smelled of dead ambition. Everything was old and either stained or broken, probably even the condom dispenser in the corner.
The telephone receiver must have been installed when the hotel opened 50 years ago. The leaden receiver was covered in a congealed layer of dust so thick you could sew socks out of it. “Moshi moshi,” suddenly the receiver started speaking to me; I’d accidentally called reception.
“Have you worked out how to use the TV remote yet?”, the lady inquired. I had not, even touched it but I lied and feigned competence. I more concerned with other issues such as the need to wear the brown plastic toilet slippers and why she had confiscated my new blue trainers.
Oh yes, and why did I choose this place? It’s peak holiday season and all other alternatives were astronomically expensive.
Sitting on a leather chair in the corner, I downed a couple of cups of lukewarm green tea and tried to remember why I was in Japan. It’s the second time in 6 months I have been in the same place with the same thoughts. I can’t remember the path that took me from living in a small Devon village with the height of my ambition being a job at the local garage, to being a lone visitor to Japan’s most desolate love hotel.
Everything I have learnt about Japan, I have learnt as an adult. This knowledge feels like an attachment, clothing not skin. It’s not instinctive and sometimes I forget I have it. But now I have to get back into character, remember my role and my lines. I can’t get upset by things like toilet slippers again. I have to ally myself with toilet slippers, learn to love them so I can teach others to love them too.