After the baths we showered. Ironically, this part of the ritual is less communal than it is in the United States. There are stalls where you sit down in front of a mirror on a little wooden stool and you shower yourself with a shower head. There’s even liquid soap, shampoo, and conditioner for you to use. Next we headed back to the locker room where we’re finally allowed to use our towels. They had everything in this locker room you could need; hair gel, razors, shaving cream, toothbrushes, hairdryers, etc. After getting cleaned up we left the locker room feeling relaxed and clean. Next we went to the foot baths; a separate area for men and women that’s actually outdoors, set in a tranquil garden setting.
The footbaths were nothing special but they did have one feature that interested me: skin eating fish! These little guys nibble away at the dead skin on your feet while you sit on the edge of a kiddie pool thats filled with hundreds of them. Although I saw them in Cambodia for only $2, I didn’t try it and I wasn’t going to miss my second chance. We paid with our barcodes and sat on the side of the pool. Bob and I were the only ones there so all the fish swarmed towards us the moment our feet entered the water. It was the most bizarre sensation I ever felt. There is nothing that I can think of which feels similar to having a hundred teeny tiny fishes nibbling at every millimeter of your feet. Bob and I busted out laughing. It was like a weird vibrating tickling sensation as the motion of these little fish moving their fins rubbed against me. I had to pull my feet out a few times at first because I couldn’t handle it but eventually I calmed myself and kept them in there, letting the fish do their thing. Soon a Japanese man came and joined us and we got to watch him writhe and giggle from the sensation. Eventually our time was up and we exited the foothbaths, our feet now silky smooth.
Having exhausted all the activities of the bath complex it was time for us to depart. We repeated the check-in process in reverse, paying for our barcode purchases with real money and returning to the now rainy streets of Tokyo. We took the subway to Roppongi, the area with the most happening night life in Tokyo. Bob was exhausted and ready to head back to the ship, but seeing as this was my only night in Tokyo I had to make the most of it. Bob and I parted ways and I walked around, exploring Roppongi. Roppongi has probably the greatest density of clubs, strip clubs, bars, and restaurants of anywhere in the world. Every building in the area was full of them on multiple levels. Most of them were accessible via elevator which was sketchy because there was no way to just pop your head into a lounge and see if it was your kind of scene. No, here’s how it works instead. On the street there are dozens of black men (not being racist; they were actually all black) trying to get your attention and befriend you so that you will come into their lounge or club. If you agree, then you must board the elevator, take the awkward ride to the top of the building and step out. Then, if you like the place you stick around (as we did with the Reggae Bar). If you have a look around and its just you, a bunch of white couches and a room full of eager strippers (possibly prostitutes), then you must make your slow, awkward retreat (as we did with one place which actually had boob or tit or some variation of the word breast, in the name of the establishment. we should have known but we went for the novelty anyway). These places are all small. I didn’t see any super clubs, but I liked it because it meant you could probably come to Roppongi for a couple of months (maybe years) and try a new place every night.
Anyways, SAS being the beautiful thing that it is, it wasn’t more than half an hour before I found some friends to hang out with in Roppongi. They were already intoxicated and were headed to the convenience store for some more cheap alcohol. They led me to another place with a lot of SASers, some of whom were staying the night in a capsule hotel down the street. I wanted a place to crash, knowing that I was staying out late tonight and not going back to the ship. Some people were going to do that and just party until the early morning, but given previous experiences of that nature, all-nighters sound really fun, right up until 3AM when you’re simply utterly exhausted and have a few more hours to go until the next day begins. Thus, I decided to check into the capsule hotel, drop off my stuff, and head back to the party.
capsule hotels are unique to Japan (as far as I know). Real Estate is expensive, space is at a premium, but people need a place to sleep. The solution is clearly do away with all the fiddle-faddle of a hotel room and keep nothing but the beds and a tiny little television. Each capsule was about the width and length of a college twin-sized bed. The height was enough for me to sit up in but obviously not stand. The capsules were in two rows and spanned the length of a long hallway on both sides. My capsule came with a locker in the locker room so I ditched my bag and returned to the party.
back on the scene, we picked the reggae lounge and headed up there for the one hour unlimited drinks package (tequila shots and draft beer. nothing fancy). I feel bad for bartenders that work in places where it’s all-you-can-drink and there’s no culture of tipping. It adds up to a lot of work for no extra compensation, especially when it comes to college kids. For me, I treat an fixed price all you can drink special like a treat a buffet restaurant. I have as much as I care for, but I don’t over-do it. Food isn’t as satisfying if you eat so much that you feel like you need to puke. The same goes for alcohol. Unfortunately we didn’t all feel the same way. Oh well, we were in the party capital in Tokyo and this was our last night in port for the entire voyage. It was a meaningful occasion, and I’m not surprised that some people decided to go all out. For me it was one last hurrah. We club-hopped after the drink special ended, finding more SAS kids wherever we went. The rain came down but nobody cared. This was our last night together on land and we weren’t going to let a silly thing like inclement weather interfere.
Most of the night followed the same pattern that other SAS port nights did. The trends include being surrounded by your friends and people that will look out for you, even when you’re in a strange and foreign place, drinking a lot, traveling to a number of different entertainment venues in one night, listening to loud American music, and standing around outside hot and packed night clubs, enjoying the evening air and having genuine conversations with your SAS friends. To me, I only noticed a critical difference at the end of the night. It was the end of the night at the end of Japan, which was the end of our main ports. There’d be one day in Hawaii, but its only a day and its America. For all intents and purposes, the essential reason for going on a semester at sea was over. I felt overjoyed to be surrounded with all my friends, and it didn’t feel sad because we had more than a week at sea together to look forward to, classes, finals, Hawaii, etc. etc. The ending didn’t come all at once, but one of the many instruments that blended together to make the beautiful symphony that is my Semester at Sea, was finished playing.
Once I was exhausted I returned to my capsule hotel. I skyped with my dear friend Kelsey, probably the person whose absence I felt the most during the semester, and seeing her face reminded me of the good things I had to look forward to at home. After we talked I rehydrated expensively (3 evian waters in a Japanese vending machine) and passed out until 630AM. I returned to the ship and then set out again, going shopping and eating, and squeezing out the very last of my international experience, like a toothpaste tube that you refuse to throw away until there is absolutely not a single smidge left.