featuring Mike the dog
We arrived in Nagasaki on the 25th March and thankfully found our accomodation was almost opposite the main train station, because carrying our huge backpacks up and down the flights of stairs of the pedestrian overpass was like a gym workout in itself. After a brief horrible moment thinking we had found the hostel and accidentally booked ourselves into a brothel ('love hotel'), we were directed a couple of doors down to what was really ours. We were greeted at the door by an elderly Japanese lady (who didn't speak English) and a dark grey terrier style dog who'd come to assess whether to allow us in or not. Sophie is scared of dogs so not the ideal start. The smell of stale dog mingled with what was possibly flea powder (reminiscent of the vet's) was unavoidable as we were ushered to remove our shoes in the porch and put on brown slippers with teddies on them, for indoor use. We had booked into a Ryokan which is a traditional Japanese style of accomodation - small and more like staying in someone's house. We were shown the room which was a traditional suite with lounge section with table (you sit on the floor) and bed area with tatami mats (thin mattresses on the floor) to sleep on.
I wasn't entirely sure about the cleanliness on first impressions, nor Sophie about the smelly dog, who turned out to be called Mike, or at least that is what it sounded like whenever it was told off. Naomi tried to convince me it was perfectly clean and things were simply meant to be that colour, but I know what dirt looks like and the large brown stains all over the rug definitely didn't feature in the original design. Hopefully they were coffee and not anything to do with Mike, who as if he'd read my thoughts, smugly positioned himself next to the stack of bedding on the floor and began scratching himself with his back leg, in its direction.
Anyway, with little alternative and thinking we should try something more authentic than concrete hostel blocks with wooden bunks, we stayed. A long confusing 'conversation' followed about price, with the Japanese lady and another woman of a similar age, who seemed to run the place with her. As neither of them spoke more than a few words of English we did our best to cobble together words from the back of the guide book with gestures to explain that the Lonely Planet said it cost a lot less than they were trying to charge us. We either did a very poor job or they pretended not to understand so we ended up paying 3500 Yen a night each, instead of for the room as Lonely Planet suggests. We didn't mind too much as this seems to be the going rate anyway and at least it got Mike out of the room.
We were really tired so after that the hosts brought us green tea and fruit and we settled down with the electric heaters on for a 'culturally appropriate' evening watching Sumo wrestling on TV and browsing through the grannies' selection of Manga porn we found stashed under the tele. (For those that don't know, Manga is a distinctive style of Japanese cartoon drawing / comic, popular with children, and apparently also another type of target audience! Amusingly, the parts that people would most want to see are blanked out, presumably due to censoring laws - so the magazine end up looking like some kind of really inappropriate colouring book where you can draw in the missing bits).
Lots of love xxxxxx