I think we have all been there. A mad panic at the end of the night to catch the last train or bus home. You always convince yourself there’s time for just one more beer and that time will miraculously begin to slow down allowing you to cross vast distances in a matter of seconds.
Unfortunately, no matter how hard I try I have failed to uncover any super human magical powers within my modest armoury of skills. Bending the top of my double-jointed thumb back 90 degrees (nearly) is the best I have managed to date.
Missing the last train can prove very costly indeed. Not least when you need to cross to the other side of Tokyo in 45 minutes or face being locked out of your hotel. Always ask what time the curfew is when you check in somewhere in Japan. We felt quite lucky when told we had to be back at 1.00am.
Still, my pal Will and myself were able to enjoy a smug grin as we boarded the very last packed Metro leaving Shibuya. We thought we could just about make it in time before the curfew. We had run our legs off to make it but as I reminded him, it was good training for Willo’s forthcoming 3km “marathon”.
Smugness quickly turned to denial, fear, and then acceptance. We had taken the wrong train in the wrong direction. We were on a JR (overground train) heading out of Town. Our excuse, which I will maintain to my dying day, was that as it was a JR train and not a Tokyo Metro train, the line was not marked on the Metro maps. To confuse matters more the JR and Metro lines share the same rolling stock. If I’m being totally honest though, with my hand on my heart, there is only one person to blame and that is Will. As you can see from the pictures, the realisation of his own stupidly careless faux pas is etched on every part of his face. I wasn’t too hard on him though consoling his bruised ego with a pat on the back and a “never mind”. Fortunately, tears were avoided this time.
After realising Will’s (sorry “our”) mistake we got off the train at the next station which was called Futako-Sinichi. It was obvious that their was little going on in this backwater, as everything seemed closed. We asked a passing couple of young lads if there was an onsen (Japanese bath) nearby. This would have been a cheap place to crash for the night. After having a sauna we could sleep on the floor. It was all closed up though.
The only bar in town seemed to be a snack bar. Far from being a place where you sample the latest variety of Twiglets (or Pocky) this is a bar where you pay to have ladies come and sit at your table and talk to you. It sounded seedy and is usually expensive, the latter point making it not an attractive proposition for me. The snack bar owner was extremely nice explaining that she catered for older clientele and that a bar around the corner called Potluck might be more to our liking.
Potluck or “side pocket” as Will called it, was a small but perfectly formed little bar. Once we found out that closing time was 5am the biggest challenge was to stay awake until the morning when we could catch the first train home. This was achieved by shouting rather than talking and occasionally slapping each other in the face if one of us looked tired. Will seemed to look tired every couple of minutes. The regulars at Side pocket (sorry Potluck) barely seemed to notice as they probably dismissed us as another couple of crazy foreigners.
After several pints and some food we decided it was about time to leave as it was 5am, and the only people left awake in Tokyo wanted to go to bed themselves.
Back at Futako-Shinichi station the Japanese businessmen were lining up along the platform to go to work. Despite this being Golden Week everyone seems determined to leave for work as early as possible. One chap seemed to be attempting to sleep standing up and looked as though he might fall over at any moment.
I eventually got back to my hotel at about 7am. Will kept reminding me all the way home how this kind of event is “memorable”.