As they had discovered a shortened soda straw in his dirty clothes bag, Haneda Airport customs officials led Randy Rogers to the barren little room where he was thoroughly searched. Nothing further suspicious was found. When asked to explain the amputated straw, Randy told them it was used with tissue to clean his ears.
"Wercome to Japan. Much to enjoy you stay." With those words, he was awarded entry to the country, yet he was already missing Thailand. Hoisting the heavy backpack containing all his worldly possessions, Randy, the randy rambler, made his way to the monorail train and navigated his way to Tokyo Station.
First off, he changed all of his Thai Baht into Japanese Yen, about $850 worth. Then, after searching long for a locker large enough, he deposited his luggage and headed for what appeared to be the main exit. Hoping to escape the pressing station crowd, his first impression upon sidewalking was a physical blast of August heat and humidity, not unlike Bangkok. His second observation was that the crowds had not thinned out at all here on the bustling street. It was 3pm, not even rush hour yet.
As Randy strolled the area taking in the sights, sounds, smells and other wonders of his new world, he knew he needed pause to reflect. He passed a pleasant looking coffee shop, giving it the eye, then returned shortly later to take a seat. When nobody came to serve him, he figured he had to get up and order at the counter. The clerk at the register was as beautiful as she was incomprehensible. Randy pointed, grunted, smiled, winked, and finally paid for a large glass of beer and some kind of sandwich, which turned out to be raw ham with processed cheese.
Reclaiming his table, he essentially inhaled the contents of plate and mug. She giggled when he came back quickly to order another of each.
"Do you speak any English?" Randy asked.
"Only a little. I'm sorry" was the reply.
"What's your name?"
"I am Mariko."
"Nice to meet you. I'm Randy." More giggles.
He sat back down to ponder the plan. He was really in Tokyo, the largest and most expensive city in the world. He didn't understand the culture or the language. His bankroll was plenty for Bangkok, but would dwindle fast here.
Already he was down $25 just for beer and processed cheese. He had to get a job quickly, but his more immediate concern was lodging for the night.
Walking up to order his third draft, Randy noticed and grabbed from the magazine rack a copy of Kanto Free Time, a gratis English language magazine.
Turning immediately to the classified ads in the back, he found the section with gaijin hostels.
Shared rooms could be had for as little as 30,000 yen per month, with a private room running at 45,000. Kitchen, bath, toilet and living room were all communal. The Villa Paradiso included a map with its ad - just a few blocks away. Randy left a 20% tip on the table, bid farewell to the giggler, retrieved his backpack, and sought the refuge.
Down a wide street, down a narrow one, then down a dirty one-way alley stood the two story red brick building with faded welcome sign. Inside the open door, a table covered with forms, fliers and a bell greeted him. He rang the bell. The proprietor, a 40-something Japanese guy called "Rick", appeared and they talked turkey. Due to his years, five to be precise, studying and traveling in Australia and Canada, Rick's English was fluent. They arranged a weekly rate for a private room, which turned out to be small and noisy, but clean. Furniture consisted of one scruffy table and an unstable chair. Futon, pillow and blanket were stored in a small closet made for that purpose. The streaky second floor window looked out upon the alley and a forest of buildings, signs and advertisements. A large cockroach sauntered breezily and unconcerned across the tatami mats, which themselves gave off a unique aroma he found annoying. Randy settled in to make the best of it. Be it ever so humble, this was now his home. Tomorrow he would look for work.
(To be continued)
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