Don’t forget your indoor shoes

This weekend I was able to take advantage of my Christmas present for 2009. Long time readers of this blog, especially my one trusty reader, may recall that I had a gas leak in my home in the US and spent much of my Christmas vacation back in the States getting it repaired. And of course I was gasless, heatless, dryerless, hot waterless and so on. Part of the plan at Christmas was my gift – a stay at The Ritz-Carlton Marina Del Rey. Nice. With all that was going on though, it was just too much to try to do. Part of the experience was to get away, enjoy the “hotel within the hotel” of the club lounge where “ladies and gentlemen serve ladies and gentlemen.” If I was running back and forth to home checking up on the plumber and using The Ritz-Carlton as a shower and a heated room only, the intent of the gift would surely be missed. So instead, we canceled and vowed to hit some place here in Asia, perhaps Hong Kong.

This weekend was a 東京事変 (Tokyo Jihen) concert in Osaka. It is fronted by Shiina Ringo, who put on an excellent show in 2008. Since we were going to the show, this was a great weekend to take advantage of The Ritz-Carlton Osaka. We could stay there, enjoy all the presentations of the Club Lounge (including way too much champagne and other alcohol), and see the concert.

The Ritz-Carlton Osaka

The trip started rather ominously as Tomo forgot the concert tickets at home, and had to cancel his flight to Osaka to go back home and pick up the tickets. Oops. Thankfully, he caught the bullet train, I met up with him in Nagoya, and we headed to Osaka. We were only a few hours behind schedule.

The Ritz-Carlton Osaka is very nice, but it has an almost over-the-top “English charm” feel to it. They managed to pull it off though, and it didn’t feel too heavy.

The Ritz-Carlton Osaka

The service was impeccable, and the staff very friendly. When we were showed to the room, the hostess broke out of character with excitement when we said we were seeing 東京事変. It was really very cute. She said she was so excited in gave her goosebumps.

We were able to get late checkout today, shifting from 11:00 am to 1:00 pm. That makes a big difference as we wanted to use all of the facilities the hotel had to offer, including the gym and the pool. We donned our “workout clothes” and headed to the gym. We were intercepted at the door and questioned whether we had “indoor shoes” on. Uh oh. No, we didn’t bring our indoor shoes so we were not allowed entrance to the workout equipment. Yes, this is a particularly Japanese custom. Remember when you couldn’t wear “street shoes” on your wooden gym floor in junior high school or high school? At least I couldn’t. Well, imagine the same rules in a carpeted workout area full of robust equipment. That’s Japan! It made me so frustrated – I just wanted to work up a really good sweat on a nice exercise bike. I currently do not OWN a pair of indoor exercise shoes, so it looks like the next time we stay at a nice hotel we’ll have to call ahead to see if the gym requires indoor shoes or not. When we stayed at the Ritz-Carlton Tokyo, THEY let us wear our outdoor shoes. Maybe they just didn’t catch us in time.

They gave me a swim cap (swim caps are required at almost all pools in Japan), made us take off our shoes, and allowed us to swim. I’m a really bad swimmer, so I did some laps in a 20 meter pool and called it a day. Tomo, who is a swimmer, got in a kilometer. I wish I enjoyed swimming. At least they let me swim in my board shorts and didn’t require a Speedo. Not that there’s anything wrong with a Speedo, I just didn’t have one.

Japan travel hint – if you are traveling in Japan and staying in nice hotels with fitness centers, don’t forget your swim cap and your indoor shoes! Of course, tattoos are grounds for denying service. But I knew that.

And now, after a rather long hiatus from Japanese class, I have homework hanging over me that I haven’t begun to even think about. Sigh.

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