Nuts & Bolts
Light House aka
Shinjuku Forest Hill Guest House
Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo 161-0033
home: 03-5996-1551 but cell is better.
Takada-no-Baba, Shinjuku-ku, is a lively area in the northwest part of town about a 30-45 minute walk to Shinjuku and Ikebukuro. Several train lines run through, most notably the Yamanote line.
The Last Word in Depressing, Awful Flophouses
I called Suzuki-san and he said he would meet me at the station which was advertised to be 7 minutes away. I waited nearly and hour, gave up, and went to try and look for the guest house on my own. I found it painlessly enough. I am glad I saw this guest house in the night because in the unforgiving daylight I might have quickly turned around. I found Suzuki. He was drunk. I didn't want to see him in the unforgiving daylight either.
That said, 1500 yen for a bed in one of the world's most expensive cities is amazingly cheap--and in happening Shinjuku-ku no less! In fact, not far away another place has opened that is only 1300 yen. Takada no Baba is leading the renaissance in cheap living!
But what a place! Suzuki calls it "Light House" and also "Shinjuku Forest Hill Guest House". It's a big old gaijin house with wood floors, actually 2 houses that share a dusty yard that he seems to have separated--one part for Westerners and one part for third world guests.
Suzuki showed me the kitchen first. It looked like a bomb had gone off. The whole place was a rambling wreck that was very dirty, dusty, and in desperate need of a clean. I saw the common room. Several people laid on filthy, heavily stained couches. They looked like they lie, eat, and sleep there all day long. Suzuki picked out a tiny couch for me and said I could sleep there if the room got too hot. My room was predictably depressing. The bed creaked very loudly when I sat on it and subsequently when I twitched a muscle.
The whole place is filthy. There's dust, grime, dirt--all compelling evidence of neglect. The room I am in isn't much different. My roommate leaves his chocolate milk cartons lying around among a wide variety of detritus. That said, he's my only roommate, and I switched to him from the double bunk bed catastrophe that is the big bedroom. It looked like a hellacious frat party the next morning. It was indescribable.
The kitchen, though, is the real disaster. Where to begin?
The toaster oven and the stove have a thick coat of greasy crud. The pots and pans look disease-ridden. I couldn't imagine what bacteria they might hold. I'd be afraid to boil water.
The communal refrigerator smells like a fruity melange of rotting carcass, spoiled milk and sewage.
The topper, though, is the sink. If you run the water too fast, it overflows a drain underneath and it pours out of the cabinet and on to your feet. The first time I saw this
I was alarmed, but everyone else just dealt with it, dragging a damp, scummy towel to try and mop it up with their feet.
There are enormous cockroaches, the biggest I have seen in Japan. Some lived in the fridge. I thought they couldn't survive in the fridge, but I guess they can shake off a little cold for a lifetime feast.
The less said about the shower the better.
This place is the last word in depressing, awful flophouses, but a guy yesterday told me that he had been to 7 or 8 others and this one was the best! Bigger rooms, bigger common room, better guests, I was told.
It's hard to imagine, but I was in and out of Tokyo a few times and I have to admit that it was nice to return. Some good people were there.
My roommate was a great guy who somehow managed to avoid paying Suzuki for a month. He had no money and was going to offer him a painting of Mt. Fuji until he got paid from a new job. I could easily imagine Suzuki blowing his top. I'm glad I wasn't going to be around to witness it, but I'm dying to know what happened.
I did look at the 1300 yen place, Ten Ten Guest House. (070) 5652-8628. The young owner, Tahara-san, said he named it after his kid(?!) Ten Ten is little more than one new, antiseptic room with no character and no common room. Somehow my place, full of character, didn't seem so bad after all.
Oh! The best part of my guest house experience was when Suzuki-san handed me a blanket, another thinner blanket, and a cloth pillow case from a 100 yen shop and called them "linens". I try to blot out of my mind the last time these were washed, if ever.
Here are some new photos from my most recent trip there. In the kitchen Suzuki has given up on the sticky wood floor and gone for a sort of plastic tarp.
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