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Saturday, July 14, 2007


Bathhouse dress codes, or tell Yo! mama, no army boots!

The Japanese are exporting one of their greatest commodities — sleep. Or at least the idea of it. The Japanese are masters of the power nap, and at any time of day you can see entire extended families sleeping while sitting upright on the train. A raise of an eyebrow at each stop is enough to make sure the stop is not missed.

So it's not surprising that the Japanese have come up with the very smallest accommodation possible: the capsule hotel. For those of you who don't know, allow me to explain the capsule hotel. You know those sailboats inside bottles? The ones you look at and wonder how in the heck that sailboat got inside there?

Now, imagine putting a Japanese-size person inside a space like that, just long and wide enough for him to lie down in, with an opening just wide enough for him to squeeze in and out of. You could sell them as souvenirs in America.

Yet Gatwick Airport in London has modeled its new airport "cabin" hotels after the Japanese capsule hotel. I do hope they made the spaces a little larger to accommodate our bigger gaijin frames, otherwise getting stuck at the airport will become a much bigger problem.

The Yo! Company is responsible for creating these hotels, called Yotels, and since they are located inside the airport, you can rent them by the hour for a long layover, or for overnight when you have an early flight to catch in the morning.

As I am sure that Yo! is looking for the next best Japanese thing, I have some ideas of other Japanese concepts I think would go over well in the rest of the world.

* 1. Yo! baggage. The founder of Yo! has already started Yo! sushi restaurants offering conveyor belt sushi in Britain. Perhaps I frequent conveyor belt sushi restaurants too much though, because the last time I took an airplane somewhere, as I waited for my baggage to come out on the baggage carousel, I was hoping a giant sushi would come out instead.

Which got me thinking, wouldn't you like Yo! baggage with sushi? Baggage that looks like sushi. Think about it, soft luggage with a large square bottom of seaweed and rice and a zipoff shrimp pocket top or a zippery strip of eel as the cover. At least it would make for some fun luggage and you'd have something to match that sushi key chain of yo's.

* 2. Why go by "My Car" when we could go by Yo! car? The Japanese have the greatest little boxy cars that provide lots more headroom than regular cars. Because the cars are square, they are easy to park and maneuver through small city streets and alleyways. And think about it, there has got to be a reason garages are square. With Yo! cars, any garage with four corners could become a four-car garage! And Yo! baggage would fit nicely into the trunk.

* 3. Plastic food models have been used outside of restaurants in Japan for years. At any time you can see what is on the menu at a Japanese restaurant by perusing the displays of plastic foods such as sushi, tempura or ramen. Just don't set Yo! baggage too close to the window.

My question is, why stop at restaurants? Looking for an apartment? Check out the model apartment mounted on a stand in front of the "Apartment for Rent" sign. See for yourself if the layout, furniture and the bathroom is how you like it. House hunting? Have the real estate agent bring over some model houses. After the houses are sold, you could convert the models houses to luxury bird houses and mount them in expensive neighborhoods. O-miai, or arranged marriage? No problem. Choose from these Barbie dolls.

* 4. The Japanese onsen is something everyone should have access to. After all, no one should be denied a nice, hot, relaxing bath. The Yo!nsen would bring bath time anytime. And the good thing about a public bathhouse is that it's one place that cannot enforce a dress code. To the contrary, you might have Yo! undress code: no ties or jackets in the bath. And tell Yo! mama, no army boots either.

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