I paused before entering the building. I was nervous. For $10 I had booked a night in a rider house, a hangout for motorcyclists. It had been recommended to me as an ‘interesting’ place to stay.
I looked at the sign, which said:
For all you know, that says Hell’s Angels – Enter and Die, but by this time I’d learned to read some Japanese and knew that it said Ryda Hausu.
I didn’t have a motorcycle (or even a handlebar moustache) and wasn’t sure how that would go over. I wasn’t sure of anything, really. I opened the door and walked into a haze of tobacco fumes.
There were about 8 men in the room. They’d been smoking and chatting, but now they were all staring at me. From behind a desk, an older woman looked at me curiously. “May I help you?”
“Uhh, reservation for Dave?”
The woman took my $10 and showed me where to put my backpack. Still, everyone was silent. I greeted the men quietly on my way to the stairs. As I climbed upward, one of the men called after me, “Hey, when you’re ready, come join us.”
I did, and quickly realized there’d been nothing to be nervous about. These guys were the complete opposite of the Hell’s Angels. First of all, most of them wore slippers and, well, it’s pretty tough to look menacing in slippers. They were incredibly polite, bowing, saying their pleases and thank-you’s, sipping tea, and giggling at fart jokes. Aside from the bikes outside, there was nothing ‘badass’ about them.
Soon the drinks were poured, and everyone spent some time with a microphone introducing themselves.
I had a great time, and it was so cheap that I decided to stay an extra night waiting out the rain, catching up on emails, and spending an afternoon at the local library absorbing some Eastern philosophical wisdom from Hagakure, a book of Samurai teachings - a practical and spiritual guide for the Japanese warrior. Details in the next post.