Mr Small Field slept for almost the same amount of time he had been drinking, and somewhat improbably claimed not to have a hangover. He drove me to the nearest internet café and looked positively sheepish as we said our goodbyes – a different man entirely from the rosy-cheeked, world-peace-promoting party animal I had met the previous day.
‘Hello,’ said a woman’s voice on the other end of the phone.
‘Is that the Akkeshi youth hostel?’
‘Yes, it is. Can I help you?’
‘I’m afraid my Japanese isn’t very good so you'll have to bear with me, but do you have any vacancies for tonight?’
‘There’s a fellow here who says his Japanese isn’t very good. He wants to know if we’ve got any vacancies for tonight,’ said the woman to an unseen colleague. ‘Yes, we do.’
‘And do you serve meals or should I bring my own food?’
‘He wants to know if we serve meals or should he bring his own food,’ she continued, in the same manner. ‘We serve dinner and breakfast.’
‘Do you mind me asking how much it costs for one night?’
‘He said he wants to know how much it costs for one night.’
And so on and so forth. Despite the three-way nature of the call I did eventually manage to secure a reservation, although the woman was doubtful that I would make it the fifty or so kilometres to Akkeshi without getting rained on.
Having left the internet café at around midday, I was in such a hurry to take advantage of a break in the weather that I fell off the bike. Nipping across the road towards a conbini, I misjudged the height of a kerbstone and was propelled onto the pavement. With plenty of witnesses driving past, the experience was more embarrassing than it was painful, although I did have to tend to a grazed knee in the conbini toilet.
(This is a sign I saw just down the road: 'Nature Beautification', it reads, while the little cartoon can is sobbing, 'Don't throw me away~'.)
'Did you go up the hill and onto the cape?' asked the woman. 'The last foreign guy who stayed here did.'
'I nearly did, yes - I had to ask three different people for directions before I found my way here. By the way, have you got some, er...'
'To dry your shoes with.'
'Yes, to dry my shoes with!'
As I was about to pop to the shops on an emergency Choco Pie run later in the evening, she intercepted me at the front door.
'What time do you want to have breakfast?' she asked.
'You mean I can choose?'
'Will 8am be OK?'
'No, no. The cleaners will be in by then.'
'Hmm. That's probably a bit too late. How about seven?'
'Er, yes. Perhaps seven would be better.'
'That's settled, then,' she said. 'How old are you, anyway?'
'When you're my age, even a thirty-seven-year old looks like a school kid. Doesn't it get lonely sleeping in a tent all by yourself?'
'It is a bit scary sometimes, I suppose.'
My tatami-mat room at the hostel wasn't lonely or scary, but the pillow did, it has to be said, look and feel very much like a bag of gravel. Perhaps this would have some kind of therapeutic effect by massaging my pressure points as I slept. Either that or I would wake up the next morning with gravel marks all over one side of my face.