The sky above the port was the color of television, tuned to a dead channel...
It's just a couple of hours after (almost) everybody went home. Time to call it a day.
Some fellow stragglers suggest to meet up downtown, near where one of them is staying, for some drinks and a bite to eat.
And this, right here, is about where things got... strange...
We decide to go by car. Once in the car, the nav-system decides to go on a vacation, leaving us with rather rudimentary means of orientation (my limited knowledge of the city, a tourist's map, my colleague's sense of direction and the stars which we can't see due to the citylights).
Not to be deterred by minor setbacks like not knowing where you're going, we head out with a general direction in mind.
While the road brings us, apparently, in the right direction, it also takes us by a LOT of traffic lights. And they all decide to turn red as we're approaching. Still, we're obviously heading towards downtown in a more or less straight line, which we decide to dub 'the route with least likelihood of complications'. And, besides that, our destination is near the Central Station.
Now, 'downtown' and 'central station' both are very basic, almost primal, landmarks in European cities. If there's anything marked on the road signs, it will be either downtown, central station, or both. And they are. Always. And in this case, at the latest possible time before any turn-off we need to take.
Not to be deterred by minor setbacks like being stuck in the rightmost lane at a left turn in a busy traffic area in a city riddled with one-way streets, I compensate in the most direct, astute and succinct manner I can think of.
So, [legal disclaimer]possibly[/legal disclaimer] having broken several (minor?) traffic regulations and causing a couple of frustrated fellow drivers later, we're on the right track again, rather than the right lane (and no, not the rail tracks, although the tramlines are running parallel to us).
The right track being the edge of the Japanese quarter. Which borders with the gay bars area. And the red-light zone. And is, in general, judging by the number of camera's in the street, considered somewhat shady. Right... No, damn straight! Oh bugger, I should just find a parking spot already.
... which aren't exactly up for grabs even at this hour. After a short ride around the block, I opt for simplicity over economy and decide to park in one of the larger and well-lit parking garages... that has a big sign, just after the barrier, suggesting that it will close in about an hour. Sure enough, we hardly chose a spot and the entrance we came in through was closed, only 50 minutes early. Not a problem, if that entrance wasn't also the most obvious exit...
Not to be deterred by minor setbacks like the prospect of being locked out of my car and stuck all night in a shady part of town, we decide not to worry about it now and try to find the pedestrian exit.
Having looked around for the stairway, the first option we try drops us near the, now closed, entrance door. Doubling back to look for alternatives, we spot another sign saying "Please use hotel exit". A quick glance around reveals another door with a billboard announcing "Hotel Nikko" above it. That would qualify as the hotel exit, we hazard. However, once through the door, we are faced with a smallish hallway, leading straight to a garishly purple door with silver stars and lettering announcing it as club "modern times" or something similarly subtly indicative of questionable repute.
Not to be deterred by minor setbacks like... No wait... Luckily, my colleague spotted the elevators off to the side, which brought us up to ground level, and the, unexpectedly classy, lobby of the hotel pictured at the top.
As for the dinner, for those of you familiar with William Gibson's Neuromancer, having dinner in the Japanese quarter of a German city amongst both dive bars and an upper class hotel, is kind of, in a very mild way, how I would have imagined life in Chiba City would be. With a bit of imagination...
"The sky above the port was the color of television, tuned to a dead channel..."