Friday, 1 January 2010

Ringing In The New Year In Tokyo...Take 3

I mentioned in my last post that this is my third Christmas/New Year holiday season in Japan. This year, I decided to start New Year's Eve night differently than the past two years. Instead of starting out in the bars and clubs of Roppongi and then heading to a temple the next day, we decided to do it in reverse.

Our first stop was Zojoji Temple near Shiba Park and Tokyo Tower. I experimented with night time photography using my newly acquired film camera, but mainly, we were there to see the release of thousands of balloons with wish cards attached at the stroke of midnight.

We popped a bottle of champagne, toasted to the New Year and admired the balloons floating toward to the full moon that was out. Plans were made to meet up with some other friends in Roppongi. We trekked towards the main drag and met with our friends in front of Don Quijote .  "Where should we go?" someone asked. "Why don't we go to Wall Street?" I suggested. It was the first bar I could think of that wouldn't involve the fuss of cover charges and unnecessarily long lines, two things I was not in the mood to deal with on a crazy night such as New Year's.

We went to Wall Street Bar 2,  and I saw their most visible bouncer standing at the door. If you've ever walked along Gaien Higashi Dori at night, you know who I'm talking about. Probably the only black man working the strip who's not African: American,  light-skinned, LARGE and LOUD. You can't miss him.

Anyway, we got to the door, and I saw a guy sitting in the foyer with a money box and calculator.  Since this establishment doesn't usually collect a cover charge at the door (and their website says, big and bold, FREE ENTRANCE), I simply asked if there was a cover charge for the night. The bouncer responded saying yes, there was a charge of 3000 yen which included two drinks. I thought that was pretty steep for this place. Afterall, it's no Feria. Before I had a chance to say anything myself, my boyfriend asked me if I wanted to leave and I nodded and went back out the  door. Then, Lt. Asshole charged out behind us screaming a barrage of insults, which included some racially offensive statements like, "Don't be a fucking Jew! Don't be a Whoopi Goldberg! [huh?] Don't be a black Jew!" and also referring to my boyfriend as a n-----. At first, I was just stunned, because I've been to this bar and the older branch more times than I can recall and have spent quite a bit of money there, a fact that I got in his face to remind him of before telling him to fuck off and leaving the area.

I, fuming, and the others, astounded, headed away from the strip and walked towards Roppongi Hills. We went to Heartland Bar, a long-time favourite of many Roppongi night life patrons - they have Heartland beer for sale there for 500 yen a bottle, the bartenders are usually pretty nice and there's always some idiot there making a spectacle of himself in tune with the pounding (usually techno or house) music. Last night's specimen was a guy who apparently thought that the new trend in dancing as bending at a 90 degree angle, grasping the edge of the bar while tossing his head from side to side.

After a couple beers we went across the street to Saizeriya to grab some late night cheap eats. Getting seated in the family restaurant proved to be quite a task, since the one area that would have been sufficient to seat the seven of us was occupied by one man (with scarily rotten-looking teeth) who appeared to be singing to himself in his sleep. We eventually agreed to split our group and after we were seated, the guy went to the restroom, came out and essentially stood by our table, with nothing but a sheet of glass separating us, where he continued his slumberous performance for the duration of our meal.

Next stop for most of the crew - the strain station. At this point, we had just left the restaurant and it was about 4a.m. I wasn't ready to go home yet. I wanted to stay out and dance. We saw our friends off and headed back out into the streets in search of a place to hang out. A British tout handed us a flyer for a fairly new bar near Tokyo Midtown called Heroes. It was empty, save for about seven other patrons, the manager and the bartender. We sat at the bar and chatted about hats with a patron who was sporting  an amazing pinstripe fedora. I also managed to practice my Japanese a little; the bartender who is of Japanese and Korean parentage was very talkative and freely chatted with us (mostly in Japanese and a little in English) about her life in Japan since she moved here from Korea a few years ago.

That's what I love about this town. Now matter how seedy the nightlife can get sometimes, you're always guaranteed to meet someone with a story. We said goodbye to the bartender and the manager (who's also very friendly) and headed home. When we got to our station, the last bit of New Year's Eve moonlight was already long behind us and we squinted in 2010's first daylight as we made our way home.