Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Bashing London out the system...a bit of Tokyo carnage!

With the possible exception of flying Ryanair, I'm usually excited when I jump on a plane but this was something extra. So much so that, aided by some vintage 1981 Ashes footage, I barely slept all night and landed in Tokyo wired. Perhaps an appropriate state with what was to come.

Knocking out for much of the afternoon, we met up with Scott (cool Aussie dude who is more than nicely putting us up in his pretty plush flat), had a local beer splashed down in front of us and the rest is history. Of a hundred odd and varied experiences that seem to accompany a proper night out in this town, on this occasion the most (or perhaps least) memorable experiences revolved around a distinctuve area called Golden Gai. A collection of hundreds of tiny bars on narrow streets just around the corner from Shinjuku. The Japanese are remarked to have a tendency to be intricate and obsessive over small details and seem to like a drink. These characteristics mix to great aplomb in this area to create the greatest ensemble of quirky bars that I have come across. Each one totally unique and sprouting from one guy's dream which, owing to the tiny size of each bar, can only be shared with 5 or 6 people at a time. Images of a Van Halen themed toilet, some awesome Radiohead tunes and red carpets flicker into memory – or was that another night......? Generally we found ourselves very welcome, though in a couple of places one guy or another did not want to share their dream with us and we were waived away - the other side of the polite welcome you generally receive in this country.

Chris showing here swing at 3.30 am

A complete right off of a Saturday was followed by a continuation of the night before. Atrociously bad skills at a “golf” bar were offset by no less than 3 meals. The prize has to go an exquisite establishment where thin slices of prime beef were sliced off a large slab of beef in front of you, to be cooked at your own pleasure in a mini boiling oil pot built into your counter. All the joy of fondu, but with much nicer food and no wee smell. Being involuntarily sprayed by staff with freebreeze after a Korean BBQ also registered interest as a first time.

At some point in the middle of another 12 hour night (a true 24 hour city!) came a gem of an experience. Somewhere on the backstreets of Shimbashi we wandered up some dirty spiral stairs and took a chance on a small red door. Inside we found a couple of hours of highly enjoyable salary-man company in a tiny sake-karaoke bar (for better or worse, both of these were sizeably sampled). The guys were very friendly indeed, if considerably on the sloshed side. A rendition of “Here Comes the Sun” brought down the curtain on our singing efforts which were interluded by many a Kampei and a sunk glass of saki. It was interesting to see how, despite her obvious lack of interest, the bar maid barely registered one of the guys rather pathetic naughty school boy touchy feely flicking up her skirt attitude. After a bill that was hefty despite the alleviation of the guys paying for our sake, we left with handshakes and a buzz.

What was so nice about these nights out was that, with a cut-short detour to Geronimo's aside, we managed to avoid the Geijin (expat) scene pretty well. I could have seen me being sucked into it a few years ago, but the idea of hanging around in a little self-imposed bubble does not really interest me. Even more so when there is so much on offer in this great flickering monster of a city. But then again, maybe it is what's on offer that keeps the legions of Western guys around Rappongi. How many blokes can say no to a good ego boost?

Anyhow, by the time we awoke a little worse for wear on Sunday the London cobwebs were well and truly blown away (along with our budget). On to more civilized things....

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