I live in Tokyo now but most of my friends and family do not. The main idea here is that I can tell these people about interesting things that happen and are seen.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Tokyo Bay Sparkling Night

Dang, well, it seems I have been kind of a useless prick and not really updated my blog in a considerable spell and in terms of actual things that I do in my life even longer.

Remedy. A few words on my first all-nighter here in Tokyo.

First a note on how the night life works here. Most gigs and events start comparatively early. 7PM is common. This is because the city is enormous and most of the attendees at any given gig will have no realistic option for getting home if they miss the last train, which is generally around 11PM to midnight. Basically if you miss the last train - or choose not to take it - you gotta just keep soldiering through to the first morning trains, around 5AM. Or pay for a cab which would probably be the equivalent of about $300 in my case.

Last Monday was homeboy Joe's birthday (also the anniversary of that other thing), so a group of us gathered to celebrate Joe's birthday in whatever fashion Joe did see fit.


TOKYO BAY SPARKLING NIGHT is a two hour harbour cruise featuring musical entertainments and All You Can Drink. Sounds pretty classy, yes?

Digression (again):

All You Can Drink is an idea that has a lot of legs over here. It is an option that exists in most places, and all things considered, it is generally pretty cheap. I'd like to say that this demonstrates a seasoned, responsible attitude towards alcohol that is not be found in New Zealand's notorious binge-drinking culture. People say that kind of thing about Europe all the time - "oh you know it is just another kind of ordinary thing over there, little kids straight up drink wine and beer at the dinner table with they parents". I mean if nine-year olds kids are cold getting hammered at lunchtime, Europe gotta be more grown-up about this stuff than we are, right?

I'd like to say the same kind of thing about Japan because I consider myself a guest in this country, and a guest should be gracious. But I've tip-toed too many times over the dessicated remnants of last night's vomit, anonymously splattered over a train platform or parking lot, to entertain that notion with any sincerity. The descendants of fried pork and kimuchi proud and evident, and on a Wednesday morning no less. Basically people get out on the munt a lot here. The main difference between NZ munterdom and Japanese munterdom is that here, economies of scale exist that make All You Can Drink viable. Also people are still pretty polite when they're drunk.

I would like to make it clear at this point that though I ain't a stranger to drunkeness, I consider vomiting and passing out to be pretty gross things and I don't see a lot of point in them. But they are familiar concepts. This is a kind of cultural bridge for me. Throughout my own life, access to an open bar has reliably resulted in disgrace, and regret, and sometimes woe. I'm from New Zealand. If I don't have to pay for my drinks, bad things happen.

So Where In The Name Of Things Holy Was I:

Oh yeah. TOKYO BAY SPARKLING NIGHT is a two hour harbour cruise featuring entertainments and All You Can Drink. Sounds pretty classy, yes?

In reality: no, not classy at all. But certainly a great deal more fun than you'd get from the same idea executed with due dash and decorum. The "cruise ship" upon which TOKYO SPARKLING NIGHT takes place appeared to be an old Norwegian ferry, spattered and rusting, in direst need of a paint job and probably only a couple of bilge pump failures away from being awarded the status of "hulk". I know it was originally Norwegian because no-one had ever troubled to alter the big flag painted on the exhaust stack. To contribute some vestige of "SPARKLE", the place had been gussied up with a few lengths of neon tubing shaped into palm trees and flamingos. Dotted frequently about the ship were small beer stations, where po-faced, bored attendants mechanically poured paper cups full of beer to be snatched up by passing guests (all of us well aware of the time limit on the bottomless cup we'd paid for). There was a lot of nasty, overpriced food being served at the wrong temperature - giving the boat the ambience of a disorderly, rather poor foodcourt, rife with drunkards. On a boat.

Though it was a Monday night, a city this size has no lack for people who have a reason to go out on an old boat and get drunk regardless of the day of the week. So there was maybe a few hundred people milling about, being entertained by women in yukata performing carefully choreographed dances to such hits as KC & The Sunshine Band's "That's The Way I Like It" and "The Macarena" (yeah, the Actual Macarena). In accordance with the general, trans-cultural nature of such events, Someone's Mum went buck wild and was getting krezzy on the dance floor in her own wee space (Matthew has video footage that it may be possible to share at some point). Also a foppish man was pretending to conduct the dancers with broad sweeps of his limbs, while the greater mass of the crowd bounced on the spot and shouted "Eh!" on every second beat like Punjabis at a wedding.

I am probably failing to convey how awesome this all was by the way. You might even believe I didn't think it was awesome at all........ in fact it was very awesome.

And the view from the boat was pretty good, by the way. It's difficult to get any kind of long perspective on the city here, since it's all so cluttered and the land is so flat. The cruise afforded views of the night lights around the harbour, the sprawling cargo docks, and planes taking off and landing from Haneda airport. (As usual, I neglected to bring my camera. Which is a sucks camera anyway.)

After the cruise, still officially in Joe's thrall, we went to karaoke in Ikebukuro. Featuring: All You Can Drink. My previous experience of karaoke had been marred by excessive sobriety and overly ambitious, frankly lunatic song selection (Stevie Wonder? Frank Sinatra? WHAT IN HELL WAS I THINKING????). This time out, by 3am I had utterly ruined my voice singing Metallica's "Enter Sandman" with ONE HUNDRED THOUSAND PERCENT passion and commitment, veins springing from my neck and free hand curving, clutching and clawing at the air; like Satan in the shower, grasping blindly for some infernal towel when he straight up got shampoo in he eyes; like a murder victim curled around the fatal blade, reaching futilely for his killer's throat in some final instinct of revenge.

I will tell you that I was very into that song at the time that I was singing it. Born in Wainuiomata, raised in Te Atatu - sometimes a man's heritage is plain to see. And perhaps even... his destiny????


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Two comments:

1. All you can drink is illegal in NZ. No shit. Your sister is a qualified bar manager. ‘All you can drink’ equals a $10,000 fine for the bar manager and the premises will be shut down. Perhaps the difference in New Zealand is we worry about having a binge drinking culture.

2. Thought you might want to know my formative ‘enter sandman’ experience. Timbuktoo nightclub (which used to be part of Henderson square) circa 1992. Enter sandman starts. About 50 male westies (who of course wear serious boots) start stamping the floor in time. It’s one of the more terrifying experiences of my whole life.

Sat Sep 16, 07:24:00 PM PDT

Blogger etnobofin said...

"Like satan in the shower..." straight up classic description.

From my experience Karaoke only becomes a rational human activity only after 3am and 10 pints. And to undertake said activity anywhere outside the national borders of Japan is to partake in a hollow and embarassing ritual divorced from it cultural reference points. But a late night singing booth in Ikebukuro is OK.

Sun Sep 17, 06:18:00 AM PDT

Blogger Murray said...

I'm inclined to agree.

Probably Korea is okay and maybe China as well. Anywhere where you can get unlimited drinks while you're singing and you're trapped in the goddamn city anyways.

Mon Sep 18, 07:57:00 PM PDT


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