The last couple of months I’ve been in both Tokyo and London, and I visit Silicon Valley all the time. Tokyo and London are like each other, and unlike the Valley, in that they have a business-drinking culture. Maybe it’s as simple as the fact that in the Valley you have to drive everywhere, and you’d have to be pretty booze-hungry, or just suicidal, to load up before getting behind the wheel on 280 or 85 or 237 or 101.

There are differences. In London, you go the pub after work and throw down beers, then eventually stagger off for a very late supper. In Tokyo, you meet for dinner after work and have beer and sake and shochu with your food. I like the Japanese style way better, even though Britain has more interesting beer.

Here’s a basic Japanese-drinking skill. When you’ve had enough, you have to stop drinking with your glass full, because otherwise it’ll just get filled up again. More than one gaijin businessman has been carried home because he didn’t know this.

I like a drink, or sometimes five, and I really like the combination of beer and sake and Japanese cuisine. But toward the end of the week, I was leaving my glass full fairly early because man, I was tired, Tokyo will do that to you.

We had dinner one night at Nin-Nin Honpo, advertised as a “Ninja-style” izikaya. The food was good (nothing unusual, but good) and our waitress was adorably cute in ninja gear. You have to point your finger and exclaim “Nin nin!” at certain points in the meal. One of the sushi boats was full of dry ice, which poured smoke all over the table. Later on in the meal, everyone well-lubricated, they brought a katana to the table.

Tim with a katana at Nin Nin Honpo

I was trying to pick up a piece of sushi way over there, which everyone thought was really funny, but I dropped it on someone else’s plate. A good thing too, what was I going to do, stick the end of the sword in my mouth?

The ninja joint was in Roppongi, a district I instantly disliked when I first came to Tokyo many years ago, and I still do. Yeah, the architecture is cheerfully garish, but the scene on the street outside the hostess bars gets way over my sleaze boundaries. Maybe I’m secretly a prude.

Roppongi

What’s the deal with all the hostess-bar touts who are sharp-dressed black guys? That’s getting culturally complex.



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From: Janne (Jun 19 2007, at 21:58)

I'm Osaka-based, but I have friends in Tokyo and go there on occasion. The black bouncers explanation is not as exciting as you may think: they're Nigerian (there's Jamaican groups as well), and they are simply working there because that kind of work tends to get filled by word-of-mouth rather than by unemployment agencies.

If you're a business owner and need a few more bouncers for your new joint, you ask the nice, hard-working guy you already employ if he can recommend anybody. And in Tokyo - a city that is socially insular even by Japanese standards - if he is Nigerian chances are most people he knows will also be Nigerian, and so you'll get more black guys working as bouncers. And as time goes by, of course, people in the area will expect bouncers to be black (and big, of course; looking intimidating is never a bad thing in that job) and seek to hire more guys like that, for the look of it if nothing else. I've heard that by now a fair amount of the business owners in the area are also from the same social group, which of course increases the frequency further.

Anyway, I basically agree on Roppongi. I like sleazy, colorful areas, but Roppongi manages to sort of be sleazy in the wrong way. You should visit Osaka some day.

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June 19, 2007
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