Letters From Japan ~ Vol IX ~ Reggae Disco


Introduction: I recently began writing letters to send to my friends and family regarding my experiences here in Japan. I've received some encouragement to release the letters net-wide and am doing so in the hopes of providing some entertainment and maybe even some useful information...

At last, the Reggae Disco Story that I promised you.

The story centers around Inoue-san (pronounced "ee-no-ooh-eh"), my realtor. After getting my apartment through him in May, he asked me if I wanted to go out drinking sometime. I said sure, why not -- he was around my age and seemed to be a nice enough guy. He called me several weeks later to see if I wanted to go out but I had already made plans to play tennis so I took a raincheck. I tried calling him a few weeks after that, but his company was on summer break and then, the next week, he called me again.

It was a Wednesday and he wanted to get together that night. Since I had no plans I said OK, and we made plans to get together at 8. I wasn't sure what his motivation for wanting to hang out with me was. The thought that he might be gay crossed my mind but I figured I'd just wait and see. As for me, probably the main reason was that I didn't have any reason NOT to get together with him. Additionally, since I have very few male Japanese friends, I thought it might be an opportunity to broaden my horizons in terms of Japanese male oriented conversation and experiences. In Japan, there's a marked difference between male and female speech patterns; foreigners have a tendency to pick up female speech patterns since they usually interact mostly with Japanese females as teachers and friends.

Inoue-san called me back about 20 minutes later and asked me if we could make it 10 o'clock. I didn't want to blow him off again so I said well, okay, but I can't stay out that long. At 10, he picked me up right on time with his van and off we went. We stopped around the corner where he went to get a friend of his who lives in my neighborhood. And then another friend, with his girlfriend, happened to be driving by and they stopped and had a little confab on the street.

Anyway, after that the two of us (his friends either already had plans or, more likely, didn't feel like going out on a weeknight) drove to Roppongi, Tokyo's most famous nightlife district for bars and dance clubs, particularly those where foreigners hang out. On the way, his motivation for wanting me along became clearer. He asked me if I was popular with the girls and seemed to think I would be. That was cool with me. He wasn't gay and thought I might help get some girls, I had no problems with that. Of course, I couldn't guarantee that his logic was correct although there was some probably truth to his assumption. Since we were going to the night life area that foreigners hang out, the Japanese girls there tend to be girls that like foreigners. I'm a foreigner and so the reasoning goes...

At Roppongi, I followed Inoue around while he went up to various women on the street asking them something. At first I thought he was propositioning them but he was asking them where a new reggae club he had heard of was. We didn't have much luck so we stopped into a bar called Gas Panic for a beer. It's always packed on weekends but not much was happening on that Wednesday night. Now the part that was kind of strange (one of them anyway) was that a girl he asked in there told him exactly where to go. But after we left, he acted like he couldn't find the place so I got the feeling that he was using the question as a mechanism for trying to hook up with some girls. Or maybe he'd had a few too many beers before he picked me up.

I'd already eaten but Inoue was hungry so we stopped in a ramen shop for something to eat and then got back into the van. I was kind of hoping he'd call it a night since it was already past my usual bedtime. No such luck. He drove us to nearby Nishi-Azabu where we entered a club called "Yellow." The place was a pretty decent size for Japan. It consisted of a dance floor and stage, a bar with some tables in a room to the side and another bar with more tables on a second floor which looked down on the dance floor.

It was Jamaican Night so the music was reggae but, beyond that, I can't give you much more information because it's not a style of music I know much about. They must have been playing it from records because some of them were in pretty bad shape, sounding like they'd been around a couple decades. In terms of dancing, it was perfect for a low-energy weekday. People were essentially dancing in a very mellow, swaying style. It made me think of what a club full of hippies high on weed in the '60's might have looked like. You get the picture -- pretty mellow.

At one point, "the show" started when this reggae dude (complete with real dreadlocks and Jamaican accent) got on the stage to sing along with the music in the background. Kind of like karaoke. Pretty cool, though. It was more interesting than the music and DJ alone and slight justification for the $30 entrance charge. There were also some other "reggae dudes" hanging around. One was this huge mo-fo who didn't bother threading his way through the crowd like most people would; he'd just kind of walk straight through it and people would get brushed aside like he was an ocean freighter and the crowd was flotsam and jetsam. I was the only white guy there but there was one white girl. The rest were Japanese besides maybe half a dozen black guys. Anyway, this is Inoue's story so I'll get on with it.

As soon as we got in there, he asked me which girls I liked. I didn't really give him any specific answers but he proceeded to go up to various good-looking girls, shake their hands (unusual thing to do in a club, particularly in Japan) and introduce us. I didn't really make much effort to interact since I hate trying to talk over loud music in English let alone in Japanese. But rather then just let me wave hello, he'd actually grab my hand and the girl's hand and bring them together!

Anyway, Inoue made a real pest of himself to the point where girls quickly excused themselves and walked away. I'm not sure what most of his conversation entailed but either it was repetitive (like someone who's had a few drinks) or slightly lewd --I think mainly the former. Some girls actively avoided him after that but he wasn't deterred. Even though it was obvious that they didn't want to talk to him, he'd still walk up to them. Then he'd call me over to introduce me again even though he'd already introduced me. I felt a bit crunchy about it but decided to be amused more than anything else. I was kind of in sociological-observation mode.

One time he grabbed this girl and started dancing with her without really asking her how she felt about it. Even more amazing than that, she actually let him do this although she half-heartedly tried to keep her distance. It kind of reminded me of Peppi LaPew of Looney Tunes fame when he caught his "love" and tries to kiss her while she tries to claw her way away. Weird.

Since admission included one drink ticket, we went to the bar to get drinks. In front of us were a couple more girls whom of course Inoue felt compelled to greet. One of them was the stereotypical kind of girl you meet in a bar. She'd already had a few to drink and after we were introduced she put her hand on my hip and right away told me I was good looking (kakkoo ii). I wasn't really prepared for the comment but rather than my usual response to a compliment (naa, that's not so) I told her she was pretty hot too. Since then I've come up (with the help of a friend) with some optional comeback lines. My favorite is "ima goro wakatta no?" which means something like "It took you this long to figure that out?"

Actually the girl was very nice looking although almost certainly "well used." I guess I wasn't really looking too engaged so (I think) she said, "don't you like me?" Actually she said "iyagatte iru?" which I had no idea of what it meant at the time but later it found out it means "dislike" or "distasteful." Since the Japanese often drop the subject in their speech, sometimes it's not immediately apparent what it is. In this case it could also mean, "don't you like this place?" Anyway, they drifted off and we got our drinks.

After an hour or so of some mellow, low-energy dancing and several iterations of watching Inoue talk with girls and get blown off, I told him that maybe I'd best be getting home. He asked me to wait 10 more minutes and then, about 20 minutes, later said we could leave. This was about 1:15am. We went to the entrance area but he said we had to wait another five minutes because some girl would join us. "Girl?" I said, "What girl?!" The one he'd been talking to, he responded, which really could have been most anyone in the place. I told him I could take a taxi but he said, no, no, that's okay. The plan was for him to drop me off and then continue on with the so-called "girl."

He went back in the bar and, a few minutes later, came back and said we could go. I thought he'd given up on this "girl" coming so I thought cool, time to try to salvage some sleep out of the night. We got in the van but he pulled to the front of the place to continue waiting for the "girl." I thought maybe one of the girls he'd talked to might have told him she'd be coming out just to get him to leave her alone. We sat there for a couple minutes and Inoue got out of the van to go to a vending machine or something. Shortly thereafter out walks one of the girls he'd been talking to and gets into the back of the van!

Now I was in a state of "shinjirarenai" -- total disbelief. I asked her what her name was. She told me her name and then asked me (this is all in Japanese) "is it safe?" Although it was probably obvious, I still wasn't quite sure what was going on but I thought I'd try to play along and said, "yeah, I think it's safe." And then she responds "you THINK?!" And continued with "this isn't anything weird is it?" I said no, and told her not to worry and thought maybe I'd better keep my mouth shut since I knew less about what was going on than anybody else. At this point, Inoue returned, she asked the same questions of him, he assuaged her concerns and off we went.

I leaned back in my seat, still in total shock. The litany of "no way, no f*cking way" kept running through my mind. Never, ever, had we covered this method of finding a girl (acting like a total idiot and propositioning them) in Picking Up Girls 101. It must have been an advanced topic. The additional kicker was the girl, although probably not over 20, was very nice looking. More than "doable" as they say. Un-f*cking-believable.

That's pretty much it. They dropped me off and continued on their way to fulfill their contractual obligations, probably at some hotel somewhere. Inoue actually wants to move into my neighborhood (he works nearby and some of his friends already live there) so I don't think I've seen the last of him. If not, there's likely more stories to come. Stay tuned.

(C)opyright 1994 Mike Chachich

This material may be freely copied and distributed for non-commercial uses provided this copyright information remains intact. Commercial uses are strictly prohibited without prior written consent. All stated opinions are solely the author's and do not represent those of any other person or organization.

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Created: September 20, 1994
Last Updated: Mar 30, 2005