Disclaimer: UPS is the nickname of one of my friends visiting Japan. This post has nothing to do with United Parcel Service.
My friend UPS and I arrived at Roppongi station around 9:00pm. On the way, I had tried to prepare him for the Roppongi nightlife experience; we were about to be harassed by very persistent touts representing different local bars, all of them would be willing to bargain, and many of them were going to try to get us into expensive places with hourly charges. I explained that I was not interested in hostess clubs or strip bars. We stashed our backpacks in coin lockers at the station, and wandered out by the famous crossing.
I have been to Roppongi in the evening several times before, but never on a Tuesday. It was a lot less busy than other nights, so we had the full attention of all of the touts. At first we handled them fairly well, not getting sucked into conversation, and moving along with polite but firm “no” answers to their suggestions.
One of the touts was advertising a strip club. We said no. He said that they had the “nakedest” women in Tokyo and good prices. We said no. He then told us that we could come check it out for a minute for free to see if we liked it, no obligation. As I was starting to say “no”, UPS said “one minute free? Sure, let’s check it out”. I gave him my most disapproving stare as we followed the excited tout to a nearby tall, narrow building. We got into a very tiny elevator while our new best friend explained that there were several women working, and we could have any of them dance for us and drink with us. He also told us that if we really liked the women, there were private rooms where anything that happened was between us and the dancers. “You might get a blowjob, maybe more, who knows, that’s between you and the girl (wink)”. I had a bad feeling about this place when we got in the elevator, and it was getting worse as the ride continued.
The elevator opened directly into the entrance of a small bar. The tout called out in Japanese that customers had arrived. We were led into the next room to find no other customers, but three sexy women were dancing to some terrible club music. Just as the tout was explaining the pricing system and where we could order our drinks, UPS interrupted by saying “well that was one minute – thanks but we’re going somewhere else”. The tout couldn’t believe what he just heard, but UPS stood firm. The tout was no longer our new best friend, and the elevator ride down to the main floor was a lot quieter than the ride up.
After that experience, we decided to find a place where we could get actually get a drink. We zigzagged through the touts on the main street and went to Wall Street bar first, the home of a memorable experience on a previous night out. After that we went to the infamous GasPanic, and eventually three other places that I don’t remember the names of. Every time we left one place, we got greeted by the same group of touts, who were now friendly and looking forward to seeing who would get us to enter their bar next. Bar number 5 was a salsa dancing bar. We were barely in any condition to walk let alone dance, but the drinks were reasonably priced.
UPS and I were seated at the bar. I was enjoying my drink wondering how I ended up at a salsa dancing bar in Tokyo after 2:00am. I finished my drink and looked over to see that UPS had fallen asleep on his bar stool. I woke him up and told him it was time to look for a place to sleep.
The touts were happy to see us again and started their sales pitch yet again. I told them that my friend had just fallen asleep in the last bar. None of them wanted to have a passed out, non drinking customer in their bar, so they all told us to have a good evening and come back soon. As much as people complain about the touts in Roppongi, the interaction during our evening was pretty fun.
I have been out to Roppongi before, but have never gone to 5 different bars in the same night. It was a challenge, but our next challenge would be even bigger: finding a good place to sleep.