Posts Tagged gaspanic

October 15, 2004 – 4am Russian Hostess Bar

We arrived in Roppongi around midnight, which meant that we were committed to staying out all night. As soon as we got out of the station, we were swarmed by the usual group of Nigerian touts trying to get us into their clubs. Phoala bargained with them like a pro. He is outspoken and not afraid to speak his mind – remember that for later on in the story.

We ended up stopping in a basement pub close to GasPanic called New York something – I can’t really remember. It was basically a narrow space with a long bar that served sensibly priced drinks. There wasn’t a lot happening inside, but it was a good place to keep our buzz going from all you can drink karaoke without going broke. The bartender tried to entertain us with some of those small metal sliding puzzles. They are difficult at the best of times, but as we were a few drinks into our evening they were nearly impossible.

The attractive female waitress, annoyed that we were spending too much time playing with the sliding metal puzzle, took it from the member of our group that she was obviously flirting with (not naming names here), and hung it from the cleavage of her low cut tank top. I quietly told him that he should retrieve it from her cleavage with his mouth, which he did. The effect was instant – she suddenly had lust in her eyes, grabbed my friend and started kissing him intensely. She then whispered in his ear that he should meet her in the bathroom in a few minutes.

Nobody in our group was expecting that kind of reaction, not least was the recipient of the surprise makeouts. Even though the waitress came onto him and he didn’t have a chance to escape, he felt guilty because he had a girlfriend. Realizing that nothing else good could come of a further stay in the bar, we settled up and decided to move along to the next venue.

Our next stop was GasPanic, which was completely packed even though it was after 1:00am on Friday morning. We hung out and enjoyed the cheap drinks. I had learned my lesson from a previous trip months earlier that the “you must have a drink in your hand” rule was not a challenge.

Somewhere after 3:00am we went to Yoshinoya for some gyudon. Yoshinoya is famous for gyudon, which is delicious grilled beef and onions with sauce on rice. Gyudon is delicious any time, but when you have been drinking for over 6 hours it is the single most amazing food ever. While in Yoshinoya we struck up a conversation with an Australian guy, asking him for recommendations for other places to go. At first he seemed pretty cool and helpful, but he kept badmouthing some members of our group when they weren’t listening. Taking this as a bad sign, we ditched him soon after we left the restaurant.

This is where the evening takes a strange turn. As we were standing around deciding where to go next, one of the touts came up and told us about a really relaxed, fun place that was a bit out of the way. There were no hourly charges, and the drinks were good. This sounded okay, so we started following him. I was a combination of drunk and tired, so I really don’t know how long we walked or in which direction. I do know that this bar was really, really out of the way. It was on the lower level of a large office building and appeared to be the only business still open in the area.

When we went inside, the first thing I noticed was that there were no Japanese people in the building. The bartender, the waitress, and the huge scary bouncer all looked Russian. Seriously, this bouncer looked like he lifted weights in prison for fun. All drinks on the menu were 1000 yen. Shortly after we ordered, the four of us were joined by four very attractive blond women who asked if they could sit with us. They were all from Georgia and Chechnya. The waitress walked by and “suggested” that we buy the ladies a drink. At that point I realized that we were in a hostess bar, and our evening was about to get really expensive. I wanted to leave ASAP, but two members of our group were single and were really enjoying talking to the women.

The drinks arrived, and we were all making small talk, when Phoala asked one of the women nicely if she liked working at the bar. She responded that she wasn’t working there, they were just visiting and wanted to spend time with us (not likely). Knowing BS when he heard it, Phoala told her she was lying, she worked there, and we all knew it. She insisted that she didn’t work there, and that she was just out for a fun evening and really wanted to hang out with us. Phoala again told her she was lying, and that he knew it. He did this much louder than the first time.

Japan is a very safe country, and you really have to be looking for trouble to find it. Being really drunk at a shady Russian bar off the main streets in Roppongi at 4:00am and yelling at the hostesses would probably count as “looking for trouble”. I quickly ordered another round of drinks for the ladies, paid the waitress, and dragged us out the door.

It was now close to 5:00am, and amazingly some members of our group were looking for another tout to find the next bar. By this point I was well and truly done for the evening. I said goodbye to the other guys, returned to Roppongi station, and waited for the first train of the morning so I could go home.

I took the Tokyo Metro to Shinjuku, and switched to Odakyu line to get home. I managed to fall asleep standing up, and woke up just before Noborito station. When I first arrived in Japan just over a year ago, I would not have been able to sleep while sitting down on a train. I got off the train and walked to the ticket gate. It was then I realized that I couldn’t find my ticket. I checked all of my pockets and still couldn’t find my ticket. I even moved off to the side, crouched down and emptied the entire contents of every pocket I had on the ground – still no ticket.

At this point I had two options: explain the situation to the station attendant, or “tailgate” behind someone else through the gate. It was now 6:00am and I didn’t have a lot of confidence in my communication skills, so I waited for the next big crowd and followed someone through the gate. The doors swung and smashed my kneecaps, but I pushed through and kept walking. Remember kids – it’s only okay to do this if you really, truly, honestly paid for a ticket. Don’t tailgate to get free travel.

After a long sleep I spent the rest of the day rehydrating and trying to recover from one of the most eventful nights of my life. Good times!

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May 29, 2004 – A night out in Roppongi

Once again we started our day off by sleeping and and playing video games. In the evening we went out to Roppongi to get a sample of Tokyo nightlife.

Our first stop was a really cool place off the main streets that served over 200 different types of beer from around the world. Thanks to my experience at the Maple Leaf Bar on the previous day, I had a taste for Moosehead. The bar had it, but it cost me 900 yen. Due to the prices, we only had a few drinks before moving on to our next destination.

There are almost too many options for places to spend your money on alcohol in Roppongi. Since we were on a budget, we decided to go to GasPanic. As we were walking down the street, we were approached by one of the many, many touts working the area. He started off by offering us 3000 yen all you can drink in his bar. We told him no thanks, we were going to GasPanic. The price quickly dropped to 2500 yen with assurances that his bar was far superior to GasPanic. We again declined. At this point he turned to small talk – asking where we were from. We told him Canada. Unsurprisingly, the tout had a cousin who lived in Canada and loved Canadians. Again the price came down. We told him that we would check out his bar on the way back to the station. He told us that we wouldn’t be back, and that we should go to his bar now.

At this point we decided to say no again and just keep walking as we now had a walk light to cross the street. The tout jumped in front of Flounder and grabbed him playfully to keep him from walking away. Flounder, confused, reached down and gave the tout a hug before we walked away. I congratulated the tout on his exceptional effort.

Due to the constant bombardment of touts and my unfamiliarity with the area, we ended up going into GasPanic Club instead of regular GasPanic. Despite being a Saturday night, the place was not very busy at all. The staff assured us it would get much busier later, but we wanted to catch our last train.

I convinced Code Red and Green to talk to two attractive Japanese females that were sitting nearby. I assured them that they could just speak English, because most Japanese females go to GasPanic to meet foreigners. Code Red was getting along fine, but Green called me over to translate after a few minutes.

I walked over and introduced myself to the nice young lady, who I will refer to as Maki. I explained that Green was visiting from Canada and I would try my best to translate for him despite my beginner Japanese. I manged to keep a bit of a conversation going for a few minutes. Maki wanted to know how old Green was, I asked Green how old he wanted to be. We settled on 25. Green asked me to explain to Maki that he was a famous soccer goalkeeper in Canada. I have never known Green to play soccer at all, but did my best to translate. After a few minutes, Maki stopped asking about Green and just started talking to me directly. Code Red gave up talking to his new Japanese friend, leaving me to talk to Maki while the guys drank beer in the mostly empty bar. Needless to say, we didn’t stay very long.

Our night out in Roppongi was mostly a bust, but we did have some delicious donairs on the way home and continued to laugh about Flounder hugging the tout. Also, I am way more successful talking to women in Japan, which does me no favours since I am not single.

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May 23, 2004 pt3 – Everything is jumbo in Canada

Green meets Shibuya girls

Green meets Shibuya girls

After getting a taste of beer at Shakey’s Pizza, we decided that we would really enjoy some more beer. We boarded the Yamanote line and headed for Shibuya. The area around Shibuya station is always entertaining for visitors. Between the massive crowds of people, the tall buildings, the giant video screens, the lights, and the noise it is a great way to get overstimulated. After wandering around for a while we headed to GasPanic for cheap beer.

As much as some people talk badly about GasPanic (with good reason), it is easy to find, has cheap drinks, and has no problems with five casually dressed, thirsty foreigners. We managed to find a table and ordered two pitchers. Green used one of the pitchers as his own personal drink, while the rest of us filled our glasses from the other pitcher.

We hung out at GasPanic for a some time getting more than a little drunk. It was a Sunday night, so GasPanic was not exactly lively. I convinced the group that while we were in Shibuya, we could be having more fun at Don Quijote. The problem was that I was full of beer and don’t know Shibuya well. It took several wrong turns, but we finally found the giant smiling penguin and proceeded to enter the most fun store in the country.

It is not terribly surprising that 5 drunk 20 something males will eventually end up in the adult toy section. The guys marveled at the wide variety of products available. They were particularly interested in the disposable sex cans for men. At this point I decided this would make the best souvenir ever and generously offered to buy some for them to take home. While Code Red, Flounder and Hippie went to other parts of the store, I got Green to hold out his arms and proceeded to stack up 8 sex cans. Since we didn’t want to keep walking around the store while carrying the sex cans, Green and I started to make our way towards the cash register. Finding the way out of DonKi is difficult at the best of times. Finding the way out of DonKi after several beers is even more challenging. On one of our many wrong turns Green dropped the entire stack of sex cans all over the floor. The other shoppers looked on in amused horror as he tried to gather them all up again while I stood by and laughed.

I paid for the sex cans, then Green and I met the others outside.  We were getting pretty close to the last train, so we decided to call it a night and returned to Shibuya Station. From Shibuya we took Yamanote line to Shinjuku, then boarded Odakyu line towards Noborito. On the Odakyu train, Flounder was standing and holding onto the train grip. Two Shibuya girls were standing next to him. For those who don’t know, Shibuya girls are fashionable looking young females with fake tans, coloured hair, and lots of accessories on their phones. Without any warning, one of them reached over and started stroking Flounder’s arm hair. He looked down and said hi. She looked up at him and said “You are jumbo”. Flounder calmly replied “I’m from Canada. Everything is jumbo in Canada”.

Not wanting to be left out, Green reached into his backpack, past the 8 sex cans, to find my copy of “Making Out in Japanese“, a hilarious phrasebook for casual Japanese in different situations. He tried out a few lines, but his pronunciation was so terrible that the Shibuya girls couldn’t understand what he was talking about. Most notably, he attempted several times to say “kiss me” which is pronounced “key-soo she-tay”. Green kept reading the romaji as “kiss-oo shitty”. Green finally got fed up and just pointed at the line in the book. The girls thought this was hilarious and then sat down and started reading the book while laughing at the most ridiculous phrases.

Nobody ended up getting any kisses, but we got several pictures with the Shibuya girls while they were laughing at Making Out in Japanese. We got back to Hello House and hung out with Lux explaining our awesome day in Tokyo.

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February 12, 2004 – The night I fell on the train tracks

Train safety sign found in a JR station

Train safety sign found in a JR station

This will be a substantial rewrite of my original post, as I left out a lot of detail the first time. (For reasons that will become obvious)

Today was a day off thanks to a shift swap so another teacher could see the Super Bowl. Since Marshall and I enjoyed our last night out in Tokyo, so we decided to plan for a night out in Roppongi. We had a beer or two before leaving Hello House, then took the Odakyu line to Shinjuku and switched to the Oedo subway line to Roppongi.

By day Roppongi is an upscale part of Tokyo, home to foreign embassies and company headquarters. At night Roppongi changes into a busy night life area, with most of the establishments catering to foreigners.  There is a good mix of classy upscale pubs, dance bars, meat market hookup bars, and expensive hostess and strip clubs. One of the most remarkable features is the touts. Walking down the street you will encounter a row of large African men who get paid to bring people into their bar. The pitch usually starts with a handshake and “my good friends”, and then you get a hard sell on why this particular bar or restaurant is the best in the neighbourhood. Saying no will usually result in a promise of a special price “just for you”. Some of the touts will give up easily, others will continue talking and negotiating until you agree to go in, or keep walking. If you have a particular destination in mind, just say no thanks and keep walking.

Our first stop was Hobgoblin, a pub style bar. After a few drinks we went to GasPanic, which is bigger and better than the Shibuya location. Thursday night is Gaspanic night, featuring 300 yen beers. There is a sign up on the wall informing everyone that “everybody must be drinking to stay in GasPanic”. On this particular night I took the advice too literally, and proceeded to get very, very drunk.

When you are going out for all night drinking, it is important to treat the evening as a marathon, not a sprint. Pacing yourself is the key to staying upright until morning. Also, if you happen to be stressed out or in a bad mood, going out for an all nighter is probably not a good idea. At the time we went out, I was homesick, stressed about work, trying to get my visa switched, and aware that February 12 would have been a 6 year anniversary with the ex. All of the ingredients were ready in the recipe for disaster.

My memories of GasPanic got a little fuzzy as the evening went on. Marshall and I were hanging out with another group of people and pounding beer. At one point I asked the bartender (who was blond) what night of the week would be good to bring a group of Canadian University students for a good time. He told me in broken English that he didn’t know because he had only been working there for 3 weeks, and that he was from Russia.

Eventually Marshall and I realized that I was in no shape for an all nighter and we decided to call it a night before last train. We walked to the Oedo line subway station and went to the platform. Like a good train passenger in Japan, I lined up at the front of the platform behind the yellow line. The subway station was spinning around me, and at some point I lost my balance, spun around, and fell backwards off the platform onto the train tracks. Through luck or some instinct I managed to fall on my back instead of on my head. I instantly jumped up to my feet and there were several people reaching down to pull me back up on the platform. Marshall was not one of them – he looked on shocked at my sudden fall.

After falling, Marshall and I decided to wait for the train sitting on the benches safely away from the tracks. A few minutes later the train came and we started the 10 minute ride to Shinjuku. Near the end of the ride I got sick in the subway car, causing everyone around to quickly move away. Marshall snapped pictures with his cell phone.

At Shinjuku we stopped in the men’s washroom so I could clean myself up. Assuring Marshall that I was okay to continue, we waited for the Odakyu line express towards Noborito. The train ride from Shinjuku to Noborito is about 20 minutes long. I made it until the second last stop before I started to feel sick again. My drunk brain decided that barfing on the train once was enough for the evening, so without any warning I bolted off the train as the doors were closing. Marshall didn’t have enough time to react so he couldn’t get off the train in time to stay with me.

I believe I got sick in a garbage can on the platform, and a friendly train line employee showed me to a nearby sink to clean up. My brain, in survival mode, managed to send enough Japanese to my mouth so that I could ask if I had missed the last train to Noborito. He assured me that there was another train, and made sure that I got on it. I don’t remember anything from that point until I was in the toilet stall in Hello House. Somehow I manged to get off the train at the correct station, used the ticket gate, and then navigated the zigzagging path back to Hello House.

Marshall found me in the stall and expressed relief that I was okay. I thanked him for trying, and apologized for being a mess. After drinking as much water as I could handle, I went to sleep in my slowly rotating room. As you are reading this, please be aware that I am not proud of this story. Getting drunk and falling on train tracks should not be a badge of honour for anybody. Getting that drunk is NOT cool, it is NOT a good time, and if you feel differently you should probably stay away from alcohol. It still scares me to this day to think of how things could have ended up much worse, and I am thankful that I am here writing the story now.

Usually when someone drinks too much and acts stupid, they make the empty promise “I will never drink again”. My resolution to myself as I drifted off to sleep in my spinning room was “I am taking a break from drinking, and I will never drink that much again”. Since February 12, 2004 I have been drunk many times, but never blackout falling down drunk, and I never will be again.

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January 16, 2004 – Should have stayed in bed

Yesterday was a train wreck of a day. It started out when I couldn’t find my watch. I spend a long time looking for it in my room. How long? I don’t know because my watch was missing. I did find it eventually, but was almost late for work.

After work the plan was to meet Marshall at Kawasaki station and go to GasPanic Yokohama. I had planned ahead by bringing a change of clothes to work (didn’t want to go out in my suit) and getting directions from other teachers. The one thing I didn’t do was get cash, because there were numerous bank machines around Kawasaki station. Right after work I changed clothes and headed to the nearest bank machine. No luck. I quickly tried about 5 more bank machines in the area, also with no success. I contacted Marshall and he said he would cover me, so we met at the station to go to Yokohama.

The train from Kawasaki to Yokohama is usually busy, but this was the most crowded train I had ever seen that wasn’t going to or from Shibuya. Seriously, if everyone had breathed at the same time the doors would have popped out. From Yokohama we followed the directions I had been given and took a train to Takashima-cho station. It turns out that the directions I had been given were CRAP, and after about 30 minutes of wandering around we gave up and headed back to Yokohama.

Since we were already out, plan B was to go bowling at a nearby bowling alley. The problem was that the alley had no shoes to fit 193cm (6’4″) Marshall. Dejected, we decided that plan C was to return to Noborito and go to Avenue Izakaya for some cheap beer and octopus. Avenue was a safe bet because it was usually open until 5:00am every night. We took the 27 minute train ride from Kawasaki to Noborito, walked 5 minutes to Avenue to find that it was closed and dark. Last night was the one night it was ever known to be closed.

One of the great things about Japan is that beer is easily available in convenience stores. Coincidentally, there was a convenience store directly across the street from Avenue (plan D for those keeping track). We went in to find that the store was completely SOLD OUT of alcohol. Seriously, WTF? We ended up going to the 99 yen store to buy some some mystery beverages which may or may not have been alcoholic, and then returned to Hello House.

I don’t know what I did to upset the universe so badly, but I am hoping that this will all balance out at some point. I should have just stayed in bed.

(partial rewrite for formatting and detail)

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November 13, 2003 – First all nighter in Tokyo

(partial rewrite of original post)

Had my first taste of Tokyo nightlife on Thursday (and Friday) with Marshall. The plan was to go to Shibuya, meet up with Mississippi Mike and his friends, and catch the last train home. Naturally we had a few drinks before we left, and got a “traveler” for the train. For the record, drinking beer on the train is legal, but generally frowned upon by other passengers.

We arrived in Shibuya with no idea of where to go and way too many options, so we decided to wander around the major streets and see what looked interesting.

1st stop – The Oil Bar – We went in entirely because of the name. Oil Bar was is a small pub that played hair metal. We were pleasantly surprised that the staff spoke English very well. It was a good to get a beer and make a plan for the evening. No communication yet from Mississippi Mike.

2nd stop – GasPanic – Depending on who you talk to, GasPanic is either famous or infamous. It is most well known as a popular place where foreign guys go to meet Japanese girls. There is no cover charge, and all drinks are 400 yen. There is a large sign on the wall informing customers that you must have a drink in your hand at all times to remain in GasPanic.

When we arrived it was very crowded, but welcoming and fun. Many beers were consumed, tequila shots were downed and chased with more beer. We met a group of Canadians and managed to have a conversation (as well as you can in a noisy bar) about hockey and Japanese women. Marshall and I left just after midnight feeling very good, and started heading for the station in order to catch the last train home. As we had the station in sight I finally got a text from Mississippi Mike to let us know that he and his group has just arrived in Shibuya.

Depending on your destination, the last train to leave most stations in Tokyo is around 12:30am. The first train starts around 5:00am. If you miss the last train you can either get an expensive taxi ride home, or decide to stay out all night. The beer and tequila in our system helped convince us to turn the evening into an all nighter.

3rd stop – WombApparently one of the best dance music clubs in the world, not just Japan. The whole place was huge, but since it was Thursday night (technically Friday morning), the main dance floor was not open. It would have been cool to see all four floors open and busy. Cover was 1500 yen and drink prices were obscene, especially after coming from the economic GasPanic. Our group danced to live DJ music until the they closed down at 4:30am.

The trip home – This part was not very fun. Shibuya is a confusing place when you are sober and not exhausted. Nobody remembered the way back to the station, and for some reason everyone broke up into small groups going in different directions. All of the groups kept walking in circles and running into each other. After about half an hour, Marshall and I finally found Shibuya station, but due to our diminished capacities we could not find the Keio line. We finally gave up and took the Yamanote line to Shinjuku, switched to Odakyu line, fell asleep on the platform, then woke up to catch a train back to Noborito. There is nothing worse than seeing the sunrise after too much partying. I got home at 6:30, about 9 and a half hours before I needed to leave for work.

Despite the trouble getting home, good times were had by all.

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