Posts Tagged hostess bar
My friend Okonomi and I started our night out in Noborito with dinner, drinks, drinks, karaoke, and drinks. It was now 3:00am, a few hours away from the first train, and all of the regular bars were full. Okonomi suggested we got to a hostess bar instead.
A hostess bar is a place where well dressed, attractive women pour your drinks, laugh at your jokes, compliment your karaoke, and generally make you feel important. Of course, this doesn’t come cheap: drinks are overpriced and you pay an hourly rate for companionship. Okonomi suggested the Filipino hostess bar near the station, because the rate was only 4000 yen per hour. Since I was drunk, on holidays, and not wanting to sit around a train station for a few hours until the first train came, I agreed and we were on our way.
While we were walking (stumbling) to the hostess bar, Okonomi had told me that she had considered trying to find a job at a hostess bar to supplement her teaching income. Being able to maintain a conversation with students is a useful skill that can be transferred to a hostess job, the money could be pretty good, and there would be lots of free drinks. It would also be a great way to improve her Japanese in a hurry.
Upon entering, we were shown to a table by two beautiful women in evening dresses, and we ordered some drinks for both us and our hostesses. We all talked in English, Japanese, Okonomi impressed with the little bit of Tagalog that she knew. We took turns doing yet more karaoke, and had a good time hanging out. Despite the late hour and the fact that we were obviously drunk and not Japanese, the hostesses worked hard to make sure we were having fun.
Okonomi started asking our hostesses about how they liked working at the bar, and mentioned that she had considered it before. Within minutes the mama-san (bar manager) was over at the table having a conversation with her in Japanese. The offhand comment had suddenly turned into a job interview on the spot! Mama-san asked Okonomi about her availability, and asked her to stand up and turn around. After a few minutes of talking, Mama-san said that Okonomi’s Japanese would need to improve a little, but then gave Okonomi her business card and told her to keep in touch.
When I left Canada to teach English in Japan I knew I was going to have some interesting experiences. I never imagined that I would be watching a friend get an impromptu job interview in a hostess club sometime after 4:00am on an epic night out.
We left close to 5:00am, tired and drunk, and with our wallets feeling lighter. The hostess bar was close to Noborito station, where we caught the first train to Shin-yurigaoka. I had switched to non-alcoholic drinks at the hostess bar, so I was a little more sober than Okonomi. This presented a problem because her apartment was about a 20 minute walk up hills, and I had no idea where it was. We decided to get a taxi instead.
By the time we actually found a cab, Okonomi’s impressive language skills had deteriorated quite a bit. Since street addresses mean nothing in Japan, we had to give the driver landmarks and turn by turn instructinos. Okonomi kept slurring and switching languages, leaving me to translate for the driver. The taxi driver did not seem very sad to be rid of us.
We finally got to sleep around 6:00, knowing that we were in for a painful day.
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!
Other than the common living room area, there was one more hub of social activity at Hello House: The Stoop. The Stoop was the unofficial name of the front steps from the street to the main entrance of Hello House East.
Since smoking in a room with a tatami mat floor is very bad idea, the stoop was the de facto smoking area for Hello House. In addition to smokers, other people would hang out and chat, watching the residents come and go. I spent many nights hanging out with Lux on the front steps.
My favourite Stoop story involved a night where I was hanging out with Lux and likely a few other people. Hello House was down the street from a Hostess Bar that catered to middle aged business men. It could be argued that most Hostess Bars cater to middle aged business men, but this one definitely captured a 40-55 crowd with almost no exceptions. On one particular night, the hostesses were saying goodbye to a group of about 3 very drunk business men. The men were walking down the street towards Hello House, when one of them stopped to pee on the wall across the street.
Public urination is not entirely uncommon in Japan, especially among drunk businessmen (or English teachers). However, usually most people will take the time to go down an alley or somewhere away from people. Not this guy, he decided he was going to relieve himself directly across from a group of English teachers who were sitting outside. Lux decided that this was not appropriate behaviour and decided to loudly let the man know.
“HEY! That’s disgusting! I don’t come and piss in front of your house! Yeah you! I know you can understand me!!”
This didn’t slow the man down at all. If anything it gave him a little bit of a swagger when he shook out the last few drops and walked away.
Most of the time hanging out on the stoop didn’t involve entertaining public urination, but it was still a fun place to spend some time and chat with the other Hello House residents.
A note about the picture: I took this picture during a visit to Noborito in 2006, right before I left Japan. I am glad that I did, because not long after Hello House East and West were sold and flattened to make room for a new development. Goodbye Stoop! You are gone but not forgotten.
Woke up and started waiting for my luggage. I called home with the phone card that Nova gave to all new instructors. After my luggage arrived, I had a long awaited shower, and found that my shampoo had exploded in my bag. After some cleanup, I was shown to the nearest internet cafe by Lux from Kitchener. Ariel Diner is a cool place to surf the net – just order food or drink and surf almost all you want.
After that, I asked Lux for help with some shopping. We went to the 99 yen store and Daiei Depaato. I bought a small stereo and some food.
In the evening, the plan was for all the Canadians from the train the previous day to meet up and go for drinks. My landlord Seiko gave me a map to the apartment we were meeting at, and some tips on places to avoid (hostess bars). After a half hour train ride and some time searching around I found the apartment. Well, I was the only one to show up because nobody else got the nice map I did. So I hung out with two Canadians and an Aussie. On the way home there were three schoolboys arguing over who had to sit next to the gaijin on the train. I was nice and pretended I didn`t hear them or understand. Everyone else is very nice here.
The alarm clock I brought from Canada was set for 60Hz electricity. How this works is the clock counts 60 power cycles and then advances time by 1 second. Japan electricity is 50Hz, so my clock was slow. I wanted to wake up at 7:30 to wait for my bags, but actually woke up closer to 10:00.
When I told Seiko that I was going to meet up with other teachers and go to a bar she got very worried. The area where the other teachers lived was slightly seedy, and most of the places in the area were hostess bars. I am sure that many unsuspecting teachers have ended up in a bar where suddenly beautiful women are pouring their drinks and they end up with a huge bill at the end of the night.
The three high school students arguing over who had to sit next to the gaijin was my first, but not my last experience where people openly treated me differently because I was not Japanese. I learned that many people didn’t expect the gaijins to understand Japanese, and it is usually pretty fun to surprise them.