Densha Gaijin: Or Drunken Fun With The Japanese Train System And Other Atrocities

For those not well versed in either the Japanese language or not a giant Anime nerd the title is a joke off the TV show Densha Otoko (Train Man) and the phrase Baka Gaijin (stupid foreigner, sometimes it’s an implied Stupid American since they are the most common of the foreigners here discounting the Koreans).

Anyhoo back to the drunken fun that was my weekend.  So on Friday night The Exploited were playing at ACB Hall in Shinjuku in Tokyo.  The part of Shinjuku I was in was Kabuki-cho an area known for music clubs, hostess bars, massage parlors and the Yakuza.  Half of it’s a red-light district but they have a lot of clubs for music and a lot of bands play there.  It’s a nice place, it’s like Roppongi only a lot cheaper and with class.  Kabuki-cho was the model for the fictional town Kamuro-cho the setting for the video game Yakuza (the greatest thing in video games since Tetris), and if you have played the game you can tell.

While downing several beers at a Korean restaurant that was nestled in the heart of the love motel section of town I had the useless urge to play with a fortune machine on the table, yeah it was probably a waste of 100 yen ($1) but I was bored.  Anyway since I didn’t pay any attention to what it was before I popped in my coin I didn’t pay attention to the zodiac signs on the side and instantly picked the wrong one.  The nice waiter who was Korean but was obviously a native Japanese speaker asked me if I could read Katakana, I can’t so he read it for me, well suffice it to say that this was my lucky day, it wasn’t.  It couldn’t be since everything else that had happened so far that day was canned dog shit but I wasn’t paying attention, it was my lucky day!  OK for the record I don’t buy all that zodiac BS anyway it was just fun and I was having it.  Before I paid the check I realized that I had put my money in the wrong slot and that this was not my fortune but really who cares, it’s all the same thing right and it was time for more wandering around till the concert started so off to explore did I went.

kabukicho1-thumb

While exploring the town I nerded out quite a bit at my joy of being in the middle of what was the model for theater square and other settings in the game Yakuza, sadly I didn’t have a camera on me so no pictures were taken (not that you care), but such is the life I live, lucky for me I can steal pictures off the Internets.  Mind you the Yakuza thing is only interesting if you’re a drunken nerd with too much time on his hands (something I at least don’t look like as long as I am standing next to my friends who are much worse, like my version of a girl’s fat friend), You might not care.  You should but you don’t.  And right now you are  probably still wondering why you read anything from this skid-mark on the information superhighway, but like always, I digress…

Kabuki-cho

Well the concert was fun, I think the Exploited played every other song they ever wrote.   It was fun, I drank, I moshed and even got the chance to sing along with several songs, well parts anyway, everyone in the front row got to do that but really how many times in your life do you get handed the mic and allowed to sing a refrain from Porno Slut, Sex & Violence or The Massacre?  So I was happy and filled with booze.  It was a good night and that’s when things got fun in the other sense I often use the term in.

Time to go home, it’s a little late and I don’t think I will be able to make the last train home so I have two options.  Try to get down to Roppongi and try to crash at my friend’s apartment or I go to Yokohama and either hole up at my friends bar until he gets off work and scam a rid home from him when he gets off work or at least hole up till 5 in the morning till I can get the first morning train home.

I chose option C.

I decided to go for the Yokohama option unfortunately I got on the wrong train.  Well it was the right train, just going the wrong way.  By the time I realized my mistake I was very far away from my intended destination, I had no idea where I was but I knew I wasn’t even in Tokyo anymore, I wasn’t even in the right Prefecture (it’s like a County). I was a little sloshed, I can’t afford a taxi home, and my Japanese is not what I would call good.  So what do I do, well I jump off at the next stop and run around the train station looking to see if there was a train going towards any of my original destinations, there wasn’t, I was fucked.  Or was I?  This is Japan, they all learn English in school, although they can’t all speak it very well but can usually read it to some extent, but there is always someone.  Plus even when no one can speak a word they love to drink and I have spent many hours dragged around to bars by a group of Japanese when barely anyone knew what was being said.  Drinking is the national sport, not Sumo or baseball it’s drinking.  I needed to find a bar.  Bars in Japan often stay open all night so people can drink till 5am when the first trains start running especially on Friday and Saturday nights.  I needed a bar, but I didn’t know the area and from what I saw from the windows on the train I didn’t see the neon lights that usually tell you that there is an area around with a  lot of bars or clubs.  What to do.  Well it’s easy walk the hell out of the station and turn right, yep there it was an entire strip of bars and clubs I was home free, I was saved, I was…

OH FUCK!

It’s bad, this wasn’t a strip of bars it was a strip of hostess bars, and this could be a problem.  A hostess bar is a bar staffed with attractive woman whose whole point it taking you money, and I didn’t have enough to spend the next 5 hours in one just to hole up.  The basic point of one of these bars is you pay by the hour and you get to talk to an attractive woman and she tries to get you to buy her overpriced drinks and stay as long as they can get money out of you.  The problem is some of these places are very expensive.  They also don’t always let foreigners in since they don’t speak Japanese very well and that doesn’t helpthem get your money since the girls are there to talk to you and pretend to be nice even if they hate you.  If the bar is staffed with foreign girls you sometimes can’t get in because they get embarrassed working there if people from their home country come in.  Either way it was going to be expensive and I might not have a hideout.  I knew I couldn’t get into most of them since while walking down the street the guys that work at the places trying to get people to come in were not paying any attention to me, hinting that I wasn’t welcome.  That didn’t matter I was looking for a real bar and I didn’t see one, it was looking bleak.  Then I hit the jackpot, someone approached me and asked me if I wanted to go into his bar, he said “it’s cool we have girls that speak English”, I politely tried to tell him I would either need to find an ATM (something I had already failed to find) or preferably I needed a regular bar (my first choice).  A little confused he told one of the girls working there to talk to me, she spoke English and was from someplace in South America, I think Columbia, I’m not sure but she was cute and since all my experiences with Columbian woman have taught me that Columbia is filled with very attractive woman, I just assumed she was Columbian.  Anyway I told her my problems and that I wanted a normal bar to go, I apologized to her since she was helping me and would not be getting the money she would have been hoping to score off my drunken ass for her bar but I was on a mission.  Lucky for me she told me were the closet place was. I had passed it, but it wasn’t hard to do since it was in the basement of this building surrounded by hostess bars and didn’t have a large sign, but now I knew and knowing is half the battle (the other half is killing the other bastard before he kills you). So it was off to my haven.

Now I told you the bar was in the basement but this isn’t the kind of place you find in America, Japanese put as much crap into every single building they can in Tokyo – and from my experience everywhere else – since it’s so crowded so a Japanese bar in a basement isn’t a shit hole usually.  Most music clubs are in basements, and many bars, and this was a nice bar.  Granted all the patrons turned around and looked at me funny, since it was an area of town you don’t get many foreigners in and by this time the black eye I had acquired at the concert was starting to show.  I looked out-of-place.  Lucky for me everyone was inquisitive, not hostile and they had Red Stripe, I was safe.  Granted most people couldn’t speak English so it was amusing as I tried to explain how I ended up there for a bit till someone showed up who was fluent in English and explained it to everyone.  To say the least everyone had a very good laugh at my expense but I made friends, by the end of the night we were all singing along to the Clash and yelling Kampai (cheers in Japanese).    All in all it was a good time, and eventually sometime the next day I was finally able to get home and go to sleep around 1 in the afternoon since I was strung out on all the nights booze and the energy drinks I was chugging to keep myself awake for the very, very long ride home.

Is this the end of the story?  OH hellz no.  That was just the build up.  Time for making fun of the Japanese train system.  I love it, it is so nice, especially in a country that I do everything I can not to drive in (and not just because my car sucks).  Really it’s nice because it’s easy to get around and there is a train station always close (at least 20 minute walk).  The problem with it is that you sometimes have a tendency to fall asleep, the Japanese have this built-in alarm clock that forces them to wake up at their exact stop no matter how drunk they are.  Where I, once asleep (even if sober) will not wake up and that is how the fun begins.  Many times have I fallen asleep and  found myself very far from my intended destination, the funny thing is that the train will go to the end of the line and start going the other way so when you wake up you have no idea of the trains direction and have to jump off at the next stop to find out if you are going the right way.  Sometime you are sometimes you are not.  The thing is sometimes you find yourself so far in the other direct you realize that it’s going to take you an hour just to get back to place you started at (and you stop was another 25 minute past that), this is bad, and frightening since you know you have the next hour and a half to fall asleep and start the whole thing again.

missed your stop

Sleeping on the train is normal, everyone does it but remember using other people as a pillow is very, very bad form.  The rudest of all train sleeping is using an old ladies shoulder as a pillow, it’s wrong, that’s someone’s grandmother you bastard!  However while the rest of the train looks at you like you are a serial killer or a Democrat, from my experience the old woman doesn’t seem to mind, or at least doesn’t show that she does.  Why is this?  I can only assume that her grandmotherly instincts kick in and that she feels sorry for you young tired ass.  The last time I pulled this one I woke up kind of startled and feeling bad only for the nice lady to pat my head and say something like “It’s OK son, just go back to sleep” with an amused smile on her face, my friend laughing at me on how funny it looked and the rest of the train doing what all Japanese do while on the train and pretend they are in a bubble and nothing is going on no matter how much they might want to slap me or try to get the school girls phone number (even if they are forty).  So I did what any polite person would have done and went right back to sleeping on my new Japanese grandmothers shoulder.  Yes I am a terrible person.  Mostly because I think I forgot to visit on her birthday this year…

drunk on the train

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1 Comment

  1. Thanks for that interesting post.


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