Finding Nemo

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Tokyo Nights, part III

see parts I and II here.

My geek-blood levels reaching the danger zone, I wrenched myself out of Akihabara and hopped the subway back to my hotel.  After showering up, I mentally prepared for a Big Night Out.  After all, it was St Patty's day!!  The one holiday that the entire world celebrates, if only because of the fact that you can't walk more than mile in any major city without smacking into a faux Irish pub.

Lonely Planet is great when it comes to maps, essentials, and general write-ups on a city.  But I've found that when it comes to nightlife, the guide books only go so far.  Nightlife is trendy, and bars and clubs come and go in big cities faster than travel writers can keep up.  But I had to start somewhere, and with LP describing the Roppongi neighborhood as the best place where gaijin and locals mix, I rolled onto the subway and cruised down.

It was windy and cold in Tokyo, and I was under-dressed.  After getting lost for the hundredth time and chilled to the bone, I decided to throw out some "Irish bar wa doko des ka?" to passer-bys.  They pointed me back the way I came, and suddenly I stumbled on a broad boulevard filled with bars and people.  This was it.  I walked into the first hole that said Guinness.  As with many night spots in Japan, it was on an upper floor and tiny.  3 Japanese people looked up at me.  Two were working behind the bar.  I said "Woo-hoo!  Happy St Patty's Day!"

Roppongi, Tokyo
After getting 3 blank stares, I realized that my Big Night Out expectations might have to be adjusted.  I got a pint of Guinness, and refreshingly found that two of them spoke decent English.  After explaining the meaning of St Patty's day (a mostly American holiday celebrating greatly exaggerated Irish lineage, green food coloring, and puking in bushes), I asked where the heck everyone was?  The looks said it all.  All the gaijin had already fled Tokyo.  It was March 17, 6 days after the Big One, 4 days into the nuclear meltdown, and 3 days after the Big Aftershock.  As one girl explained her Big One story, suddenly it got quiet.  The glasses behind the bar started clinking and swaying.  It was another quake.  Afterwards, we all just nervously laughed and she continued..... Hers was like many other stories, going about her business when it struck.  Stuff was thrown around, the quaking starting sideways for minutes, then going vertically.  Sea-legs after it ended, not sure if it had really stopped.  Getting told to go home only to find that all the trains had stopped.  Joining the throngs on the streets, forced to walk 8 hours back home.  Her friend behind the bar said he walked 12 hours that night.  Cell phone voice service was out, so only gradually did people hear about the devastation up north.  Many didn't find out until later that night when they were finally able to watch TV.

Not sure what we played, but we WON!!!
I was told there more Irish bars down the street and perhaps some would have some gaijin, I thanked them and left.  After 3 more attempts, finally I walked into Paddy Foley's.  I opened the door and shockingly it was packed with gaijin in full song, belting out an Irish jig.  YES!!!  Big Night Out was back on.  Quickly I found out that there were indeed some foreigners who were planning on sticking it out.  Most of their compatriots had fled to the West; these were the last men standing.  Noone was a crazy tourist like me, they were all people on Earthquake Holiday.  This new form of Holiday involved sitting around all day monitoring radiation news, trying to figure out what was happening to their job, then going out and drinking every night.  All in all it didn't sound half bad, aside from the unemployment part.

I made friends with a guy and girl, and we wandered around to a few other places.  Apparently Earthquake Holiday was still pretty fresh, the girl hadn't built up enough tolerance for St Patty's day yet.  After a shot of Jeigger at 1am, her eyes started de-focusing like Paris Hilton, and that was that.  Her guy friend chucked her in a taxi and I was left in a smoky empty pub, listening to old Madonna tunes.  Ahhh, another successful holiday overseas!!!

(to be cont.)

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