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Wednesday, April 13, 2011

One Night in Kyoto

I was sitting at the bar at K's House Kyoto and relishing the sound of English-speaking voices.  None of them were tourists really, but in a way they were.  Most were on Earthquake Holiday fleeing Tokyo.  I met up with two girls who had been teaching English in Yokohama.  Angela was from Australia and had been blogging her trip.  She writes with an intimate conversational style that I like, and her posts on the Big Quake and the immediate aftermath is very good.  I remarked that I too had been blogging.  "Great!  If you follow my blog I'll follow yours!  We can make it look like people are actually reading!"  I agreed immediately, there is nothing better than knowing that someone somewhere is actually reading all the garbage you have spent hours posting online.

Lovely Pontocho Alley
We voted to go out for more drinks, and at last I would have some Western company on a night out in Japan.  Kyoto has a wonderful little atmospheric alley called Pontocho, it is narrow and clean, safe, the path lined with stone.  Japanese lanterns hang on the walls and the soft lighting glows on Japanese only signs announcing Japanese only bars and clubs.  Many are of the hostess variety, where gaijin are not welcome without an invitation from a nihonjin.  But for an evening stroll on the way to more welcoming bars, it is not to be missed.  I had done a bit of research and had a couple bars in mind.  But all the bars that LP recommended turned out to be duds, and I kicked myself for relying on a guide book to find a night spot in such a trendy country.  I asked a young cute Japanese couple on a stroll where the Cave was, it was supposed to be good.  They said "Hai Hai!" and turned around on the spot to escort us several blocks directly to the entrance.  It was dead inside, it was either too early or it was the wrong day of the week.  But Angela's friend, an American, knew it would be rude to walk away after they had been so helpful.  I started to ask the whereabouts of another club and she quickly shushed me and whispered, "They just walked us 5 blocks to this club!  You realize they are going to walk us all the way to the next place?"  The realization that its too easy to be an ass in such an incredibly friendly country was smacking me in the nose, and I shut my mouth.  So we waited until the helpful couple had left before we made our break.

Magic Fun Happy Tunnel!
Eventually we drifted past a little beer and sake bar that looked lively.  As soon as we entered a band of drunk Japanese yelled "Hewo!" "Welcome!"  It was perfect.  After lots of peace signs and pictures, one involved me getting a hug and kiss on the back of my head, it was time to hit a club.  The drunk Japanese assured us that they knew the best spot.  Butterfly had just opened a few months ago and was just a block away.  Of course, this new spot was certainly not in a guidebook which takes a couple years from trip to print.  The bartender got off work and led our merry band to the entrance.  After walking down a couple flights of dingy stairs, the door opened into a magical tunnel of changing neon light complete with mirrors on the ends.  It was a photographer's playground, you could do headstands with your feet on the ceiling, pose stretched across like a caterpillar, and basically act like a complete fool.  Each picture was a different neon-colored riot.

Clubbin' with the punkies
The club was pretty full and there was a pack of drunk Japanese girls dancing in those funky fuzzy punk outfits that I had come to love in Tokyo.  The DJ played that kind of pop music you hear in pop clubs, where a radio hit is glued willy nilly onto a club beat.  Usually it sounds horrible but when the party is rolling and everyone is sweaty and shaking their butts no one cares.  The DJ tried his absolute best to destroy the mood by doing the two cardinal turntable sins: singing over the music and changing the song every 2 minutes.  But he failed, everyone was dancing and having too good of a time.

The next day at the K's house bar I mentioned that I had gone to Butterfly.  The bartender looked up with surprise and said "Really?  That's that new place, its supposed to be pretty good."  I smiled and promised myself that when it came to going out, I would never again rely on a guidebook, and instead always ask a local.

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