Q: What’s the best way to feel like an uptight white guy in Tokyo?
A: Attend the Ph.D. graduation party of your Venezuelan dentist friend, where 80% of the partygoers are from some Latin-American country … and try to dance with them when they start playing insane-ass Hispanic music.
I tried and tried to explain to them that North American males have some defect in their genes that prevents their hips from moving freely. I think there’s an operation that fixes that, but you have to get it done before you’re 10 or something. They didn’t offer this operation on the rough streets of JoMo in the 70s.
The worst part is there were two Lithuanians at the party — a tall-ass guy and a tiny little girl — who had more groove going on than I. Ouch. I don’t know how you get from polka to soul, but apparently you can. I remember doing really well in African Dance class in college. Not sure what happened. Maybe the teacher just told me I was doing well cause he liked my ass.
Anyway, I did have a fun time trying to get down at one of Tokyo’s international-student dorms. These things are a pretty cool setup — if you’re a foreign student attending one of the colleges or universities in Tokyo, you can live at one of these dorms. They are not connected to any school, so you are living with people from all over the world studying all kinds of different subjects at all kinds of different institutions. Besides meeting my first Lithuanians, I learned about Sri Lanka from a Singhalese dude and learned from an Indonesian dentist chick that Julio Iglesias charges too much when he plays Jakarta.
Because of my Venezuelan friend, I’ve met more dentists on this trip than I’ve known in my life. Most of them put their practices on hold or gave them up to come to Japan and get Ph.D.s in some sort of dental research. Apparently Japanese dental practice leaves much to be desired, but there is tons of cash here waiting to be dumped into research projects. When foreign students in any subject first arrive, they take nothing but immersion Japanese class eight hours a day for three months.
The Latin barbecue broke up and around midnight some of us headed to my neighborhood to hit a hip little dance club called Muse. It’s a damn nice club (I was put off by the 1,ooo-yen cover charge until I was handed a free-drink ticket) with well-separated spaces for lounging and dancing. It’s hidden next to an ice-cream shop and I’d never seen it. The DJ was amazing and the drinks were decent. I immediately understood what one of my South American friends meant when he said “The people at the club, they think they should be looked at.” Definitely high levels of gaijin conceitedness emanating from the rooms.
The attitude when we arrived at the club was “Well, the trains stop at midnight and don’t start until 5:30 — guess we’re out dancing for the night!” Muse is a quick walk from where I’m staying but I couldn’t bring myself to head home and wuss out. I had to stick it out.
After a while the dance floor got too crowded with drunk Americans who have less coordination than even I and our group was ready to hit a new spot. Unfortunately, we had lost the tall-ass (and by now very drunk) Lithuanian. He’s not hard to miss. After sweeps of the club and a few phone calls, he finally answered his cell and announced he was in Roppongi at Wall Street.
Ugh. Wall Street. Bad DJ, dance floor so crowded most of your drink usually ends up on the floor and a bar staff that weaves in and out like buzzards looking at everyone’s hands to make sure you have your required drink at all times. Thank God the tall-ass Lithuanian was easy to spot. Damn him for wanting to stay.
I finally walked out of the club into 5:30 a.m. sunlight as Roppongi began shutting down. The streets were filled with club zombies who were starting to disintegrate in the sun and massgee girls lined up in front of their respective establishments, looking like a ship’s crew saying goodbye as you disembark from your chaos cruise. We grabbed life-saving chicken kabob sandwiches and then I said goodbye to the dentists … who had a 3 p.m. department party to rest for.
Although I had effectively been celebrating for about 13 hours, I didn’t feel like I had just pulled an all-nighter. Maybe because I didn’t drink that much or because everyone in my group was hyper as hell (embrace osmosis). I think I’m going to kidnap one of my Latin-American friends here and force a blood transfusion in the hopes that maybe I can attain even half the energy.