Sleeping in Japan

Going out Friday night is great, because it’s like your weekend is three days long instead of two. That’s an extra 80%. I use math to make all important decisions in my life.

So late one Friday night, I found myself going to a club with Dave and Eri. Dave’s super-power is speaking English, which means that you can actually have a conversation with the guy. Eri’s super-power is drinking everything in sight and weighing 90 pounds, which means she falls down a lot.

I rushed home after work, changed into tight jeans and a shirt that makes my biceps look bigger than they actually are, then rode the train to Ebisu station, where Dave and Eri were waiting. We got to the club around eleven, ordered a round of beers, then went to stand on the dance floor, since dancing’s technically illegal in Japan. After a while, Eri started falling down, but nobody seemed to notice.

After a couple of hours of vigorous standing, I was pretty tired, so I crashed onto a sofa and Eri promptly fell on top of me. We started making out. I’m not really into her, but it seemed like something good to do.

“Oh Dave,” she said.

“Uh, it’s Ken,” I said.

“Where’s Dave?” she said. “I like Dave.

“Well, Dave’s not here right now, baby. Just close your eyes. It’s okay.

And this went on for a while, until suddenly I had one of my trademark Moments of Clarity. This usually means I haven’t had enough to drink, and that my brain’s still functioning, which is never good. I looked at my watch.

“What day is it?” I asked.


“My watch says ‘Saturday.’”

“Oh, Dave,” she said.

“Ken, dammit. It’s Ken.”

“Where’s Dave?”

“Where are we?” I asked. “Are we in Ebisu?”

“Aren’t you Dave?” she asked.

Something strange had happened with the time, because it was Friday when we got there, but somehow magically it had become Saturday. It was like a time warp, where I’d been transported into the future.

“I’ve got a wedding to go to on Saturday,” I blurted out. “Here in Ebisu. That’s today. I gotta go.” I stood up, and Eri rolled on the floor.

“See ya later, Dave,” she called after me.

Sleeping in Manga Cafes

Now, if I’d been wearing a suit, this wouldn’t have been a problem, because I could’ve just gone to a manga cafe or a park bench and gotten a couple hours of sleep, then bought a disposable razor and some underwear, and shown up at the wedding looking fresh. But as it stood, I had to ride the train back to my apartment, change into a suit, then come all the way back down to where I already was. I ran to Ebisu station and caught the first train at 4:30 a.m.

When I finally got to my apartment, I checked my watch as I was putting the key into the door. It was seven. That’s weird, I thought, no way it takes two and a half hours to get home from Ebisu. My watch must’ve gotten thrown off by the time warp, I figured. But anyway, since the wedding was at noon, I just went in and crashed on the futon until ten, then got up, dressed, and rode back down to Ebisu.

I was still puzzling over the time as I showed up to the wedding. The only thing that made sense is if somehow I’d passed out on the Yamanote Line, and rode several loops around Tokyo, sound asleep. I didn’t remember falling asleep, but I still had two and a half hours of time unaccounted for. Anyway, I gave the bride and groom my envelope with the customary $300 of yen in it, had some food and cocktails, and started to feel a bit more awake.

Japanese Weddings

Japanese weddings are just like American weddings, only the food’s a lot better and the bride and groom do about six costume changes. Every time I turned around, they had on a different color tuxedo and wedding dress. Guess that’s where my 300 bucks went. Whatever. People gave a round of speeches, made some jokes, we all had a bunch of drinks, then went off to another restaurant, where we had more food and drinks. Then we went to karaoke, where I sat next to a nice girl who kept touching my thigh and saying what a good singer I was. Of course, I don’t like to brag, but it’s probably fair to say that after a few beers I have the voice of an angel.

At some point, I checked my phone, and Holy Crap, there was a text from Ichiro. I hadn’t heard from the guy in like two years. He’s this Japanese dude I knew in the States, and now he was in Japan.

“In Tokyo for one night,” said the message. “Meet me in Ueno.”

“I gotta go,” I said to the nice girl.

“Just one more song,” she pleaded. “You’ve got the voice of an angel.”

“Well, if you insist. Just one.”

So after another two hours of singing and ten more beers, I finally caught the train to Ueno. It was about eleven at night. I fell asleep a little on the way, and probably slumped over onto the guy next to me, which was fortunate because he elbowed me in the ribs and I woke up just in time to dash off the train before the doors closed.

I met Ichiro on the street, and I could tell he was already plastered, which is loosely defined as anyone equally or more intoxicated than myself.

“Let’s go to karaoke!” he said.

“Sounds great,” I replied, and we started looking for girls.

We found three reasonably attractive ladies walking down the street. “Let’s go to karaoke,” we said, and they looked at each other briefly, then off we went.

Now, of course, we had the problem that there were two of us and three girls, but in our usual fashion Ichiro and I chose to immediately make matters worse by deciding that we both liked the same girl. So we sat on either side of her, sang songs, drank a ton of beer, and sounded, honestly, horrible. Must’ve been something wrong with the acoustics of the room or something. Then every time Ichiro’d go to the bathroom, I’d whisper sweet words in her ear that sounded to me like, “Splendid evening, is it not? I say, if you’re free this weekend, why don’t we go for a cruise on my yacht?” but came out more like, “D’I ever tell ya ha cute ya’are?” And every time I came back from the bathroom, I’d find Ichiro slobbering all over her, trying to whisper something in her other ear. It was a pretty typical evening, in other words.

Sleeping in Karaoke Booths

As it got around five a.m. we were all pretty much passed out in the karaoke booth. I looked at Ichiro, who was slumped in corner. He was a wreck. The three girls had repositioned themselves in a protective formation and were all sleeping against one another, like pioneers circling wagon trains. Once in a while somebody’d wake up and sing half a song or call for another drink or an order of fries, but we were all pretty shattered. Eventually Ichiro crawled across the bench toward me.

“I gotta meet a client this morning,” he said.

“When?” I asked.

“Eight. I think.”

“Now’s probably a good time to go,” I said.

We all went down to the lobby and Ichiro and I paid the bill, which came to about 250 bucks. Karaoke can be either really cheap, or really expensive, and this time wasn’t cheap.

The girls, of course, offered to pay nothing. The thing about Japanese girls is that they just want to be entertained. They live out in the boonies of Saitama and Chiba, and once a month get all dolled up and come to Tokyo hoping to do something out of the ordinary, like going to a game center, taking purikura photos, or eating French food. The degree to which they’re interested in you is exactly proportional to the amount of such amusement you can provide. It’s a little transactional like that. Anyway, we all exchanged numbers, the girls disappeared into the dawn, and I flagged down a taxi for Ichiro.

It’s rare that you see a guy so drunk that he can’t get into a taxi, but apparently it can happen. It took a while for Ichiro to remember what hotel he was at, but eventually the car door closed and he called out, “Thanks, Ken-san!”

“See you in two more years,” I said.

He later emailed me to say that the first words out of his client’s mouth were, “You smell like booze.” Ah, good times.

Sleeping on Trains

I walked to the station through the gray Sunday morning and got on the train. Suddenly I was tired. It was only about 20 minutes back to my station, but I managed to fall asleep, and when I woke up I was at the end of the line, in Saitama.

I got off the train, walked around to the other side, got back on, and fell asleep again. When I woke up, I was in Ueno. Shit. I got off the train, walked around, and got back on. This time, for sure, I was determined to stay awake and get home.

Years ago, I was riding a train with a foreign friend of mine, and across from us, the entire row of Japanese people was asleep. Like ten individuals, all looking like an ad for NyQuil.

“They’re rocked to sleep by the gentle motion of the rails,” he observed. That seemed an excellent example of how two people can see the exact same thing and reach two vastly different conclusions. Everyone in this nation’s butt-tired, is how I would’ve described it.

Naturally, I passed out and woke up in Saitama again. Then rode back in and woke up in Ueno again. In all, it took me five times to make it home, back to my comfy wafer thin futon in my steaming hot apartment. Of course, by then, I wasn’t tired at all, so I just had a couple of cold malt liquors, watched a bit of Japanese TV, and texted the girl from the night before. I can’t exactly recall what she looks like, but anyway, if she ever gets back to me, maybe I can take her out and entertain her some more. Probably go to a French restaurant, take a few purikura photos, and of course sing some karaoke, since I know she likes that.

56 Replies to “Sleeping in Japan”

  1. Hey, what songs did you sing? Is your angelic voice the result of good genetics or many hours of practice? I would like to know because I’m tone def. I usually avoid karaoke, but if I do go, I choose the Black Eyed Peas “my humps” duet song if the girls knows it and then go for a sloppy make out afterwards.

    I enjoy reading your posts. Good luck with the girl from the night before!

    1. I love karaoke. I used to go about twice a week, but I’ve slowed down somewhat these days. As for songs, I sing everything, seriously. Akon, Aerosmith, Snoop Dogg, Willie Nelson, Marvin Gaye, Frank Sinatra, Coldplay, Red Hot Chili Peppers, all kinds of stuff, plus a few Japanese songs.

      To be real, I’m a pretty average singer, but I’ve done enough karaoke to know what songs work with my voice. And if I tune the machine right (i.e. plenty of echo), I can sometimes fool people into thinking I can sing. So I guess it’s practice, and electronics, more than anything else.

        1. No, you’re absolutely right. There’s definitely a multiplying effect that comes with living in Tokyo. Part of it’s due to the fact that the city’s just so darn big—it’s not uncommon to spend a couple hours a day riding around on trains. Even aside from the work hours, the commuting alone is exhausting.

          Of course, when it comes to talking about “Japan” as though it were a single place, this presents something of an issue. Tokyo is vastly different from many parts of the nation, so you kind of want to rule it out. But on the other hand, over a quarter of Japan’s population lives in the Tokyo metropolitan area, so it’s hard to say that Tokyo isn’t Japan.

    1. There should be a term for what happened, since it’s so common, like Japanese Girl Syndrome. JGS occurs in approximately 95% of all cases, and is often accompanied by tremors and night sweats. Initial onset is brought about with a reply from the female in question, written in ambiguously-worded English, and occasionally broken Japanese. Smiley faces and other emoticons also typically appear in copious amounts.

      In her first reply, she’ll say how much fun she had and how nice it was to meet you.
      In her second reply, she’ll explain why she’s busy for the next several days or weeks.
      In her third reply, several days or weeks later, she’ll agree to meet you, but suggest that you both invite some other friends.
      In her forth reply, she’ll apologize for the fact that her mythical “friend” can’t make it on the given day, and suggest a reschedule, effectively putting you back to Reply #2.

      So that’s what happened. But it’s occurred so often, and to so many people, that it’s almost a forgone conclusion. JGS. Pray that some day science finds a cure.

            1. Ah, trying to guess the mind of women, now there’s a good hobby. Well, since you asked…

              There seem to be a couple of things going on here. One is that this terminal e-mailing is a stalling technique. It keeps you from getting too close too fast. Attractive women in any country have to do this in some fashion or other, otherwise they’d be bombarded with men trying to hop all over them. So this buys her some time, and gives her a chance to see how you’ll react to various challenges she poses. Will you get mad? Give up? Whine and bargain? Women want to know that. Bear in mind she may be messaging (or LINE-ing) a lot of guys. This is her way of filtering.

              The other thing to consider is her situation. She’s either in a tiny, cramped apartment in Tokyo and working tons of hours, or out in the boonies with her parents, in a tiny, cramped room, avoiding the brother that she hates and her mom who wants her to clean the bathtub. She might only get together with her girlfriends once every month or two. If there’s a shared Japanese experience, it’s probably that isolation.

              And that’s where we come in. She can sit around in her room and message guys, feel wanted, and it costs her nothing. She doesn’t have to deal with the problems of a relationship, introducing you to her parents, getting pregnant, any of that. She gets attention and a bit of amusement, and that’s good enough.

              I’d say that’s some of what’s going on.

  2. Seeroi-sensei how did you manage to acquire the skill of drinking all night and getting home safe? was this brought from the US or is something that you learn as you spend time in Japan? Most of my drinking spree ends up in me hugging the toilet for the rest of the next day…

    1. I’m pretty sure it was going to college. At least in the U.S., Handling your Liquor is a legitimate field of study.

      Not saying it’s a good thing. Certainly the less you drink the better off you’ll be. That being said, I should add that I never drink hard alcohol. Doing a round of shots? Forget it—that’s strictly amateur stuff. I stay with mostly beer and watered-down shochu, maybe a little wine. Slow and steady, and avoid sake at all costs. I’d say those are my general rules.

      1. Amen to that.

        I kissed my popov plastic bottle vodka goodbye after university. Maybe I was so scarred from the experience even Grey Goose doesn’t do it for me.

        It’s amazing how drunk Japanese beer can get you, though. I also fondly remember Strong7.

        1. Strong 7, yikes. That 7% alcohol stuff is too hard for me. I stick with middle-of-the-road 5.5% malt liquor. Smooth. Those extra percentage points really add up.

      2. Well, different alcohols have different effects, and when it comes to hangovers, sake is one of the worst.

        You rarely see Japanese people drinking sake (or nihon-shu in Japanese). Whiskey might even be more popular. When I first got to Japan, I drank a fair bit of the stuff, and folks would always look on and say, “Ohh, you gotta be careful with sake.” Particularly when it’s cold, because it’s remarkably easy to drink, and absolutely sneaks up on you. Maybe it’s the high sugar content.

        Whatever’s behind it, though, if you drink too much, you’re guaranteed to have one of those what-the-hell-happened-last-night? mornings. Like, I once went to bed in Tokyo and woke up in Kyoto. Thanks, sake.

        That being said, I really like the taste. It goes great with things like sashimi and fermented tofu. I still drink it a few times a year, and go to the occasional sake festival, but in general my advice would be: Approach with caution.

        1. the price for sake at my local Japanese supermarket (New Jersey) is much affordable compare to the Japanese beers. I guess i will just have to pay up and move to Japanese beer.

          1. Let me just add that sake (like most things, really) is no problem in moderation. That’s assuming one’s good at moderation, and can avoid the temptation of drinking as much as possible just because fifteen dollars for all-you-can-drink is such a good deal. I’m just a sucker for a bargain.

  3. Ken Seeroi, I just want you to know I added the entirety of this blog to my phone for offline reading and it kept me entertained on my last long flight.

    This post is another gem. I especially liked the part where you fell asleep several times to wake up at the ending points of a train line. It reminded me of this happening to me, although I only managed to do it 2 times. Keep up the good work.

    1. Yeah, that five times was a personal best. And while it was a little funny, in an oh-this-again kind of way, I was also really sleepy, and really wanted to get home. I even fell asleep again on the fifth time, and only woke up right before my stop, otherwise it would’ve been six.

      Thanks for reading so much of my stuff too. Guess being trapped in a plane is a pretty good place to do that.

  4. Oh man thats gold!

    I have a technique for sleeping on trains id like to share with you. I developed this technique on a night similar to what you described but involving an enkai … essentially u need to sleep standing with your face pressed against the glass of the door on the side of your stop. So at every stop you are awoken to that chiming music and you get to decide if youre home of not… the best part is seeing the faces of people trying to get into the carriage as you wake up!!


    1. Yeah, you’re a lot less likely to oversleep standing up. That’s like some serious astronaut training there.

      I’ve also been considering another solution. Like what if you had a bunch of songs on your iPod, each of a different length, that were nothing but silence until the last 30 seconds, and then played something like the crescendo of Bohemian Rhapsody?

      If your stop was 21 minutes away, you’d just select the song that was 20.5 minutes of silence, put in your earbuds, crank the volume to max, and wait to be blasted awake by Freddy Mercury.

      Somehow I think there’s a market for this.

      1. ha ha thats a great idea, but when your passed out on the train drunkenly pulling your pants off to get comfy, I bet the headphones will come out! I would anyway – stupid pants.

        I was once awoken by a security guard at Koenji Mickey Ds for sleeping. He said, in English, that “you cant sleep here”. when I pointed out that everyone else was in fact sleeping he repeated that I as an individual can not sleep there. At first I cried racism, but after some negotiation I realised that my superior snoring abilities were keeping others from sleeping – not racist at all as it turns out.

        ps: I just re-watched “Rising Sun” with Sean Connery as the Japan expert this morning hungover as balls – and it made me wonder if thats your future: Japanese Consultant, Ken Seeroi. Not bad huh?

        1. I think the general rule is head back = snoring, head forward = nice and quiet. So maybe you should try planting your face on the little plastic table. And keeping your pants on. Just a suggestion.

    1. Yup, that’s the lifestyle. It’s like the equivalent of an American coming home, ordering up some Dominoes, and watching TV.

      We just get drunk and fall asleep on trains. I assume that’s what people mean when they talk about “Japanese culture.”

  5. Another amazing and such a true story. Living in Tokyo definitely turns you into a drinker and deprives from lots and lots of sleep. Its interesting how you managed to keep this lifestyle for a while: I was done by the end of my university years here, and once started a job – this kind of entertainment happens once in half a year or so.
    What I wanted to point out is that the scenario with Japanese men is also pretty much similar. You meet them, you exchange phone numbers, they write you approximately a week later, invite somewhere, you meet, talk, laugh… and then they are gone. You don’t hear from them for several months or so, and then, suddenly, you get a mail with an excuse that there was a lot of work or something else and he is ready to meet again…

    1. You know, now that you mention it, that’s pretty much my experience with most of the Japanese guys I’m friends with too. We have a great night of drinking and back-slapping, promise to meet again, and then six months later exchange like one email and never see each other again.

      Ah, Japanese friendships, so meaningful.

  6. Maaaaaaaan this makes me miss Tokyo. For a bunch of relatively serious and hardworking people, they sure like to hit it up and drink a lot at any chance. The success of the whole nommunication thing both amuses and is still slightly unbelievable.

    Seems like you had a crazy, fun weekend! Take it easy but keep posting. I’m living vicariously in Tokyo again through your posts!

    1. Yeah, although I feel I should point out that I don’t do this every weekend.

      I don’t want to give the impression that I’m this crazy, out-of-control party guy. In reality, I’m far more moderate and well-balanced. It’s more like every other weekend. Well, and the occasional random Tuesday night. Anyway, gotta pace oneself.

  7. Ah, but there has to be a Part 2 in the “Sleeping In Japan” series.
    There is sleeping in a countryside onsen in the tatami room, feeling as clean as a newborn.
    There is sleeping in shinkansen, which is like train but WAY better, with young ladies bringing you snacks and tea shopping carts, etc.
    There is sleeping in the warm ramen-ya after eating yourself full, face-first in oshibori towel.

    Thinking about this, sleeping is a significant part of Japanese culture indeed.

    Good luck with the girl, Dave! I mean… Ken!

    1. Yeah, you really hit on it. Sleeping is a big part of the culture here.

      And it’s true, it’s by no means confined to the urban areas. I’ve had many nice sleeps in big tatami rooms, curled up in the back of restaurants, and on shinkansen from one end of the country to the other.

      But the main thing that sets Japan apart (at least from the U.S.), is how common it is to sleep in public. In the U.S., you almost never find yourself sleeping in front of people you don’t know. Here, it happens all the time, and everybody accepts it as normal.

  8. I would figure your natural talent at speaking English would outclass your singing ability above most Japanese, making you sound like a lyrical god….at least with English songs.Though I’m sure your Japanese is of a great quantified ability.

    Can you sing to your own songs? Like, if you have a song on – let’s say – your phone, the Karaoke machine doesn’t have it, and you happen to have it’s USB cable, can the Karaoke machine analyze it and then be able to sing it?

    1. A lyrical god…yeah, that pretty much describes me, in my own mind.

      As for hot-wiring the karaoke machine with your iPhone, I don’t know. Be cool if you could though, since somehow even with six billion songs in the machine, somehow they never have the one I want. Why is that?

      I know there are sound studios you can rent where you can mix your own music and practice with your garage band (since nobody has a garage in Japan). So maybe that’s an option, if you’re really serious about having to sing a special acoustic version of Sweet Child of Mine or something.

    1. A non-drinking friend? Well, I suppose hypothetically anything’s possible . . .

      Nah, actually I’ve got a couple of friends here who don’t drink, and it’s completely cool. I recently quit drinking for a while myself. Remind me to write about that. It was a different sort of strange experience.

      1. Hey! you don’t need booze to have fun ya know! Like last week in NYC, to celebrate the beginning of my last semester in Uni, I tripped out on some LSD and started biting a doorknob thinking it was a muffin…yeah so…

        Oh I have a question, could you tell me how does a typical skype interview and an actual in office interview goes with Japanese recruiters or bosses hiring teachers? What questions they ask etc…

        Is it hard to find drugs there? (curious *cough*)

        Thanks 😀

        1. A typical interview is similar to one you’d have in the U.S., only about ten times easier. They’ll ask you some cursory questions about your work experience and education, but basically if you’ve got a degree and come from an English-speaking country, you fulfill 90% of the requirements for being an English teacher.

          As for drugs, it’s important to understand the culture of the country your dealing with. Want a plate of whale meat? No problem. Feel like sleeping on a cardboard box in front of the train station? Completely do-able. Enjoy drinking beer in the children’s play park? Nobody’s gonna bat an eyelid. But drugs? They’re about as socially acceptable as robbing blind people. If you want to do any kind of drugs (other than alcohol, which is completely fine), you’d be better off with another country. Also see this post.

    1. Thanks much. I’ll write more, never worry. You should visit Japan, whether you know any Japanese or not. It’s an easy country to get around, once you figure out the system.

      1. So reassured after hearing that,well i guess first step is learning japanese,then i got a few plans but before really doing something serious i need to see how it goes.
        Maybe ill try an exchange program and then who knows, anyway im really looking forward to find someone able to teach and host me…and to hang out with as well
        Imma stay tuned

  9. I bet that girl never got back to you. Somehow, meeting a Japanese girl anywhere after 8pm almost always results in being completely ignored within 2 weeks, regardless of anything that happened / didn’t happen.

    1. I see you know your Japanese girls. Yeah, ignoring people is the national sport. You can have the best night ever and never get a reply. Or the worst night, doesn’t matter. A friend of mine recently noted, “I’ve got hundreds of numbers and Line contacts for girls I’ve never seen again.” I’d say that sums up Japanese social interactions pretty well.

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