The Shochu, The Yakuza, and the Hostess Bar

My New Year’s resolution was to exercise more, but it’s just not working out like that.  All I could see was sawdust and screws when I opened my eyes this morning.  It was like 4 a.m.  Man, I gotta quit getting up so early.  But for some strange reason the room wasn’t dark.  So while I was trying to figure out who turned on the sun, I rolled over and there’s my PC, upside-down on the pillow next to me.  And then I realized I’m still fully dressed in a suit and tie, minus one sock.  Well, at least I don’t have to worry about putting on clothes all over again.  So much trouble, really, getting dressed.

So I got up and it turns out my table had demolished itself in the middle of the night.   Like one of the legs was snapped off and it had dumped everything onto my futon, along with screws and wood chips.  Fortunately it’s a Japanese table, so it’s only about two inches tall.  Like I don’t even really know why I have the thing—I could just draw a rectangle on the floor and it would be exactly as useful.  And about then I figured out it was 4 p.m., not a.m., and I thought Man, I really gotta get me some breakfast, since I gotta be back at work in a couple of hours.  So I put on my sock and went to 7-11.

Japan’s a really convenient country.  I got two rice balls and a can of miso soup.  Actually, I should have stuck with corn soup, because the miso was awful.  Whatever.

So while I was walking back home with a rice ball in each hand and a can of miso soup in my pocket, I started trying to piece together the previous day. I had a pretty clear recollection of my “Business English” class, which involves speaking English at these five Japanese business guys while they try not to fall asleep.  At one point I was writing a sentence on the whiteboard and the fat dude who sits in front passed out, fell out of his chair, and landed at my feet.  I was like, Guy, wear a helmet already.

So that was two hours of pure enjoyment the whole family, and once it ended I raced across town to an izakaya, which I believe is how you say “dive bar” in Japanese, where I teach this five year-old boy at a table in the back.  It’s always smoky in there and I come out smelling like roast chicken.  His dad owns the place, but the little boy never calls him “Dad.”  Instead he just calls him “The Boss.”  Kids are awesome.  So I walk in and The Boss says hi and the kid looks at me and says “English, yuck!” and runs away.  Only he says it in Japanese, which comes out as “iyada,” and makes it sound even worse.  Great.  So for the next hour I try to amuse him.  Like I’ve got songs and games and puppets and shit, but all the little boy says is, “Can we finish now?”  And I’m like, “No.  Look, here’s the funny dog!  What does the funny dog say?”  And he looks at me and says, “iyada!”  Actually, I take back what I said.  Kids are horrible, to tell you the truth.

The Shochu

So that was about the longest hour of my life, and afterwards I went straight to the bar counter.  I figured I’d have just one beer and call it a night.  But this old retired guy with bushy eyebrows started talking to me and pretty soon he bought me a second beer, so I decided I’d stay another ten minutes.  Funny how that happens.  Anyway, he used to be a nuclear engineer, for real.  The thing is, he had no interest in learning English or anything, he just wanted to hang out and drink and tell me about nuclear fission in Japanese.  And since I love learning anything new as long as it’s not in English, that made him pretty much the most awesome guy ever.  And the more I drank, the more awesome he became.  We really hit it off, and he kept saying, How about more beer?  And I was like, Well, if you insist.  And so we ate this whole live fish and a pizza and an omelet and he said, Want a glass of sake?  And I’m all, Well, maybe just one.  And so we had three, and ate some cold tofu and a pickled eggplant and some marinated squid parts, and he was like, You gotta try this shochu, and proceeded to pour me a glass.  And I was like, Dude, you are the best!  Seriously!  Have I told you that?  And he said, Yes, several times actually.  And so we drank more shochu until this other old guy in a bright blue suit yelled to me, Want to play the sanshin?  And I was like, Do I ever!  This is pretty much my definition of the perfect evening.

The sanshin is this crazy 3-stringed Japanese banjo that no matter what you play sounds like it should be in a kung-fu movie.  It’s pretty easy to play something with only three strings because, well, it’s only got three strings.  I mean, it’s simple except if you’ve just downed several beers, a sake sampler, and half a bottle of shochu.  Like and all the sheet music is written in obscure Japanese kanji and this dude is explaining everything in Japanese and I’m trying to sing in Japanese and I can’t seem to put my fingers in the right places.  But after a while it started to sound better as he poured me glasses of shochu from his bottle, and then we ate some German potato salad and raw octopus and steamed okra with sesame seeds.  Man, the food there really is tremendous.

The Yakuza

And about that time, these two young dudes come over and start talking to me in Japanese.  And I’m trying to read the sheet music and missing notes, but pretty soon we’re all singing and they’re pouring me shochu from their bottle and I’m like, You guys are the best!  Seriously!  What do you do?  And they’re like, We’re gangsters!  And I’m like, Yakuza?  That’s awesome!  Do you have tattoos?  And they’re like, Do we ever!  And they lifted up their shirts and they had these elaborate full-back tattoos.  I was like, Whoa, just like in the movies!  You guys are the most bad-ass dudes ever!  Want some potato salad?  And so we had some potato salad and grilled sardines and these hot mochi rice fritters.  The yakuza and I really appreciate good food.

The Hostess Bar

About six glasses of shochu later, the yakuza guys suddenly jumped up and said, Let’s go to to another bar!  And I was like, I’m so there!  So we hopped into a cab and drove to some hostess club.  A hostess club is this place where pretty girls pour you drinks and pretend to like you.  And this one hostess girl with extraordinarily large breasts and a tiny skirt came and sat right next to me, put her hand on my thigh, and said, “You’re from America?  I love America!”  And I was like “Me too!  Let’s fly there tonight!  We can stay with my mom!”  But before we went to America I really wanted to do some karaoke, so I was like, Do you know that song about God in the toilet?  And she was like, Do I ever!

This song is awesome, seriously.  It’s about some girl whose grandmother teaches her that God is in the toilet bowl.  I guess like the Tidy-Bowl Man.  At least such is my understanding of the Japanese lyrics.  And so the girl cleans the toilet, I guess because, why?  God’s stuck in there or something.  Hell, I don’t know.  Anyway, then the grandmother dies.  Is this not the greatest song ever?  It’s so popular in Japan, and the best part is it’s arranged as an American country ballad.  Like, “Oh granny says God’s in the toilet, so gotta clean the toilet, oh no, granny’s dead, well, still gotta clean that toilet.”  Okay, maybe you have to hear it, but anyway, this hostess girl and I sang it together and we sounded amazing.

About this time, the one yakuza guy takes my hand and puts it under his shirt and starts rubbing his back with my hand.  And I’m all like, Dude, are you gay?  And he’s like, No, I just like the way this feels.  And I said, Well fair enough, but that’s pretty much my definition of gay.  Anyway, he seemed to lose interest after a while, and so I went back to singing karaoke and having this hostess with enormous breasts pour me drinks while we made our vacation plans.  It was very close to the perfect night.

The Part Where I Don’t Really Remember Much

And then instantly it was really late.  The other yakuza guy just kind of wasn’t there anymore.  Then the other customers weren’t there.  Like one of those sci-fi movies where aliens are snatching people up.  Then even the other hostesses disappeared, until it was just me and this one “I’m not gay but I like guys to touch me” yakuza dude, who was passed out and drooling on himself, and this hostess girl with obviously fake boobs who suddenly looked a lot older than she did a couple of hours ago.  And that’s when I knew it was time to go home.  So I paid my portion of the bill, about sixty bucks, which wasn’t too bad, considering.  That is, considering that’s exactly what I happened to have left in my wallet.  So I walked out and realized I didn’t even have money to get home, so I just started walking.  And that’s when I realized I live about four miles away.  It was also really cold.  Whatever, I figured it’d do me good to walk off some of the booze.  And after a while the sun came up, which was nice, and I guess I found my apartment.  And today, now that I’ve had some rice balls, canned miso, and duct-taped my little table back together, I actually feel pretty good.  I’m definitely going to start working out tomorrow.  But maybe tonight I’ll drop by that izakaya again after work.  Maybe just have one beer.

30 Replies to “The Shochu, The Yakuza, and the Hostess Bar”

    1. 楽しいこともあるし、大変なこともあるし、それは日本の生活ですよね。

      For real, that’s life in Japan. Big fun, big trouble. Yeah, but mostly big fun.

  1. Ha ha, good old Shotu – the cause of many a crazy night in Tokyo. I remember having a few glasses of the stuff and ending up in a cowboy themed bar, a ninja restaurant, and then getting locked inside a toilet with an automatic door. Good times! xx

    1. Hmmm. Ninja restaurant. I can only imagine how fun it is to get drunk and have some guy all in black with a sword serve you dinner. Good times.

      On another note, I know what you mean about getting locked in places. I’ve been stuck in a bathroom, a laundromat, and once even managed to trap myself in an elevator. So many buttons, you know, how’s a guy supposed to push the right one? Some places could stand a little user-interface upgrade, is all I’m saying.

    1. Thanks, yeah, Japan seems to offer endless opportunities for bizarrity, like being trapped in Disney Land. That is a good thing, right?

      As a post-script, I ended up riding my bike back out to that Hostess Bar in the daytime, just to see where it was. And I was like, Jeez, man is this ever far away! It took me like 20 minutes by bike. Next time I’m definitely taking a tent and a sleeping bag.

  2. Dude, the EXACT same thing happened to me except the Yakuza dude had the fake boobs. Oh, and I was on a train going through a tunnel while wearing a blood-soaked wedding dress and smoking a cigar. Great post. Keep them coming.

    1. Yeah, the similarities are uncanny.

      And now I’ve got to spend the next year in Freudian psychoanalysis, since for dinner I had two bottles of slim Asahi beer, three skewers of yakitori and a pickled cucumber, before riding the shinkansen home. Thank God I’ve still got this extra-long samurai sword to reassure me of my masculinity.

    1. Yeah, thanks Chagami. April’s always a busy time in Japan. I have a lot of new things to write about, just no time to write them. I really gotta get me a secretary.

  3. I found your blog from the Gaijinpot article and have read quite a few posts now – absolutely hilarious mate! Love it, keep posting more!

    Have you always lived in the Tokyo area? I’m planning my escape soon (from the UK) and finding it hard to choose between the craziness of Tokyo (and your posts like this make me think it’s a good idea strangely!) or the more chilled out/traditional Kansai area. I must say from my short 2 week visit to Japan I did enjoy Kansai a lot more, how did you decide?

    1. Thanks for reading. I really appreciate it because it takes me so darn long to type these things up. Most people don’t notice that I have only nine fingers, but actually I lost one in a poorly-considered bet with some old dude in a game of igo. Nowadays, I try not to use a lot of A’s. Damn, there’s another one.

      Tokyo is like Disneyland; it’s got an endless stream of hilarious people and places. And as long as you’ve got a ton of cash and don’t mind waiting in line for hours, it’s awesome. But as a place to work and live, it can wear you out. I used to have a job where I commuted four hours a day. That’s a hellishly long time to stand on a train.

      I wanted to live in Tokyo because I thought it would be fun, and it really was, for about a week. And there are a ton of jobs there. But I live outside of the city now, and I prefer it. I also think Kansai would be a good choice. I’ve got a couple of friends there, and they love it.

    1. Thanks, I appreciate that. I’ve got a brain like a room full of monkeys all with typewriters. Given enough time, sometimes stuff worth reading is produced at random. I have little influence on the process.

  4. Dang, I love linky serendipity. I visit a Japanese blog I haven’t visited in ages, somehow end up here, reading this blog post–one of the best I’ve EVER fricken read, hilarious to boot.

    Lawdy, lawdy. Thanks. I so needed this laugh.

    I gotta linky up hubby so he can enjoy this, too.

    Keep writing! Ya gots wit and skillz.

  5. Man, you have the best stories. I check your site everyday to see if you’re written something new.

    I was only in Japan studying abroad for two months in 2010, but I was one of only four students at our university that was classified as ‘native-level’ students, so they always paired us up with the low-leveled goblins- I MEAN students.

    Either way, I almost got me and another student arrested when we did our version of a train heist. Well, all we really did was pay for a ticket to the town next over (200 yen) and rode from Shiga to Oosaka (roughly 10,000 something yen) with the 200 yen ticket.

    It was fun until we went through with stage two of our plan: act stupid. Our plan was to use this 200 yen ticket to get to a party in Osaka, and when it was finally time to insert our ticket into the little conversion machine you walk through, we would just go to the attendant standing nearby and say, in English or broken Japanese, that we lost our ticket.

    We didn’t think he’d have us key in the exact time and how much it came out to (the ticket we apparently lost). Hey gave me a calculator and told me to write how much it came out to.

    I typed in a random number.

    He looked over it.

    はい、いいよ, he says. “You can go, next time I call cops.”

    Man, that was a fun night. We had to bike home from the train station and laughed our asses off about how we almost spent the night in a Japanese jail.

    1. Man, that’s awesome. I always wondered if that would work. There’s at least one more way to accomplish the same thing, at least in the countryside. Can’t say I’d recommend it though.

      I was standing on the platform one morning a couple of years ago, waiting to go to work, and the train on the opposite side was letting off its passengers. This young guy in a black shirt got off and then just hopped down onto the tracks behind the train and walked to the street. A quick left and he was out of sight. I was like, Well that’s one option. I don’t think he did it to avoid paying though; he looked more like he was tired from a night of partying and wanted a shortcut to get home.

      Seriously, thanks for reading though. I’ve got something new I’m working on that I’ll post in a day or two. I just wish I could get them out faster. It takes time to bake in all that slow-roasted goodness.

      1. Holy crap, I’ve never thought of that. Like you said, it’s not recommended, but I’m keeping that in my bag-o-tricks.

        And keep those articles coming! Great stuff.

  6. Oh man, I love nights like that. Except for the hang over. I feel like a zombie the next day…but the fun makes for good stories every time.

    1. Next day? Oh that. For some reason, I possess the amazing ability to live as though there’s no tomorrow. Must be a genetic thing. Can’t say I’d recommend it though.

  7. I’m really surprised you can remember all the different food you had after drinking so much.
    Did you pass the place by later and took note of the food they offer, or your memory starts to specifically focus on food when it needs to start prioritising due to the alchohol in your system?

    1. I have a peculiarly selective memory. I can’t remember what I need at the grocery store to save my life, but when it comes to food and the names of pretty girls, it’s almost like a super power. I think this has something to do with Darwinism, but I’m not really sure how.

  8. Hey man, I love this story it so rad. whats the name/artist of that song yous were singin? id like to give it a listen…


    1. The one I played (badly) on the sanshin was Nada Sousou by Begin.

      The one I sang with the hostess was Toilet no Kamisama by Kana Uemura.

      Both are extremely excellent.

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