Everything changes, nothing remains without change. – Buddah
Reasonable price and comfortable place. – East-Bourne Bar
In the normal course of life change happens at a very slow pace. We do not pay much attention to the small, incremental changes that occur from day to day and it is only when we look at old pictures from many years ago do we realize time marches on and the world we once knew no longer exists. It all seems to happen so quickly as we go about our days, doing our tasks as the months and years slip by.
Take our children for example. They are growing and changing everyday but it happens so slowly that we see no difference. It isn’t until we look at old pictures and videos do we realize how quickly they are growing up. The babies we once had to keep a constant eye on are gone and this always makes me very sad as I didn’t even get to say goodbye!
Last week I was a single man at 27, yesterday I was 36 with my first child and now I am middle aged at 42. Time really is both fascinating and terrifying.
Aside from old pictures the other time that the passage of time really hits me is when I travel internationally. I spent a good amount of time overseas and in various countries. If I were to write an autobiography these international experiences would comprise distinct chapters of my life full of unique experiences, dramatic changes and completely new friends. These chapters abruptly start and end instead of gently flowing with gradual changes from one to the next. I was an English teacher and student in Japan and then I was a salesperson in Vietnam. I left Vietnam and became an airline representative in San Francisco. The changes were big and my life became very different with each move.
When I return to these countries where I spent part of my life I’m expecting to re-read the old chapters. I go to Japan every year and I’ll visit my old neighborhoods, go to my favorite bars, and reminisce. That worked for a while but I lived in Japan 16 years ago and the nostalgia has for the most part all faded away. There is always some big change year over year and these big changes have really added up.
A few of the bigger changes that have affected me are as follows.
Watami, the ubiquitous izakaya that was one of my favorites has closed a lot of locations. I went to the usual spots a few years ago but they were all closed or had changed names. Banking regulations have become tighter where I can no longer use my Sumitomo passbook as it is old and you need to have an address/live in Japan for a Japanese bank account. So it seems I’m grandfathered in but I just cannot update my account? All the young people I was surrounded by at Waseda, in the bars, restaurants and at the gym are now middle-aged with families. They have been replaced by new young people who are occupying their former seats at places like The Hub, Niku Yokocho, and the classrooms.
All of these changes hit me pretty hard this last trip to Japan. I’m no longer young, the Japan chapter of my life I was expecting to re-read is outdated and another of my favorite locations I frequented back in 2002 is now gone. Goodbye East-Bourne in Mejiro.
The East-Bourne was a small bar down a side street not far from Mejiro station. I lived in Mejiro from 2002-2003 and stumbled in one evening to find a very warm, intimate bar with leather seating, dark woods, soft light and an elegant charm. There were only three beers on tap but were all premium and perfectly poured by bartenders in ironed suit shirts and bow ties.
The picture above is of my friends Ryan and Brendan who traveled to Japan to visit me. That week became one of legend and something we still talk about to this day. It will certainly remain one of the highlights of our entire lives.
On that particular evening we dressed up in suits and the East Bourne was our first stop. After that we were headed to a club called Genius in Ginza where suits were required. Doing a quick search it seems that it still exists whereas other clubs I frequented such as Space Lab Yellow in Roppongi do not.
I would continue to pop into the East Bourne from time to time and sometimes would talk to other patrons. One time it was another expatriate and I remember talking to him about the American Chamber of Commerce and how there was an employee named Bob. One time I went to an event and the sponsors were given five minutes to speak before the event happened. Well, one guy who was promoting his visa-service business didn’t end at five minutes. Bob tried to take the microphone back and the guy resisted. This lead to an awkward situation, especially when the mic was given back and Bob kept referencing that the absolute limit was five minutes and staring at the visa guy. I looked at the visa guy and he was absolutely steaming. I’ve never seen so much hate in a person’s eyes before.
I saw Bob at one of those Roppongi clubs that no longer exists surrounded by about three girls and plenty of beer. So naturally I said “Hey Bob, great to see you!” Of course he didn’t remember me but guys like Bob like to seem important and well known. With my enthusiasm and that it made him look good in front of the girls he invited me to sit down, have some beer and conversation. I can’t stress enough how important it is to remember people’s names and use them when greeting them. It changes the entire atmosphere for the better, works to your advantage and not just for free beer!
The other patron at the bar I remember is one who I didn’t speak with but saw often around Mejiro. She drank alone, or speaking with different men from time to time. She wasn’t a prostitute but I think just a lonely woman who found comfort at the East-Bourne. When I’m in Mejiro I wonder what happened to her. I imagine she is still just as lonely but now in her early fifties and still looking for love that will probably never come aside from one hour stints in the love motel.
On my return trips I would pop-in to the East-Bourne as it was a place where memories easily returned. But in discovering the building was completely gone this past trip I realized I haven’t been in the East-Bourne for 5 or 6 years! The last time I went it was to meet my friends Horacio, Masaru and Miguel. We had a couple of quick drinks, some great catching up and then they were all off to catch the last train. These pictures are from 2011 or 2012 if I’m not mistaken.
I remember we went there two years in a row as the same women (on the far left) was the bartender. The draft beers were gone and they were only serving bottle beers then. I imagine this was part of the slow death of the East-Bourne because just having bottle beer in a place so refined just seemed a bit off.
On this past trip I was looking forward to another beer in the East-Bourne and walked past where it used to be two times before I realized the entire building had been torn down. Looking at Google Maps confirmed this.
And so, this post, although rather long in getting to the point is my online memorial to the East-Bourne Mejiro. It will always be a place I held dear and was part of one of my favorite chapters of my life.
Google Maps Link: Here