Tokyo – Nightlife in Tokyo

Nightlife in Tokyo

By tok_matthew

December 19th, 2004 @ 1:00 PM Entertainment

I’ve found that an issue which has not yet been discussed in our blog is Nightlife in Tokyo. Nobody disputes that Tokyo is full of exciting nightlife and the options endless. However, I’ve found that most of the best places are not advertised in the foreigner media and are only discovered by word of mouth. Everytime I look at Metropolis I see a million ads for small dirty bars which while posessing their own small campus bar charm are not up to par for a city like Tokyo. When I first arrived and asked the Japanese where to go they would often say that there are western bars and Japanese bars or Izakayas. I am a big fan of Watami but I often long for a traditional western bar where you can walk around and meet others. However, even places like the Hub or Dubliners become old after a while and I believe that Tokyo should have more outstanding places yet I have only found a few. So here is a list of places I’m familiar with and would appreciate some comments on where else is worth a visit and being recommended to foreigners visiting Tokyo. After all, the movie “Lost in Translation” gave the impression that there is not much to do for foreigners and when they do get out they only go to Karaoke or small pubs (even though these places can be quite fun).


1. The Hub – Every foreigner knows this place and it isn’t bad but gets tiring after going there from week to week. I find the Hub in Ikebukuro to be full of strange people and I prefer the one in Takadanobaba since it has a younger and more Japanese crowd.

2. The Black Sheep, Ikebukuro – Very small and not much fun in my opinion.

3. Dubliners, Shinjuku – Worth a visit but much like the hub and overpriced.


1. Gaspanic – The most famous foreigner bar/club yet full of strange people and they have signs which read “You must be drinking or leave!” This is illegal yet appropriate for a shady place like Gaspanic. They recently even put tables on the dance floor so we cannot dance and drink more.

2. Wallstreet – A shady Roppongi joint which has not been full for the past year since I’ve visited.

3. Lexington Queen – Full of shady people and gaijin groupies. Although this place has a reputation for attracting east european models. In the past year they have started charging top dollar for a dirty club.

4. Spacelab Yellow – A true club and I can say it is worthy of a city like Tokyo. Entry is expensive but worth it for an entire night of partying.

5. Genius – My personal favorite Club. Located in Ginza this place is a true club full of professionals (suit required most nights) and beautiful Japanese girls hoping to catch a rich executive. They have three floors and play 80’s and hip-hop. If you get there before 8:00pm it will be dead but only costs 2,000 yen instead of the after 8pm, 4,000 yen entry. The price has been changing recently so I’m not sure if these figures are correct. Definately my most recommended place.

In a nutshell, these are the places I patronized most except for the million small places around the city. In Tokyo I expected more but due to my travel experience, I may be overly-critical. My favorite club in the world happens to be in Acapulco, Mexico and is called “Andromeda.” It is situated on top of a big hill, small mountain and entry is only $20 for all the hard alcohol you can drink. Formal dress is required and they are strict about dress code. They have “stadium seating” with the dance floor below so everyone can see the dance floor. Behind the dance floor is a large screen which projects “club images” and also a huge glass window which looks over the ocean and city of Acapulco.

Another unfortunate aspect about Tokyo is that in many of the clubs the crowd faces the DJ and everyone dances alone like in a trance. I think it would be much more entertaining to dance together. I have come to realize that the DJ is now being positioned directly in the center so he is the focus of all attention. I still believe the DJ should stick to spinning records and let the patrons enjoy themselves without interfering. He or She has been elevated to a Godlike status in the club which I found strange. They play records and perhaps add a personal touch. I’m not refuting the importance of the DJ but come on, things have gotten too far.

My Move from Tokyo to Saigon – 10.11.2004

Hello from Saigon! As some of you may have noticed, I’ve been MIA for the past two weeks due to a crossroads in my life. One one hand I was offered a position at a trading company in Tokyo and on the other, I’ve been invited to interview with a few companies here in Saigon. Therefore, I decided to get out of my ridiculously expensive apartment in Mejiro and come here for two months to get a feel for the environment and decide if I should stay or return to Tokyo. The ordeal has left me like a whirlwind of uncertainty yet it’s been quite a interesting / hectic ride.

I decided to try my luck here about 3 weeks ago and started the process of moving out of my apartment in Tokyo which was just slight of a nightmare. In America when one decides to move it’s usually very easy to get rid of or move all your belongings. Needless to say, moving internationally is both expensive and difficult, especially from Japan. I was able to have friends take most of my big stuff since I really didn’t want to bother with trying to sell it for a pittance on the Tokyo Notice Board. The trouble was with the extra clothing that normally one could give to the poor but since the Japanese usually distain second hand clothing unless it comes with a 100 dollar price tag in a trendy Harajuku store, I had no choice but to throw it in a trashbag reserved for burnables and hope that they would take it. I also put a thousand unburnables in those bags on the last day and ran as fast as I could. I just cannot pay money to throw non-burnables away as they want us to do although they will probably suspect it was me and take it out of my deposit. Oh well.

So after a layover in Malaysia, I finally arrived in HCMC (Ho Chi Minh City – The official name for Saigon) and have been staying with a Vietnamese friend. I was feeling very anxious and even a little depressed leaving Tokyo since I feel so comfortable there and have devoted so much time to learning the language and understanding the mentality of the people. I guess I was a bit afraid of leaving the convenience and familiarity. However, I’m very interested in Vietnam due to the nice weather, friendly people and chaos of the third world. Also, since the country just recently liberalized the economy a bit I thought that now was an opportune time to check out the possibilites here. So for all you Tokyoites thinking of going on vacation here or checking out the business opportunites, I thought I’d give you a heads up about the environment.

Coming from Tokyo the aspect that will shock you most is the disorderly nature that is HCMC. Tokyo and the Japanese are so ordered and there is usually a set way to behave, interact with others and generally one accepted way to do everything. Here is complete chaos, and one must be aware that thieves are amist and you are a target but as long as you are cognizant of this and take precautions, everything should be fine. Actually this place feels much safer for me than Ohio where there are gangs and random killings everyday. The mafia is here as well but if they cause trouble the punishment is death by the communist government so unless you are specifically looking for them then you probably won’t even notice them unlike the Yakuza in Tokyo.

Another aspect that is such a contrast from Tokyo is the facial expressions and character of the people. First, these people smile at me when I smile at them!!! Coming from Tokyo this seemed very odd. Also, their expressions are quite animated and you can tell by their face weather they are happy, agitated, sad or anything else. Also, the Vietnamese and foreigners are much more open and relaxed here. I went to an event by the American Chamber of Commerce which was to introduce the new members of the American Consulate and the American Ambassador was even in attendance. Everyone was much more willing to talk and be open about things then at events at the American Chamber of Commerce Tokyo. I guess in Tokyo there is simply too much power and money and “good old boy” network. I had some interviews here already but after that event I gained at least 4 more interviews. I even met the Federal Agent in charge of security for the Consulate and he seemed willing to meet me should I have any questions in the future!!! I can’t imagine anyone being so kind like that at the American Embassy in Tokyo. I guess what shocked me most about the evening was when the people from the Consulate were giving their presentations and the political analyst started talking about the Communist Government, corruption and touched on the religious freedom issue (the US just listed Vietnam as a “country of concern.”) He said “yea, it doesn’t make me too popular with the ruling elite at the moment.” Actually, this made me nervous and I was expecting soldiers with guns to storm the place or something but luckily that didn’t happen.

I also went to an event hosted by the Saigon Times for their anniversary and was introduced to the “High Society” of HCMC. Now in Tokyo, high society is much to high for me to even catch a glimpse of and I guess one must be very very rich and well connected to plug themselves into their network. Not here however, since everything is starting from the beginning and people haven’t mastered the art of excluding others yet (oh and the ideology is still somewhat Communist). However, they have learned a little bit about being superficial and the second question they ask immediately after your name is “So, what do you do?” Not that they don’t ask this everywhere else in the world, but it is always the second question here and is automatic at these little cocktail parties. After a while I wanted to toy with them and say something like “Yea, I’m in the mafia and buying drugs, or I’m a new superstar in the adult film industry.” But I decided to limit my fun and tell the truth about my situation.

Now for the interviews…
The most interesting one by far was in Hanoi for a trading company. As you may know there is a very important governmental meeting ASEAN going on in Hanoi and Vietnam even stopped issuing Visas for business and tourists unless you got “special permission” from the department of immigration. Well, I got my special permission and found it funny that the place I was interviewing just happened to be where all the European delegates were staying! So I had to pass the police who checked my passport and in my bag and finally made it to the interview. I didn’t know much about the company but it was in the best building in Hanoi so I thought it couldn’t be all bad. However, the lady who interviewed me was 45 minutes late and wearing a red short skirt with fishnet stockings. She also droned on in terrible English (side-note: I understand the difficulty of speaking a foreign language and usually understand everything a foreign speaker wants to say, but this lady just strung a bunch of difficult business terms together in no logical order.) and I really didn’t understand anything. At any-rate she told me that I was to be the head of the international department due to my language skills and be in charge of the entire staff.. WTF?? I have no experience in this and she just wants me to take everything over with no senior advisor?? Further, she told me she wanted to let me do everything so she could go invest in new companies… Needless to say it was too much and I am not afraid to say that I need a supervisor to learn from and to help me understand the business. So, things seem certainly a little shady there. However, there are many companies here that are backed by foreign capital and are just starting up. Two of the places I’ve interviewed at are in education and have solid, credible managers. It seems to be an exciting time if one can stand the chaos of it all and looking for adventure.

This blog is long enough and I’ll write one more about going out here in case you guys come on vacation (your yen will make you a king here)

Tokyo – 英会話について。。


By tok_matthew

September 16th, 2004 @ 12:29 PM Uncategorized
Ah, the 英会話 (Eikaiwa = English Conversation School). Their bright neon signs decorate buildings from the major centers of Shinjyuku and Ikebukuro to the smallest countryside town. The ubiquitous English language school has served as the entry point into Japan for foreigners innumerable. Sometimes loved, sometimes detested by those in their employ, the Eikaiwa must be commended for opening Japan to foreigners and helping the Japanese to integrate more with the world. The English language is infact an intangible commodity that the Japanese purchase in order to use when traveling abroad. The #1 reason that I’ve received about why they learn English is, “So we can communicate with foreigners!”

The Eikaiwa’s detractors would say that it’s just a business as their images of a proper school (as we know in the West) are quickly dashed with each 45 minute lesson and sterile teaching format. However, this business mentality has helped the companies spread from 北海道 to 九州 and given the masses greater access to the English lesson. What other idea has made it so easy for foreigners to come explore and fufill their adventurous desires in a country that otherwise might seem inaccessible. The Eikaiwa has served as a springboard into other careers in Japan as well as an opportunity to study the language, martial arts and even find a suitable husband or wife for many Japan enthusiasts.

We also cannot forget that these schools are a major source of employment for thousands of young Japanese who wish to use their English skills in their first job. If you consider how many of us study foreign languages on a global scale, how many of us actually get to use these langauges in the professional realm? If there had been a Spanish language school modeled after the Eikaiwa in the USA, I might have taken my first job there to increase my contact with native Spanish speakers. Many of the best English speaking Japanese I know either studied abroad, or worked/studied at an Eikaiwa.

As one who loves languages and suffered through many language classes at a ‘traditional’ school, I really wish that there had been this type of business in my town back home. After all my attention span only lasts about 45 minutes and I despise tests in the learning of language. Cheers to the Eikaiwa.

Tokyo – Gaijin Complex

Gaijin Complex

By tok_matthew

September 15th, 2004 @ 12:10 PM Uncategorized

When I first came to Japan I lived out in Saitama along the Tobu Tojo line somewhere between Shiki and Kawagoe. Out there in the “country” it’s often rare to see an unknown gaijin (since we all taught for Nova) and if you should happen to see one it was custom to make eye contact and give a little head nod. This simple gesture conveyed that we hoped each other was getting along well in a land so different from our own and was a sign of respect. In effect it basically said, “Hey, you look like me and there are not many of us! So I hope your getting along well here and I wish you the best of luck.”

I then moved to Mejiro and have found that approximately 50% of you gaijins out there are inclined to give a head nod when passing a fellow foreigner and the other half make a bold and obvious attemt to NOT make eye contact. This is not by mistake and it should be obvious to us gaijins that upon passing another gaikokujin we have to make a deliberate decision to acknowledge or not acknowledge. It has only recently reached the 50/50 percentage when before I would put those who acknowledged other gaijins at about 65%.

Therefore, I would like to discuss the mindset of those that deliberately look the other way when passing a fellow gaijin. It’s not like they don’t see us since most gaijins stick out like a sore thumb. So is it that they want to try and fit into the society so much that they avoid all contact with other foreigners? Or is it that the number of foreigners are getting larger and passing another gaijin isn’t as rare now as it used to be? Or perhaps it is simply the city mindset where you’re not supposed to be polite to anyone and mind your own business?

As for me I usually pass 1 or 2 gaijins in a day and give the polite head-nod. But then again Mejiro is a nice residential area and not like Roppongi, Azabujuban or Aoyama with a ton of foreigners……..