Monday, August 3, 2009

Postcard from the Floating Kaisha

If this was the opening of a movie, there would be a close up of me sipping champagne on what looked like a yacht with the sun setting behind me. The camera would then pan out to include one other token gaijin, three barely-legal Secretaries and five Top Professionals. Yes, I would have preferred just the close up shot too. What would occasion such a situation you may ask. A gokon perhaps or maybe the opening scene of a porno? Nope, just another evening on the old yacht with a couple bottles of Veuve Cliq and an hour-long fireworks display in Yokohama. I've now been spoiled and will always look down my nose at watching hanabi from the shore now that I've seen it from right in front of the launching barge with Yokohama twinkling behind it. But let's back up a minute shall we?

One of the TPs whom I have known for quite some time invited me to a small and intimate gathering on his boat where we would be watching the Yokohama fireworks from. He implored me to invite another foreign colleague to, you know, give the party an international vibe. He also said that he would be inviting some other TPs and I quote, "young Secretaries." Keep in mind this is also the man who told me that as long as a man is was younger than my father he would be a suitable partner. Allrighty then. The Yacht TP offered to drive me and the Secretaries so there we were, four hos in the back of his Benz, cruising out to Yokohama. It definitely felt like a weird group date where money is involved and you have to laugh no matter what is said. I guess he figured we were cheaper than calling actual hostesses.

On the boat we cracked open the champers and sat around eating finger food and pretending we were all old friends. I smiled so hard at the men barely younger than my father that my cheeks were sore the next day. One of the TPs spent the whole time playing with his new flashy camera and on more than one occasion me and the other Token were instructed to get our faces in the frame to, what do you know, show the party's international side. And it was a side. As in sitting off to the side and not speaking until spoken to. You know how in some cultures you can hire groups of people to celebrate or mourn for you? In Japan I think a similar business would really take off, except you would be hiring out foreigners to give your event an international vibe. You could even specify age, race, gender and how many of each, depending on what kind of "vibe" you're going for. I'm seeing yen signs, are you?

I think this goes without saying but I'd like to take this opportunity to tell you that the Secretaries were all wearing heels. On a boat where there is jumping involved between dock and deck. I had actually contemplated wearing heels but didn't want to end up being the only one with heels and looking absolutely ridiculous. How wrong I was, I mean I live in the land of women who wear heels to climb Mt. Fuji. So there I was in flats feeling, well, flat.

The fireworks themselves were great but I had a date with Shibuya later that night and was itching to get back on dry land when they finished. I also mistakenly assumed I would be getting a ride back. It was decided we would have coffee on the boat back at the marina so the Secretaries scurried around making the coffee and being domestic. In situations like this, foreign women can either join the Secretaries in their hostess duties and feel a bit awkward and subservient, or they can sit with the boys and switch to mute. After the coffee had been passed around, like a high school dance the Secretaries got off the boat and went off by themselves somewhere leaving me with the boys, growing more resentful as each minute of conversation centering on kyabakura ticked by. When is this conversation appropriate? Apparently when a gaijiness who speaks Japanese is the only female present. Had I known I wasn't going to get a ride into town I would have taken off as soon as we hit the rubber bumpers tied to the dock.

After 30 minutes of more inane conversation someone finally made a move to leave and the Yacht TP walked us up to the marina gate, saying he was going to stay behind and close up the boat. We then had one of those long drawn out goodbyes so popular here and just when I thought it was over, the Secretaries ran back to the Yacht TP to ask again if they could stay behind and help clean up (I don't think that was code for something). Shockingly enough, three of the TPs had come on the train (the horror!) and the one who did have a car of course offered the Secretaries a ride back. They barely even said goodbye to us and the other Token and I got the distinct feeling that we didn't exist as no one even bothered to ask how we were getting back to Tokyo, which by the way, was a 75-minute train ride away. To date there has been nothing more hellish than waiting for a train for 15 minutes (!) when you know your friends are waiting in Shibuya. To top it off, on one of the shorter connections, one of the TPs who had said nothing to us all night finally opened his pie-hole to bark "2 minute! 2 minute!" at us. Domo arigato.

I would be remiss if I didn't give you the whole Saturday night party report, not just the one where I was treated like hired help. A girlfriend from my Waseda days was in town from London so we decided to get down and dirty with another girlfriend of ours and head to Pure for the first time in five years, possibly the most fun you will have for 2500 yen (3500 for the gents). And the dirtiest. Whatever would the authorities do back home if we had a concept of an all-you-can-drink club? I was astounded by the novelty of it when I was 19 and FOB in Tokyo. The novelty didn't wear off however, and I found myself there most weekends for a year, stumbling back home at dawn. I've avoided going back since returning to Japan three years ago for a variety of reasons, I think the main one being my misconception that I'd outgrown it for pencil skirts, heels, an actual salary and 20,000 yen bottles of red wine. I was clearly way off base in this assumption, something I realized as soon as the woman at the front put on my yellow wristband and handed me an empty glass to take to the bar.

Pure. How to describe it? I don't know if all the drinks getting thrown around and spilled are due to the fact that the alcohol is practically free or simply because everyone is so off their faces. The floor then gets slippery and dirty (which accounts for all those wipe outs when I was busting a move at twenty) but you don't realize this until the 5am dawn highlights the black streaks on your feet. Planning a night out there yet? Honestly though, they play great hip hop for dancing and everyone is ridiculously friendly. Being hit on from all sides certainly doesn't hurt the ego either and we made a huge group of new and temporary friends that night. I used to go to several clubs in Roppongi but none are as fun as this club in Shibuya and they are missing the friendly vibe. In Roppongi it's either a shit club with Japanese girls and foreign men salivating all over each other or a more expensive place with bankers, Eastern European models and others who are patting themselves on the back for not being at Heartland. There's no camaraderie or sense of let's get through this nomihodai experience together, everyone is too serious about mating to let loose and enjoy the drinks in plastic cups. I'm not saying that mating isn't on the agenda at Pure but there is a lot more fun and light-heartedness and I'm afraid I want to go back. Where else will an extremely young looking boy-man from Bali come up to you and say "hey baby," like he's been practicing it off of some B-movie from the 80s? If that doesn't convince you then what about the experience of dawn on a weekend in Shibuya, right before it gets hot and the light is smog-gold. It's quite the walk to the station watching groups of people sitting on the sidewalk or coming out of clubs on their way home.


jared said...

yikes, geg. between the icky corporate event and the all-you-can-drink Shibuya club with slippery floors, middle-age is looking more and more attractive ;-)

Ryan said...

You know what, no matter how bad your night got, you really seemed to be able to paint a picture of rose-tinted yumminess.

I don't mean your fireworks experience, oh no, that did sound a bit rocky, if I'm fair, but your Pure experience sounds ace, even if only for the walk home in the morning air.

I have just one remark: I'm a banker, and whenever I'm in Tokyo I never go to Roppongi. I prefer this little place in Shibuya, it's called Pure, I think..

Katrina said...

LMAO at your description of your experiences! Know exactly how you feel being the 'Token', and can relate to the awkwardness when the secretaries got all domestic making coffee; I never know what to do, either way I always feel 'in the way'.
As for Pure...well that place has some weird way of luring you back there, even when you vow never to go near it again! Guess it really is just fun there!

Green-Eyed Geisha said...

jared: Well, when you put it that way... :) I'm definitely a little freaked that you can't take the Shibuya out of me!

And other Pure goers come out of the woodwork...

Ryan: Pure was ace, I can't deny it. And I am happy to hear that at least one banker does opt out of the gaijin ghetto that is Roppongi!

Katrina: It is a dangerous, dangerous place. Maybe we'll click plastic cups there one day!