Tokyo Bars

Several times today I’ve been invited to come and share the delights of a “titty-bar”. Even though I’ve never heard the phrase before, I realised pretty quickly what it means. After all, I’m staying metres from the centre of Tokyo’s “red light district” in the newly opened “Hotel Gracery (Shinjuku)”.

The hotel’s big claim to fame is a “life sized” Godzilla. Only hotel patrons are allowed on the seventh floor terrace to get close up; though I saw many, many people taking photographs from the streets below.

Having been to many other large cities in the world, including London, Shanghai, Beijing and Hong Kong, I was expecting the streets to be busier. Indeed, when I arrived at Narita Airport this morning, the place was almost “sleepy”. I spent the time between when our plane landed (at about 6.20am), and when the “Narita Express” (scheduled for 7.47am) left, almost alone on the platform.

Coming in to Tokyo itself (about a ninety minute train ride), there were very few people on the train, and it wasn’t until we hit Tokyo proper that the scenery transformed itself from countryside to city. And even then, it probably wasn’t until Shibuya and Shinjuko before I began to see the “busy city”, I’d been expecting.

I spent most of the day in the area around my hotel. As I couldn’t check in until 2.00pm,  I spent the period until then wandering around, checking out the “passing parade”, doing a bit of shopping (I’d forgotten to pack swimwear) and I even managed to have a brief nap in the hotel lounge. I slept well on the plane, but it was still nice to close my eyes briefly.

So far I’ve eaten two meals: a very yummy dinner downstairs in the hotel tonight, and earlier a meal in a Japanese “fast food” restaurant. The fear I had making my way to the counter with absolutely no Japanese language skills was soon replaced with confidence, as I was directed to the machine at the restaurant entrance, where, once you’ve selected English as your preferred language, you’re greeted with a touch screen selection of meals. You then insert some money, you’re given a ticket which you hand that to the waiter, and then suddenly your meal turns up. We could do with a bit of that in Sydney, I reckon.

Indeed, everything in Japan seems to be a bit “automated”. As well as the machine in the restaurant, there are literally hundreds, probably thousands, of street-side vending machines selling soft-drinks. The toilet in my bathroom is also automated, offering me a range of options from flush to bidet. Even the bath in my hotel has the option to give you an exact water temperature.

So after a day of wandering around, I went out tonight in search of some food, some photography and some fun.

It’s said that Tokyo has around 300 gay bars. Tonight I wandered around the area where they’re mostly found (again, not too far from where I’m staying). I never actually ventured into any of them, as I think the whole experience of being approached today by so many blokes asking me to enter into the “titty bars” has wrecked my confidence. “I don’t really look THAT straight, do I?”, I thought to myself. Although wandering past bars with  names like “Arty Farty” and “Campy” is certainly appealing, I think I’ll hold off for a quieter night than Saturday. 

Besides, I need to be up reasonably early tomorrow. I’m going on a 26km bike-tour of Tokyo, taking in the major attractions. I didn’t realise when I made the booking it was that long, but I’ve been reassured by observing that Tokyo is relatively flat, and that I’ve probably already walked that far today.