Disclaimer to mom, dad, aunt Sally, potential future employers: this is an outlier experience in the studious, responsible pace of my life
FLASH. Club Feria with friends, where Metropolis magazine is having some sort of release party. My happy-go-lucky buddy Lilly had discount tickets and a VIP table, which is always fun when you’re not paying. All-you-can drink, a groovy disco soundtrack, and good times all around.
FLASH. Watching the party from the table, cute businesswoman on one side, cute grad student on the other. They know I’m not the middle-aged Waseda professor I say I am, but they’re not exactly sure which part is a story, and to what degree. One periodically goes to get drinks, and the Mexican beer, gin and tonics, and vodka-laced smoothies come and go. The DJ spins “YMCA,” and all the white people get up and dance, then quickly teach the disoriented Japanese. Two russian girls spin light-up hula hoops down on the dance floor. Handshakes, introductions, flirtation, new friends. Feeling baller.
FLASH. Heading for the Oedo line with my friends, ready to go home and catch some sleep for the next day’s parties.
FLASH. Stumbling out of a train station. I still don’t know which one it was, but according to the cab driver I flagged down, we were somewhere near Yokohama, and getting home was going to be 12,000 yen ($120). I screwed this one up royally. How did I get here? What on earth possessed me to make the transfer to this far-flung town? For that matter, what lines even go here?
FLASH. Standing outside of a convenience store, weighing my options. It’s 1:30am, no manga cafes or open bars in sight, and the last train has long since gone. I may be on a bench somewhere tonight.
FLASH. A bunch of Japanese people, some with guitars strapped to their backs or amps in the hands, walk out of an izakaya next to the convenience store. The storefront is dark and there’s a “closed” sign up, so they must be the last customers. They ask me what I’m doing. “Missed the last train. Hanging out.” “We’re going to karaoke. Want to come?”
FLASH. These guys are really good at karaoke. I’m pretty poor at singing, but when you sing American songs in front of Japanese people, they cheer you no matter how good you are. They’re all late twenties, working in bars and restaurants, getting together to play shows in their free time. I remember all their faces, but names are a blank. It’s odd how much of that there is in Japan. Encounters are so random and lives are so busy that I knew, even as I was talking, singing, and having a great time with these guys, that we’d probably never see each other again.
FLASH. 5am, stumbling out of karaoke, headed for the train station, the sky slowly lightening.
FLASH. 9:15am, Shibuya station. I regain consciousness on a train full of salarymen, a bit over an hour before my first class. I’m a little dazed, and really ready for some sleep, but there’s no time to go home for a nap.
FLASH: 10:00am. I walk out of Waseda station into a bright blue day.
Yet more supporting evidence for my “bad stuff doesn’t happen in Tokyo” theory. When you end up miles and miles from home, dazed and confused, in an abandoned town near a train station you don’t know, you’re supposed to get raped and murdered, wake up sans a wallet, or at the very least, spent a cold night on the hard ground. I don’t plan on testing this theory, and I’ll obviously be a little more careful the next time I’m out, but this town’s something magical.