After many hours – 7.5hrs to Spore, 3 hours transit, 8 hours to Tokyo, we are finally here. So exhausted that it seems almost surreal. Another hour of queuing at the customs, arranging the JR passes, and 1 hour train ride, 15 min walk, we found our hotel without too much ado. Dropped the bags, and headed out for our lunch – our first bowl of ramen in Tokyo! Danny is in heaven as he slurped his noodles, plus half of mine, burped politely, then went out to buy two cans of coffee from one of the thousands of vending machines lurking in every corner. Did you know you can get hot coffee in a tin from the vending machine too? I was amazed, and very grateful, because it is early spring and still quite cold.
Came back to the hotel to sleep off the rest of the afternoon. Met James and Melody at the foyer to go for dinner. Spent quite a while getting lost as we were trying to find our way to the red light district! It is a Friday night – quite an eye opener. We went there because they were meant to have some nice food in every corner, and indeed there was. There were no end of yakitori shops, but there was a man who was singing as he was bbq-ing prawns on the grill at a corner shop, so we were charmed and went in. Winding our way up the stairs, cigarette smoke hit me like a wall. I was surprised that one could still smoke indoors in this day and age, but hey, we wanted to visit the underbelly of Tokyo, and here it is, no doubt about it. The 4 of us sat down carefully, manoeuvring jackets/cameras/backpacks/scarves around a tiny table and sat cross legged on the tatami. Looking around carefully, we observed men in company of women who were quite obviously escorts of various sorts. They were all there for conversation, food and sake. Both men and women smoked. One woman at a corner had her jumper top stretched over her shoulders, probably in what she believes is in an erotic manner, while leaning heavily across the table. The other to my left looks a more dignified woman who smoked as she drank, very at ease with the man she was with – they made low conversation over sake, and it looked as though they enjoy each other’s company every other Friday night. Another corner sat an older man accompanied with a young girl heavily made up and with a very short skirt. They left very shortly after.
Our hostess was a motherly figure and she made sure we were looked after. Many sign language and bits of English after, she made us order 4 prawns, other chicken and liver skewers and we got our fill of green tea and sake. The yakitori was the best I had eaten yet, though it is only our first day in Japan.
We finished our meal and were expunged to the street in about half an hour. These streets were a smorgasbord of sex shops, rental rooms, phallic displayes, ladies bars, brothels… most had explicit pictures, and every single one had a pimp – or a bouncer, whatever you like to call them, standing outside. Some were big tough black men – looking menacing, eyes piercing; some middle aged bearded men – surreptitious, perving; mostly are well suited clean-shaven young men, boys really, – fancy styled and dyed hair, holding an umbrella each for the rain, unthreatening but watchful. The different groups may know each other, but they steered clear of the others. Men walked in and out of shops openly. Young girls dressed in very short skirts, brightly patterned, high leather boots, flowery tops, extravagant hairstyles, with very heavy perfect blemish free make up. They click-clacked purposefully by at a fast pace, texting at the same time – as if anxious/late for their appointments.
We meandered our way through the streets, staring, gawking, taking photos. No one seemed to mind us, no one interfered.
But they were all watching.