Japan

My good friend Armond asked me, if I would join him for his trip to Japan for the Auto Salon.  I of course had a hard time saying no to this and shortly there after I was on a 14-hour flight to Tokyo Japan.

We were flying standby so a seat was not guaranteed, I have a good track record with these things though and had a good feeling.  The night before I stayed up all night so that I would be sure I could sleep on the plane, so half asleep I drove the Volvo down to the train station and hopped on the train and took my ride through town at rush hour to get to the airport.  Once I arrived at the airport, I got in line to check in and called Armond, “Dude, I’m in the airport, where are you?”  Armond gave his precise location, “I’m by the trashcan.”

“ATL is a big airport, is there a specific trashcan you might be near.”

“The one at the gate.”

“Ah, well I’m still checking in, hold my seat.”

Initially I was only supposed to be gone for just a handful of days, leave Thursday and come home Monday.  After 29 hours of flying it’s not hard to see, that’s not a lot of time in Japan.  I was determined to enjoy it though and see the most of it.  Being in the situation I was at the time, I had a fair bit of time off.  Those I was with dictated my return trip.  I decided that was silly, I’m a big boy and I can fend for myself.  To hell with the language barrier, I’m staying for a while.

Shortly after this epiphany, I look over and see a foreign couple making out in the line at 8:00 AM.  This was not the most welcoming sight, but like oncoming headlights, I couldn’t help but to take a peak every now again.  It wasn’t long until they stopped but the guy still had his hand down the girl’s pants on her butt.  This is a classy place, but I remembered a similar event in a bar in college when another friend, Jay, said, “Good for him.”

I get to the lady at the ticket counter; I asked her if she would change my return date to a lot later.  The man at the counter next to me is shouting at the ticket agent because he wasn’t there early enough.  My agent kindly obliges, changes my date and tells me that the flight looks ok to get on at the moment.  This is good news; I didn’t really feel the need to be stuck in Japan, I just wanted to visit a bit longer.  The man continues to yell, I try to listen to see what it’s about.  My ticket agent asks if I have any bags I would like to check.  I tell her that I wasn’t checking bags and what I had on my back was all I had. “Really, that’s it, for nearly two weeks, what you have on your back?” The agent said looking horrified.  I acknowledged her suspicions adding fuel to her scrutinizing flame.  She handed me my ticket and looked at me as though I had a cloud of dust around me like a Peanuts character.

I got to the security line, which actually went fairly quickly for ATL, but the poor guy in front of me tried to use his passport, which had expired the day before, and he didn’t realize it.  The TSA agent promptly told him it wasn’t valid and he couldn’t go through.  The man apologized, and handed her a valid driver’s license.  “NO! I can’t accept this, you need to go to the back of the line, sir” the agent protested.  The man pleaded briefly, then on his way to the back of the line I heard him mutter, “TSA, we don’t stop terrorism, but we delay the hell out of it.”  This made me laugh, and promptly check the date of all forms of identification I had on me.

I get to the Gate, E concourse, by the trash can, no Armond.  Then I see him exchanging currency, that’s dumb, I was just in Ireland and I went to the ATM there.  We then huddle up and I meet Chris. Chris is also a former Delta employee.  He seems nice, but very tired.  He had just flown into Atlanta on the red-eye flight from Los Angeles, this is a downfall to cheap standby flights.  We hang out together and chat about cars.  I look around and realize there’s not nearly enough people to fill a 777, awesome we’re going to Japan.  We start to chat with some of the people around us, they are all on standby too.  One guy had been there for 3 days waiting for the one flight to Tokyo a day.  We wait and they start calling names, they called a handful, but it seemed my initial theory was shot.  The door closes and we are still in the terminal, not going to Japan.  We review our plans, and decided put in a day at work and try again in the morning.

I take the train back to Northpoint and drive home.  I get in and sit on the couch to watch some TV, play some video games and try not to fall asleep.  It would prove to be fruitless however, I fell asleep at around 4:00 PM and slept until 6:00 AM the next day, when I needed to be to try it all over again.  I repack my stuff, making sure it’s all there and repeat the previous morning activities.  This time i get in line to get my ticket, the lesbian foreign legion was behind me, but they weren’t crude like the previous morning, just interesting.  I get to the gate and one more time, no Armond or Chris.  Then they come back with breakfast, McDonalds, gross.  We wait to be called, and eventually our names come up.  Everyone got one, even the poor kid that had sat there for 4 days now.  We were going to Japan, freaking sweet.  I make the necessary calls, and board the plane.  Seat was first class, couldn’t be happier, bed like seats and free booze for 14.5 hours.  I immediately take the champagne that was offered and prepare for take-off.

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I was sitting next to Chris and Armond was just in front.  Chris is very personable so we chatted for a while.  Eventually they bring us Dinner, but it was 10:30AM.  Who am I to argue, I eat my food and drink my free booze.  It then hits me that I want to see a movie, Wall-e.  It was good, now only twelve more hours to go.  I then start reading my book and listen to some music.  I was reading then it hits me I might want to try and sleep.    Everyone else is asleep, so I figured I should probably try as well.   I put the seat in the “sleep” position, so as flat as it will go.  Chris is already asleep as far as I can tell, Armond is going strong, I think he was trying to watch every movie in the entertainment gizmo.  I think I slept for about an hour, Chris sees I’m up and says he need to go to the bathroom.  He says to not move the seats; he will climb over on the armrests. I agreed, and laid back so he could do his things.  The idea was brilliant, the seats took just shy of a decade to move and I was comfortable, what did we have to lose?  Chris hit middle armrest, all good so far, then on his way to aisle armrest he misses.  His knee goes straight into my groin and his face goes into the obese man across the aisle’s groin while catching him self fast enough he doesn’t smash his neck on the armrest on the other side of the aisle.  When all is said and done he’s lying in the middle of the aisle holding his newly barked shin, I’m in the fetal position trying not to vomit, both of us laughing hysterically in pain.  we made enough noise to wake up half the aircraft despite the headphones.  Amazingly Chris didn’t pee himself and I didn’t vomit. About half an hour later the flight attendant came by to give us a lecture, she said we woke up five people, and we needed to keep it down.  Good thing she only noticed the five, as if we weren’t embarrassed enough, not to mention in enough pain to feel pretty retarded on our own.  We didn’t try it again, nine more hours to go.

The Rest of the flight was fairly uneventful, thankfully.  I watched a few more movies that were not very good because I don’t remember what they were; “Eagle Eye” was one of them.   It was a weird flight, the window shades were to remain closed the entire flight, it was a shame because we flew over Alaska.  Alaska is one of those things that i have always wanted to see.  I cheated and got a few pictures of the mountains and a couple of frozen rivers, it was pretty amazing.  We did get yelled at for having the shades open though.  It’s weird to have daylight for better than 24 hours straight.  Towards the end of the flight you come down the east coast of Japan and past Tokyo to Narita.  It’s an interesting landscape.  Before the approach started I got up to walk around, use the restroom to clean up a bit and just generally not sit down.  I started chatting with the flight attendant who I am pretty sure was hitting on me.  She was going on and on about how much she invested in property recently.  I thought that was dumb considering the housing market crash that was still occurring.  I guess it has to go up at some point.  I really didn’t enjoy the conversation and was anxious to go sit down quickly after starting it.  I used the bathroom as an excuse and stopped it.  After taking my seat we landed, finally.

The plane comes to a stop and I have to gather up all the crap I had out to entertain myself and put it all back in my bag.  I finally get it all and exit the aircraft.  We get out of the jet way and there was just something wrong.  I could not figure it out to save my life, but something was wrong, it just didn’t feel right.  I look at Armond and Chris, who had been to Japan before, they were both looking at me with a “this is funny” kind of smile.  I inevitably asked what they were smirking at.  Chris asks, “Can you figure out what’s wrong?”  I shake my head and then he responds, “listen.”  That was it, this is one of the world’s busiest Airports and there wasn’t one sound, nothing, not even a whisper.  It was so quiet you could hear your own heart beat.  I was amazed, I had never been in a public place that quiet, never in my entire life.

We make it through customs without a hitch, and eventually need to board the train to Tokyo.  In the process we need to get money, go to the bathroom, and Armond needed to make a phone call.  It was pretty daunting, looking up at the signs and seeing a bunch of squiggly lines.  Eventually you start to make some sense out of them but it didn’t happen immediately.  I started to look around and noticed that everyone was staring at us.  I don’t think I am that special, so asked if I had something hanging off my face.  Armond told me it’s because they don’t see a whole lot of westerners in Japan and most people aren’t really used to it.  Awesome; the black guy, the latin guy and the white guy go to Japan.  It sounds like the start of a bad joke.

Armond makes his call from a pay phone after it took him about 30 minutes to figure it out.  He had a car part that he was going to trade for a “JDM Tyte” stereo.  To do this he had to get in contact with the guy he was trading with.  He had met the guy before on a previous trip so it wasn’t a total shoddy transaction.  While he was trying to figure out the phone I decided to take a look at the newsstand.  Chris follows me to the closest one and we perused the various coffee drinks and tea drinks they offered.  I wanted some candy but after seeing what they had to offer it didn’t really sound very appetizing.  I was hoping for a soda so I could go on pure caffeine as it was 2:00 PM and I had already been up for 18 hours.  No soda, energy drinks consisted of Green Tea and a “Men’s Support Drink.”  I had no idea what the Men’s Support Drink was, but I figured I didn’t need that kind of support at that moment.  Chris convinces me to hold out until we hit the train station, were he claims there will be a bazillion vending machines.  Armond shows up so we gather our things and walk towards what I suspected was the train station.

So far so good on the language barrier, we had made it all the way out of the airport and to the train station; damn we’re good.  Then we see the train schedule and maps; crap, now what.  We all stare blank faced at the map as if it was going to magically make sense.  Sadly this wasn’t a magic eye puzzle and we needed to figure it out.  I suggest we go to a ticket counter and say, “Shinjuku,” which is where our hotel is.  There was a definite flaw in my reasoning; there was no ticket counter.  Everything was automated, good thing we went to the ATM first.  Eventually someone notices that the Western Alphabet names were listed to the side.  and some very nice girl came up and in very broken English asked if we needed help.  Hooray, we say, “Shinjuku, FAST train.”  There are two trains to Tokyo, the Narita Express and the normal train.  The normal train is a good 2 hours longer of train ride, something we didn’t want to deal with at the time.  She pokes at the screen and points to the money acceptor.  Chris shoves in a bill that has a higher number on it than what showed on the screen, it worked.  We are going to Tokyo.

We get the tickets that spat out of the machine, split them up and head to the platform.  Chris was right, there were a bazillion vending machines.  I still didn’t see anything I wanted.  Every drink in the machine was coffee, I HATE coffee.  So I get some tea, it was pretty good.

The train comes in and people get off then the cleaning crew goes in.  I figured people get off the train then we get on.  I was wrong.  First thing I noticed was the seats were rotating!  All the seats in the train were facing the direction the train was going, but since it wasn’t leaving in the same direction, the seats turned around, it was one of the coolest things I had ever seen.  I had been on a lot of trains in Europe and they never thought of that.

The next thing I noticed was the line.  People were forming a line at the door of the train so that when it was tie to board it would go smoothly.  This is amazing, I had always just pushed people out of the way when I wanted on a train, but this was so orderly there was no need to do so.   The cleaning people were some of the fasts cleaning people I had ever seen; the one guy was actually running, I would have been too if I had on a pink uniform.  Eventually they let us on the train and we get our assigned seat.  The train departs and I can’t help but to notice that all of Japan outside the airport is rice fields outlined in very narrow roads.  Every now and again we would see a neighborhood about 3 feet away from the trains window, later I would come to know that was the city of Narita.  Then more rice fields until you get closer to Tokyo.  Once we get to Tokyo I was glued to the window.  It’s not that the buildings are super tall, most only around 10 stories tall but it’s the shear number of them.  There seemed to be no end of them.  Armond was trying to read all the signs and he was doing a pretty good job for a guy that had been up for 24 hours.  The only problem was that he would read the signs in Japanese and not tell us what they meant, that didn’t really help us.  We teased him about it and he started telling us what they meant.  It wasn’t a big deal and it did make sense.  Armond had been learning how to speak Japanese for the last three years, and he was pretty good at it we would later find out.

We arrived in Sinjuku station and exited the train.  There were more vending machines.  We surface on a smaller walk way which had some office towers, a Starbucks and a Krispy Kream.  We passed the Starbucks but not without noticing it was packed with the doors bursting.  We keep walking and I set my watch to the clock we see ahead of us, next to the sign that read “Time Square.”  We continue to walk towards Krispy Kream and when we arrive the line is out the door.  There was a lady giving out menus to the people standing out in the cold, and it was cold.  There was another person holding a sign that read, “the wait is [45] minutes.”  We all read the sign and our jaws dropped at the same time thinking, “It’s just a doughnut.”  After the site of this we had a profound conclusion, we had no idea where we were going.  We knew the hotel was in Shinjuku, but Shinjuku is a HUGE place, despite being inside of Tokyo.  This didn’t matter to me because for every hour I am awake past ten I reduce in age mentally about one year.  I see a bridge and decide I have to walk across it.  We walk across the bridge and it actually provided us with a great photo opportunity.  We follow the bridge across the street and down to a very cool fountain.  We still had no idea where we were or where we needed to be going.  The solution, take some more pictures.  Eventually a guy walks out of the tower nearest us, and Armond asks in, for all I could tell, perfect Japanese where the hotel was.  The best part was the look on this guys face, Chris and I are acting about 12 years old playing in the fountain and Armond, the 6’4″ black guy talks to the man in Japanese, he looked astounded.  He looked up at Armond, then briefly at Chris and I, back to Armond, shakes his head and answers in Japanese.  Armond understood the guy pointed his finger and said, “it’s that way.”

We weren’t far off!  Only one block out of the way, and we were heading in the right direction.  Walking along it was interesting to read the signs experience things, just admire the entirety of the situation.  We came to the main road and it was big.  It took me a little while but it hit me, I’m in Japan.  This is a place I had wanted to go since I was in high school.  Dumb luck met opportunity and I was in Japan.   This is amazing.  Then a guy nearly knocks me over, jerk.  Then I realize, people walk, drive and do everything else on the left side, I guess I’m the jerk.  I had to constantly remind myself of this, just like I did in Ireland.  I start to look directly around me and realize how amazingly clean it is, and how open it felt.  It really didn’t feel cramped or crowded despite the incredible amount of people around me.   Armond points at a building and claims it’s our hotel, I didn’t have any argument so I went with it.  Armond took us right there, we enter the hotel he checks us in and we go to the room, all without incident.

We get into our room and I am surprised how small it is for three people, but I was amazed we all got a decent sized bed.  Chris grabs his bed, Armond the middle one and I had the one by the TV.  I didn’t think much of it, Chris jumps on his bed and lays down, Armond does the same thing.  I sort of flop down on my bed only to find out, it’s not really a bed.  It was rock hard and it really hurt to fall on.  This was fairly short sighted of me, after I was rubbing my now knotted forehead I look under the “bed” and realize it’s a pull out couch.  I just hurt myself on a pull out couch; man, did I feel special.  Japan had attacked me once but I was sure it wasn’t going to get me again.  We all relaxed for a little while, got hooked up to the Internet and checked emails.  Chris had to look after his Ikariam town despite being made fun of, by me. We all took a shower seeing as we hadn’t had one in a while and then got dressed to go out on the prowl.

We start walking around Shinjuku and find some random walking path lined with shops and restaurants.  We decide it would probably be a good place to go find a place to eat.  We walk down and people are shouting at us in Japanese handing us menus and we didn’t take one.  Eventually we stop to assess the situation.  Right next to us was restaurants that apparently had the name of “Mom’s.”  In my experience, and everyone else’s as well, it’s hard to beat Mom’s food.  So we went down to Mom’s.  We went down the stairs and there were three doors, we had no idea which one to go to.  I decided it was a 33% chance of being right and I picked one.  I was wrong, it was a beauty parlor, I think I must have looked like I just saw Godzilla; the poor girl that was closest smiled and giggled as I quickly turned around to leave saying “Sumi-massin,” which to the best of my knowledge means “excuse me.” Chris tried another door and it was a bar that wasn’t open yet.  We had one left and Armond then speaks up, “It says Mom’s right here.” We enter Mom’s and look at what they had to eat.  They were all shouting at us I assume asking us what we want but it was still pretty intimidating.  We take a seat and they bring us some water and some tea, then we go order some food.  Armond has to translate everything for use because Chris and I were dirty, stupid, westerners.  He chats up the girl behind the counter and then points at each dish that was displayed explaining what it was.  It wasn’t really that hard to figure out, fish looked like fish, the chicken looked like chicken and the octopus looked like octopus.  We ordered some salads and I got some fish and some pork.  The salads were really good and the pork was amazing.  We soon realized that it was a family dining type place and they bring out one giant plate of each thing you order.  This was neat we got to try it all.  Most of it was really good.  Even the things that weren’t good were still not that bad.  We sampled all kinds of tradition Japanese dishes.  We assumed the place was good seeing how crowded it was.  We were quickly and surely stuffed full of food and we decide that since everyone was smoking we had probably ought to leave.  I paid for dinner since Chris had paid for the train ticket.  I gave the nice girl a large bill and she gave me some change.  7,000¥ it cost, later I would find out that was around $77.00, not to bad for 3 guys to consume that much food, but now I only had 3,000¥ left.

We had now been up 34 hours straight; I needed Redbull or some other sort of energy drink.  Chris concurred and we went to a convenience store next to Mom’s.  Armond picked up a car mad while we went to look at what kind of energy drinks they had to offer.  Gundam Wing Energy Drink and all the other types of card games had their own energy drink as well.  Scared to try something weird at that time, we both went for the tried and true Redbull.  My Redbull went down really quickly while Chris seemed to nurse his.  We wondered around the area for a little while and eventually entered a rather large mall that was attached to the train station.  It was pretty interesting but most of the malls in Tokyo were attached to Train stations.  We look around and make I to the other side of the tracks where Shinjuku became what my initial vision of Tokyo was.  It was like Vegas, but brighter.  It was like New York, but more crowded. It was unbelievable how much stuff was going on in such a small area.  It was absolutely overwhelming.

Armond keeps talking about some little side street only for pedestrians that he is looking for but can’t really remember where it is.  Since we really didn’t have any plans other than to see Tokyo, I didn’t care.  We wondered around for a while and went into an arcade, they are pretty different than the arcades in the States, mostly because people go to them.  I learned that there really is a purpose to those card games like Magic the Gathering.  You can play a video game with them in Japanese arcades that actually looked like a good bit of fun.  Armond played a video game and he got his butt kicked.  We left and had a swarm of guys come after us asking if we wanted to go to their strip club.  We declined and kept going.  Every now and again we would run across some crazy building that had a top modeled off of another famous thing, the one that I really remember was Cinderella’s Castle on top of one of the buildings.  Remember that none of these buildings are bigger than 10 stories, there’s just so many of them.

We make it back to the train station and Armond says we are going to a club later, who am I to argue.  I do know that if we are going to a club that would mean we are going to be up for another 8 or so hours.  That would put us right around 48 hours of being awake.  I haven’t done that since college.  I exclaim that I am going to need crazy amounts of caffeine.  There’s only a couple ways to get caffeine in Japan, coffee and Redbull.  Chris and Armond decide it’s going to be coffee.  I hate coffee.  I go along with it, I want espresso or something quick with a crap ton of caffeine.    Chris tells me what to order, it’s huge.  I take a sip, it sears the flesh off my tongue, and then I notice the most horrid taste of my entire life, coffee.  Armond is laughing at me and asks if I like it.  “I’d rather gouge my eye out with a spoon, than drink coffee,” I respond.  It didn’t take but a second for Chris to hand me a plastic spoon.  I drink enough of it and I go back to dump so much sugar, cinnamon, milk, cream, and whatever else was sitting out in it that there wasn’t a whole lot of coffee left in it.  It still tasted like suicide.  But I drank it quickly despite the flesh melting temperature.

We left the Starbucks and it was COLD outside.  Later I would find out it was around 15 degrees F with a 20 mph sustained wind.  We go back to the train station and hop on a train to Shibuya.  This is the location of the famous Shibuya Crossing that is featured in every movie you ever saw that had a scene in Tokyo.  We crossed the street at Shibuya Crossing a handful of times, each time felt just as hectic as the first.  I had never been in a place were that many people were trying to go different ways.  It was fun and eventually we decide we want to roam around Shibuya.  This is when I noticed how the commercial real estate works in Japan.  It’s pretty neat, but there’s a big sign telling you what is on what floor, so there will be 10 different stories of this building with 10 different things in it.  There could be a few restaurants, a couple bars, and some boutiques all in the same stair well.  It was all coming together how it worked.  We came across the interstate and it was neat to see because it was all elevated, there were businesses underneath it.  Once again the most astonishing thing, as it had been the entire trip, was how quiet it was.  There was even road construction right next to us and it was quiet enough that you never had to raise your voice to talk.

Armond says he was looking for a grocery store, that’s where the club is.  The name of the place was Club Aire, and we were apparently on the wrong side of the tracks, literally.  We have no address, as if it would have done us any good, and all we know is it’s near a grocery store.  We actually eventually find the grocery store, but we were still on the wrong side of the train tracks.  Then it hits us, there’s not one person around us, no car traffic, nothing.  It was the first time we didn’t have any signs of human life around us.  It almost scared us, but we kept walking after we took a picture of the momentous occasion.  We figured who was going to mess with the three of us anyway. We eventually find a bridge, and I was glad because my feet had been killing me since we left Mom’s.

We passed a convenience store and I go in to use the ATM, I figured I was going to need it.  The ATM was of an Asian bank and not a Citi Bank like I had used previously.  This would not accept cards from out of the country.  This wasn’t good.  My initial theory that I left with in Atlanta had just been shot down and Armond looked a lot smarter.  Chris looked at me to see how it went, it didn’t take him long to figure out that it hadn’t gone well. I was now scared.  Chris said the club had to take credit cards.  What nightclub doesn’t take credit cards so I stopped worrying.

We go a few more blocks towards the grocery store and a man asks us if we were looking for Aire. We acknowledged and he waved to follow him.  We did, but he was taking us into a coffee shop, this couldn’t be right.  He then takes us around the counter and through a side door that was unmarked.  I am thinking we are about to be murdered, but then I realized they can’t even use my credit card had they wanted to mug me, I couldn’t even use my credit card.  We go down about one and a half flights of stairs to a guy at a table.  He asks for some amount of money, Armond says it’s 1,000¥.  I give the man the money and he stamps my hand and opens an black unmarked door to what turns out to be a pretty huge club.  Chris asks me to get him a drink so I go to the bar to get my Redbull and vodka and get him a Captain and Coke.  Luckily, alcohol is a universal language, getting a drink, however, is not.  I go to the bar and wait for a bartender, and I keep waiting for a bar tender.  Then three people walk up and get drinks, this is irritating.  What a racist schmuck, I thought to myself until I realized that there was a line forming right were the other people had gotten a drink.  Oh, I guess I’m the schmuck.  I get in line, order the drinks and he gets them to me, says some number in Japanese.  I hand him a credit card, he shakes his head and holds up his hands.  This isn’t good, I didn’t have enough for the drinks and they didn’t take credit cards.  In the States the bartender wouldn’t have cared and moved on to the next person, but this was Japan, the bartender looked at me and waited for the money saying things that I couldn’t understand.  Chris was nowhere to be seen, Armond was gone and it was just me, awesome.   Eventually the guy behind me pays for the drinks smiling and giggling.  I thank him by saying, “Arigato,” about a thousand times and bowing until I got dizzy.  Now I have my drinks and no friends, we had made a 180 from the last six hours.

I’m wondering around looking for something that looks like a tall black guy or a Latin guy, this can’t be that hard.  It was that hard.  I must have looked weapons grade lost because an Australian guy told me that my “mates” had gone downstairs.  I quickly questioned, “There’s a downstairs?”  He laughed and pointed to the stairs.  I thanked him in English and went downstairs, there I found Chris sitting at a bar table, I gave him his drink and asked for cash.  We assessed our cash situation when I told him they didn’t take credit cards.  Armond had a lot of cash and didn’t drink so we would bum off of him, I felt bad doing it, but it was just a night and I paid for his dinner.  Chris had paid for the train tickets so he did technically owe us, none the less we were unprepared.  The  being the only westerns downstairs another Aussie came to chat, he was really drunk, offered us some vodka and Redbull, I was hesitant but Chris agreed, gave him some money.  He came back a few minutes later with a huge drinks, Vodka and Redbull it smelled like, three of them, Chris started drinking his without much worry and the guy didn’t seem to take great interest.  He was drinking it and we watched him pour it.  We all hung out and drank his Redbull and vodka.  He was a pretty cool dude, eventually he disappeared and we went to go sit at the downstairs bar.  The blonde Australian that had helped me earlier eventually found us with his lady friend and we all started chatting and having a jolly time.  I decided that I wanted a picture, so I snapped one and then realized a sign that was a camera with a big X over it.  I wasn’t about to delete the photo, I figured it would be a good reminder of the night.  It wasn’t long before a girl grabbed my shoulder and introduced herself, Cherry.  The girl was beautiful and she was speaking fairly broken English to me.  I could understand her for the most part, she said she was going to New York soon for school and wanted to practice her English.  I wasn’t about to turn her away, despite how obviously drunk she was.  We chatted for a while and eventually I think she was about to be sick, she could hardly stand up, but she abruptly left.  Later it made me giggle if she had gotten together with Armond, her name would have been Cherry Lemon.

I went to get another drink.This time I see a few more white guys, this is a bit of a rare site in Japan, they started talking to me, the one guy said he was from London, and this was his party.He was throwing it for some friends.I actually heard this from like three people after I spoke with this guy.I chatted with him for a while, he wasn’t very interesting but I was kind of bored, fairly alone and was looking to be entertained.In all honesty the guy was a jerk and eventually I said I was going to grab my seat at the bar.After he said this there were a lot more guys from England in the bar.

I see Armond tearing up the dance floor, which he does rather well, and I decided it would be a good idea to join him.I, on the other hand, do not tear up the dance floor but I have fun.I danced for a little while then realize I’m ridiculously hot, Armond gives me a key and says a number, he tells me there’s lockers upstairs.Lockers?! Japan has thought of everything.That is a great idea!I put my jacket in the locker that he had and head back downstairs.Chris is really chatting up the eastern European girl and the blonde kid has disappeared.I decide to get another drink.By now the bar was filling up with cigarette smoke to the point that it just hurt your lungs.The dance floor was the least smoky place, but it was so loud you lost your hearing.None of this mattered to me at that point.The amount of alcohol and Redbull I had consumed was enough to kill most farm animals, independently.Off to the dance floor I went to show off my mad dancing skills.I go to the dance floor, which was more crowded than previously, and Armond was still really easy to find.I go hang out next him to begin my escapade in Japanese house dancing.I notice that I can’t really feel my limbs, but I can certainly see them flailing about the dance floor which looked to be in rhythm according to my brain.I am still not sure how I had space to dance; there were so many people around me.  Both Armond and I danced to what ever DJ Demitri (from Paris) [that’s actually his name] spun.It was fun, I was enjoying myself and soon I realized I was having a fairly hard time breathing.The smoke was finally getting to me.

I left the dance floor and Armond actually followed me.There seemed to be a lot less of the British guys around, I wondered what happened.I also wondered if that guy was for real or just trying to show off.I went to go o the bathroom that also utilized a nice orderly line.By the time I came back Chris was back with the Eastern European girl, and Armond had 3 girls hanging around him.How in the world does he do this, I am asking myself.  I am pretty dead tired and now annoyed at how much smoke there was in the basement.I talk to a few more of the girls that are practicing their English.Apparently they all are going to school in America to be with their boyfriends.I find this mildly interesting, but in the end I am just so tired that all I want is to go back to the hotel.

A few more forgetful conversations occur then Chris comes up to me looking amazingly disappointed, almost angry.“What happened?” I asked with I can only assume a smug smile on my face.  “Do you know that girl I have been talking too?” he asked, after I nodded he continued.“That blonde Aussie kid grabbed her in front of me and then they asked which way I swing.The guy looked at me and said ‘It’s either both of us or none of us.’” I couldn’t contain my laughter, not that I wanted to.I wanted this to be as conspicuous as possible, I made sure to point and laugh, my gut hurt.I had a feeling that the blonde kid was hitting on me, I had blown it off as being friendly.This is hilarious to me, now I can ask him for the rest of the trip, why he passed up a three-some and have him repeat this funny story.Chris is now upset and just wants to go back to the hotel also.We yell at Armond and tell him we are leaving.He was more than welcome to stay, we all had keys.He eventually came with us after finishing up a few of the conversations he was having with the girls, in Japanese.

We head up the stairs to the upstairs portion of the bar, grab our stuff out of the locker and head to the front bar.This place was crazily crowded now as well.We push and shove our way past the bar to the black unmarked door.There a man let us out into the creepy stairwell.A man on the other side of the door stamped out hand and said something in Japanese, Armond said it was along the lines of “have a good night.”You too buddy.I’m still not sure why they stamped our hands, it was 4:30 AM Japan time and we were going to the Tokyo Auto Salon at 8:00 AM.Armond was wining about how much a cab costs, however the trains stopped running at 12:10 AM and we really had NO idea how walk back.Chris, nor I, was in any shape to walk back so we promptly hailed a cab.It was great as soon as we decided to take one, a cab rolled up.We hop in and say “Washington Shinjuku” in our best Japanese accent.The driver nodded and started driving.I guess it worked.I don’t remember a lot from the cab ride, but I do remember how smooth the roads were, and how much the cab smelled like a cab in America.Some things don’t change I guess.We get to the hotel, pay the cab driver, I think it was around 1,500¥, not too bad at all really.We hop into the elevator and ride up, I decided to snap a few shots, Chris looked beyond gone.Armond was still going strong.I think I am glad there was no shot of me.We get to the room, get in bed quickly, complain about the bead pillows, and pass out.

Morning came extremely quickly.  The alarm didn’t wake us, it was our own discomfort.  I was teh first to shower, which wasn’t very smart.  The room did not have any air conditioning and the shower was very hot.  The sign on the door said not to shower with the door open because the smoke alarm would go off.  So the door stayed closed and it got hot.  Inevitably the door had to be opened so that I could get out of the shower, same with Chris and same with Armond.  I got dressed and i noticed that it was getting pretty warm.  Chris got out and it got even warmer.  Then Armond got out of the shower and it was even hotter.  It was now hot enough for me to sweat like i had been playing basketball for 14 hours. This was great for my alcohol soaked muscle system.  I think I could actually smell the Redbull and vodka in my sweat.  I went out to the hallway to try and get it to cool down a bit but it didn’t work.  The window was staying shut, and incredibly small.  Dear god was it hot, I had no idea what I was going to do to keep from needing another shower.  Eventually I just went out side, 20 degrees and 20 mph winds cooled me off in a big hurry.  Somehow Chris managed to rip his pants in the leg, so he needed to fix them so he didn’t look like a dirty Latin hippy.  We went to the shop in the bottom of the hotel and got some safety pins, sadly the vending machine didn’t have any.

Our walk to the train station seemed to go much smoother this time.  Purchasing of the train tickets went just as bad as it had previously.  This time was way more complicated.  We had to change trains somewhere halfway through the trip.  I will admit, I was nervous.  With all the signs in gibberish and one of us able to speak broken Japanese it didn’t show much promise for us to get to the Auto Salon on time.   This was the last day that it was going on so it was today or next year.  We were already running late, and the train ride was a good 40 minutes.  We managed to purchase our train tickets and prepare for the train ride.  First step was to find the platform.  This wasn’t all that hard as they were all color coded and there was some Western alphabet around.  We got to the platform and i fixed up Chris’ pants with two safety pins.  He seemed amazed that i knew how to do it, and knew how to sew.  A couple of trains went by that according to Armond weren’t the right trains and we did eventually get on one.  The trains were surprisingly crowded for Sunday morning.  That was of course the first thing that I noticed.  There was still a few seats available on the train so we took them.

TO BE CONTINUED