I have been meeting people from Couchsurfing most days here in Tokyo and it has been a real lifesaver. From my experiences so far, Japan is a very difficult society for a foreigner to penetrate. I am constantly aware of my outsider or 'gaijin' status as I tower over everybody on the street and am faced with the language and cultural barriers.
Saturday sounded promising. Someone posted on the messageboard that she was going for a night out and did anyone want to come? Of course I did and she told me to meet her at 8 at the Hachiko statue. It is worth mentioning Hachiko for a moment, as it is not every day that a dog gets a statue in a prime location in the middle of a major city. Hachiko used to meet his owner every day after work at the station. When his owner died at work suddenly one day, Hachiko continued to wait at the station each day for him to return. This lasted for nine years! Very impressive and ranks him up there with Bobbie The Wonderdog of Silverton, OR as one of the bravest dogs of all time, earning him a place as one of the eight most faithful dogs in history. Incidentally I've now seen statues commemorating three of these dogs!
Well our guide for the night couldn't make it, so meeting at Hachiko I found a mute Frenchman (MF) and a seemingly slightly agressive, though friendly Russian girl (SATBFRG) - Not really a recipe for a great night out in Tokyo, but I was determined to press on.
Of course, none of us knew anywhere to go and faced with a wall of indecisiveness, or in the case of the mute Frenchman, a wall of silence - I took the lead and led us to Freshness Burger, where I could enjoy a ginger milk tea and a 'Beans Burger'
Well I only knew one bar, so it was back to the Beat Cafe I had visited the previous weekend. The Beat Cafe is the size of a large cupboard, but we managed to grab a seat at the bar before it completely filled up. In the corner a group of boorish Brits played drinking games and I tried to ignore them. The DJ was an be-hatted older guy who played some great music from his laptop, strongly stipulating - no requests!
As the night progressed I talked to the French guy a little in a mix of English and French. In turns out he's recently been ranover and used his compensation to come to Japan and learn Japansese and he was a very nice guy. That's the second coolest story of what to do with compensation I've heard - The first being my friend Dean who used a chunk of his to buy a load of kickass CDs to donate to his local library.
I was really enjoying myself at the bar, it was packed and fun, and struck up a conversation with two Japanese girls, one of whom who had just flown in from Stockholm that afternoon. A group of Canadian English teachers from Seoul also befriended me and began to buy me a few drinks!
The one unfortunate thing about Tokyo is that it doesn't have 24 hour public transit. It seems quite an omission in a city of this size and dynamism. So approaching 12, people are faced with the decision, go and grab the last train or stay out until the early morning.
Well I was having a great time, so I decided to go for it and stay out for the first time on this trip. MF decided to join me, but SATBFRG, frustrated that I didn't know anywhere else for us to go (I hate being in charge of a night out), and was ignoring her a bit, bailed and went to get her train leaving me with my new 'friends'.
I guess there is a danger when you do this of your night going south and soon the Japanese girls left and the Canadians got progressively drunker. They decided to go to another bar and we followed them. It turns out that Japan were at this moment playing Australia in the Asian Cup final (the equivalent of the European Championships) and we got to the bar just as extra time was starting.
Well Japan grabbed a late winner and the bar went crazy (in a polite Japanese way) - Now somewhat regretting my decision to stay out all night, MF and I hit the streets and found ourselves in the midst of quite hearty celebrations. Awesome!
I was looking for somewhere to hang for the next few hours so set off to find a 'Manga Kissa' - a 24 hour internet cafe where you hire a booth with dvd player, computer and all the comics you could ever want. Oh and the key is it is a darkened room with a very comfy chair, ideal for snoozing. MF and I hit our respective pods and I told him to give me a knock at 6am, before dozing for a few hours.
On the way home there was limited carnage on the streets and the early morning trains were a mix of people going to work and people on their way back from a night out. I slept most of the next day, blowing my plans to go to the Parasite Museum.