Well this was a week of lessons learned for the ladies of the TORA Nightlife Experience. Friday had originally been set aside to go out and explore Ebisu and the nightlife held in this slightly more laid-back district of Tokyo. We assure you we had all intentions of following through on our original plan, but as demonstrated in previous blog entries – things don’t always go according to plan.
We got a bit of a late start, not getting to the station here at Mukogaoka-Yuen until about 8pm. So when we reached Shibuya to transfer onto another line to get to Ebisu, we just kind of made the decision to just stay in Shibuya and see what Shibuya would hold for us. Plus, its not like Ebisu is going anywhere, no doubt it will be the location of a future nights exploration.
I think an important point to be made right off the bat, is that one should be patient in their attempt to find a suitable nighttime location. Shibuya, like many Tokyo districts, is overrun with bright lights, loud bar-employed hecklers and many a club-goer. It is all too easy to get pulled into the first doorway you find, and in the same breath, hard to find the right atmosphere for said night out. Therefore - Lesson One: explore your stomping grounds, don’t be hasty and thoroughly inspect all of your options.
We felt strongly of our intuition to explore narrow alleys and dark corners. Our first attempt at “perfect bar” discovery was slightly below par. "The Dubliners Cafe and Pub", was in our opinion a little too gaijin-clad (外人)for our liking. Although a friendly face is always nice we were hoping for a more authentic experience. This was your typical Irish Pub, taken straight off a street corner in any other country in the world – I guess we have globalization to thank for that! They offered typical pub fare: meat pie, fish and chips and of course an overpriced pint of Guiness. And for ¥1000 a pint, we chose a slightly less pricey option, snapped a few photos and moved on to greener pastures. Lesson Two: steer clear of Western-style establishments. Although they promise a good time, you are likely to leave with an empty wallet, and a feeling that you may have been robbed of an opportunity to practice slightly intoxicated Japanese.
Starting to get the hang of the off-the-beaten-track bar hunt, we chose a random alley down which to turn. We zigzagged through the streets for only a few minutes before a sign for “Live Jazz” was spotted in the distance. What happened next dictated the remainder of our evening. We spotted a small door in the wall next to the steps leading to the jazz bar. Not sure if we were welcome, we ducked our heads in to inspect. It was small, it was smoky and they had a record collection that would rival most. Leading us to - Lesson Three: the smaller the door, the better the bar.
Its six tables were only a third full when we first arrived around 9:30pm. We picked a table, ordered some drinks and took in our surroundings as we sang along to Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believing”. It was decided pretty quick that in order to authenticate the experience, we best take seats at the bar. The bartenders, Yusuke and Tosuke, spoke about as much English as we spoke Japanese. So, with the help of a napkin and a pen we managed to lose little in translation and have some epic conversations. Of course we made some new friends among the other patrons in the bar: some ex-patriot salary men and their Japanese coworkers, as well as travelers from both France and Australia. All parties offered unique conversation and we managed to spend a few hours socializing with everyone there. Yusuke, quickly became part of the Abby & Talia Fan Club and offered us a business card and reminded us of his work schedule so as to reinforce that we were not to come back on a night on which he didn’t work. We assured him of our return. Lesson Four: don’t be fearful of socializing with the staff and your fellow patrons, evenings of heroic proportions are sure to ensue!
Our night was capped off with a very costly error. It may have been one two many drinks, or maybe we simply lost track of time, but either way we found ourselves sprinting through the streets of Shibuya in an attempt to make the last train. Let it be said that there had been talk over whether we should take the first train home the next morning (at 4:45am) or take the last of the night at 12:30am. It was probably our wavering over which option was ideal that led us to miss the last train. Regardless, we didn’t make it. Now left with the dilemma of how to get back to the dorm, we sat on the pavement outside the station in half annoyance of our stupidity, and half in disbelief that we actually didn’t have a way home. This dilemma is what leads us to our final lesson of today’s TORA blog entry. Lesson Five: whether it's the first train or the last, we highly recommend deciding ahead of time to avoid the following situation.
How much does it cost to get from downtown Tokyo back to the Kokusai-Kenshukan (dorm) at Mukogaoka-Yuen Station by taxi? ¥7,000. Not our proudest moments as nightlife explorers, but we really feel that the experience allowed us to touch on all aspects of the “Night Out in Shibuya”. And we may even have some useful information for the group studying transportation.
We hope you were all as entertained reading about our night out as we were in documenting it. And when in doubt, refer back to our “ Five Lessons For A Night Out In Shibuya”.
Abby and Talia