Tokyo will always be a special place for me. I kicked off my Asian travel career in Tokyo. Back when I first started working for a startup in San Francisco, about 3 weeks into my new job, I was told to pack my bags for Tokyo. I was stoked. The night before I was to fly I could barely sleep. Sure I had no status, I was in economy, I was sharing a hotel room but I was going Tokyo and I didn’t care. During my career in San Fran and Hong Kong I would usually end up in Tokyo once a month. I could never live there but I love visiting.
The second meeting I have ever had in Tokyo was at a Computer Consulting subsidiary of Mitsubishi. I was the presenter. There was about 20 people in the room, my colleague and a translator. We did introductions and I started into the slides. Slide 2 was a company update since the day before we left our founder/CEO stepped out of the CEO role and a board member stepped up into the CEO role. We knew our customers might be somewhat sensitive to this and I wanted to explain things. I never did get to explain it to this particular customer though because as soon as I mentioned our new interim CEO’s name the room cleared out. I thought for sure my career was over and worried what I had said that greatly offended the customer. Turns out it was not my fault.
Our interim CEO, in a previous gig, was the the CEO of a software company who was trying to close a multi-million dollar deal with Mitsubishi. His software company was invested in by a large airplane manufacturer who supplied parts to the airplane division of Mitsubishi. It seems that our CEO was able to get his major airline investor to withhold parts from Mitsubishi until they signed his software deal. So the subsidiary I was presenting too had all heard of this guy and his name was basically mud. Anyway it was a short meeting and it left an indelible mark on me on how business was done in Asia. Carefully.
However it is like working with the Japanese – going out with them is another story all together. On one of my second trips to Tokyo I had hooked up with an engineering team that I was told to take out, no expenses spared, to celebrate the early shipping of a localized software product. For those not in the know, taking a US software product and customizing it for marketing, sales and support in a country like Japan is a big job. So this team had finished the job early and needed to be rewarded. First we went to a nice restaurant and got smashed on beer and sake. Then we headed to a big Karaoke place to sing and drink some more.
We got really smashed. I was standing on the table singing and the whole place was rolling. One of the stars of the Japanese team suddenly ran out to use the bathroom adjoining our private Karaoke room. Even over the din of the karaoke one could hear this guy in the bathroom experiencing a powerful and extremely noisy form of projectile vomiting. It went on for a good five minutes. I was sure he had lost a few internal organs in the process. Then it stopped. We heard him clean up, splash some water on his face and go through a few Sumo like chants to prepare himself for the return. He cruised back in, grabbed the mic off of me and continued to sing and drink like he had just got started. I was in awe. These people are rock stars.
Japan is a cool place so I am always excited to return and enjoy a night out. Here we go:
First stop was the small Yakitori places under the train bridges in Ginza. I hate sushi so in Japan I am always looking for anything but Sushi which is no big deal since contrary to popular belief, the Japanese do not eat Sushi for every meal. We went to one of our favorite Yakitori places specializing in all things chicken. U name it. Almost all parts of the chicken in various forms are available for eating on a stick. Wash it down with ICE cold draft Japanese beer and u have the makings of a good night. Stuffed and buzzed we moved on.
This is a shot of Ginza at night – the main drag. This is the street that is closed off during the weekends so u can cruise around on your bike perving without being too worried about getting hit by a car. Imagine if you will that on each and every side street to the left and right of this main drag will be some bars, some clubs and some pubs. Each one will be different or will specialize in a particular look, booze, food or agenda. This is what I love about Japan – the diversity and the rote specialization all rolled into one. Makes for an interesting night out.
Since it was starting to rain we ducked into the first bar we could that had an awning so we could stay on the street but drink in relative cover. I think it was called the Walk Up bar – nothing special but it allowed us to get our bearings.
Then we went into a Spanish Bar and Tapa place. I can’t remember the name and I lost the card. The only reason we stopped here was the place was full of chicks. We drank a few and chatted some girls. I think someone got a number. We moved on.
Next was the very famous 300 yen bar.
Everything in this bar is 315 yen with tax – food or drink. This is a fairly nominal price to pay for boozing and snacking in Ginza. Hence the place was absolutely packed. U get in line for drinks and then stand wherever u can to drink and pickup. If one was to be a regular in Ginza this place looks like a good place to drink and pickup. Just the right mix of Japanese to foreigner ratio. This place is typical of the problems though I have with picking up in Tokyo – the place is so loud and packed that it is hard to make the connection needed to try and pull. Otherwise it is a happening bar.
After 300 yen we were going to head to Vanilla Club – one of my favorites in Tokyo but along the way we stopped into the A971 Garden<>House. A971 is one of the new bars/restaurants in the new Tokyo Midtown project. Tokyo Midtown is an amazing new development combining a park, condos, businesses, retail and entertainment into one project. Similar but I think much better than Roppongi Hills. This is where any comparison to Bkk and Tokyo breaks down. Bangkok city planners have no taste, sense of style or appreciation for open space. Tokyo Midtown used to be a minor amount of green space coupled with some old government buildings. The developer paid for the space and to move the government buildings. Now there is a park and a beautiful mixed use space that seems to be busy around the clock. Bangkok seems to think that the whole city should be one big mall and condos with no green space. Pathetic.
A971 was a cool bar and had a big mix of people. We met up with a gaggle of girls who were also out prior to a wedding but they were not players. I think some guys got some phone numbers here and we moved on. I was drolling over the very hot Japanese DJ who happened to be waiting for her boyfriend who was also a DJ. Oh well. She was hot. Plus she was a DJ. Enough said.
Okay. To Club Vanilla but wait – closed for remodeling. Huge letdown. This is our fallback late night place to wind up the night, pull chicks and party. Multiple rooms, multiple DJs, tons of women and a good vibe. Damn. We had to regroup.
Next stop – Nishi-Azabu. A very stylish, hip part of town that is also full of bars and clubs. We headed straight for Muse. Muse has been around for years going through a few remodels and themes but lately it is backing to kicking on all cylinders. Multiple rooms, different types of music and full of puss. I hung in the techno room due to the female DJ, the hotties and my disdain for Hip Hop. Muse is a labyrinth though full of private rooms, hallways and places to dance. We met some hotties – Japanese, British Islands and so on. Digits collected. Some of the party wanted to move on to a more club like setting but Muse looked to be the place to pull. Anyway. We moved on.
Club-Yellow – is the Club Vanilla of Nishi-Azabu. World class guest DJs, multiple rooms, multiple styles of music and lots of places to mingle and meet chicks. The cover charge is really steep and on an off night the place can be kind of empty given its size. If one were comparing I would say Vanilla is cooler than Yellow but having only been to Yellow once I cannot say this with utter confidence. My guess is if one is feeling the vibe at Muse then the best option is to stay put given the cover charge at Yellow.
After Yellow, in order to carry on, we needed food. We headed back to Roppongi with one part of the group heading to search for Sushi while the Sushi haters headed for the Chicken Man. If one had Roppongi cross at your back then head away from it on the left hand side and look for the Chicken man signs. Head for the elevator and go to the sixth floor. I have been going to the Chicken Man with a buddy since they opened. It is an institution. The food, the owner, the ambiance, the Easter Euro hostesses and the customers make for an odd 5 in the morning dining experience. I always get the chicken, some sides and some water. The breakfast is also very good. Don’t miss the Chicken Man.
Food down the hatch we decided for one more round of drinks in Roppongi. It must have been like 5 or so in the morning. It is bottom of the barrel time but it needed to be done. I can’t honestly tell u if we were in Wall Street I or II but we were in the one closest to Roppongi Cross and we were downstairs. Wall Street is one of the buckets where people go when they know it is time to go home but they want another round. U get all sorts in there: salarymen who have missed the train, working girls looking for one last John, tourists who read somewhere it was the place to be, ladyboys from various countries(Thailand well represented), and tons of drunk white guys looking for love. It is a zoo. The music was okay and UFC was on the boob tube so we had a good time. I was wearing the shirt underneath my button-up and that went over well with the she-males but I can’t say I was happy about that. Anyway. We partied. The sun was coming up and we walked home. I was in pain. I needed a Sausage McMuffin with egg and cheese. More on that later.