I picked a challange at random over the past couple of months, scrolling down the community's page. February 18th. Just after the most vivid experience of my time in Japan. So... what else could I write about, but....
You can't really see the moon in Tokyo. Well, perhaps if you look. But then, there are so many other things to look at... that amidst the lights and the noise of the crowd, one doesn't really think to stop to look for the moon.
Especially at 3am in Kabukicho.
It's strange, but I never expected to love Kabukicho. But it's fitting. I spent my very first night in Tokyo there, holed up in our little room at Toyoko Inn, so excited that I could barely sleep. We didn't spend any time in the streets of Kabukicho that first vacation, of course... just travelling through on our way to and from Shinjuku station, sometimes stopping at the conbinis to beat the August heat, sometimes the 100 yen store, sometimes a restaurant. But Kabukicho was unfamilliar and a little frightening to two young girls from Canada, who, growing up in the relative quietness of Alberta, hadn't ever experienced anything quiet like the nightlife of Kabukicho.
Plus, it was dangerous, as host mom told us. Stay on the main streets, stay with lots of people. If strange men try to talk to you in english, pretend to only speak French. they'll only be trying to get you to go into Host Clubs that you can't afford.
The advice was sound, of course, and I've always kept it to heart. But I wonder now why I was ever afraid of Kabukicho? Kabukicho, quiet until the sun goes down, then filled with young pleasure seekers... businessmen and young host girls in yukata... beautiful host boys trying to win business. People out for a party.
And of course, there are the livehouses. This was what finally brought me into the heart of Kabukicho, alone on my second trip to Tokyo. Shinjuku Loft - past the regal Koma theater, past so many tiny bars, down into the basement, to dissappear into the atmosphere I loved so much... listening to the music, moving with the crowd, letting hours slip by in a dance of movement and reaction to the beat and melody, the exquisite whine of the electric guitar, the deep pounding pulse of the bass and drums, resounding through your body like a second heartbeat.
When I returned to Kabukicho the next night, I had guides with me. A sweet, pretty Swedish girl, and her japanese photographer friend, and we set out to slip into the crowds of Kabukicho as everyone else there... seeking pleasure, entertainment, escape. When we went to our first bar, I could hardly believe that such a place could exist in the world. That tiny bar - we would call it a living room in Canada - with the crowded bar filled with bottles, the sectional couch we cuddled into, the plushies all over the back of the couch, and the walls... walls, ceiling, doors, every surface covered with Visual Kei posters and related. And the small TVs at the ceiling, playing Buck-Tick PVs that were made before I hardly even knew what music was.
And the staff. Ah, the beautiful staff.
We stumbled from that bar, already half drunk, to the second... the place that had lured me to kabuicho... around so many streetcorners that I couldn't find it again in daylight when I tried again, up to the third floor. The angel bartender with hair of spun gold, who was so kind and patient with this clumsy, half drunk foreigner. Who filled my dreams with wonder with a smile and a few kind words. It struck me that night, as we all sat around - myself, my party, unexpected friends, and staff, that these bars weren't really... bars. Not places of employment. They were... tiny little house parties that could happen every night. Little escapes from the tiny apartments of Tokyo, from my tiny hotel room, to sit, relax, drink, party, talk and sing. Staff and guests alike.
In the end, I only spent two such nights in Kabukicho, both so very memorable for different reasons. And I can't even fully explain it to myself, how much an impact those two nights had on me, how beautiful those memories are.
Perhaps it was that... in a strange land, entirely alone... with next to no language skills... I still managed to find my way to these little corners of beauty that felt as warm and welcoming and beautiful as anything I had ever found growing up. So instead of being frightened - frightened of being alone, of being embarrassed, of getting lost, of anything... I just embraced it. And in setting that fear aside, I slipped right in to a place that I never thought I would have the luck to find or experience in my little life.
A beautiful, glamorous night in Kabukicho. When you have so many things to experience, why waste time searching the heavens for the moon? I didn't have to look. The rabbit was right in front of me.
it's ok. go cry, go smile
it's something good to do
to live as you want
hey I'm on your side.
your life is all yours
so don't let other people force you to be good
be kind to yourself
(Get wet on rainy days, dry off on sunny days
It's a given you'll be shivering on cold days
Forget it on the next day, and on windy days,
I'll try flying... That's how it is)
~ELLEGARDEN - Kaze no hi