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billiv

An Evening in Tokyo 1971

by billiv »

1971, I was 24 years old and flying to South Korea for the summer just after graduating from college. At that time, the ROK had a midnight curfew--no one on the streets after midnight (unless you had American cigarettes or greenbacks to get you through the checkpoints).  Don't ask me why, but the Northwest Airlines flight I was on included an overnight stay in Tokyo as it would arrive too late in Seoul for people to beat the midnight curfew. That was fine with me--I was excited to see a least a little bit of Japan.

The other 2 guys in my row on the airplane were a US sailor and an American high school teacher also on their first journeys to the "mysterious, inscruitable 'Orient'."  We struck up a short-term friendship, and agreed that we'd all go out on the town together after checking into the airline-provided hotel.

After a long, hot bus ride from the airport to our hotel, we met in the bar and had a beer. Then headed out the door. Well, apparently at that time in Tokyo, various Japanese touts would hang around the entrances to hotels catering to Westeners to offer various "opportunities," for monetary considerations, of course.

We had no idea of what we wanted to see and do, so when one of these Japanese gentleman held out a brochure for some sort of club with a "show" featuring girls for only $2,50 each (though $2.50 was worth a lot more then than it is now), we all agreed to give it a go.

He lead us through various narrow streets and back alleys--though they were all very brightly lit up with garish neon signs, so we didn't feel in any way in danger. Although we didn't know it then, I think it must have been the infamous Kabukicho "entertainment' district. We got to the "club", which was down a flight of stairs, and it was an empty room. At this point we got a little nervous.  But our "guide" yelled something out, and from another room came 3 or 4 guys carrying a couple of tables, then chairs, tablecloths, dishes, glasses, silverware, etc.  Following that, out came some sort of a stage set with fake palm trees. This all in a just a couple of minutes.

We quickly conferred, and asked "All this for a total of $7.50 for the 3 of us"?  Well, our guide then proceeded to inform us that there were some small additional charges--a cover charge, a table charge, a meal charge, drink charges, dish and cutlery charge, mandatory entertainer tips--well, you get the idea. We decided to leave, and he started to reduce the charges. But we had pretty well decided that this might not turn out all that great. He brought out the "entertainers" for us to see. I must admit that did make it much more tempting.  But, by that point, we were done with it.

We ended up going to a tiny, streetfront family seafood/sushi place--as I remember it had one table and 5 stools at the sushi bar.  We drank beers, ate wonderful raw and grilled seafood, talked with the owner (who had worked for the US occupation forces after WWII) and his wife, and watched sumo and Japanese baseball games on their little black and white TV mounted from the ceiling. I had grilled eel for the first time, and have been a lifelong fan ever since. It was a fun evening.

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kennrose

RE: An Evening in Tokyo 1971

by kennrose »

This is such an interesting story! I haven't heard of such occurrences in modern Japan.

I'm currently working on a paper about Japanese history, so I'm glad that I stumbled upon this post.

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