I can say unashamedly that being in the Navy definitely honed my drinking skills. Granted, I may not have always been able to go shot for shot, but I didn’t earn the nickname of Belligerent Betty for nothing! There is however one specific place in Tokyo, Japan, that I have never managed to visit and leave unscathed–or sometimes fully conscious.
If you were to ask any service member stationed in Japan where the holy grail of partying is, almost always, the answer you will get is Roppongi ( Ageha probably comes a close second, especially if you are a raver). By day, this unassuming district of Tokyo is a serene symbol of modernist architecture littered with upscale boutiques and restaurants, as well as most of the embassies of the world. By night though, the little city shows its underbelly of seedy strip bars, raucous exlusive clubs and most importantly, ALL night-not-closing-till-the-sun-comes up bars. Roppongi also has the added benefit of being the biggest lure for international tourists and business people.
For us service members, the tacit understanding that comes with agreeing to go to Roppo is the explicit knowledge that you will not be making it back into town until at least after 7am. The trains in Tokyo shut down after midnight and do not start running again until 6 am. I personally have made several trips to Roppongi and each time I arrived with my head held high, dressed to the nines, and ready to PARTY! only to leave the following day with a splitting headache and the realization that being grateful for still having all of your clothes on is not an accomplishment to be proud of.
Roppo Round 1: Popping that cherry
The very first time I went to Roppongi was with a group of co-workers from my ship. We decided to watch Cirque Du Soleil: Zed near Tokyo Disney and after the show a few of us split off to head to Roppo. Now since Japan is one of those few amazing countries whose laws not only allow you to drink in public, it is even encouraged for you to bring your own snack and bento to shows and the cinema. I had never even heard of the place and so naturally I was curious. So, needlessly to say I was already pretty lit before even arriving in Roppo.
Once we got to Roppongi, we made our way to a local shot bar called Geronimo’s, based on the recommendations of my trusty guide-book (this is 2008, before practical smartphones). Unfortunately for us–mainly me, we were not fully prepared for just what going to a shot bar like Geronimo’s entailed. The premise of this bar is that if you come in and ring the gong above the bar, then you will have an entire round of shots bought for EVERYONE in the bar. My memory is certainly very hazy, but I feel like we may have only been at the bar for no more than 2 hours and had consumed at least 5-8 different varieties of shots.
The few real memories that I have of after the bar is puking into a plastic shopping bag while riding in a taxi, which turned into the driver pulling over so I could puke outside of the car. The very next day I woke up in a love hotel. I was at least comforted by the fact that I still had all of my clothes on (with little bits of puke here and there) and the knowledge that nothing had “happened”.
I wish I could say that this incident scared me straight, and taught me to not get overly intoxicated in public, but no, all I really learned at the time was that I was lucky that the person who ended up being stuck with babysitting my drunk ass that night was an honorable and decent guy and not a creeper. A true shipmate indeed.
Roppo Round 2: The Pukening
Fast forward a couple months later and my second venture to Roppo was on a complete whim–which probably tops my exceptionally long list of the poor choices that I have made in my lifetime. It was Fourth of July weekend and a ship based out of California was pulling into my homeport and I happened to have trained at the same school as one of the guys on it. My co-worker and I, us both having had the GREAT fortune of being left behind by our ship during this 4 day weekend, decided to head out to the local bars across from base and meet up with these guys and catch up on old times.
So we ended up posting and catching up at this awesome themed bar, “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” which was covered wall to wall with various types of 80’s memorabilia. Michael Jackson had just passed away, not even 2 weeks prior, so we spent a better part of the night reliving our childhood by watching MJ music vids, and reinforcing our view that kids born in the 90’s were the worst (sorrynotsorry).
Then as tends to happen when you are having a great time, the bad-decisions fairy made a special visit and inspired us to catch the last 1030 pm train to Roppo. So keeping in mind that this is 2009, before Fireball shots were THE thing, there were Irish Car Bombs. So we took a few– as in a lot. Needless to say, by the time we all piled into the train, (which was NOT an express train by the way and was going to take us at least an hour and a half to get to Tokyo) we were all beyond hammered and ready conquer mythical Roppo.
Since the train of course had to stop at every.goddamn.stop. The lurching to and fro hit me like a ton of bricks. Without even thinking, I jumped up and out of the train as soon the doors opened. In my mind I figured I could race down to the bathroom and deal with my shame, but no, I full “Excorcist”-style blasted onto a pillar, while my co-worker disgustedly patted my back and told me to shake it off.
I did just that, and left a trail of vomit pools all the way down to the bathrooms and back. By the time I returned, the realization hit us that not only did we lose our two friends, who are not familiar with Tokyo (they made it back alive, safe and sound), but we were also at least a good 45 minutes between both our homes, and our destination. So then my co-worker asked me, “What do you wanna do?” to which I responded, “Fuck it, let’s go, I think I got my second wind” (I, Belligerent Betty, had not yet developed self-respect, or impulse control).
So after a looong taxi ride we finally made it to Roppongi. It was probably about 1 am by then, and we were wearing the same clothes all day. The thing about Roppo is that if you don’t dress to kill, the bouncers WILL NOT let you in. So, once again, the bad idea fairy hit me, and I suggested the tried and true Geronimo’s, which was, for all intents and purposes a dive bar, albeit a popular one.
We fortunately happened to pick Hawaiian night to show up, so I don’t think anyone really had noticed just how shitty we looked–and smelled. I spent the rest of the night sobering up by nursing a Moscow Mule (sorry hipsters, it was cool in Japan first).
I tend to think of myself as having moderately good social skills but for some reason, the whole night, not too many people were interested in talking to me, it cut a little at my self-esteem of course, but I shook that off to and figured to each their own.
We had ourselves a blast, met some interesting people, and once 6 am hit, we headed back towards a very long train-ride-of-shame-home. After parting ways, and reaching home, I was forced into a sobering realization. From my shoes all the way up into my hair, I was covered in little flecks of very noticeable bits of vomit. Technically Roppongi had not struck again, I was KO’d before I had even entered the ring.
-Irish car bombs = BAAD
-I can’t hang, but oh do I get an A for effort.
-Not one likes to be around “that girl”, especially when she smells like barf, literally!
-DO NOT go to Roppo on a whim….BAD idea.
…..More stories about how I suck at surviving Roppongi to be continued. So I leave you with a classier image of me during one of my better Roppo excursions.