Breaking the rules


I am beginning to understand Roppongi a better. It is rather large and contains government buildings and embassies. There are a number of expensive, fancy boutiques; department stores and restaurants. In this respect, portions of Roppongi are Madison Avenue-like. There is also a fairly unremarkable Shinto temple and a park, both of which I have visited. There is a variety of convenience stores, Starbucks, and less expensive restaurants.


There are also a host of respectable bars and night-clubs. Many people come to Roppongi during the weekend to drink, go to clubs, and so on. Roppongi is one of the most expensive places in Tokyo, so you have to be careful. If you are careless, you can easily spend $30 on a small hamburger and a beer.


In Roppongi there is also a very seedy portion about 3-square blocks in size. In this section you will find strip-clubs and seedy bars, each promising the very best in international-girls and entertainment. It is here, alas, that you will find my apartment. To approach my humble abode, one walks the Gauntlet of Sin. In the evening, I am accosted by Western and Japanese men, hired by clubs to bring in business. They carry large placards with pictures of topless women who work at the establishments. Prostitutes approach pedestrians offering all sorts of services including ‘Chinese’ massages (or mesiageees, in the vernacular). I asked one woman what, exactly, is a Chinese message.

I can’t really say that I understood her explanation even though she answered in English. Apparently it only costs 3,000 Yen.


There is, however, a good-natured feeling to all this activity. It all feels very safe. Japanese men, many with wives in tow, are harassed just like everyone else. Assuming you are not going to indulge, you either ignore them or laugh and keep walking.  They are also a good source for directions, I have found.


The hookers use a rather odd gesture for ‘Do you want to screw’ which honestly looks like shadow boxing. I had been warned about this previously, so the first time a… uhm… professional walked up to me and gave me her best shadow-box imitation, I dropped into my own fighting stance and threw a few punches in the air. She pretended to be frightened, squealed and ran away much to the delight of onlookers. Now she pretends to hide from me whenever I approach – not a bad thing, really.


My sex-industry neighbors, such as they are, recognize me by now. And since I always decline their advances, they just wish me good evening and ask me how my day was. I smile, shake my head and keep walking.


Well, I guess *technically*, there has been one exception to the declining part. A block away from my apartment is a club called 7th Heaven. Everyone assures me it is The première men’s club in Roppongi. Every night I walk past the club on my way home, and Chris tries to talk me in. Chris is a young man from the Check Republic who came to Japan to make some money for school. It is his job to get men into 7th Heaven. I told him early on that he was going to see me every night since I lived around the corner, and he should save his efforts for someone who might actually go in.


You know, I’ve never been to a strip-club, innocent boy that I am … and I got to thinking… and, well one night I decided I would check it out. I was curious about what the scene was like, what the rules were and so on. So, I walked up to Chris, smiled and said, “Okay, take me up”. He let me in for free (the FIRST time is always free).


7th Heaven is, as it turns out, a fairly small, comfortable club with two stages complete with pole. The women, truly an international bunch, take turns ‘dancing’ on stage for about 3 minutes. They strip down to a g-string and do their thing which, in my opinion, isn’t really dance or particularly erotic. Club rules state, in many languages, that there is no touching wherever there are cloths and absolutely no sex of any kind. When not dancing, the women may sit at your table.


My motivation in all this, by the way was strictly training. You see, it is all about understanding the rules. The Dali Llama supposedly said that you have to know the rules before you can break them. The ability to quickly assimilate the rules and understand which ones can be broken and what the resultant consequences might be is all very integral to the type of martial arts I practice. As is role-playing, interchanging truth and falsehood… so, well you get the idea. Here was an opportunity to step into an unfamiliar arena and practice some rule assimilation.


I won’t bore you with all of the club mechanics, since it occurs to me that strip-clubs are essentially all alike. So, what was new to me probably is well understood by all of you upstanding citizens.


It was interesting, however, to see how money was taken from customers. While you are watching the show, a woman comes over, introduces herself and asks if she can sit down. If you say yes, you have a very lovely conversation. The women are smart, attractive and good conversationalists. You must, however, buy her a drink, and at 1500 Yen (about $13) this is costly. Also, and this is important, the drink you are buying her is typically NOT alcoholic. She always asks, “Will you buy me a drink?” but if you say no, she’s leaving your table. Needless to say, when a woman is sitting at your table, it is her job to make you think that she actually digs you and that you, unlike all the other customers, are someone unusually interesting.


Assuming you are buying her drinks and having a nice time, she will ask you, “Would you like a private dance?” This will cost you about $60 per 90 second song. The private dance is, essentially, a lap-dance in a booth. Who can afford this stuff? Not me, certainly!


Most interesting to me, were the rules surrounding the stage-act and lap-dance and had nothing to do with money. The stage-act and lap-dance thing appears to be a game in which the women are in control and maintain that control via embarrassment and humiliation of the men. That is, it looked like the women were essentially embarrassing and, to some extent, humiliating the men and, in this way, maintaining power over them. Both customer and hostess/performer were complicit in this arrangement. Very interesting…


Okay, now that I thought that I understood the rules it was time to practice some rule-breaking. Oh… uhm… this is getting boring so let me just say that I judge the experiment a success.


Did I mention that I met a very beautiful, young Italian woman, Gloria, who speaks Turkish and French in addition to her native Italian? She also speaks a lovely version of broken English. She is quite delightful, with a smile that lights up a room; and she has developed quite a crush on me (outside the club, of course). We meet for coffee, sometimes have diner and are going to do some sight-seeing together. She always insists on paying for at least her half. It’s fun.


Go break some rules!


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