The Amazing Japanese Wife: Part II “Fucked Up in Six Trees”

This is part two of series of short-stories by culture commentator, movie reviewer, and fiction writer–Kaori Shoji–on international love gone wrong in and out of Japan. 

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By my personal estimate, the lives of most white foreigners in Tokyo start and end within the confines of a town called Roppongi, which means ‘six trees.’ Apparently, before the arrival of Commodore Perry and his Black Ships, this area was blah and nondescript save for the presence of its namesake. There were the trees and there was very little else.

A hundred and fifty years later, the trees are gone but Roppongi is prominently featured in every Japan guide book and online travel site. It heads off most tourists’ agenda in terms of must-go, must-see, must-experience. They think this is Tokyo, and a good chunk of its best offering. That’s not a lie but everyone who’s been here longer than 6 months will tell you Six Trees isn’t really Tokyo and certainly has nothing to do with Japan.

Roppongi is the white male’s extra-territorial sanctuary as well as metaphorical catacomb, where pleasure draws a last gasp before crumpling into a heap of old bones. The white man’s loop of entitlement extends from the famed Roppongi intersection to the concrete mausoleum known as Roppongi Hills, then down to a quaint little neighborhood called Azabu Juban and back again. Once you get on the loop, it’s damn hard to get off so you keep repeating the run until you’ve lost track of what life was like before you thought of moving to Japan and immersing yourself in Roppongi’s cesspool of slimey privilege.

Because hey, the deal is this: if you can’t get laid in Roppongi, you may as well move to Mars. There’s no other place on Earth that promises and delivers sex with the same reliable standard. I’d give it 90%, 100% of the time you’re there. Never mind sushi – they’re overpriced and the tuna is imported from Indonesia. Forget Toyotas, they take too long to assemble and what’s all the fuss about anyway? Sex in Six Trees – now that’s Japanese quality control honed to an art form.

Jesus, I’m getting literary which means it’s past 6 AM on a Saturday morning and I’ve drunk the night away. This is not good, no fucking’ good, I chant to myself as I lurch my way past other drunks (but very few disorderlies, because this is Tokyo), on the side street that leads to the Roppongi intersection. I was at Tim’s house with a few other guys, then we hit that bar and then went over to the Cedar’s Chop House in the newly opened Remm Hotel which is supposedly a big deal but really just turned out to be a raucous gaijin hangout with Jack Johnson on the sound track – really, who are they kidding? Still, the place was kind of cozy which is a rarity in Six Trees. Not that this nice vibe is going to last. Soon, Remm Hotel will be overrun by what I call the International Working Girl Association (IWGA) and their foreign clientele, just like every other hotel in Roppongi. With the Russian Embassy on one end of the loop, the Chinese Embassy on the other and the American Embassy on the far left of the intersection, what the hell else can you expect?

Aaaaanyway. We ended up at god knows which drinking hole though I remember the toilet was filthy and Tim bleating on and on about getting pancakes for breakfast and where should we go for pancakes? What a tiresome bastard.

This time of morning the sunlight’s still feeble and I could bear to bask in its gentle rays. I hear snatches of loud conversation and automatically straighten my back, turning my feet towards the direction of voices. A pimp with broad shoulders and a bull neck in a dress shirt, is clutching the shoulder of a thin girl with bobbed hair – maybe 23 years old, it’s hard to tell at this hour. He’s trying to sell her to a potential customer, a youngish salariman in a dark suit. “I guarantee she’s nice, sir” he says in sing-song Japanese which annoys me no end. “If you won’t take her, then she wouldn’t have had a customer all night and that’s bad for her reputation, all the other girls are going to look down their noses at her. You wouldn’t want that to happen now, would you?” The salariman mumbles a few words, casting furtive glances at the girl who’s wearing nothing but a slip dress and sandals under the pimp’s oversized jacket. She looks cold and depressed and purses her lips, not about to pull out any encouraging sales talk. “I don’t have much time…” the salariman says. Inwardly, I snort with laughter. You mean, you’re not ready to shell out 20,000 yen for a throw, that’s what.

Maybe the pimp could hear inside my brain because he notices me observing with what I hope is a casual, bemused detachment. “And you sir, what about you? Japanese girl, velly velly nice!” The last bit was spoken in English and the pimp’s accent wasn’t bad. He’s been doing this long enough to know the value of a white male in Hugo Boss jeans and I’ve been stomping these streets long enough to know I’ll be treated better if I pretended zero Japanese language skills. I amble over and the salariman makes himself scarce. I get a better look at the girl, whose glassy stare gives nothing away. Her hands are pretty and lily white though, clasping the lapels of the jacket around her body like Jody Foster in that movie. I like a woman with petite, well-cared for hands and Japanese women have the loveliest pairs in the world. We exchange a look and I feel her stiffen under her sheer, thin slip.

It’s all the same to her. BUT she does need to chalk up a number on the board in the girls’ locker room, at the sex shop where she works maybe, 4 nights a week. Who else is going to do it, if not for a benevolent white guy like yours truly?

“Okay, okay.” I say this a little too loudly, with an exaggerated shrug. The pimp is wreathed in smiles. “Okaaaaay!,’ he mimics and makes a polite little gesture toward the doorway. The establishment is downstairs in a narrow, dirty, three story building tenanted by a mahjong parlor, a reflexology salon and a pizza restaurant according to the signs out front. “You will be happy, happy!” he says and leads the way into a tiny elevator stinking of roach repellent, and pushes the B1 button. I look at the girl and smile. She smiles back, grateful for even this useless token of friendship. We both know that if the salariman had taken her he wouldn’t have cracked a smile. He wouldn’t have said two words to make her feel better about her life, just stood there and waited for her to unbuckle his pants, and then would have taken pleasure as his due. White males may be self-entitled jerks but Japanese guys are the worst. No wonder the women in this country hate the lot of them.

When I emerge back out, it’s past 8 and Roppongi is teeming with tourists. The bill was 22,000 yen and I reflect that in the past two years I’ve always had to pay for sex in Six Trees. A tad humiliating, I know. I’m not young anymore – 34, and even white male entitlement has to end sometime. But I reason that the girl had been extra willing and “velly, velly nice,” which takes the twinge off the hurt. I yawn, put on my shades and consider walking to Starbucks in the Ark Hills building down the hill from the intersection. What I needed now was an espresso kick in the nerves and a blueberry muffin.

The local volunteer group is out and about in their logo-inscribed vinyl jackets (“Green Roppongi!”). These are mostly men in their 60s or older, picking up overnight litter from last night’s debaucheries, scattered in the spaces between gutter and curb. What most foreigners don’t realize is that there’s a sizable number of ordinary Japanese folk living here and they care enough about their community to do this. I stop for a moment and watch as they shuffle methodically, wielding steel tongs in one hand and clutching garbage bags with the other. Their faces are obscured by white surgical masks (one way to tell a Japanese from an Asian tourist is to see whether or not they’re wearing masks), making it impossible to read their expressions.

When I first came to Japan as an exchange student at the age of 17, my host father also volunteered at the local trash pick-up, clearing the beach of debris every Saturday morning. He worked for the municipal office, so participation was more or less mandatory. He seemed to enjoy it and I would pitch in because no one else in the family did and I felt sorry for him. When we were done, he always treated me to matcha icecream or iced coffee and said over and over how much he appreciated my help. “Brian, you are wonderful,” he said. “No, YOU are,” I would reply like a dutiful son, and we would look at each other and laugh politely.

I was home-staying in Chiba prefecture, near the Boso coastline and I was having the time of my life. Never had I felt so welcomed, valued and protected. I was loved in a way that seemed impossible back home in Illinois – not that I was abused by my biological parents or anything. But I was nothing special, just a scrawny kid with acne and too-thick eyebrows. I couldn’t make varsity on the track team, had no girlfriend and definitely was not one of the cool crowd. At school, I dreaded prom and was deeply grateful that my year in Japan would absolve me of that particular American teen torture.

In Chiba, I was a prince. On my third day in school, a girl in my class presented me with a hand-made bento and another very nicely gave me a blow job in a public restroom down by the beach. Later I learned the two girls were best friends, and they had played ‘janken (paper, rock scissors)’ over which of them would have the bento duty and which would be in charge of rolling out the sexual red carpet. I was flattered, but also baffled. What had I done to deserve such treatment? Others offered similar gifts and liaisons – in little secluded areas around the beach, in their parents’ car at night, in their rooms when they invited me over to teach them English. They baked cookies for me, presented me with handmade chocolates on Valentine’s Day, held my hand under the desk and guided it to their thighs. One or two told me that they loved me, to please marry them so I could take them to America.

By my last month in Chiba, I had the Japan experience all figured out. It was so ridiculously easy here. My acne was gone, thanks to the sea air and the string of casual girlfriends who took real good care of my teenage hormonal needs. I had learned a lot of the language, enough to ingratiate myself to my host family, school teachers and guy friends. Having run on the track team back in Illinois helped a lot, because most Japanese are ardent runners and fiercely dedicated to school sports. “You’re great, don’t worry,” said my friend Haruhiko as he inducted me into the school’s short-distance track team. Haru trained like a fiend and could whip my ass on the track any day of the week but he was also big enough to make a foreigner feel good about himself. I was a lazy bum who skipped practice to hang out with one girl or another but Haru looked the other way and pretended not to notice.

Naturally, I was far from stoked about the idea of having to leave Chiba and Japan. In the plane to O’Hare, I said to myself over and over that I would come back no matter what it took.

What it took was an MA in theater from the University of Chicago and then a 3-year stint working as a Congressman’s assistant on Capitol Hill. I fulfilled my teenage resolution on the day before my 26th birthday, March 2010. I arrived, back in the Promised Land where I planned to get laid by the prettiest girls with the smoothest pale skin and go drinking with the Japanese buddies I would surely acquire as soon as I exited the airport. In a year or two, I would find the most amazing woman and get married. She would make incredibly elaborate meals, just like my host mom made every night – potato croquettes, Japanese fried chicken and rice encased in a fluffy omelet. We would have beautiful bilingual children who would grow up to attend Ivy League colleges on full scholarships. (Haruhiko, my old friend from Chiba, had gone to Yale and was now working on Wall Street.)

That was Plan A. I didn’t think to work out Plan B. And my line of defence is: Roppongi interfered.

As I walk down the long hill from the Six Trees intersection to the office complex called Ark Hills, I notice my eyes are suddenly itchy and moist. What the fuck, dude, a pathetic self pity party? I tell myself it’s just some unseasonal pollen allergy but I can’t shake off the sense of what, sadness? Regret? For a long time, no one has told me that I was great or wonderful. No Japanese woman has said she loved me, and to please take her to the United States. Now I had to pay for love, and friendships consisted of alcohol-infused rant fests with like-minded assholes. What the hell went wrong with the scenario? I had somehow played a colossal and perverted joke on myself, and could barely muster the courage to laugh. “Fuck this,” I mumble and thrust my hand into my front jeans pocket. My fingers touch a crumpled pink ‘meishi’ – the Japanese business card. It’s from that girl I just had intercourse with, and she had given it to me just before I left. “Come back soon!” she called out, but I was already closing the door behind my back. Now I smooth out the meishi to read her (professional) name: Amika. Uh-huh. Sorry, Amika but I couldn’t care less at this point. With a sigh, I toss it to the pavement and start to walk off. On second thought, I circle back and pick it up again.

You can say what you like, but I don’t throw garbage on the street. It’s the thought of making extra work for those volunteers in their little vinyl jackets. It’s also to honor the memory of my host-dad. Six Trees has at least, taught me that much.

TGIF in Tokyo! Tonight June 17th “This and That Cafe” to Feature Amazing Lineup of Artists

Tonight (Friday June 17) at 7:30, the Super Deluxe performance venue in Roppongi will be hosting the 29th incarnation of This & That Cafe, an event where artists, both international and local, come together for a great night of art, music and fun.

The musical acts range from the soothing alternative rock sounds of Metro Ongen, a four-piece Japanese band, to a skilled drummer from Ghana named Winchester Nii Tete Boye, to even a didgeridoo player from Japan named Smily.

There are also an equal number of impressive visual art performances lined up such as onnacodomo, a collection of three DJs who create spontaneous artwork with computer graphics, mirrors, toys and lights. In addition, Shinpei Kashihara will be doing more traditional live art using the traditional “suiboku-ga” (ink painting) style.

So, if you’re on your way home from work, head over to Roppongi and get a seat for some drinks, good times and amazing artists who will be intermingling with the crowd. Here’s the description provided by Super Deluxe’s website:

This&That Café celebrates its 29th volume by welcoming all “City Shapers”- the new-generation urbanites who are changing Tokyo’s creative landscape. Whether it’s a drum master hailing from Ghanna or a “suiboku” ink painter from Tokyo, all walks of life and all manner of expressions are welcome. Just be sure to come with an open mind, and be prepared to leave a little bit different than when you arrived.

Abysmal Man: A Charisma Man in Japan For Our Generation

If you have been in Japan long enough, you know Charisma Man, the ubiquitous white English teacher (often Canadian on a working holiday) who finds himself transformed into a super powerful chick magnet as soon as he arrives upon these shore in the Land of The Rising Sun. From the website, here is his story.

 

Charisma Man first appeared in the February 1998 issue of the ‘The Alien’ magazine, and immediately catapulted into legendary-status among readers in Japan’s expat/Gaijin world. The creator of the strip, Larry Rodney, teamed up with a graphic designer friend, Glen Schroeder, both from Canada, to produce the first year of outstanding strips. The strips continued through 2002 with Neil Garscadden doing the writing and Wayne Wilson providing the art work. At the end of 2002, a book containing all the original strips was published and quick sales further documented its appeal. ‘Charisma Man’ has now become common vernacular among ex-pats in Japan and other countries. This website provides all the info you need to keep up to date with all the latest Charisma Man developments.

 

The popular comic strip has long ceased, and the days when English conversation (英会話) were well paying and a little spoken Japanese could get you on TV—those days are gone, probably never to return.

So we reimagined Charisma Man, after way too many years in Japan—without ever learning the language or blending into the culture. Meet “Abysmal Man”–an anti-hero for a new era. Dripping with residual charm, cultural arrogance and ex-pat existential ennui, he may be waiting somewhere in Japan at a bar stool near you.

The expat in Japan anti-hero updated for modern times. Dude, the party is over. Heartland closed in January this year. Maybe it's time to to move on?
The expat in Japan anti-hero updated for modern times. Dude, the party is over. Heartland closed in January this year. Maybe it’s time to to move on?

 

Fight For Your Right To (Dance) Party Past Midnight In Japan!

You have to write for your right to (dance party)

夜明けまで踊りたいなら警察庁に意見を伝え、政府を踊らせよう!

Put on those dancing shoes!…in a few months. Maybe.

The National Police Agency of Japan is at long last (and after much public pressure) considering revising Japan’s archaic adult entertainment laws to allow dancing past midnight!  Yes, Japan may finally be going footloose. From today, July 25th, they are accepting public comments. You can mail them at hoan@npa.go.jp or better yet, FAX them at 03-3581-5936. For more details please see the National Police Agency home page. The current draft of the revised bill is here (警察庁の改正案はここです。最低と言わないがよくはない). Frankly, it seems pretty sucky.

The National Police Agency wants to know what you think about these issues:

Should people be allowed to dance all night?  Should dance clubs and discos be allowed to go all night? How should they be regulated? (クラブの深夜営業は許可すべきか。規制すべきか)

Should dance clubs be removed from the province of the adult entertainment laws? (クラブなどのダンス社交の場所は風営法の対象外とすべきなのか)

If we allow dance lessons to be conducted anywhere, will it corrupt the morals of Japan? (ダンス教室の無許可営業は日本の風紀を乱すのか)

What is the danger that dance clubs turn into places singles go to meet other singles and possibly hook up?  (If you don’t even consider that a danger or a problem, let them know) (クラブは出会い系の場所となる危険性(?)はどう思うのか)

What if dance clubs are used to facilitate prostitution? (ダンスクラブは売春の温床となるのでは?)

There are probably more silly questions that the NPA is coming up with but these seem to be the issues they are most concerned about. Because as we all know, late night dancing could lead to sex, which could lead to people having more children, which could be a serious problem in this overpopulated country. Oh. Wait. Actually, Japan is having a population crisis because people aren’t getting married and having children. That also requires sex. So maybe late night dance clubs could be good for Japan?

Well, if men and women meet in clubs and start dating each other or have consensual sex without paying a third party, how will this affect Japan’s legal sex industry? Think of the economic blow this could do to blow-job parlours and sexual massage parlours, not to mention hostess and host clubs!

The National Police Agency plans to submit a revised bill, perhaps the current draft, to the National Diet this Autumn. On the 15th of this month, they will set up a panel of experts (who will probably be virulently opposed to dancing, social conservatives, and mostly men)  and interview dance club operators. They will hold hearing sessions to create a revised law, which hopefully will allow Japan’s nightlife to come back from the dead.

A Brief History Of The War On Dance 

You may be wondering why the Japanese police have been raiding dance clubs and criminalizing “rhythmical movement to music” and other lascivious acts in recent years. Allow me to explain. I’ve covered some of this ground before in other articles, so please forgive me while I repeat myself.

         If you’re thinking about dancing the night away to some great trance music, or even old-fashioned rock, you may have a tough time finding a venue in Japan these days. In fact, you may end up waltzing away hours inside a police station, pissing into a cup after being rounded up in a raid. It’s not just Tokyo, in Kansai as well, “The War on Dance” has been raging on for the last few years.

On September 2nd (2012), at 3:40 am, members of the Kanto Rengo gang burst into the VIP room in Roppongi’s Club Flower and clubbed a man to death in front of 300 people. Since then, the police have been making regular raids on the nightclubs, discos, and live houses that make night life in this city vibrant and fun. The intensity of the raids have gone up, but in fact, they are simply a continuation of what began in Osaka in 2012.

Ostensibly, the clubs are being raided for violating Japan’s archaic Adult Entertainment Laws which forbid dancing after midnight. The police are simply enforcing the laws. That’s the official party line.

But anyone who has lived in Japan for several years knows that wasn’t always the case. The laws existed on the book, gathering dust, but were rarely enforced

So why now is there a “War on Dance?” Is it a part of the “War on Drugs”?

Who do we blame? Do we blame the police? Do we blame the Kanto Rengo for killing a man after dancing hours, thus reminding everyone that the Adult Entertainment Laws (AEL) were being ignored?

The answer is complicated.

Let’s start with the obvious answer: it really is against the law to dance after midnight in most venues in Japan. This is well explained in the book Odotte wa Ikenai Kuni, Nihon (Japan: The Land Where You Can’t Dance) .

The Adult Entertainment Laws originally were revised after WWII to clamp down on the infamous “Dance Halls” which were thinly disguised venues of prostitution. Several decades later “Dance Halls” have been replaced by clubs, discos, and bars with dance floors; they are not proxy brothels. The places people dance have changed, as have the customers; the laws have not.

I don’t think there is anyone who would argue that dancing itself is dangerous or unhealthy. Dance is part of the educational curriculum in Japan. Some forms of dance are considered cultural treasures. So why would dancing at a club after midnight miraculously transform what is a healthy form of entertainment into a threat to the public welfare? Do dancers transform into rampaging werewolves as the clock strikes midnight?

There is no logical answer.

One unofficial answer from the police is this: “It’s much easier to raid a dance club on violations of the AEL than it is to get a warrant for a drug search. Dance clubs are hotbeds of drug activity.”

Maybe, that’s partially true. At some dance parties, there will be people using ecstasy (MDMA). There will also be people getting so drunk that they get alcohol poisoning. There will also be people just dancing. Should the rest of us be banned from the dance floor because of a few reckless people?

The hardline enforcement of forgotten laws may make the police look good. It is a nuisance for everyone else. It hurts the business of legitimate clubs. It discourages people from staying out late, making nightlife boring. If there’s no place to dance after midnight, than many people will go home. It’s bad for tourism as well. “Tokyo: The City That Always Sleeps Before Midnight”—try attracting people to Japan with that slogan. Ultimately, it hurts the economy and encourages corruption.Clubs relying on late-night traffic will go out of business. Clubs that want to stay in business will pay bribes and protection money to avoid the raids.

That brings us to another reason for the “War On Dance”. It stems a bit from the Organized Crime Exclusionary Ordinances that went nationwide on October 1st, 2011. In the old days, the clubs paid off the local yakuza. In return, they often got advance notice when a token raid was coming. The yaks provided muscle when customers got out of line and kept local street crime down. No muggings, purse snatching, or theft allowed. The smart clubs avoided getting shut down, kept pushers off the premises, and people felt safe going to them.

The police knew the clubs were operating way past legal hours, but looked the other way. The enforcement was so sparse that late-night dancing existed in a comfortable grey zone.

But when doing business with the yakuza became a crime in itself, the clubs stopped paying them. The non-designated organized crime groups, like Kanto Rengo, cut in on the dance. They became the unofficial security guards. They soon found the clubs lucrative venues to peddle drugs and in some of the high end clubs, prostitutes as well.

Dance Hall days were here again.

The Flower killing made it clear that the “new yakuza” were now running the nightlife. The investigative journalist Atsushi Mizoguchi coined a term for these outlaws: hangure. It comes from the Japanese word for “half” and Gurentai. After the war, Gurentai were the undisciplined youth gangs who preyed on the general population, engaging in theft, robbery, and violent crimes. The “half” in the term is also an acknowledgement that these new groups are “half” yakuza as well. Many of them are backed by yakuza or ex-yakuza that can no longer operate in the open, and have no code of honor to burden them.

A few weeks after the Club Flower murder, the National Police Agency reportedly issued a directive to all police departments to strictly enforce the Adult Entertainment Laws. The directive was meant hurt the hangure and deflect criticism of lax enforcement. And the cops have been doing their jobs.

The Japanese police are no longer comfortable with grey zones; everything has to be black and white. Grey is the enemy. The dance clubs closings are the casualties of a badly run war. Coincidentally, Hangure, can also be read as “half-grey.” It’s the color of “illegal.”

Not everyone is taking this haphazard enforcement lying down. The Let’s Dance Committee, headed by a lawyer and run by a group of volunteers is lobbying for changes in the law that will protect Japan’s “dance culture.” They have already collected over 150,000 signatures for a petition to the government.  A recent court decision in Osaka may have also made the police here reverse course in the unpopular dance club crackdown.

 On April 25 2014, the Osaka District Court acquitted Masatoshi Kanemitsu, the owner of a nightclub called NOON, of charges of “corrupting sexual morals” and violating adult entertainment laws in what Kanemitsu’s lawyer, Kenichi Nishikawa, called Japan’s first trial challenging its archaic “no dance” laws. “It was a victory for common sense and freedom to dance,” Nishikawa said.  “It is historic and significant, and while not finding the current laws unconstitutional, the courts ruled both that the police were too broadly interpreting the laws and that dance in and of itself is not a corruptor of public morals. Nor does it make people throw off their clothes.” For the rest of that story see The Japanese All Go Footloose To Protest The Nightlife Crackdown in The Daily Beast.

         If you want to join the tango, check out www.letsdance.jp.  And of course, write the National Police Agency.  In the meantime, until someone brings the laws up to date, the War on Dance will keep on moving to the music of the National Police Agency marching band. For a limited time, you may have a say in the tune that we hear in the future. So speak now or learn to love “Dancing By Myself.” 

“You can’t lose at Muse” no longer true. Iconic Roppongi club lost in war on dance

Roppongi’s iconic dance club, Muse (ミューズ), became the latest victim of the crackdown on illegal dancing–the so-called “War on Dance”— when police announced on Sunday morning that it had raided the club and arrested manager Yuki Takano (37), a disk jockey, and two DJs. Their crime: setting up a DJ booth, playing music, and allowing the customers to dance. The police are also looking into other clubs allegedly run by the group including a so-called “girl’s bar”* in the neighborhood, to see if those establishments were also involved in other heinous illegal activity, such as customers sitting with the female bartenders behind the bar counter..

The Tokyo Police were not aMUSEd with this club's after hours dancing and shut it down. Another club shuttered in the war on dance.
The Tokyo Police were unaMUSEd with this club’s after hours dancing and shut it down. Another club shuttered in the war on dance.

The arrests are in violation of the Entertainment Business Control and Improvement Law (風営法, a set of archaic rules created in 1948, which prohibit dancing after midnight. The law had been gathering dust in the books for years, until the Osaka police began enforcing it rigidly in 2012.  In Tokyo,  when a man was beaten to death last year at Club Flower in Roppongi, the Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department also began to aggressively apply the laws, making raid after raid.  Since then, the police have been cleaning up the area and arresting the club owners violating the law. Muse is only the latest in a long string of clubs that have been busted this year for illegal dancing. In July the police raided the infamous Gas Panic nightclub and arrested the manager and disk jockey for operating without a license. In May, Vanity Lounge, was targeted and three employees were arrested in suspicion for violating the entertainment laws. Vanity reopened under a different name, V2, and labeled itself as a “restaurant”. The crackdowns have taken away much of what had made Roppongi the vibrant nightlife district sandwiched between the gentrified areas of Roppongi Hills and Midtown it had once been. Businesses have taken a hit, including the McDonald’s near the crossing, a meeting place for those who want to line their stomachs with a protective coat of Big Mac grease before a night of heavy drinking or a refuge for those waiting for the first train to arrive.

MUSE in it's heyday. Free entry for women and a 3,000 yen payment  + business card requirement kept the place "upscale." Or as they used to say "High-Touch."
MUSE in it’s heyday. Free entry for women and a 3,000 yen payment + business card requirement kept the place “upscale.” Or as they used to say “High-Touch.”

Although Muse is located only ten minutes away from Roppongi Station, it is known as a far less sleazy venue when compared to its neighbors. **A sign on the doorway requires that visitors, namely males, be between 24 and 39 years old, and have a business card to present to the bouncer. Flip flops, shorts, and gym clothes have no place on the dance floor. And most importantly, servicemen in the military who want to have a bit of fun tonight have to turn back around and head straight back to Gas Panic, because Muse has a strict “no servicemen allowed” rule. These rules filtered out enough of the “riff-raff” that the foreign customers were usually all  high-income expats working at foreign companies in Tokyo, or financially savvy and business card holding English teachers. Of course, none of these rules apply to females who are often allowed in without even flashing an ID card. My experience going to Muse was that I was waved inside before I could even reach into my purse to grab my passport. Females don’t even have to dish out the 3000 yen entry charge that males have to pay (Editor’s note: When will the discrimination against men in Japan ever end? This matriarchal society needs to change). This policy balances out the male to female ratio, compared to other nightclubs. Still, this doesn’t change the fact that Muse was still undeniably a meat market and a popular pickup spot. It’s unknown how long Muse will remain closed or whether it will open in time for Halloween celebration this weekend. But for now, warming up with a couple of cocktails from the nearby Lawson and buying an ice cream cone at Hobson’s before heading into Tokyo’s less sleazy alternative to the clubs in neighboring Roppongi—that is simply out of the question.

*”Girl’s bars” are essentially hostess bars that use a loop hole in the Entertainment Business Control and Improvement Law to operate past midnight. The female bartenders, who often work as hostesses before midnight, sitting next to customers, move to standing bar tending positions and speak with the customers over the bar counter. If the women sit with the customers past midnight, they are in violation of the law. 

** (Editor’s noteThere have been allegations that females working at MUSE were pressured to date some of the bar’s more wealthy clientele under dubious circumstances. MUSE management was unavailable for comment)

UPDATE: 10 Thugs Club Man To Death While 300 People Dance at Roppongi Club

UPDATE: According to the Japanese media and other sources, a group of ten men wearing ski-masks burst into the Roppongi Club Flower on September 2nd  at approximately 3:40 am and assaulted four men and women sitting together in the VIP room, clubbing one to death and injuring the others. The men used a backdoor entrance which led directly to the VIP room. The Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department released surveillance camera video of the men arriving at the crime scene, wearing black, putting on their masks and heading into the club.

The police cordoned off the crime scene, where the killing took place. (Photo courtesy of Jason Gatewood at http://www.jlgatewood.com)

The assailants appeared to be targeting Ryosuke Fujimoto, age 31, a customer of the dance club, the manager of a Korean barbecue restaurant (焼肉屋). The assault lasted less than two minutes and the men spoke not a word while beating Mr. Fujimoto to death with a metal pipes and aluminum baseballs bats. The cause of death is believed to be a severe cranial fracture.

 There were 300 people in the club at the time. No one intervened and many customers didn’t realize what was happening until after the men had fled.  The VIP room is unusually dark and slightly isolated from the main dance floor. The men are believed to have left the crime scene in a van parked nearby and also split up into several cars to flee the scene. While there has been speculation that the men involved were foreigners there has been no eyewitness testimony or evidence to substantiate those reports other than latent xenophobia. (Of course, they could be foreigners. Ski masks hide nationality pretty well as well as they do faces.) 

The Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department Investigation Division One 警視庁捜査一課 (Homicide and Violent Crimes) is investigating the case as a homicide. On December 14th, 2011, a group of twenty men burst into a Roppongi Cabaret club and assaulted four members affiliated with the Yamaguchi-gumi Kokusui-kai (山口組国粋会), with beer bottles and blunt weapons, injuring one of them severely. The police suspect there may be a possible link to the two cases. The assault in December was believed to have been carried out by members of the Kanto Rengo (関東連合) a loosely networked gang different from the traditional yakuza, and not a designated organized crime group. Kanto Rengo is known for extremely violent assaults and because they are not a designated organized crime group, they are subject to less restrictions than the Yamaguchi-gumi and other crime groups.

The 2nd possibility being considered is that the assault on Mr. Fujimoto was the result of a clash between the Kanto Rengo and another gang fighting for territory in the Roppongi area. Police are checking to see if Mr. Fujimoto had any gang affiliation. He was a regular at the club and had reportedly told is friends earlier in the week that he had gotten a VIP room reservation and was excited to go.

Sources close to the investigation said that Mr. Fujimoto was believed to have been a member of the Kanto Rengo in his youth, when Kanto Rengo was still primarily a motorcycle gang (暴走族).  The police officially are not sure of his present or past ties to the gang. A weekly magazine recently reported that Fujimoto had also borrowed a substantial amount of money from an organized crime group to set up his restaurant and was behind on the lines.

Mr. Fujimoto opened his Korean Barbecue restaurant 雌牛 (Meushi/Male Cow)in Shibuya ward last February with capital of about 3,000,000 yen ($35,000).

Meushi (雌牛)is A "Girl's Yakiniku" restaurant. At 雌牛 (Meushi) attractive women cook the meat for the customers. *Photo from News Post Seven website article about the restaurant.

 

Mr. Fujimoto was reportedly asked to pay protection money by the Kokusuikai in the area but refused. Police are also interested in rumors that another gang tried to shake him down as well.   However, if Mr. Fujimoto was indeed a former member of the Kanto Rengo and still had ties to them, the attack on him may be directly related to the assault on Kokusui-kai members last year. The Kokusui-kai is capable of well-orchestrated violence, including the very public assassination of a Sumiyoshi-kai executive several years ago. 

In recent years, the established organized crime groups have ceded control of the Roppongi area to the gangs in exchange for a regular kickback. One mid-level boss of a Kanto based yakuza group explained it this way, “The class of clientele in the dead zone between Roppongi Hills and Midtown keeps going down and that means there’s more trouble and less money to be made. It’s not worth the trouble and just taking a cut makes better sense.”

A retired detective from the Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department says the crime is not typical of Kanto area yakuza. “The killing was meant to be a warning, not just a death sentence. The very public execution is more typical of Kansai and Kyushu yakuza or foreign gangs.  It may seem like overkill to go in with a gang of ten people, but in the dark VIP room, it is probably impossible to determine who struck the fatal blow and this will tend to lighten the criminal responsibility across the board.”

In Kanto, the yakuza when making a hit, tend to kidnap their victims, kill them in the mountains and bury them there.  A mid-level yakuza boss says, “Leaving a body behind is not a bright thing to do unless you have a reason for doing it.” The Kanto Yakuza also are less inclined to attack civilians because of the police crackdown that inevitably follows.

The retired detective also pointed out that the use of baseball bats and other blunt weapons by the group was also well-thought out. “Assuming that the assailants get caught, they will face much lighter penalties than if they had used a knife or a gun, which would would be a violation of the sword and firearms laws (銃刀法違反)and result in aggravated charges.” ber 10th

According to the Japanese media and other sources, a group of ten men wearing ski-masks burst into the Roppongi Club Flower on September 2nd  at approximately 3:40 am and assaulted four men and women sitting together in the VIP room, clubbing one to death and injuring the others. The men used a backdoor entrance which led directly to the VIP room. The Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department released surveillance camera video of the men arriving at the crime scene, wearing black, putting on their masks and heading into the club.

The police cordoned off the crime scene, where the killing took place. (Photo courtesy of Jason Gatewood at http://www.jlgatewood.com)

The assailants appeared to be targeting Ryosuke Fujimoto, age 31, a customer of the dance club, the manager of a Korean barbecue restaurant (焼肉屋). The assault lasted less than two minutes and the men spoke not a word while beating Mr. Fujimoto to death with a metal pipes and aluminum baseballs bats. The cause of death is believed to be a severe cranial fracture.

 There were 300 people in the club at the time. No one intervened and many customers didn’t realize what was happening until after the men had fled.  The VIP room is unusually dark and slightly isolated from the main dance floor. The men are believed to have left the crime scene in a van parked nearby and also split up into several cars to flee the scene. While there has been speculation that the men involved were foreigners there has been no eyewitness testimony or evidence to substantiate those reports other than latent xenophobia. (Of course, they could be foreigners. Ski masks hide nationality pretty well as well as they do faces.) 

The Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department Investigation Division One 警視庁捜査一課 (Homicide and Violent Crimes) is investigating the case as a homicide. On December 14th, 2011, a group of twenty men burst into a Roppongi Cabaret club and assaulted four members affiliated with the Yamaguchi-gumi Kokusui-kai (山口組国粋会), with beer bottles and blunt weapons, injuring one of them severely. The police suspect there may be a possible link to the two cases. The assault in December was believed to have been carried out by members of the Kanto Rengo (関東連合) a loosely networked gang different from the traditional yakuza, and not a designated organized crime group. Kanto Rengo is known for extremely violent assaults and because they are not a designated organized crime group, they are subject to less restrictions than the Yamaguchi-gumi and other crime groups.

The 2nd possibility being considered is that the assault on Mr. Fujimoto was the result of a clash between the Kanto Rengo and another gang fighting for territory in the Roppongi area. Police are checking to see if Mr. Fujimoto had any gang affiliation. He was a regular at the club and had reportedly told is friends earlier in the week that he had gotten a VIP room reservation and was excited to go.

Sources close to the investigation said that Mr. Fujimoto was believed to have been a member of the Kanto Rengo in his youth, when Kanto Rengo was still primarily a motorcycle gang (暴走族).  The police officially are not sure of his present or past ties to the gang.

Mr. Fujimoto opened his Korean Barbecue restaurant 雌牛 (Meushi/Male Cow)in Shibuya ward last February with capital of about 3,000,000 yen ($35,000).

Meushi (雌牛)is A "Girl's Yakiniku" restaurant. At 雌牛 (Meushi) attractive women cook the meat for the customers. *Photo from News Post Seven website article about the restaurant.

 

Mr. Fujimoto was reportedly asked to pay protection money by the Kokusuikai in the area but refused. Police are also interested in rumors that another gang tried to shake him down as well.   However, if Mr. Fujimoto was indeed a former member of the Kanto Rengo and still had ties to them, the attack on him may be directly related to the assault on Kokusui-kai members last year. The Kokusui-kai is capable of well-orchestrated violence, including the very public assassination of a Sumiyoshi-kai executive several years ago. 

In recent years, the established organized crime groups have ceded control of the Roppongi area to the gangs in exchange for a regular kickback. One mid-level boss of a Kanto based yakuza group explained it this way, “The class of clientele in the dead zone between Roppongi Hills and Midtown keeps going down and that means there’s more trouble and less money to be made. It’s not worth the trouble and just taking a cut makes better sense.”

A retired detective from the Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department says the crime is not typical of Kanto area yakuza. “The killing was meant to be a warning, not just a death sentence. The very public execution is more typical of Kansai and Kyushu yakuza or foreign gangs.  It may seem like overkill to go in with a gang of ten people, but in the dark VIP room, it is probably impossible to determine who struck the fatal blow and this will tend to lighten the criminal responsibility across the board.”

In Kanto, the yakuza when making a hit, tend to kidnap their victims, kill them in the mountains and bury them there.  A mid-level yakuza boss says, “Leaving a body behind is not a bright thing to do unless you have a reason for doing it.” The Kanto Yakuza also are less inclined to attack civilians because of the police crackdown that inevitably follows.

The retired detective also pointed out that the use of baseball bats and other blunt weapons by the group was also well-thought out. “Assuming that the assailants get caught, they will face much lighter penalties than if they had used a knife or a gun, which would would be a violation of the sword and firearms laws (銃刀法違反)and result in aggravated charges.”

originally published on September 2nd, 2012