“We don`t leave ourselves in many things, drunken letters, leases, writs and rings.”
From ex-pat Hobgoblins to Japanese Folk clubs. I`ll accept all the free drinks, `cos I`ll eventually stand the bar a round.
It`s New Years Eve. The start of the biggest holiday in Japan. I head out on my own to celebrate, beginning with a small basement in Ebisu, below a hostess bar, opposite a horsemeat sashimi restaurant. All dressed in black. It`s too cold for rain. A small corridor of a drinker, packed with raised glasses. As I greet the bartender I am passed a shochu. Roku, no water. I stay long enough for a good many “Yotoshi ni narimasu yoni” and “Akimashite omedeito gozaimasu”`s, very likely confusing the two, then it`s into a taxi to Harajuku, not so far but the Tokyo streets are at their busiest.
Busy, still the loneliest city. The natives I am separated from by a void of language and culture. Nothing ever getting beyond “Which country are you from?” and “Why are you here?” The foreigners all pretending to be people they are not. Their pasts unverifiable, ego, imagination, and exaggeration all go unchecked. Egos on people who previously weren`t allowed one. A land of the bullied and humiliated. Broken and disappointed first team hopefuls now free to reinvent. Wannabe name-droppers, suspicious of others, jealous of fluency, caught between dreams of fitting in, and self-defensively and loudly standing out. To connect is to risk giving yourself away. Harboured doubts and unhappiness only expand given air. Everyone has to find their own way in Tokyo. I travel through it, forgetting, drinking from a used bottle of “Alpine Spring” whose contents I have replaced with clear 40% proof spirit. Comfortable and warm, watching the pattern of neon and its reflection. The seat is a location of its own, an “anywhere”, a “nowhere”. A haven, a moment outside usual space and time. Extracted, I send texts to friends back in London.
The DJ is playing David Bowie`s “Fashion”. Whilst dancing I am given another tall oyuwari, on the house. In the toilet, which is the bar owner`s bathroom, I lose my balance and fall into the shower, bringing down the curtain. This accident is not a first. I have occasion to do this whenever I`m here. My worst hangovers seem to come from Harajuku. A Japanese acquaintance told me it`s because they cut their drinks with raw alcohol. Reducing costs, increasing spending. He refuses to drink anything they serve but water. I tumble down the steep narrow staircase, and develop hiccups that no amount of attempting to hold my breath will cure. Conversation even more impossible, and embarrassed, I leave.
I have to stop the cab to be sick. While I am throwing up by the roadside, the driver automatically closes the passenger door and pulls away. I have no idea where I am. It`s cold. I pass out. Intermittently I am conscious, but I cannot move. I know unless I do something I am going to die. Freeze to death.
I am walking on a deserted thoroughfare. More accurately, I am placing one foot in front of the other, but I am in a constant descent, falling, remaining upright only by zig-zaging erratically, bouncing between walls and lamp-posts. I`ve lost my shoes. A police car races from the opposite direction and I step off the curb, across three lanes of would-be traffic, into its path, and the white of its glare.