A Night of Total Failure and False Assumptions: How I didn’t pull anyone at a Tokyo Nightclub

Shibuya, Tokyo: Land of neon and excitement
Shibuya, Tokyo: Land of neon and excitement

I recently took my first weekend trip to Tokyo in some time, where the plan was to see and do as much in Tokyo as possible over a two day period – an objective that was met with an excellent degree of success. You know you’ve had a bloody good weekend when you fall asleep with a smile on your face on the train home, with a wallet stuffed of receipts and memories.

However, I’m completely unashamed to admit that one of my targets on the hit list of things to do whilst in Tokyo was to try my luck in a nightclub in the evening. I’m not going to lie, I don’t normally enjoy nightclubs apart from the dancing aspect. I find holding inaudible conversations over incredibly loud music with random drunkards a pretty awkward experience.

This time was different though. I was in Japan and over the few months I’d been living in in Japan I’d established a portfolio of false assumptions about being a foreigner. I believed that in walking around a Japanese nightclub, I’d show up like a walking fireworks display to the female demographic.

A walking fireworks display. But better.

On this rare occasion my evening’s sole objective was, “try luck on with girls” – and what with being a foreign guy, living in Japan, how could I possibly fail?

And what better place to try Operation “Certain Success” on than in Shibuya, considered the epicentre of both Tokyo and Japan, with the world’s busiest crossing, a pretty great night life and 8 trillion people.

After a few beers, a bottle of wine and a portfolio of dreams and aspirations, a friend and I head on down to a club which we’d previously been informed was where the action was.

We arrived at the club to watch three British lads try and get in without any I.D. They were promptly turned away.

“Dickheads,” I thought, as I smugly withdrew my holstered identification granting me access to a night of fun and excitement. We ditched our stuff in a locker and stepped into a cramped elevator to take us to a magical place. I recalled the scene from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory when all the golden ticket winners
emerged into the candy filled room and Mr Wonka bursts into song. I pictured a similar incredible reception that awaited us.

The lift doors opened to reveal a dirt covered wall and music so loud it was like someone had taken a sledgehammer to my ear drums.

However as we emerged from the lift and turned the corner, we discovered that at 11.30pm, we were still an hour early. In the same way you’d arrive at a party early, the room had an awkward social atmosphere. Alas, we thought we would have time to survey our surroundings and form some sort of strategy. With our assortment of cocktails in hand we trundled over to a table in the centre of the room and analyzed the room.

The first thing that struck us was that there were actually quite a lot of girls. This was fine news indeed. Until of course, we realized where they were sitting.

There were three floors in the club and each one had huge seating areas reserved especially for women and guarded by an army of bouncers and rope. The sad reality was that almost every girl in the club was sat in these areas and to go over and strike up a conversation would have been like strolling over the Korean demilitarized zone – whilst simultaneously grasping a cocktail glass filled with Sex on the Beach.

That was the first dent in our utterly flawless strategy.

That’s not to say we didn’t get any attention from the girls and we figured in time, they would come to us – because of course, we were foreigners.

With 90% of our target market out of range and the other 10% in the form of friendship groups and girlfriends and boyfriends sitting nearby, it was decided we’d switch strategies. Get on to the dance floor, dance like crazy and try and join some sort of group of lads who looked like a laugh and then let the girls come to us.

There were three hilarious, yet incredible Japanese guys dancing near the front of the dance floor looking like they’d just taken speed mixed with Redbull and as planned we ended up joining in the act. To my delight there were a handful of rather attractive women nearby dancing about and after a few exchanged glances it looked like the strategy was about to pay off.

Finally one of the girls worked her way over to where I was dancing and we were off and away. “Mission accomplished,” I thought.

With an attractive girl and I now dancing together, I was about ready to get a conversation going. I made a mental note of the title of my new book “Chris Broad’s 5 Steps to Success in a Nightclub in Japan” and listed which publishers I’d soon be going to, to negotiate lucrative billion dollar book deals. “Maybe in time, I’ll even buy the nightclub itself,” I thought.

– And then “Moves like Jagger” by Maroon 5 came on.

Everyone went crazy – myself included. I don’t normally listen to crap, but at a nightclub anything with a decent beat goes and like the other people around me I got well into it. But when Christina Aguilera finally came in (at which point the beat and “dance-ability” of the song is completely ruined), I looked down to see the attractive girl had gone and defected to another guy half a mile away. My eye had left the ball for too long and now I was fucked.

With my future publishing empire in tatters I relented; we still had another 2 or 3 hours to meet some girls and see the grand plans through to fruition. There’d be plenty more opportunities to work the magic.

I was wrong. Completely wrong. From here on in, the plans were met by consistent failure at every turn.

An hour in and the dance floor was flooded with guys. The majority of which had similar ideas. It soon also became apparent why the girls had specially guarded seating areas.

My plan had been to let the girls come to us (I’m unashamed to admit I don’t have the balls to do it the other way round). The other guys in the nightclub had a different mindset. They danced liked a pack of wolves, pouncing on any girl that had the courage to join the dance floor. In the rare chance a girl took the arduous, life threatening decision to leave the demilitarized zone, the wolves would surround her and made escape all but impossible.

Angry that I’d failed to seize the moment we decided it was time to play our trump card. – Switching to another floor.

The two other floors were less dance floors, more socializing areas, so we were all set for success.

– Except we weren’t.

Once again all we were met with were demilitarized zones filled with girls and couples having a drink at the odd table. We ordered another round, sat ourselves down and like Generals in a battlefield, mapped out our next strategy.

However, my friend had other ideas. He was now growing impatient with our series of strategic fuck ups and decided there and then to execute a far more dangerous plan. “Right, I`m going to go to the bar, get a drink and talk to those girls.” He pointed to the three girls standing by the bar. With his knowledge of Japanese (which I lacked at the time) and being foreign, success was certain. Once again, I began plotting which karaoke bar we would all head off to after they’d joined us.

In a scene reminiscent from a shit film, I watched him stroll over, order a drink and confidently turn to one of the girls. “Hey!” he smiled. “Can you speak English?!”

“No she can’t,” replied her boyfriend, as he emerged from a nearby shadowy corner, making it clear that it was time for my friend to withdraw the troops and fall back. The girls, once again and unbeknown to us, were already part of a group.

We continued to rotate around floors but by now after three hours the club felt more like a prison filled with a million inmates than the land of limitless possibility we’d originally envisioned. Every time I was in reach of a girl I might be able to speak with, she was dragged off, never to be seen again into the forest a thousand guys dancing away wildly.

It was almost 3pm when we left the nightclub and I walked out defeated. So certain had I been of success. I was furious at not only failing completely, but by the sheer financial firepower I’d expended on getting into the club and buying cocktails, which had in hindsight, not done wonders for any form of masculine image I was attempting to convey at the time. The irony was the three dickheads that didn’t have any I.D. probably had more success that evening after being rejected from the club than we ever did.

I learned some valuable lessons of course.

1) Don’t make assumptions.
2) Don’t go to a nightclub in Shibuya in the world’s biggest city on a Saturday night.
3) I am not a walking fireworks display and just because I’m foreign it doesn’t mean I’m special – or at least, I’m not in central
Tokyo.
4) Storm the demilitarized zone.
5) Take a ton of money to Tokyo. (I spent 40,000 Yen over a two day period)

Still, in two weeks I’m off to Tokyo again for five days and on one of those evenings I’ll give it another shot. I’d even go so far as to say I’ve learned my lesson.

I’ll try my luck in a bar instead – I reckon as a foreigner, I’ll really stand out in a bar.

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