Man, where to begin with this weekend…
At this moment I’m writing you from an express train on the way to Amagasaki, the site of one of Japan’s four Costco megastores. And I’m drunk.
Wait. Actually, I should probably go back and start from the beginning.
On Saturday afternoon, after spending the better part of the day in Kyoto Central Library trying to figure out how to implement a multilingual Japanese/English interface for this site, I hopped on a train for Kobe to meet up with Dylan, Heather, Shivana, and a number of their JET friends. The group of us had two things in mind for the evening. The first was hamburgers.
And by “hamburgers” I don’t refer to the thin fake-beef semi-patties served at millions of fine McDonald’s locations worldwide. Or the breadcrumb-filled “hambagu” served in most Japanese family restaurants. I refer to big, juicy, BBQ sauce-dripping patties so good that they just might be able to turn an In-N-Out lover over to the dark side.
Well, not that good. But pretty damn good. I’d be back there every week if not for the hour and a half train ride, $10 price tag, and 45 minute wait at the restaurant.
After thoroughly gorging ourselves on slain cow and fried potato, we started off towards the second reason I decided to train all the way to Kobe on a Saturday night: Luminare, another of Japan’s seemingly endless supply of festivals.
Luminare is essentially the following: take your standard covered shopping arcade (every city of noteworthy size has one); cover the entrance and ceiling with densely-packed, elaborately organized Christmas lights; add millions of people.
And you know, while it does indeed rank pretty high on the “crazy-sh*t-I’ve-never-seen-before” scale, I don’t think I’ll be going back for another look anytime soon. The reason why Japan’s festivals are so much fun is not only because of the festival content itself, but also the active and playful energy of all the spectators – people partying, teens drinking, parents dancing, carnival games, food booths, and so on. This was basically a (huge) walk-through display to look at and go home. But I’m glad I saw it at least once. 🙂
By the time I was able to force my way through the crowds and arrive back in Kyoto, it was just past midnight. Now I was faced with a debate: For a couple of weeks I’ve been seeing fliers for a Grand Opening Party at a new club called Sam & Dave’s on Kiyamachi (it’s already a pretty popular chain in Osaka). With plans in place for early the next morning, and feeling a bit tired from pushing around in the Luminare crowds, I wondered if going would really be such a good idea. Especially since riding downtown and paying a cover charge at this hour would definitely mean staying until morning.
So what do you think I decided? 😛
I filled up my flask, picked up a bottle of “CC Lemon” at my local Lawson convenience store (as a mixer), and rode downtown.
From the moment I saw the club’s entrance I knew I’d made the right choice.
It felt like I’d just arrived at some Hollywood VIP event; there was a big line of incredibly gorgeous women, people with expensive cameras flashing pictures everywhere, and literally thousands of flowers donated by various radio stations and companies.
Inside was just as impressive as the outside – plenty of space (er, for Japan – many of the clubs outside of Tokyo are roughly the size of Grandma’s Basement in the US, and not decorated that much nicer), a great atmosphere, top-notch bartenders straight from Las Vegas, and the most fun crowd you could ask for.
Actually now that I think about it, by American standards the facilities themselves would probably be considered pretty mediocre. But Kyoto is quite a small city, crossable on bike in about an hour, so I was surprised to see a place this large opening its doors at all. Kyoto is so small that when I first signed my apartment lease I was hesitant because of its distance from the center of town. I later measured this distance to be 1.75 miles. Could you imagine living 1.75 miles from the busiest part of LA and considering that “too far away?”
And as it turned out, the “smallness” of Kyoto played a large part in my overall fun for the evening. See, Saturday night was the first time I’ve ever gone out clubbing completely on my own. Yet within 5 minutes of my arrival I’d run three or four people I knew…who introduced me around, and they introduced me around, and so on. Before I knew it I had more people to hang out with than I could handle. I even ran into Peter Macintosh out on the dance floor. It’s a small world, after all.
But probably the largest factor contributing to the evening’s fun was one of my more recent buddies, let’s call him “M.” Quite an interesting character, that “M.” He’s foreign, but has lived in Japan for over 20 years, just recently obtaining full citizenship (incredibly difficult for foreigners to do – it requires, among other things, renouncing any other citizenships you may have and being absolutely flawless at the language). We met for the first time at Starbuck’s when he was on his way home from a company 飲み会 (drinking party); I noticed him stumbling a bit, smirked to myself, and he responded with something like “Hey, you lookin’ at me???”
I couldn’t tell if he was joking at the time, but now that I know him a bit better I’m sure he was.
After that day I started running into him with some regularity; in fact, I ran into him just last weekend at a local bar called The Hub (a popular spot among English teachers and other local expats).
So anyways, we had a good time at Sam & Dave’s…mainly because he’s so completely fearless about approaching women (Nick: he reminds me a bit of your friend Peter at UCLA…but not quite as unslick about it :)). A hell of a time to watch.
But M or no, it’s pretty safe to say that I’ll be visiting Sam & Dave’s with some regularity from now on. Looks like my need to go to Osaka for a wild weekend just got cut down quite a bit!
After the club closed down at 5:30am I continued to a small bar with a group of South American friends I made at the last minute, finally getting home around 8:00…with just enough time to shower, eat, and head out to meet Dylan and Heather at Costco. Which is why I’m drunk on the train right now.
And now that I’m all caught up, it’s time to sleep.