Tuesday, 17 July 2012

Slow Bloke Leaves China For Japan And The Hotspots Of Tokyo

The hustle and bustle of Tokyo was a shock after Peking. There seemed to be the same number of people, but everything was so much more hurried and professional. The bicycles had been replaced by cars. The gentle evening light by the brash flashing neon advertising signs everywhere. It all seemed so impersonal.

But everything worked better.

The latest technology was evident everywhere, from the buildings on rollers which moved with the earthquake to the latest electronics and gadgets. I marvelled at things like the Seiko Cleancut, the latest electric razor which was cordless and the Citizen Digi-ana watch which was a dual time chronograph which displayed in analogue and digital.

We went to  Ikebukuro, one of Tokyo's many city centres. It sat at the end of the Marunouchi and Yurakucho lines. The massive Seibu Department Store was situated just outside the frantic commuter station. We hadn't come to shop but to visit the museum on the 12th floor which was hosting a major exhibition - Great Masters of French Painting from the Museum of Fine Arts Boston. The room was filled with Monets and Millets. I just imagined Harrods, Fortnum & Mason or Selfridges trying to do the same.

The public transport worked like clockwork. You were manhandled onto the subway trains by the pushers, though it took four of them to heave my bulk into the carriage. The buses were comfortable and had the latest entertainment gadgets. The food we ate was always fresh, always delicious. The Teppayaki restaurant, where the table was the hotplate and the chef cooked everything fresh, was a defining moment for a seventeen-year-old. Dozy Old Britain was going to be a difficult place to return to, and I knew I would seek the same high standards.

After the peace of China and the lack of nightlife, our reaction to Tokyo was like being let into a sweet shop after a long wait. We charged down to the nightclubs in Roppongi. One of the group had been recommended a place called Studio 1. It was a mistake. The DJ played record after record by Earth, Wind and Fire. By 2 am I was ready for the next club, but several bouncers barred our exit. It looked like we were in trouble and might escape with our lives if we bought several bottles of excessively overpriced champagne. But they smiled and said Japanese law forbid anyone to leave between 1 am and 4 am.

Two hours of Boogie Wonderland, September and Let's Groove stretched the patience a little.

Toad had got worse in Tokyo. Some of the group had had enough of him and played a mean trick on him. They rang up several Escort companies and requested a girl be sent at a specific time to his hotel room. A succession of pretty Japanese girls were seen walking up the hotel corridor and knocking on his door.

The next morning at breakfast in the hotel dining room, Toad was unusually bright and breezy. He never said a word but he was the most contented we had seen him on the trip. Perhaps it was just the joyous realisation that there was only another day to have to put up with this rabble. Perhaps not. He has kept us guessing to this day.

The people who organised the prank were surprised. We were all surprised. We all thought he was gay.

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