Sunday, October 15, 2006

I Don’t Predict A Riot

I’m probably tempting fate, but Tokyo seems such a safe city.

In my many chats with the residents of this city, I have often asked if there are any areas of Tokyo which are dangerous or that I should stay away from. Usually they ponder this for a while, before saying “Oh yes… you know Kabuki-cho San-chome?”.

Now, I’ve been to Kabuki-cho San-chome and it’s about as dangerous as Royal Tunbridge Wells. The area, just behind Shinjuku station, is home to Japan’s “adult entertainment” district – strip bars, restaurants, knocking shops, DVD stores, curry houses and late-night hostess bars.

At night it’s populated by all and sundry – young kids with their big hairdos, dolled-up women in knee-high socks and Japanese businessmen diving surreptitiously into darkened doorways.

But really, it’s actually not that much different to Soho. And it certainly seems no more dangerous.

Scottish Dave and I put this to Kozue, our Sendagi school manager, last night over beer and Japanese Tapas (Japas). Predictably, and without prompting, she had named and shamed Kabuki-cho San-chome as an area to stay away from.

Pursuing the issue, Dave and I went on to tell her about problems on housing estates in Great Britain – drugs, joyriding, mugging etc – and cited examples such as Hackney, Peckham and The Gorbals in Glasgow. “These are places we would never go into” we added.

“Really?” she said, looking surprised “I can’t think of anywhere like this in Tokyo”.

And this does seem to be the case. There are no real housing estates in Tokyo, and what penury and poverty exists appears to be hidden. Only the occasional homeless person tips you off that all may not be well in this near-perfect society. And even he appears to have a better standard of clothes than your average London tramp.


As a footnote, I had asked the question about dangerous areas of Tokyo to a student I teaching for a one-off lesson yesterday.

“Oh, don’t go to Kabuki-Cho San Chome” she said “It’s very dangerous”

“Why?” I asked.

“The Gays” she said

At this point, I thought that she had maybe selected the wrong word. I looked at her in puzzlement in an attempt to her coax her in to explaining herself.

She took my signal and scrabbled for her little electronic translator, tapping at it for few seconds before saying:

“Ah....I mean. ..homosexuals”

Had I been drinking a cup of tea I might have spit out in a comedy style.

“Er “I said “Why could they possibly be dangerous?”

“They drink a lot” she said

“What?!” I said, not trying to disguise that I was a bit narked.

I did try to take her on and to argue her down, but you could see from the blank expression on her face she wasn’t really sure what was I trying to say.

Namely, there’s no sub-cultural group or community on Earth less dangerous than, as she puts it, “The Gays”. When was the last time you saw a gay riot?

Stupid cow. And this wasn’t some old fuddy-duddy either; it was a 30-year old nurse. Pity because she was actually quite attractive. And we all know what nurses get up to.

Later I recounted this tale to the school manager. “Hmm...people in Japan not as open-minded as London” she said with an almost defeatist tone.


Matthew Cashmore said...

I want to go see a gay riot... I'll organise one for you when you return Phil :-)

giacomo said...

I cannot work out the pathos in this story, is your school manager despondant that the country is not full of amphetamine fuelled ram-raids and homeless guys who smell quite terrible?

My god, no wonder we only see tourists on Oxford Street, think how they would freak down Compton Street or in Brixton, weaving their way past the ganga.

tak said...

Funny. Kozue is not from Tokyo, is she?

The Gay areas of Tokyo is not Kabukicho san-chome, but is Shinjuku ni-chome.

People in Tokyo are tolerant to gays usually, you see a lot of "out" people in the medias, and straight women going to the bars casually. (check out the bus tour by Hato-bus company for the entertainment in the district).

I'd rather assume she feared that you guys might like the boys than her. It's a euphemism and even homo-phobic London women say that way, too!