It’s 6:30am, it’s daylight, and I’m standing in the middle of the street looking for a Russian girl to bring back to the club. This wasn’t ever how I imagined things would be when I first came to Yokohama.
Fukutomichi. That’s the name of the district I work in and ‘it’s sketchy as fuck’, as an American patron once put it to me a few days ago (which of course was then followed by an ‘and I fuckin love it man, woooo!‘). It’s filled with Filipinos, Thai, Chinese, Russian, Japanese, and one English guy. It’s the kind of place where you can’t walk down the road for more than 30 seconds without some black puffer jacket donning guy offering you discounted drink prices at a nearby girly bar. What kind of girls do you like? Well they got ’em all.
My bar is supposed to be a normal one. However everything is a product of its environment, and perhaps in Fukutomichi, there is no space for such normality. Guys here think they can buy girls. Guys here expect that then any girl they can buy. The guys that come here ain’t your normal guys, and the girls ain’t your normal girls. Hence the bar cannot be your normal bar. Hence the bar needs to adapt to the needs of the area. Hence yours truly finds himself on a street corner at 6:30am trying to get a Russian girl to come back to the bar so that some seedy 40 year old will spend more money.
But when I say buying girls, it’s probably not quite what you imagine. This is a Kabakura district. Yes I didn’t know what this was either until I went to kabakura for the first time two nights (/mornings) ago. A guy came into my bar at 6am and we started talking, he said ‘you’ve never been to kabakura?!’ (in Japanese obvs), ‘I love Kabakura! you have to go, I’m taking you right now, my treat’. I’m a sucker for free stuff, so I said ‘Boss I’ll be back in an hour’ and off I went, round the corner, up some stairs, and knocked on a big black door. The door swung open, and three impeccably dressed and immaculately groomed Japanese girls stood behind it bowing and ushering us to come in. We sit down on a sofa and a gorgeous girl sits down on each one of our sides. They pour us some vodka, my friend hands over the money, and then… well…
We talk for an hour. Yes, kabakura is paying top dollar to just go and drink for an hour while talking to beautiful women, who in Japan are referred to as ‘hostesses’. It’s drink as much as you like and the prices vary, though ours cost about 40 pounds an hour each. The girls have an in-bar beauty salon, and spend 45 minutes every morning doing their hair. They all look like their going to their own 21st birthday ball. It’s actually pretty fun, and given that I’m English, it’s pretty damn good value for money because one, I can drink a lot and fast, and two, conversational Japanese lessons cost about 10/20 pounds an hour, yet here it comes with the drinks and who better to have the lesson with than the most glamorous japanese girl you’ve ever seen in your life. (and three, somebody else pays for it). The hostesses are very nice and friendly as you’d expect, they all called me very handsome for about 2 hours, and I left feeling like they all fancied me and that I should go back so that one day we can go out or something, so I figure that means they did their job very well. This particular bar opened at 6am in the morning and closed at 5pm in the afternoon, and I was having a hard time working out who their clientele is, since to me this seems like very strange hours at which to get drunk on vodka and talk to beautiful women. But hey, it’s a strange country.
Hosts also exist. In Japan, the men make the money, and the wives are then given complete control of it. I hear wives then just come to see their husbands as money making machines, and husbands see their wives as calculated household runners. The men then wanted to complain, but not just to anyone, to young beautiful women and so the hostess bar – or kabakura – was born. These hostesses have a pretty tough job because all day they just listen to unbelievably depressing stories about Japanese ‘sararyman’ life, and leave carrying a lot on their shoulders. However it seems the wives have ended up getting equally frustrated and so the host bar too was born. Hosts walk around the local area trying to pick up middle aged women, and also young chicks, and bring them back to their bar to spend lots of money and chat to them. They too have immaculately groomed, anime-esque haircuts, and they all wear these kind of punky/emo/gothy suits with the same pointed boots. In fact anime is the key word there, they all try and model themselves after a different type of attractive male anime character. The above picture oversells them a bit though, as in reality, I think they all look pretty terrible and have awful teeth. But they get (sometimes) beautiful girls to come and spend lots of money on them so I guess I should give them a bit more props, and stop the playahatin’.
I can feel the writing quality of this post really starting to fall right now, but I am so damn tired from going to bed at 9am every morning, and trying to write is incredibly draining. It’s annoying too as I just can’t find the creative energy or correct time to finish this damn video, which is much more important to me than working in some seedy shithole bar. I’ll see what the fat Persian pays me at the end of the week and decide whether I can continue with the job or not.
Either way, there’s a lot more I’d like to say about this area and what I’ve seen, and I’m glad I’ve got to experience and be a part of this side of Japanese culture. I think this place tells you a lot more about Japan than any trip to Kyoto ever could. There’s 2 Japans, one of the day, and one of the night… I mean where else in the world do you have strips of bars still open at 8am on a wednesday morning. Where else do you find yourself on street corners donning black puffer jackets, joking around with Chinese, Turkish and Filipino guys all through the night, watching various girls that you come to recognise hopping into big black cars again and again. There’s a really strange community here, and it’s interesting becoming a part of it.
This area is sketchy as fuck. And I fuckin’ love it man.