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Monday, June 28

One Night In Tokyo

I like vampires.  I like Alice in Wonderland.  I like beer.  So what could be a better to celebrate my time here in Japan than a night in Tokyo with some dear friends at a few bars which are highly accommodating to these personalized likes?  When it's time for celebrating, there is nothing like a good theme bar to make it a fun night.

We had our sights set on two spots in the Ginza area of Tokyo, the Vampire Cafe and the Alice in Wonderland Cafe.  I spent my day trying to reach someone at both locations who spoke English and could make my reservations.  Of course, I had zero luck with this and only ended up annoying some people on the far end of the telephone line, but I was not to be deterred.  I don't often beg for help from Japanese friends, but in this case I did.  Of course, I only begged for help on one place, so that was all the help I got.  But it did land us with a 9:00 pm reservation with the vamps.

Setting out at 6:00, we just hoped that the earlier hour would get our small group in with Lewis Carroll's funny friends.  Armed with maps (in Japanese kanji), we got off at the Ginza stop and meandered the streets  looking for our first destination.  A few kind souls did stop and help us after I gave them my sad, pitifully lost face allowing us to finally take the elevator up to the tiny, well guarded entrance to the Wonderland Cafe.  Sadly, all the effort was for nothing.  A kind sir with his top hat, lapels and gold pocket watch could only share that they were completely full with reservations.  Bah.  Still, I was not to be turned away so quickly.  Perhaps I wouldn't be dining and drinking down the rabbit hole that evening, but I was damn well sure that I would at least take a stroll in this strange world.  Fortunately, our kind door rabbit was obliging, allowing us a quick peak around a room full of waitresses in blue and white pinafores, giant tea cups to sit in, and the many well-coiffed "Eat Me" treats that grace their strange menu.  But this would have to be all we saw before we crawled back out of the rabbit hole.  It's a shame too, because thanks to my English-to-Japanese translation book, I had learned to say "I take mushrooms occasionally."  It's not that I do take mushrooms other than the garden variety kind (and even those I am squeamish about), but if the book provides the line, then it surely wants someone to say it, right?  Ah well.

Back into the night air, we decided that in the available time prior to our later reservation, we would head back a block to the Sapporo Lion Beer Hall, which just so happens to be the oldest of such places in Japan, built in 1934.  That means it survived the World War II bombings in Tokyo.  This fact isn't so surprising once you step inside of this brick and mortar strong house and see the immense, Industrial-Gothic styled tiled columns strategically placed along the outskirts of the room.  To the far end from the entrance is the most massive marble bar these eyes have ever seen with a glass tile mosiac showing the scantily clad harvesting crops and writhing in ecstasy.  I read that in earlier, more modest days, these figures were covered with paper to preserve the patron's integrity.  In these modernly promiscuous days, no one even blinks at the sight.  I did take pictures of all this, but they are sadly trapped on my camera, which is refusing to communicate with the computer I am currently using.  Alas.  I will hopefully add them one day in the near future. 

The food here.  Ahh... so good.  Beer and pub food in all its glory.  Beef and potato croquettes and soft pretzels piled high on a stick are of my highest suggestion.  There are a few German beers, but we mostly stuck with the namesake of the Ebisu Lion.  Perhaps a beer hall was not the original theme plan of the night, but it proved to be more than satisfactory to our evening's activities.

As we did have one solid reservation, we paid our tab and headed back out into the ritzy streets of Ginza to find another bar surely hidden in some obscure corner of the neighborhood.  We had a map.  In Japanese.  And we tried placing it into some sort of respect to the other two locations we had previously found, but it took us only moments to realize that with varying scales, we were just going to have to wing it from the single map provided by the destination.  Once we figured out which tiny side street the map was showing, we just started walking.  Only once did we stop and a man pointed us onward in the direction we had been heading.  Either we were getting better at reading the maps or this place was easier to find, because it wasn't long before we were in the correct elevator.

When exiting the elevator, an evil laugh from the darkness made us all jump.  Turns out those cheesy Halloween props can still support their original purpose of the quick thrill.  Thick velvet drapes line all the walls, obscuring whatever was beyond the entryway and, later, whatever was occurring in those private booths.  The floor glowed with red platelets until you pass into a main room where tables rest directly over coffins long coated in dripped red wax from the candelabras placed upon them.  Skulls and spiderwebs graced corners here and there.  Little Lolita waitresses in black and white french maid outfits scurried to the several hidden tables while Baroque music made the vibe a little more classic than cheesy Goth.  (The one picture here is courtesy of dear friend and fellow vampire bar lover Davida, who, unlike myself, can make her camera and computer talk to each other.)

My purpose was solely to drink some blood.  Not the real stuff, mind you, because EW.  But that menu was sure to have something that looked enough like it to satisfy my sick curiousity.  The care is mainly a ritzy eating establishment, but since we had already partaken in several courses prior, we stuck with ordering dessert.  A chocolate creme cake with bat wings and red glazing spilled around it was perfectly adorable while the chocolate and berry dessert pizza was so-so good to me.  The drinks were still where my mind was at.

First drink.  Some creamy type juice, made lychee, mixed with a lot of I-don't-know and a shot of a thick red berry juice served on the side which you poured in.  It was tasty.  Especially for not knowing what we were drinking.  For the steep cost, there was surely alcohol in it, but our taste buds must be withered from our years of adult beverages because we didn't taste or feel a thing.  For the second shot, we went with a clearer red cocktail with lots of crushed ice and tiny rose petals on top.  Again, we have no idea what we were drinking.  I guess there was alcohol.  Again, the price would make one assume.  But the flavor was so beyond odd for a drink, that it took me a bit to finish it off.  If I had to nail down a flavor, I would say it was like drinking your grandma's antique rose perfume water.  I guess vampire are big on the luxe and the roses, but I'm doubting any self-respecting vampire would drink the red beauties.  Of course, I made a further mistake by ordering the thick red-looking shot on the side... something that turned out to be like an intense bloody mary.  Please do me a favor and never mix your roses and tomatoes together.  It's just wrong.  And your stomach will fault you for your stupidity at some point in the hours later.

While it wasn't one of the Tokyo theme bars I totally fell in love with, I'm always up for enjoying some strangeness.  If this hadn't been a goodbye to Japan night, I would totally go back again.  Perhaps many years in the future.

Neither me nor my friends relish the idea of sleeping in the train station for the night, so we made sure to catch the next-to-last train back to Zushi.  You always plan for the next-to-last which gives you that tiny cushion in case you miss it.  Many a business man has made the mistake of thinking they can make it from the bar to that last train and, after missing it, end up lying in wait for the 5:00 am train on the cold, dirty tile of some subway station using their briefcase as a makeshift pillow.  I hated to think of my pretty Coach bag being put into such an incommodious position.  Especially when my Serta Memory Foam pillow waited at home for me.  Damn, I'm getting old.


Anonymous said...

Wow, what interesting bars they have there!?! Sorry, we don't have any of them back here. I am glad you were getting ready for the new Twilight movie :(


Kimono Karen said...

I'm thinking I might have found my calling... open tons of wacky theme bars in Japanese style in the states! I could be famous!

So ready for Eclipse!

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Emily the Frugal said...


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Tokyo sounds amazing. A land of such rich culture and excitement. I hope to travel there one day! Thanks for sharing.