Friday, 10 February, 2006

Taking in the night life - Shibuya

This evening was perhaps the most fun I've had in Japan, both trips included.  After a reception hosted by one of our Japanese suppliers, we had dinner at a little Chinese restaurant somewhere near our hosts office.  He then dropped us off at our hotel.  David and Matt decided to call it a night, and I thought I might, too.  But then I decided to get a feel for Tokyo at night.  What a blast!

Leaving my camera and any excess baggage in my room, I headed for Shibuya station.  Yes, it's one of the city's night life hotspots, but I didn't go there looking for drinks and women who like foreigners.  I had heard that Shibuya is one of the night life spots for the locals, and I thought I'd get an interesting feel for the people if I just wandered around the station a bit.  I didn't take the camera because I didn't want to be viewed as too much of a tourist.  But now I don't have any pictures.  Next time I'll just look like a tourist.

Stepping out of Shibuya station, the first thing I noticed was lights.  Everywhere.  I've never lived in a big city, so the whole concept of a subway is a little foreign to me.  Add to that the thousands of people skittering hither and yon, and the lights ... a poor old country boy like me is captivated.  And confused.

There were performers set up just oustide the train station, kindly taking turns entertaining the crowd and trying to sell their CDs.  For the most part it's young men (hardly more than boys) with guitars or a music box that plays a popular tune while the boy sings.  It was 35 degrees tonight with a good wind blowing, and there were pleny of girls out there admiring the singers.  A couple of the singers were pretty good, although they lacked the raw voice that characterizes so many Western pop singers.  I wonder if it's a cultural thing--they never really learn to scream, so they can't scream into the microphone.

I bought one CD by a group called モズキング, which is Katakana for "Mozuking".  I don't know what it means, but when you think about it "Deep Purple" isn't all that meaningful, either.  It's reasonably good music.  A couple of guys playing their guitars and singing.  One of them also plays the harmonica.

The group Glide Age was giving out samples of their latest demo CD called "My Life".  Only three of the five members were out performing last night, and I think the girl was there under duress.  She was bundled up with a heavy coat and scarf, her hands freezing as she played the keyboards.  Their demo CD is much more polished than what I had expected after hearing them perform at the station.  I prefer them without all the fancy production stuff that they used on their demo.

Somebody gave me a flyer for the group High-style while I was watching them.  These two young men had quite a crowd of girls gathered around.  I don't know if it's their almost feminine good looks or their singing, but it was obvious that the girls liked them.  These two don't play any instruments but rather put on a recorded backup track (drums and keyboards, mostly) and sing along with it.  Think karoake done right (i.e. by people who can actually sing), and you'll get the idea.  They really are quite good.

During one intermission (time between groups performing), two guys sitting near the smoking area pulled out their drums--they looked like traditional Japanese drums--and beat out a tune for about five minutes.  That was the best performance of the night, and I was very disappointed that they didn't have CDs for sale and I hadn't recorded any of it.  It really was something.

I caught the train bound for my hotel a little too late, and ended up at Nagatachō station with no train to take me the rest of the way.  So I walked upstairs and got a taxi.  It cost me almost 1,500 yen ($15 U.S.) for a taxi from Nagatachō to Jimbōchō.  The same trip on the subway costs 190 yen.  Don't miss your train.