Nov 17 2003

Matsui-san finally did call us at around midnight and we made our way out of the manga-kissa and down the street to meet him. He showed up, a surprisingly tiny little dude for how important he is, and I did my best not to seem like a complete dork in front of him. Walking around Shinjuku late at night with him made something very unusual happen: all the flashing lights, all the shady little establishments, all the guys coming up to you trying to get you to go to their theme club, suddenly stopped being just distractions and cultural curiosities and started being actual entertainment options. With important video game creators on your side, anything is possible. So, for the first time ever, when a toady scavenger guy came up to us with a clipboard for a hostess club, we actually listened to what he had to say. Matsui-san asked questions about the place. We actually had a conversation with the scavenger. “What’s the atmosphere like? Is it too loud? Lots of these places are too loud.” “Oh, no, sir, I assure you it’s very peaceful. You’ll love it. Please follow me.” And wouldn’t you know it, we did just that. We followed the guy down the block, into a building, into a tiny little elevator, and up to the top where we emerged into a tiny, very, very loud hostess club. It was near-impossible to hear anything over the din. We were seated at a cluster of tiny tables, and three hostesses were sent out to sit with us. The girl assigned to Matsui-san and the one assigned to me were both very friendly and immediately struck up a conversation with us. Andy’s girl was kind of seated on the periphery and wasn’t able to get into the conversation much. Of course Andy’s fluency in Japanese language and culture was the focus of the night, and all of the girls made sure to tell him how amazing he was. They also told me how amazing _I_ was, because that’s their job, but I could tell they were genuinely impressed at him. “My” girl was named Maria, and I found her to be really quite nice compared to the other girls. I like to think she was putting on less of an act, but it’s hard to tell when you’re in a situation designed to make you think you are very cool. Andy and Matsui-san were enjoying alcoholic beverages, and I knew it would be pretty awkward socially if I tried to weasel out of having to drink. Luckily Maria was accomodating enough to make my drink about 95% water without too much of a fuss. After about half an hour of ego-massaging, it was time to rotate. Andy explained to me that the way it works is this: they keep rotating the girls out until you find one that you like, and then you can ask her to stay. This costs more money, though, which presumably goes toward the girl’s earnings. I was pretty comfortable with Maria, and so while the other two girls left, I asked her to stick around. Andy’s new girl looked very, very bored, and said less than ten words during her entire shift. She spent the whole time staring at nothing, waiting until her time was up. I was glad I’d stuck with the friendly and semi-honest-seeming Maria. I spent much of the time telling her about my girlfriend Hiroko, as if to inform her that I was in the club strictly for the experience of having visited such a place. She told me how she’s trying to become a pro bowler. Awesome. Andy and I did some karaoke, both _Bohemian Rhapsody_ and _Stairway to Heaven_. The whole place seemed pretty impressed, though I think they would have clapped madly for just about anything. “Good pronunciation!”, they said.