July 30th, 2005 @ 6:43 PM Life in Tokyo
Every month I receive an update from the American Embassy about Visa info, security situations, etc. I usually never read it since the visa info doesn’t apply to me and the rest just tells us that the rest of the world is still unhappy with America and it is in our best interest to lay low. However, the “Incident in Roppongi” caught my eye and I just couldn’t resist reading to see what happened. I had imagined that some young drunk American got in a fight or something like that but this one was a little different. Here is the report:
Incident in Roppongi
The US Embassy has received another report of an incident in Roppongi. An American citizen recently reported that he was drugged at a Roppongi area bar and his credit card charged $7,000 for drinks he has no recollection of ordering.
As always, persons are strongly advised to exercise caution and common sense when frequenting Roppongi at night.
Now for us long term Nippon residents, we most often do not go to Roppongi as it is really does not reflect Japanese culture and we have integrated enough with the culture that we don’t need to go there for fun. However, I have been there quite a few times and have noticed a disturbing trend. It seems that there are now much more aggressive scouts (most likely of African origin) trying to persuade passers-by to go into the sex and strip clubs or buy drugs. When I first arrived in Japan I could actually walk to where I was going without being bothered once. But now, these guys will walk with you and refuse to leave you alone after you have already declined their offer countless times. The last time I was there, I felt a little uncomfortable with all these guys harassing me, that I really have no desire to go back there again.
With these repeated incidents being reported, it seems that Roppongi is actually becoming a little dangerous which is extremely uncommon for Japan being the safest country I have ever visited. Also, some of the popular bars such as gas-panic have come up with ridiculous rules like you must always have a beer in your hand and be drinking or else you get kicked out. A further annoyance is a few bars are charging outrageous entry fees for their crappy little venues such as Lexington Queen. This bar has a reputation for attracting East European Models which is partly true but the fact of the matter is it is just a small dirty little bar trying to charge too much.
Anyway, for those of you who are new to Japan, Roppongi is worth one look around and then should be forgotten as it does not reflect Japanese culture what so ever. If you read a little bit about this history of the place, it used to be a barracks for American military personnel during WWII. The bars sprung up to cater to them and it has remained a night spot for mainly foreigners.
For those of us who really love Japanese culture, Roppongi is quite an annoyance since there are quite a few bad foreigners there, and when they act up it reflects poorly on the rest of us.
Perhaps one of the most exciting, yet least attempted things to do while visiting Japan is climbing Mt. Fuji. It is quite close to Tokyo and only takes about an hour and a half to the fifth station of Mt. Fuji by bus from Shinjuku Station.
I attempted the climb and succeed in the summer of 2003, and it is something I will never forget. We started the climb at 10pm and made it to the summit in six and a half hours but had gotten there too early and were exposed to the freezing winds at the top which we were totally unprepared for. I also caught the chills and couldn’t stop from shaking violently until we were half way down the mountain. Unfortunately, we were only able to catch about a minute of the sunrise before it clouded over for the rest of the morning (picture is not mine but of my cousin).
At the summit there are three areas of interest: the temple, the crater, and the vending machines. The vending machines sell hot coffee but the cost is a dollar fifty to four dollars for a very small can. The reason for this is that it must be transported on foot since no vehicles can reach the top. There is also a small restaurant which sells expensive, mediocre ramen but is really good for warming up.
Surprisingly, many of the climbers are older Japanese folk who see the climb as a religious experience since Fuji-San has played a deeply symbolic part in Japanese history. These seniors are pretty in shape but still must book one of the small hostels about midway up for a nap and then continue the rest of the way. There are also some young hung over tourists who make it about an hour into the climb before they give up and start heading back down.
In total, our trip took 6 and a half hours up and just over four back down. If your thinking about climbing the mountain, make sure to take plenty of cash, warm clothing (even if it’s hot down below, it will be freezing on top) a headlamp and a ton of stamina. Also, be sure to not leave any trash on the mountain to keep it beautiful.