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Tuesday, April 28, 2009
HOTLINE TO NAGATACHO
When will High-Touch Town be cleaned up?
Dear Tokyo Gov. Shintaro Ishihara,
I remember Roppongi before the millennium as a fun place. Now, the four or five times I go there each year disgust me, and if I do manage to fight off the African touts and Chinese massage girls, I never seem able to avoid the foreign cabaret girls who go down to the bars and drag unsuspecting men into their establishments to overcharge them while they are intoxicated.
Yes, as a father, husband and longtime resident of Japan, I occasionally break with my Japanese coworkers to drink with my foreign friends, and unfortunately sometimes we enjoy ourselves too much and forget to use caution, because not so long ago caution wasn't required in Roppongi.
Instead, my friends and I usually wake up barely able to remember establishments we have visited, having signed an expensive bill, sometimes two, but with no receipt, regretting being taken advantage of while we were incapacitated, blowing off steam.
Sure, I am wrong to be that intoxicated. But does robbery justify the crime? Is making me sign for ¥100,000 bottles of champagne a fitting punishment?
I feel bad the next day, sometimes even for two days or more, especially when I see my wife and child and know the money I spent should have gone toward new clothes, a second house in Tokyo maybe, or other better uses. Heck, I know it happens to Japanese nationals too — join the club, right?
Now I usually take my credit cards out of my pockets if I know I am going to Roppongi, and my ATM card, and only bring the cash that I want to spend. It's like preparing for the game. The touts can grab me and push me and the girls can pull me, but I only have money for a few beers — not a good target.
Not to worry, though; when I go out now, I go to Shibuya, Akasaka, Shimbashi, and Kabukicho. I love the cameras in Kabukicho. It's so much safer there now. A few more bar-style restaurants there and I will never again go back to Roppongi.
I understand, I think: It's the crabs-in-the-barrel philosophy, right? As one crab starts to climb out, it gets pulled back down by another. You do not put up surveillance cameras, nor do immigration spot checks on a regular basis in Roppongi because you enjoy foreigners feeding on foreigners. If I am stupid enough to go there and get intoxicated, I deserve to be robbed, right? Hey, I agree.
That's why soon I will add Ueno, Marunouchi, and Nihonbashi to my haunts. I will spend less money there and have more fun in a cleaner environment.
But look, I donate money each year to charities. I think everyone that makes a good living should donate some small percentage to less fortunate people. If some people want to rob me when I have less than my normal faculties, then within reason it's OK — they need it more than me, and eventually it all comes back around.
When I first came to Japan, I was a dumb foreigner, then a playboy, then a good international worker who speaks the language and respects the customs, then a husband of a local girl, then a father, and now I hope to be a good citizen. That's why when you create a charity or task force to clean up Roppongi, I have ¥100,000 ready to donate.
Submissions to Hotline to Nagatacho should address issues that affect your life in Japan or be in response to government policies. Please imagine you are actually writing to a government official — be it a local school board head or the prime minister himself — to bring attention to an important matter. Send submissions of between 500 and 700 words to firstname.lastname@example.org