There are 192 countries in the world, but very few people realize there are two countries that speak Japanese natively: Japan... and Tokyo. Yes, Tokyo is so different from the rest of Japan I would actually petition them to sever that "city" from the coast and form a sovereign nation. Then Tokyo could be the "Texas" of Japan. What's the Japanese for "hook 'em horns?"
The music of the night is the gift I give to you... and yet, I bet no one bothered to tell this to the dark lords controlling the future of Hiroshima. If you're planning a trip to this city to enjoy the nightlife - don't bother. The club scene in Nagarekawa and the outlining districts are effectively shut down, especially if you're looking for friendly places. All the work Hiroshima club owners have done to bring foreigners and fun young Japanese people into the area is coming crashing down in one fail swoop.
How did this happen? Well, the beginning...
You're sitting in a club not far from the main shopping district of Hiroshima. The night is still young, and many people are abound, socializing, dancing, singing, drinking... Suddenly dozens of police officers enter the club and start segregrating everyone: Japanese people, military personnel, and other gaijin (seems like appropriate language for this description). Japanese citizens are free to go without so much as a word, but foreigners are detained, questioned, their IDs' checked.
That was four months ago - May 14th, 2006. The owner of said club, El Barco, was held for a number of days before finally being released. And WHY??? Because apparently the club did not have a permit for dancing. Now, if this were a mere legal technicality, one which the Hiroshima PD felt they had to address immediately before the system became too lax, I could begin to understand it.
And yet this is not what happened - one bar in the Hiroshima area has all the required permits to operate a drinking establishment and allow dancing. One. None of the others, including El Barco, are able to get this permit due to bureaucratic difficulties. Since their openings, all clubs have been operating without this permit, on the understanding that they bring business to the city, life to the area, and comfort to the people. Let's face it, there is no city in Japan without a nightlife district. Just look - they're there somewhere.
Now I know it is breaking the law (an unenforced law, mind you, but still) but this policy on cracking down on thriving businesses seems to be well... stupid. You might as well force all military and civilian police to shut down all the pachinko parlors in the country, on the grounds that they are gambling establishment (which they are, loophole or not). There is no difference between that and these clubs - both are businesses, "dirty" but necessary, which operate slightly outside the law, but bring business and unity.
Even if you don't accept this explanation, there's still something very suspicious about segregating the crowd at the club - what difference does it make who is at the club if it's being shut down? Why isolate the foreigners? Or the military men, exclusively? Oh, wait, do you identify the foreigner as the source of all things evil in Japan? Hmmm... must be, otherwise, that would just be plain racist. Operating under the guise of "looking for illegal aliens" is rather shallow.
Since May, it's been a series of sporadic closings in the nightlife area. One club raided, another shut down, others closing to avoid trouble... just last weekend I heard that Chinatown, one of the largest DJ clubs in the area, was given the same treatment. It's all coming to an end - not as many people are coming out, not as many clubs are opening, and soon there won't be anything left. Congratulations, Hiroshima government. You have successfully driven away the foreign menace from your shores. You can rest easy knowing that your own people are also less likely to partake in your fine drinking establishments. To quote, "mission accomplished."
I don't know what to tell you - if you go downtown, you'll be supporting those owners in their time of need, but on the other hand, you might have to go through the raid experience if the police decide to stop by again. Either way, it's not exactly the fun evening downtown it used to be.
Some fellow blogger did point out something to me about my entries - they rarely include other people. I hadn't really noticed that until he mentioned it. Well... I suppose that's true. I could tell you I'm still new to Japan, and haven't met too many people, Japanese or otherwise. I could say that. Or I suppose the language barrier might be a good excuse. The truth is I'm just lazy about meeting friends - I don't go looking for them. If I meet someone, I meet someone. If not, that's fine too, just takes time. That's usually my policy with girls too. As such, don't know too many people in this country of ours.
I tend to move at my own pace - in more ways than one. I know about local running groups. As much as I'd love to run with them, I know I'm faster, and that I'd be uncomfortable going so slow. Same with my lifestyle. I go at the pace I want. I'm doing adventure trips to Onomichi, Fuji, Tokyo - will anyone come? If someone can keep up, fine. I'll even slow down for the right people, but usually, you gotta run with me. Hey, good analogy given my blog title. Well, it's not exactly the most social way to live, but it's all I know. It's how I fell in love, it's how I met my best friends back home. Tempus fugit.
But hey, I've got nothing against correspondence - be happy to answer anyone's questions about Japan, will accept invitations for an adventure trip, and would enjoy the occasional running partner. Even if you're a random guy in Canada or South Africa, no problem. And if there's a wonderful girl out there... well, so much the better for both of us. Heh.
I will get you heroes those useful Kanji for Japanese paperwork soon. Your homework for tonight - renounce homework, renounce exams, and stay away from boring early-morning classes. But if you're in the mood, read The Giver again... it's a good thinking book. Useful Japanese for today: