Thanks to movies, anime, and manga, people have a romanticized idea about what dating in Japan is like. The truth is it can be just as frustrating, scary, and downright crazy as the rest of the world. These are the real-life stories from dating in Tokyo.
[Editor’s note: The author’s real name and the names of others involved in this story have been changed to protect their privacy. Please don’t try this at home… or anywhere. Except maybe at happening bars. But you probably shouldn’t go there either…]
The very first time I ever visited a Tokyo happening bar was with my then-girlfriend, who for the sake of anonymity, let’s call Hanako. Hanako was a Japanese cheerleader for a Tokyo American football team that I had met through Tinder, but she also moonlighted as a hostess at a girl’s bar. Basically, a job where she was paid every night to drink and lightly touch an ojisan’s knee to feign interest while also pretending to laugh at his jokes.
Over the year we were together, Hanako dropped subtle hints that she may not be the one— like bashing an umbrella over my head. Never a good sign.
Hanako was also what you would call a party girl. Her ideal night out was drinking and clubbing. Not that there is anything wrong with that, but my ideal night was watching the movie Aliens, then playing the Alien vs. Predator video game, and then browsing Reddit to read other people’s opinions on Aliens. That being said, I did my best to keep up with her lifestyle.
When she invited me to go to a happening bar with her, she described it to me as if it were a big joke. A place where people could casually drink, play bingo, or sing karaoke. All while having sex.
Now, I’m quite accustomed to watching strangers bone on the Internet, but watching real people have real sex in real life made me just a tad bit anxious. But she assured me it would be hilarious.
At the bar, the upfront cost for me to enter was about 40,000 yen because I am a gross and horny male. My girlfriend only needed to pay 2,000 yen, because they want as many girls inside as they can get so that the men feel like they have a chance of actually getting laid. We also opted for a “couple’s pass,” which meant I’d receive a (slight) discount and also a wristband designating to everyone else that I was taken.
As I handed the price of a PlayStation 4 over to the man behind the counter, he caught my wide-eyed gaze and did his best to reassure my choice by letting me know that the price also included nomihodai— which would be great except that I’m a teetotaler. Once inside, we were told to hand over our phones and given the grand tour.
The first floor could have been mistaken for an onsen. It had washers and dryers, vending machines, lockers, showers, and a lounge room for “resting.” Sprawled out on the sofa was a heavyset Japanese man wearing nothing but his glasses and a thin towel. It was at that moment I realized where I was, because if this sweaty, pudgy man needed to take a breather from all the marathon sex he was having, then truly, the possibilities were endless. Our eyes locked, we exchanged silent affirmative nods, and I carried on with the tour.
Upstairs was what I can only describe as the orgy space—one large room packed with numerous bodies baking potatoes and surrounded by walls with one-way mirrors. The mirrors were not actually for voyeurism as one would assume, but for the staff to keep an eye on the activities. Sneaking in for a quick J and O was strictly against the rules.
The guide made sure to mention this to me specifically, which I didn’t take offense to, but would have appreciated knowing before I had pressed my face against the glass for a better look. We were also told that this orgy room was specifically for people churning the biscuit batter so if we wanted to stay we would need to strip down and pile onto the orgy.
Finally, we were taken to the actual bar area located in the basement. Our guide gave us a list of rules to follow, which was mostly common sense, and also a handful of condoms. We were warned that if we were ever caught “playing” without a condom, we would be stopped immediately, booted from the building, and given a lifetime ban. They were deadly serious when they told us this.
The bar looked like any other bar, just with everyone walking around in their underwear or dressed in sexy cosplay. We were actually the only two wearing clothes. Other notes of interest included a stage, numerous sex toys on the wall, bondage chairs I wouldn’t go near without a bucket of Clorox Bleach, and a “corral” that was lit in neon red and currently the dwelling of an eight-armed beast— that being a woman enjoying the evening with three suitors.
As expected, the male ratio was much higher than the ladies. For every girl, there were probably three or more dudes vying for their attention. I was also the only foreigner which gave me a bit of attention. It’s one thing to have a girl practice their English on you, but it’s a whole different ball game when she’s asking about your hometown while simultaneously skiing with the two dudes sitting beside her.
Other than all the sex and smut, I was actually surprised by how laid back the atmosphere was, not to mention how friendly and inviting everyone was. However, nobody used real names. Almost every girl was named after Disney princess, and we spent most of the night talking to an old man in a speedo who introduced himself as “Magnum.”
After I had grown used to the random sex acts, and my girlfriend was near-hammered from all the free booze, we mostly just spent the night talking, playing games, and watching people make the magical sandwich. I even won a round of bingo. There wasn’t even anything sexual about it. Just good old fashioned bingo.
Eventually, someone brought out that crocodile game where you push teeth. It was pretty harmless fun until I realized that whoever pressed the wrong tooth and had that little crocodile head go down on their finger, had to then themselves go down on the person before them. I consider myself pretty comfortable with my sexuality, but after watching the guy before me go bobbing for apples on another man after laughing and declaring himself not a homosexual, I had to excuse myself from the game.
As I noted earlier, Hanako and I were wearing wristbands that designated us as a couple, so while a few people did ask to watch us copulate, no one was actually trying to invite us to have sex. Nor were we looking for it. We came specifically because Hanako thought it was hilarious. Her whole plan was to get drunk and laugh at dude’s dicks, so when a pretty girl sat down next to me and placed her hand on my knee, things got a bit tense.
Knowing the type of girl Hanako was (i.e., crazy), I knew it was only a matter of seconds before she stabbed everyone in the room, but I also didn’t want to be rude. We were the outsiders. If anything, we were the weirdos sitting in the back of the room like creepers. So with that in mind, I smiled, pointed at my wristband, and politely told her I was with my girlfriend for the night as Hanako set upright with her eyes locked forward in a homicidal rage. The girl, looking right past me, asked Hanako if she’d like to go upstairs and “share me.”
Now, I’m only human. While what I did was a cough, take a swig of water, and awkwardly laugh, what I was really thinking was, “please God, let this happen.” Regardless, she ignored me and asked my girlfriend again— who answered by slamming her drink down, restrained herself from killing us, and storming away. The girl simply mouthed “oh, well” to me and sauntered off to have sex with someone else. I ended up going home and not having any sex.
Round Two (But Mostly Round Three)
About a month later, Hanako asked me to go to a happening bar again. Remembering how it ended the last time and the fact that had I spent half my rent on ginger ale, I thought about declining and just watching The Office on Netflix. Instead, I was tied up kinbaku style, burned with hot wax, smashed over the head with a wine glass, became single, kicked out, had a knife pulled on me, and spent the morning at the police station. During police questioning, I was told that happening bars were illegal and that they raid them regularly and warned me to never step foot inside of one again.
All the above is true and is exactly what I relayed to my two friends, who let’s call John and Bob, while walking to the happening bar for my third and final time.
Bob, dear readers, is who all of this backstory has been leading up to. Bob was a friend of a friend. I had never hung out exclusively with Bob, but I didn’t mind him when we were together with our mutual friend. He even once acted as a pet sitter for me when I couldn’t find anyone else. Of course, the house was destroyed when I came back and the cat hissed at him like in a scene straight out of a cheesy horror film.
Regardless, after our mutual friend left Japan, I felt bad for Bob. I thought he might be a bit lonely. I had been single for a few months, so I knew the feeling. Bob also had a visible handicap and dressed almost entirely in baggy jeans and heavy metal band shirts. Not that there is anything wrong with that, but he had made it clear in a conversation he wasn’t having much luck with the ladies. Remembering that pudgy sweaty man from before and the endless possibilities, I invited him to come with me.
Walking to the bar with John and Bob, there were early signs I had made a grave mistake. John, being a perfectly normal human being, showed up dressed like someone going on a date. Bob showed up like someone going to a Cannibal Corpse concert. In fact, he was wearing a Cannibal Corpse t-shirt. The bar was having a Christmas party, by the way.
Then Bob said 40,000 yen was too much, so I loaned him 5,000 yen. Finally, Bob asked how much the girls were going to cost. I thought he was joking, but realized he was in fact serious. I had to explain to him that this was simply a bar where people can have sex. “None of the girls are obligated to have sex with you,” I said. “Just try to be cool and treat it like any other bar.”
The trouble started immediately upon entering the bar. As it turned out, the Christmas event meant that the price was 10,000 yen more if you were not already a member. John, again, a totally normal human being, used the opportunity to politely bail out and try his luck in the clubs. Bob showed his dissatisfaction by throwing everything off the counter and hurling obscenities before literally running off into the night. I looked back at the guy behind the counter and shrugged, giving him the best “who the hell was that guy?” look I could possibly give.
Once inside, I stripped to my skinnies and was given a Santa hat. It had the same vibes as before, but this time I didn’t have a drunken angry girlfriend trying to murder me. It was a party. People were kind, cute girls eyeing me down, this was going to be a fun night. Then the record scratched like in a trailer for a new Adam Sandler movie. In walked Bob in his JNCO jeans and Cannibal Corpse t-shirt.
I waved to Bob and had him sit down with at the group I was with. They tried to make small talk in English, but Bob would only use Japanese. The problem is Bob can’t speak Japanese, and Bob was getting visibly pissed off that they couldn’t understand him.
At one point, a waiter brought Bob some sake that he asked for. Bob then decided to show off his sake knowledge by asking the poor waiter where it came from in Japan. The waiter didn’t understand him, so Bob repeated himself. Then again. And again. And again. Louder and angrier every time to the point where it could be heard over Jingle Bell Rock and the people in the sex corral were peeking their heads out to see what the commotion was.
“Bob!” I yelled, “Please be cool.” He gave me a confused look like he just remembered where he was. I took Bob to the bar and tried to joke around with him to make him feel more comfortable. I called him “Goose” and told him I would be his wingman. I told him we were going to stick together like glue for the rest of the night. Which I did… For about 27 seconds before a cute girl in a Santa skirt sat next to me at the bar.
I’m about as smooth as expired chunky peanut butter when it comes to talking to girls. It didn’t help that Bob staring at her like a serial killer. Thankfully, she took the initiative and asked me to go upstairs. In my most neutral uninterested tone I said “sure,” all the while internally shouting and thanking God. I shrug to Bob and tell him I’ll be back later.
I’ll admit I was a bit nervous walking up to the orgy room. It’s not that I don’t do sex. I can do sex. I do all the sex, ok? But walking into that room, gently stepping over bodies as if they were moist wriggling landmines, I was suddenly overcome with the feeling that this lifestyle maybe wasn’t for me. It gave me a lot to think about for about 17-minutes.
After a quick shower, I made my way back downstairs to find Bob still at the bar. To my surprise, he was sitting next to his own cute Santa girl who I’ll call Santa Babe for the sake of clarity. I didn’t want to get in his way so I gave him a thumbs up and kept my distance, but just a few seconds later, she grabbed her drink and walked away. I sat down with Bob and I could tell he was getting frustrated with not having been laid yet. He asked me what happened upstairs and I said it was the orgy room. After learning this, he ran upstairs.
Sitting alone and having done the deed, I was pretty content to ride the rest of the night out drinking ginger ale and practicing Japanese on the bartender. That was when Santa Babe sat down next to me and started chatting. We immediately hit it off. We had the same hobbies, taste, even lived in the same area. About 10-minutes later, Bob came back fuming.
“How much does it cost?” he asks me. “Huh?” I replied. “How much are the girls in the orgy room?” he says, “They wouldn’t let me in.” I give him a bewildered look and sternly tell him “Dude, for the 10th time, they are not prostitutes.” “Oh,” he says to me defeatedly before sitting down on the other side of Santa Babe so that now she’s sitting between us. Thus the cringe Christmas courting war had begun.
At first, I didn’t think anything of it. I even tried to put things in Bob’s favor by hyping up his supposed sake knowledge, but she just wasn’t into Bob. Bob didn’t take this very well. He pouted and kicked back booze dramatically to show his disproval to me. To make matters worse, she was also flirty, but only with me. She would lean into me, whisper things into my ear, and touch me. At one point, Bob tried to put his arm around Santa Babe and she responded by taking the biggest dildo on the bar and sticking it on his forehead before falling into my arms laughing.
I should reiterate that Bob was not my friend. He was a friend of a friend. I didn’t owe him anything. I wasn’t even expecting to hook up with her. She was clearly tipsy and it was already past 3 in the morning. People were passing out. If you didn’t have sex yet then you were probably not going to have sex. Her friend was also constantly trying to drag her away from us to make out with two Japanese guys in the corner, but you know what? Bob was really starting to piss me off, so I went full Matthew McConaughey on her. All right, all right, all right.
You remember in Return of The Jedi when Boba Fett is the sexiest and coolest guy in Jabba’s entourage? Like when he touches Rystáll Sant on the chin before casually walking away like an absolute alpha? That was me. Bob was Bib Fortuna.
As it went on, Bob became angrier and drunker. At one point when Santa girl went to the toilet, he grabbed me by the shoulder and started yelling that I was “cockblocking” him. I shot him a Shooter McGavin and told him she can choose who she wishes.
When Santa Babe came back, Bob pointed at me and started angrily repeating “playboy!” in the cadence of a caveman. I shrugged and smiled. It was 4 AM and Santa Babe had enough. She grabbed her drink and finally went with her friend and proceeded to make out with the Japanese boys. This emboldened Bob with a sense of camaraderie. He called her a bitch, shook my hand, and, completely serious, told me “bros before hoes.”
End of the Road
There was still about an hour before the trains started, but that didn’t stop Bob from trying to get us kicked out. His pouty expression caused the man sitting next us to ask if he was alright. Bob assured him he was fine about 15 times too many. Bob also wouldn’t stop staring at Santa Babe from across the room like he was Heath Ledger’s Joker.
When it was finally time to leave, the men were asked to clear out so that the women could leave safely, but Bob was in no rush. He moved slowly and dragged his feet. The staff was visibly getting angry with us. The muscle walking around in their underwear were suddenly a whole lot scarier when they had formed a circle around us. By the time I got Bob to the locker room to collect our shoes, we were the only men who hadn’t left yet. The women were still waiting for us to leave.
Realizing I was about to get my ass kicked by naked and oiled up Japanese bouncers, I told Bob I would meet him outside. I had hoped he would follow. While waiting for him, I thought about bailing. I’m tired. I feel gross. I just want to go home. Suddenly, I hear yelling. The doors fly open and there is Bob, carried by the same naked and oiled up Japanese bouncers. They drop him on the street and then I saw it. A man who couldn’t get laid. A naked and oily bouncer who would kill for his bar. A boy, angry and alone. Laid out in front of him the bad path. I saw it. Bob cocked his back, gurgled, and shot a fountain of spit directly into the bouncer’s face.
Horrified, I yelled, “WHAT THE F— ARE YOU DOING?” while the other bouncers held their loogied brethren back from killing Bob. I was livid. I hurled every insult I could think of at Bob while also apologizing profusely to the bouncers. Bob seesawed between cursing the bar and also himself. “F— ’em all,” he would yell. “Nobody wants to f— me,” he would cry out after. I dragged Bob away to the station and left him from there.
When I finally got on the train he sent me a text—”Sorry about that. Next time?”
Over three months I went to Tokyo happening bars three different times. I spent nearly the down payment on a car to sip ginger ale, fight with my girlfriend, and probably have my picture tacked up on a wall of shame behind the counter. Did I learn anything? I would say that I learned to just be yourself— don’t get dragged into something that isn’t really for you just to impress a girl, or worse, to get over that very same girl, but all I really learned is that orgies aren’t all that great.