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    Bitter Almond

    The holiday-time newsletter from the citizen services division of the American Embassy (you can sign up for it if you’re a citizen who lives here and register for it) contains this charming bit of advice for party animals here in Tokyo:

    We note that an American Citizen was murdered in early December in the Roppongi district of Tokyo. The murder occurred in an office building within walking distance of the local police station. We previously advised Americans in our June 2004 newsletter of six reports of western foreigners (including Americans) allegedly overdosing on heroin, resulting in three deaths. The heroin was allegedly purchased in Roppongi. In the July newsletter, we noted that several Americans reported the theft of their purses and wallets, stolen from them while in bars and clubs in Roppongi. A number of Americans have also been arrested over the past year in Roppongi for various offenses. Americans are strongly advised to exercise caution should they choose to visit the Roppongi area.

    I think I’ve been to Roppongi maybe seven or eight times since moving to Japan, and I’ve enjoyed myself there maybe zero times. It’s not that I mind sleaze. I lived in the Dogenzaka section of Shibuya, in one of the two or three apartment buildings there among the love hotels, for five years. Loved every minute of it. Of course, my apartment was clean, quiet, and tucked at the top of a hill. But still, Shibuya is cool because it’s kooky-sleazy. Roppongi is grim-sleazy. (BTW, I love the way the paragraph above seems to come within a hair’s breadth of saying, “If you’re going to buy heroin, at least don’t get it in Roppongi!”)

    I think it’s great that there’s a neighborhood where foreigners who live here can congregate; but living abroad tends to produce a feeling of being off the chain, especially in younger people, and it’s not surprising that when there’s a critical mass of them gathered at a cluster of bars or clubs, they frequently cut somewhat looser than their parents might be back home hoping. That kind of atmosphere is ripe for crime, especially because so many Westerners have been brought up to think of Japan as 100% safe and are not on their guard as they would be in, say, Bangkok, New York or (especially, these days) London. One hopes people will learn to be more careful.

    Added at 21:29: I’ve changed the title, since the way I originally had it struck me as being too on the obnoxious side of snarky. Besides, the new cyanide imagery is more in keeping with the ghoulishness of the newsletter.

    5 Responses to “Bitter Almond”

    1. John says:

      Ick, Roppongi.
      Wasn’t Dogenzaka the site of graveyards before the firebombing in ’45? I think that’s why there aren’t many apartment buildings there: no one wants to live or work on possibly haunted ground (but amazingly they don’t mind screwing someone else’s wife there for an hour or two).
      The Takshimaya at the south side of Shinjuku station also broadcasts warnings about pickpockets in English about 3 or 4 times a day.

    2. Mrs. du Toit says:

      [Check] Wendy is not allowed to go to Roppongi.

    3. Toren says:

      I’ve been to Roppongi twice. The first time was with some gaijin enclave-type expats who invited me out for the evening. By the end of the evening I was totally off Roppongi, and the expats.
      The second time was when my now-wife dragged me out to Juliana during the peak of that craze because she wanted to check it out…but also wanted my 6’2″ bulk with her for safety’s sake. I must say, that visit was not without some good points (heh), but I still have never been back to the big R.
      Tacky place.
      (BTW: Good call, Connie.)

    4. Sean Kinsell says:

      How did I know that neither John nor Toren was going to be any more fond of the place than I am? Actually, if one of them had said, “Dude, what are you talking about? Gas Panic rocks!” I would have laughed out loud. Then banned him.
      Connie, the only caution I have is this: Roppongi refers to a larger area of the city than just the nightlife district. It’s possible that, for example, there will be some doll collector with an address in Roppongi Hills, or something, that Wendy will want to meet, and that should cause no problems.
      BTW, John, I’d heard that about Dogenzaka, too. It would help to explain what it’s supposed to be the gateway to. And don’t get too, too exercised over all the adultery going on there. Remember that, small as Japanese apartments are, married couples are known to use love hotels as a way to get reacquainted with each other without alerting the children or granny.

    5. Mrs. du Toit says:

      Getting reacquainted with your spouse? At a love hotel?
      That’s disgusting.