The Kimochi Warui Diary
A Nigerian man in a fur-hooded coat was giving us his best pitch:
“American girls… With BEEG beautiful titties, right in yo face!”
This was our first interaction in Roppongi. We’d separated from Noah and Kumiko at the restaurant and got on the next train here.
But I wasn’t entirely surprised—Torako warned me about this. Apparently, Nigerians often worked as promoters in Roppongi—but they rarely worked with your best interest in mind. The clubs they were hired to promote had little to no presence. Foreigners would get roped in to going along with them (perhaps only because they trusted someone else who spoke English), have to pay a ridiculous cover fee, and then find that they’ve been led to a bar with wildly expensive drinks and no life.
Fortunately, I had the wisdom of experienced travelers in my ears. The Roppongi blog post gave clear directions on which bar had all the girls—one that was known to bring foreigners the best success.
And so I walked up and down the main street of Roppongi with Jotaro behind me, looking for that bar with the very same name. At first, we didn’t see it, so we went in for another pass… And then another.
Our Nigerian friend was watching the whole time.
“I seen you up and down here,” he said. “You are lost. I tell you, come to my club, you have a great time.”
I ignored his sales pitch and told him the name of the place I was looking for.
“Ah… This place. Its name is changed. It is this one right here, brother.”
I could tell he wasn’t lying—it was the same place where the GPS said it was. However, the sign on the front of the bar had changed. That’s why we couldn’t find it on our own.
“You don’t worry about that place,” he said. “It is no good for you. You won’t like it. Let me show you guys good time.”
I told him I’d consider it, thanked him for his help, and entered the bar.
Yet, there wasn’t much going on inside. This was supposed to be a hotbed of foreigners, but the most I saw was an Australian woman practicing terrible Japanese with some Japanese guys.
Not to go on a tangent, but a foreign woman learning Japanese is far less questionable than a foreign man learning Japanese, isn’t it? But I suppressed the thought—now wasn’t the time for self-pity.
We took a seat at the bar and scoped out the scene. Aside from the bar, there was a seating section with tables and stools. There was also a small dance floor where two skinny Japanese men shuffled drowsily to the beat of the music.
I turned to Jotaro. “What time do bars usually, like… Get busy?”
“Probably in another hour. Who knows.”
Nearly 40 minutes passed. Only a few new faces had appeared. I started doubting my sources. Just how old was that website, anyways?
Right before calling it quits, two younger Japanese girls had come in. They looked to be about twenty years old, possibly younger. Rather than go to the bar, they went off to one of the tables by themselves.
“I’m gonna go for those two,” I told Jotaro. “Let’s go.”
Jotaro’s eyebrows furrowed only slightly. “Me? It’s all you.”
What, I can’t get a fucking wingman?
No… He was right. This was what I wanted, and I had no right to drag him into it just because I couldn’t stand comfortably in my own skin! I had the power of caffeine, alcohol, and pizza flowing through my veins.
I imagined this kind anime scene where a burst of bright energy was shooting from my hands against my opponent’s. Our blasts of energy were fighting to overtake one another. As I stepped forward toward the table, my blast of energy would soon envelope theirs. I would be heavily damaged and bruised, but I would have the strength of all my hard work and determination to thank.
But actually, none of that cartoonish visualization was applicable in the slightest. Regardless of how I thought of the situation, any form of thinking would create more distance between me and my goal—and in that gap, more anxiety and second-guessing could develop. When you’re playing a rhythm game, the moment you think too hard about pressing the buttons in time with the beat is the moment you ruin your combo.
My feet were moving entirely on their own. I tried to push my mind toward the periphery—if it knew what was going on, it would have tried to stop me with more distracting fantasies.
And why would it do that? Just because I feel some dread and have an ache in my chest? Because my heartrate increases a little bit? There was no convenient visual I could possibly use to make this task any easier—no metaphor or analogy akin to an anime character's battle that would help me through this. The only thing that was consistent in every situation was that I would always feel this way whenever I saw a cute girl.
Whether or not she was Japanese didn’t matter. The only thing that mattered was whether seeing the girl made my heart become heavy with dread and yearning. If a girl doesn’t make me feel nervous just from looking at her, well, she’s probably not that cute to begin with—sorry.
Somehow, I needed to turn discomfort into my compass—as the trigger to unlock my own anime powers.
I was finally at their table. My mind immediately emptied all thoughts from my head. I introduced myself. I don’t even remember what I said. They were hesitant, but they gave me their own names in return:
Eri and Kanae.
“You two want a drink?” I asked.
They happily agreed.
“Okay, let’s go,” I said, and motioned to the bar.
But they didn’t budge.
They spoke privately to each other, trying to figure out how they wanted to say it in English.
“Don’t worry about it,” I said. “Just wait here.”
I went and got two girly looking drinks from the menu and brought them back. They happily took the drinks from me, but they finally said what they were trying to:
“We cannot go to buy drink, because we are only 19!”
“Are you two students, then?”
They looked at each other. “What? Sorry… again?”
“School? You go to school?”
Despite the empty dance floor, the music in the bar was blaring.
The language barrier was killing me. I wanted to stay true to the commandments of the Roppongi blog post, but at the same time, this conversation was fading fast.
There was an awkward silence for about a full thirty seconds as we sipped our drinks and looked around the bar. If they wanted to go the “teach us English words” route, they would have said so from the beginning.
These girls were going to be a bit tougher.
It looked like I was going to have to use that.
I pulled out my phone. I typed out a message:
They looked at each other with pleasant surprise.
Then, Eri pulled out her phone, and the two of them started formulating what to write in their translation app.
They tapped the translate button and out popped a rough translation:
“Yes, we are students! I want to study fashion and design. Kanae wants to become a doctor.”
That made sense. Kanae was cute too in her own way, but she had a rounder face and looked a bit more plain. Eri, on the other hand, was definitely the cuter and more fashionable one.
Eri was the one I was gunning for, but I had no idea how I was supposed to single her out. I just went with the flow, writing messages back and forth into their phone. If I didn’t know how to construct a Japanese sentence, I would just look up the main word I was asking about and hone-in on it. That was enough to convey I was asking a question about that word and, given the context, they would understand I wanted them to elaborate on that subject.
The conversation inevitably turned back to me:
“How do you know Japanese?”
I only fulfilled all of the worst qualities: a dirty otaku aspiring to become an English teacher in Japan. So I tried to skate past it:
“It’s required to learn a language in college. I chose Japanese because it seemed interesting.
“Are you still a student?”
“No, I graduated.”
“What is it you do for working?”
Luckily, I’d prepared for this:
“I’m studying to become a lawyer!”
Plenty of English majors went on to law school and made lots of money, so my lie was very plausible and just what they needed to hear.
They kept talking to me, so I passed the test, I guess.
“Do you like to dancing?
I’ve never had a single good memory associated with dancing. Whether it was in middle school or high school or some point after as an adult, there was never a single time where I didn’t feel alien and alone and more like I was doing things wrong than when I was trying to dance.
“Of course I do!” I said. I took Eri’s hand and we headed to the dance floor.
I wish I could tell you what happened next, but the event has been almost entirely erased from my memory. Every time I try revisiting it, there’s nothing but an oppressive, dark blur. The parts that I do remember send a shiver through my body. They make me want to grab a Gantz katana and perform some グロ-style vivisection on myself.
What I do remember was swaying stiffly and robotically through slow parts of a song, holding Eri’s hips as if I were at the high school dance, and feeling like the entire thing was wrong and inappropriate.
In Japan, they’re really sensitive about touching and PDA. No one else is touching anyone else out on the dance floor. Jesus Christ, am I committing rape right now?
In the moments that I trust my own intuition, things tend to work out fine, even if they’re not done “right.”
Following my own intuition is my anime superpower. It’s my way of summoning my shounen strength and intelligence and proving to everyone that me, this average and ho-dum looking excuse for a protagonist, actually has what it takes to pull out an incredible amount of strength at the moment that it counts the most—that even if I were to lose in that moment, the fact I did it all with pure and unassuming intention could even be enough to win the favor of my friends and enemies.
But in moments like these, I sabotaged my own intuition and created an A.T. field of insecurity. I was doubtlessly sending waves of uncertainty through my legs and arms and into Eri’s body—and even if I wasn’t, just thinking that I was probably made it become true.
An unknown amount of time passed, and it was finally over. I didn’t read anything particularly negative or positive about the experience, and she doesn’t seem bothered, but then Eri asked the big question:
“Where are you staying tonight?”
With you, I hope!
“I don’t know actually,” I said, and I tried to laugh it off. Somehow, I felt that this answer would give me a better chance of her saying “Come stay with me,” but how does that work if her friend is still with her?
“We are going to leave” she said. “It is time for train.”
I try to be cheeky and ask if I’m going to be going with them.
She ignores the joke and asks again this time:
“Do you need help getting back to your hotel?”
Looks like I’m striking out here. I tell her it’s fine, not to worry about me.
With a concerned look, Eri and Kanae say goodbye and leave the bar.