Tokyo nights

19 08 2013

With jetlag from the States still in full force, I wasn’t in much of a mood to sample Tokyo’s new nightlife. But perhaps this was just as well, as from a nightlife perspective, the trip was poorly timed. The club scene in Tokyo revolves much more around monthly parties than weekly events so it is always a good idea to check what is on before finetuning the date of arrival. I had missed my two favourites, the Shangri-la party at Ageha and FancyHim, as well as a gay night held at the kitschly baroque Christdon Cafe, an approximation of a Renaissance chapel complete with cherubs, trompe l’oeil and faux-flaming torches. Great idea for a venue.

I had also just missed a three-week revival of Maniac Love, the much-mourned 1990s afterhours haunt of Tokyo’s young, glamourous and chemically-enhanced, and the permanent closure of the legendary Eleven (formally Space Lab Yellow):

The superbly-named Shibuya dancehall dance-off event Cat Fuck looked to be on hiatus too.

That is not to say that there was nothing happening in Tokyo though – just none of the old places that I knew about. There were new parties at venues like Tabloid as well as the Prism party, although their venue of choice, Rehab bar, had apparently shut up shop suddenly after the owner’s mysterious disappearance. There was also an irregular art-party held in an old abandoned hospital and one where everyone dressed like zombies. And I was excited to see that the super-fun Nichome gay wrestling was back.

But all the parties in Tokyo were under siege from a draconian new anti-dancing law, which meant that venues without a special “after hours dancing license” had to close by 1am or strictly enforce a “no dancing” policy, ejecting those who failed to comply. Even Arty Farty, the venerable old mainstay of gay-dancefloor-hook-ups soundtracked by perky dance-pop (and favoured haunt of the dancers from Tokyo Disneyland on their days off) now closed at this ridiculously early hour. In Nichome at least, this had meant a move towards more sit-down bars. There were new places like Boiler Room, an underwear-only lounge and the more upscale (and fully clothed) Owl, next to each other in the basement of a dingy building in a Nichome sidestreet.

But my number one favourite all-time Tokyo bar was still there, and I made it a point to drop by on Saturday night. Advocates is in institution: a super-social corner bar-cum-gay-street party that spills out onto the footpaths and gutters on weekend nights. Its the kind of place where you turn around and start talking to the person behind you, or turn up alone and end up engrossed in conversations with four new friends over the course of the night. My mother has been there, my brother met his wife there, and I spent pretty much every Saturday for five years there. It was pretty great to know that this at least was still going strong.

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