Roppongi. The infamous district of Tokyo. The place where Japanese people don’t feel safe walking around in. The place where people tell you to watch your drink. The place where lady-boys are scattered around the bars and the place where you can easily find a women to bring to your hotel for a fee. Roppongi. The place I found myself one Friday night, going to a job interview, at 9 o’ clock in the evening.
Besides being filmed as an extra in a movie scene that was supposed to be taken in New York City, the only time I had been in Roppongi was at 7 o clock on a Sunday morning in front of the TGI Friday’s. Even on that visit, I realized I wasn’t drawn to Roppongi. There was a lot of trash on the floor, drunken people were stumbling around, and a lot of suspicious-looking men were hanging around distributing things. Now, here I was, leaning against a rail in front of the TGIF’s, along with some Japanese call girls in high heels and skirts, waiting for my interview. A white woman and her boyfriend walk by. I see her eyes widen and focus on each girl as she walks by. She is trying to make sense of it. Finally, she sees me, looks at my outfit (which unfortunately happens to be the same as the other women; make up, nice hair, heels, and a skirt—it’s the style, of course!) and groups me into the same category as the others, understandably. “What are they doooing?!” She asks in disbelief. “Are they…??” She asks as they continue down the road. Her boyfriend pats her hand and mumbles something. Sort-of offended by the woman’s thoughts, I think to myself, “What the hell am I doing here?” but I get interrupted.
“Hi,” a tall, skinny, dark-skinned man with a shaven head dressed in all black approaches me. He has dark circles under his eyes, a gauntly face, and an ominous, teethy smile. I assume he is a random man hitting on me, and my body language tells him the same. “I’m Dan,” he continues.
At the sound of his name, my face turns back toward him and my eyes light up. I’m surprised and a little embarrassed for not being friendlier at the start; I’m supposed to be meeting ‘Dan’.
“Oh! Hi, I’m Monica,…” I reply.
“Please follow me.” He says. I follow this strange man through the crowded streets of Roppongi. We pass many African and Turkish men on the street who are shaking the hands of all the tourists and ex-pats walking by, trying to get them into their bar or club. We navigate through the dark, dirty, regretful streets; the lights of the bars and restaurants blaring high overhead. I’m dodging people as they obnoxiously make their way to their next crazed drinking spot. This place is so unlike the rest of Japan, I keep forgetting which country I’m in. I begin to notice the men on the street recognize my guide; they hold eye contact for a split second longer than usual, processing the recognition. I can’t read their face beyond that.
We turn the corner and arrive at our destination.