Sunday, September 21, 2008
A big issue that is rarely addressed in Tokyo, as well as all of Japan, is looking at how much we drink. Anyone who spends any amount of time in Tokyo will notice that there are a hell of a lot of bars here. You can get a drink at any time day or night in Tokyo. It is very easy to have a stiff shot of Jack at four in the morning; I know because I have done this. It would seem that getting drunk is a way of life in Tokyo.
There are very few social rules concerning drinking in Tokyo. I have heard and personally had enough experiences with drinking in Tokyo to get a very clear picture of the attitude towards staggering drunks. The Japanese tend to be friendly and helpful to slobbering drunks most of the time. Now, there are times when some people go way over the line to the point in which not even the Japanese can forgive; but you have to get pretty drunk to reach that point. For the most part being drunk off your ass is viewed as funny rather than disrespectful. Most people in Tokyo have been one of the `last train` people who are only one more drink away from being unable to stagger onto the train. The train workers, in most cases, will help you out if you cannot handle the task of getting into the train on your own power. Even the police take a light heartened attitude towards those of us who have had one too many. Why does a culture, which at times is as straight laced at they come, have a deep acceptance of drunken hijinks?
The answer to this question could be found in the fact that the culture is so straight laced and thick upper lipped. Drinking is one of the very few accepted ways of letting off steam in Japan. Many people in Tokyo work their balls off sometimes to the point of near insanity. With a very hectic lifestyle, a high pressure social order, and sometimes very long work hours it is no wonder that Tokyo people are some of the biggest drunks in the world. I, like many people in the land of the raising sun, have a love of a good drink. I can also admit that I have been a little too drunk a few times. Although, I have never gotten to the point of loosing total control of myself. This cannot be said of everyone. Most people have got the one story of witnessing someone who got totally out of hand and did something that will go down in Tokyo drinking legend.
Work hard and drink seems to be the battle call of Tokyo city. During the day it is a mostly well ordered and square place as you could find in the world. Most people are all dressed up in business wear and serious as a hand grenades.The great exodus of people marching to work from six to nine a.m. is like an army of working class drones right out of 1984. No one showing any hint of drunken madness, just a sea of ties and blank faces. One would think that such a hoard of uptight working people would never resort to daily mass drinking and merry making. This show of order and conservative behavior is just a front induced by a culture which demands focus and conformity in ones daily life. The social and cultural pressures placed on people on a daily basis can be overwhelming at times.
Once five o`clock rolls around and the sun starts to set a very different atmosphere takes hold of the city. When the sun sets Tokyo becomes a play ground of sorts for both young and old alike. It is time to get drunk, laid, and cut business deals in a nightlife with a very different set of rules apart from the day time hours. What is forbidden behavior during the day can at times become all well and fine during the night. I have said many times that in the Tokyo nightlife if you turn over enough rocks you will find exactly what you want.
So, does Tokyo drink too much? Well when compared to some cities in the world yes. Although, within the aspects of Japan the level of drinking in Tokyo is only a reflection of the alter ego of a tightly ordered social structure.