The following episode happened in the Gion District in Kyoto in October, 2012.
We left the bar disappointed. When you enter a bar called the Basement Rock Pub, you have certain expectations. Rock music over the PA is one. What you don’t expect is to find a bar on the fourth floor playing only jazz. We had one beer before we left.
We found ourselves on the streets of Gion in Kyoto, me and my friend John. We were unsure of what to do, but knew we had to find a place to have another beer. Where should we go?
Stopping, waiting for a green light to cross the street I suddenly heard Norwegian being spoken next to me. I had never met a Norwegian in Japan before. I turned towards the speaker and introduced myself. It turned out the speaker was a Norwegian living in Tokyo. He was speaking to his friend who was here on holiday.
We spoke for a while, but it soon became clear they wanted to get rid of us. We said our goodbyes.
Not sure what to do, we simply walked into the maze of streets that is the Gion District in Kyoto. At the first intersection I decided the direction, at the next my friend did. This went on for a while. We were truly lost, and tired of walking. Decided to enter the first bar we could see.
It did not take long. We turned a corner and saw the sign in front of us: Blaed. We knew where to go.
Once again the bar was on the fourth floor. We quickly climbed the stairs, opened the door. Stepped inside. We both froze, staring straight into the pale ass belonging to a naked Japanese man singing karaoke. We looked at each other. My friend shrugged his shoulders. ‘We said first bar, didn’t we?’
We went in, got a seat at the bar just as the karaoke song was finished. The singer came towards me, the chair next to me was full of clothes. The man got dressed, but could not find one sock. ‘Kutsushita, kutsushita’ he kept saying to me. Turns out I was sitting on it. And I learned a new Japanese word.
The rest of the night was great. Besides people in the VIP-room and the naked guy who soon left, we were the only people there. The three bartenders were always at our service, and even though they spoke little English we managed, with help from Google translate, to have a conversation with them.
We got to try karaoke, which impressed the birthday party in the VIP-room. Suddenly there were twenty young Japanese girls dancing around us as we sang. Not quite so impressed was the next party occupying the VIP-room, we had not registered the girls had gone to be replaced by a double date, when we later crashed their date and did a karaoke number while dancing on the table.
It was a great night, we were very happy when we headed home in the early hours of the morning. We were not sure where we were, but luckily I am very good at finding my way home. My friend kept following me, telling me we were going the wrong way all the way back to our ryokan. That shut him up (to be fair, the next day he remembered how to locate the bar again, I was totally lost). We quickly went to bed and fell asleep.
I guess the point of this story is to show how traveling involves stepping out of your comfort zone. Follow that rabbit down the hole. A great time might come of it. Even if it means entering a bar where a naked Japanese guy is singing karaoke.
I was sad to learn, on my second visit to Japan, that Blaed is now closed.
Have you had any great experiences when travelling because you stepped out of your comfort zone? Please share.