The Club Dance Scene In JAPAN!
As some of you may know, I've been bouncing around clubs during my travels for a while now. I travel as light as possible, but still have to pack a pair of clean, white dance shoes and a collared shirt wherever I go. I've experienced a lot, had to adjust my dance (and game) to different cultures and music, but have had a blast putting myself out there.
Most interestingly, I've spent an above average amount of time in Japan, since I've learned the languag e and am expanding Pickupdance in Japanese. For a country so westernized, the club scene is pretty different from, say, Canada, USA, the UK, and Australia. For those of you who are curious, here's the rundown on my club experiences and tips on succeeding in the land of the rising sun.
Music. Japan's got a huge music market, and compared to smaller Asian scenes like Taiwan or Hong Kong, the music styles extend far beyond pop. As a result, you can find clubs catering to every style - Japanese hip hop, American R&B, European trance, Japanese techno, indie, etc. The more niche you get, the smaller the venue/club gets, but this can be a good thing. I actually enjoyed the smaller venues more, mostly because it was easier to pick up/socialize than the large raves.
Club Layout. This is the biggest difference I've noticed from Western dance clubs. Most of the clubs, big or small, are laid out like big European raves, with everyone facing the DJ at the front. The DJ is typically on a stage and is regarded like a star. This is good if you just want to dance to some trippy music, but overall for me, it kind of sucks because you can imagine how difficult it is to do partnering moves. I turn around to face a girl, and I'm facing a hundred people! What I've discovered is that you just have to be aggressive - just go for the grind, hip bump, or turn. The really smaller venues or foreigner clubs don't have this problem as much.
Club Dance. The dancing is pretty much like everywhere else in the world: most guys don't dance well or look super uncomfortable. The girls dance a little better, but don't drop it like the girls-night-out groups do in the Western world.
Language. Language is definitely a huge barrier. I fared better in Tokyo, but had a tougher time in places like Osaka or Kyoto. It REALLY helps if you speak a little Japanese, but remember, dancing is a language in itself, so work on your partnering moves. By the way, if you plan on getting phone numbers (or really, keitai emails), and you're only in Japan for a short visit, the only place you can rent a phone is at the airport.
Guy/girl ratio. From my experience, there seems to be a lot of guys in the Japanese local clubs. It's better in smaller venues, bars, and clubs that cater to foreigners (e.g. Sam and Dave's in the Kansai area). And, like everywhere in the world outside of Latin America, the ratio is much better in salsa clubs. If there's a line outside, you can get a pretty good idea of the ratio before going in.
Smoking. A lot of Japanese guys smoke, and it seems like there are generally no smoking or ventilation regulations for night clubs. This is kind of a downer, because if you're a non-smoker like me, it feels like you're inside a chimney. You will need to wash your clothes the day after. This might be a contributing reason for the skewed guy/girl ratio. Note: smoking in certain restaurants are common too, especially in Kyoto.
Late nights. If you don't live near the club, plan on staying out all night. The cover is expensive at some clubs because they usually open until 8am. Public transportation ends pretty early, so once the trains stop running, you're stuck. There are no night buses to save you, and taxis are super-expensive. So, be prepared to fork out a little extra for a place to crash or eat until the trains start running again. Alternatively, you can lie in a drunk stupor on the street like some salarymen.
If you're going to stay out, your best bets are the Internet cafes. They have all-you-can-eat snacks (Japanese snacks rule), drinks, and a reclining couch. Forget the kitschy capsule hotels since you have to check out by 10am. Or, if it's been a good night, there are the love hotels ;). Check-in is efficient and anonymous (sometimes, you can just use a machine), some of them have wild theme rooms, and they're not ghetto like the love hotels I've seen in other parts of the world.
So, that's my take so far on the club dance scene in Japan. Have your own experiences? I'd love to hear more stories in the comments!