Day one in Japan was an interesting one. The friend I was staying with had to leave for work pretty early, long before I woke up. My friends mother doesn't speak English so pretty quickly I came to the realization I'd be using a lot of Japanese and didn't really have another language to fall back on.
I set off pretty early after taking a shower towards the closest train station which after having to ask the attendant I found my way to Ueno following my friends recommendation. I was initially planning on continuing on towards Tokyo but after exiting the station i found a park directly above it. I spent some time exploring it before heading back towards the other station to make my transfer. I originally planned on stopping at Roppongi but part way down the line decided to go to Ebisu for a bit. As it turns out there's a small fare discrepancy and was stopped on the way out to pay the difference. Quick lesson learned about the train system.
Following some exploration of Ebisu I headed back towards Shinjuku to track down a camera store from a friends recommendation. The station is huge! It's a little intimidating at first but I managed to eventually find my way after getting a little lost and finding my way to the park area near there.
The evening is when things got interesting. After eventually finding my was back home my friend messages me to meet him at a local station to go for some drinks pretty late in the evening. After I met up with him he informed me he was going to show me some Japanese culture........by making me go to a hostess bar. One slight panic kicked in at that point and after much figurine kicking and screaming against the idea I eventually went along.
Here is the thing, from a western perspective the perception of a hostess bar is generally negative and unusual. It's basically paying a hourly fee to drink and talk with women. On the face of it, my initial perception was that it was at times more than that, hence my initial protest. My friend spent some time reassuring me it was very much not that, which is why I finally gave in and took the perspective of seeing what it really is about. He also put in the effort to go too place that allowed some level of picture taking so I could show something on my blog.
We ended up going to two different places and I have to admit that overall it was a positive experience on several levels.
Every one there was having conversations and nothing more....it was just that. For me, it ended up actually being quite valuable as I was forced to use Japanese. I actually ended up becoming a lot more comfortable with speaking following that evening and it carried onto my next day in Japan.
As a foreigner it gave me an opportunity to practice my speech with people who did not know English and who were (even if it may be shallow by some perspectives) being paid to keep up a entertaining conversation.
The people there, from what I saw, were having an entertaining evening. They were not individuals who lacked friends or were socially awkward. It can be a little hard to explain but it's something that is very much rooted on some level in the culture here.
We ended up going for some late night ramen to end the unusual but informative evening.