My 20th Birthday

I moved out of Seminar House just the other day, and into my new digs where Internet access is not free, so updates may be sporadic. Anyway, I had to share the story of last night – one of the stranger birthdays I’ve had in my life. To think I had a considered post on international development in the works. I may return to it later, but this is probably more amusing.

Most people having left before yesterday, I ended up heading out to Osaka with just one close friend. We wandered around Shinsaibashi and Namba, and found an “English pub” where we had a few drinks. This place had the English pub atmosphere down pat:
Lack of natural light – it was exactly like being in a far corner of some warehouse-sized drinking establishment back in the UK, ingeniously simulated by being underground.
Thunderously loud music – not so much a jukebox as a full-blown sound system. Reminded me of a few places in Leeds.
TV screens – loses points for not having them all show different things for maximum sensory disorientation.

Yep, a real taste of home. As often happens on nights like these, the best things that happen are accidental. We came across a place that offered nomihodai (all you can drink) for a hour at a very reasonable price. We had an amazing amont of food, an even more amazing amount of drink, got the whole restaurant to shout “Kampai!” (Cheers!) at us, got chatting to some Japanese diners, and got invited out afterwards. So, we ended up walking through Namba with a bunch of very inebriated young Japanese girls. After a few wrong turns, we got to the bar they were headed for. The explanation of it they’d given (we were chatting in garbled drunken Japanese) didn’t really prepare me for what was inside. The doors slid open and I saw a Japanese guy in a long evening gown, full make-up and blonde shoulder-length hair. We were in a drag bar.

Customers were sat at tables facing towards a small stage at the end of the room, as the “hostesses” moved around chatting to each table in turn. Our party was sat near the back, and we got visited by a few of them, one of whom got the whole club to sing Happy Birthday to me in Japanised English, and then poured us a bottle of something fizzy. I was sprawled on the seat, laughing out loud as I do when awesomely strange stuff like this happens to me. The girls (the real girls, the girls we came in with) were very friendly, and I shared a few stolen kisses with one who was my age before the lights went down for the main show.

Now this was very bizarre indeed. The performers were dancing topless, and some were obviously being women full-time, as they had fairly impressive breasts (implants, I guess). It wasn’t really sexy – as feminine as some of them looked, the giveaway was in the face, particularly the jawline. You couldn’t forget they were guys originally. Still, it was more enjoyable then a night out in a real strip club full of old men in dirty macs would have been. The crowd in this place was fun, loud, and predominantly female. Trust Japan to show you something like that.

Earlier in the night, Joe had asked “Is this where you expected to be after two decades living on this planet?” In a belated answer, not at all. But I’m grateful I ended up here anyway.

UPDATE: The nicest birthday tribute ever.

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