Suzy's Bar, Takasaki
Hits 23947 | Created 2007-05-23 | Modified 2007-05-23Ah, the memories. This was a bar in Takasaki, where I used to drink in 1996/1997.
If you have any stories about this place, send them to me and I might publish them here.
So I sat, alone, at the end of the bar, staring across the room to where some Canadians were laughing, screaming, and generally flirting with the off-duty strippers.
This is Suzy's Bar in Takasaki, Gunma, Japan, and it's perhaps six or so years ago.
Everyone I know has left to go home and the time is fast approaching five a.m. Even Mino, the hyper-active co-owner of the bar, has slumped into a seat in the corner of the room.
I get up from my stool and wander behind the bar with my empty beer glass, and pour myself another. Mino's sixth bar-sense made him open his eyes and watch me. When I had finished he made writing motions with his hand and I dutifully scratched another mark onto my bar tab. The bar had a curious way of keeping tally of drinks, instead of using four straight lines and a diagonal to make a five and a 'gate', they'd use some complex pattern that no doubt made sense in Japanese, but to a gaijin was merely confusing.
I passed by the Canadians and strippers and eyed one blonde girl from Finland. She looked at me with eyes that told me she was just toying with the man who was chewing her hair in a teenage attempt at flirtation. I felt sorry for him. This was the kind of girl whom you couldn't trust, I decided.
After I had passed by she turned back to him, let out a little yelp and squirmed in his lap, making his eyes roll.
I sat back down at my bar stool and lit a beedi, the little Indian cigarettes made from rolled up leaves filled with nothing more than a bit of stuff swept up off the floor, probably. They didn't sell rolling tobacco in Japan, much to my horror, and these were the closest thing I could find to it in town. Every time I went to the local (and only) Indian restaurant in town I used to buy about six packets, much to their consternation.
I wondered if I should go home. I felt like a loser, sitting all alone in this bar.
At this moment, Dobu, the other owner poked his head through the curtains at the back of the bar and looked around. His eyes stayed on the drunken Mino for a while and I tried to read his expression, but his face was always a mystery to me. He caught me looking at him and smiled before ducking back through the curtain.
Dobu rarely got drunk and seldom said a word. Neither of them really spoke any English, and we generally got by with pointing and mime, along with a few badly pronounced Japanese words. Mino would always look disgusted and shocked whenever we said anything at all in Japanese and shake his head, running over to correct us. He would shout the word in obvious fury, pulling a face like a Kabuki actor discovering his entire family had just been murdered. It was only later that we discovered that this was the normal way for men to say such things.
The blonde girl had left the disappointed looking Canadian and walked across the bar to sit next to me. We engaged in small talk whilst she examined me, seemingly making up her mind about something.
'Are you gay?' She said, finally.
'What?' I spluttered.
'Everyone thinks you're gay. Is Peter your boyfriend?' She smiled sweetly.
'No, I'm not gay. Peter is just a friend. Why does everyone think I'm gay?' I asked.
She thought about this. 'You just look it.' She said, then added, 'I'm glad you're not gay...' A wicked look came into her eyes.
We chatted some more. She worked in the hostess club next door where most of the girls simply sat with, and chatted to, Yakuza gangsters; but where the real money was to be made by stripping for them on stage, or simply sleeping with them.
She finished telling me a story about one of the other girls who had taken some crystal meth and woken up the next day, naked, in a strange Japanese man's bed. 'And she didn't know if she'd had sex with him or not!'
She sipped at her drink and used her toe to worry a bit of loose wood on the bar stool.
'The big boss came in tonight...' She began. The 'big boss' was the Yakuza boss, not the club boss I learnt, '...and he had a bandage on his hand where one of his fingers was missing! I asked him what happened and he said "accident". But I asked someone else and they said that he had to cut it off as one of his men had made some mistake, so he had the choice of having his man killed or cutting off a finger.'
I thought about this. We had met an ex-gangster in a nearby town a few weeks ago with only one finger and one thumb left on each hand.
'Ex-gangster?' We had asked him.
'Yes,' he had said, looking sombre, 'I could not afford any more mistakes.'
I noticed the Canadian man glaring at me across the room. The blonde girl noticed too and looked at me, the wicked look had returned. 'Come on,' she said, 'let's go back to your place.'
I finished my beer in one gulp.