Without resorting to Tinder, we mean. Kirsty Bouwers heads to six bars to try and meet people (and perhaps find a little romance) the old-fashioned way
By Time Out Tokyo Editors|
Tokyo – 13 million people yet loneliness still strikes. Plain human contact can be a challenge, with everyone racing from A to B, constantly on their phones or in their own little groups. I’ve been living here for a year, and although I must admit I’m a smartphone convert as well, I still prefer meeting (new) people in the flesh. So what’s a single girl to do to find a bit of entertainment, or possibly true love? Head to one of Tokyo's best bars or top clubs, in the hope that some Dutch courage and music will fracture the tight-knit groups and loosen up the tongues a bit. We already covered ‘The best Tokyo pick-up spots’ a while back, but this time we wanted to actually report back from the playing field. And my oh my, the results were as varied as the bars…
A girl walks into a bar... Photo: Kisa Toyoshima
NIGHT 1: A971 Time till first flirt: 50 minutes Crowd watch: Expats, lost tourists and the occasional foreigner-hunting Japanese guy
One Japanese blog billed A971 as the place to meet high-ranking expats. Perfect. Somewhat upscale pick-ups in Tokyo’s international central. As it’s the first venue on my list, I decide to call in a wingwoman. In hindsight, perhaps not a great idea. We now have a group, and are automatically redirected to a table: first in the quiet dining area and then outside on the terrace, far away from everyone else. A full 50 minutes pass before we get a wave and a smile-wink – from a guy walking past. Does that count? Considering the circumstances, yes.
It’s about time I take some action, so I head inside. Bingo. While ordering, a tipsy Japanese guy starts chatting me up, but soon decides to become an impromptu wingman for the solo Korean-American standing behind us. After introductions, I find myself in the age-old conversation of whether I would ‘date an Asian’, whether I can tell the difference between Koreans and Japanese – and which I prefer. Across the bar, another guy has started literally picking up women and swinging them around. Just your average Thursday night.
NIGHT 2: CLUB ATOM Time till first flirt: A few seconds Crowd watch: Japanese students and young office workers looking for a dance and a mate. Eighty percent male
Walking into Atom on a Saturday night as one of the few blonde girls in the club can either be described as a very flattering or utterly terrifying experience. Within a second, at least five guys are eyeing me up, and while I try to push my way through the crowd with my friends, many a blurry face tries to strike up a conversation over the deafening music. One charmer decides that the best way to declare his interest is to swing out his arm and slap my arse. Others try to hump me, badly. (No, I didn’t know that was possible either). I head for my saving grace – the ‘ladies only’ dancefloor. On the plus side, at least meeting people here is easy.
Should I just sit here and look pensive? Photo: Kisa Toyoshima
NIGHT 3: R2 SUPPERCLUB Time till first flirt: Erm, that’s a fail Crowd watch: Well-dressed expats and groups of thirtysomething salarymen
A place that has a dress code can either be very right or very wrong for meeting people. At first it looks like there’s potential: small groups of men and a few solo ones, all perched at the bar casually glancing around as soon as we walk in, with looks back and forth once we sit down. Unfortunately, that’s where the action ends, as everyone firmly stays in their seats. My friend leaves after one drink – I stay for another to see what happens if I’m alone. The verdict? Zilch. Not even one chatup line from the guy across the bar, who has been eyeing me up from the start. The bar is now full, filled with groups of expats who all seem to know each other, and I’m left as the only solo drinker in between groups. I feel a bit desperate. To be fair, I’m also likely the youngest and most unconnected person in the bar. This mission has failed.
NIGHT 4: JUMANJI 55 Time till first flirt: 2 minutes (after 11pm) Crowd watch: Anyone who wants to drink on the cheap in Roppongi
The first words that come to mind are ‘English student bar’. Then you spot the mannequins dressed in underwear and pink feather boas perched above the stairs (sadly, the dinosaur that used to be at the entrance has retired), and you realise things might get interesting. Not at 9pm, however, which is when we walk in. Besides two girls and a few small groups of guys, it’s very quiet, and no-one seems to be interested in a friend for the night. I come back a few hours later for round two, armed with another wingwoman, and this time it’s packed with barely lucid partygoers screening the crowd, holding their drinks and bobbing to pop music. One of them, half my size, sluggishly states his wish to dance with me after I order a drink. I admire his liquid courage but decline, down my drink and leave for greener pastures. At least something happened.
NIGHT 5: DINING & BAR KITSUNE Time till first flirt: Oh dear, another fail Crowd watch: Well-to-do locals and office workers looking for a cool place to dine and drink
As soon as we walk in, we conclude that tonight may not be the best night. It’s Obon, and although the low tables are full with groups, there’s no-one sitting at the round bar besides one guy – who admittedly does look good and glances over often. He also apparently knows the staff. My wingman and I end up having too much fun chatting together, and the only vague attempt at meeting people is when the waiter asks if we’re together. We reply we’re co-workers – loud enough for the solo guy to hear, just to dispel any doubts. Still no action. As we get up to leave, I give it one last shot and start talking to the guy, but he seems happy alone. Conclusion: bring a fun friend for entertainment.
NIGHT 6: TASU ICHI Time till first flirt: Under 10 seconds Crowd watch: Japanese looking for foreigners and foreigners (tourists and locals) looking for anything. The ¥300 beer helps. Eighty to 90 percent male on weekends
Hot damn. It’s 11pm on a Friday night. My wingman makes me walk in alone, and in the 10 seconds it takes me to put down my bag and order a drink I’ve been eyed up by more men than in any of the other bars we’ve been to. Two alcohol-red guys start talking while I order; a guy across the bar gives me the thumbs up for my time record. Tomato Red 1 eventually starts putting his arm around me; I politely decline and turn towards the three guys next to me who are intently observing the situation. We talk amicably, but they leave after a while and sadly no numbers are exchanged (tourists). My wingman starts selecting men he thinks are suitable, and beckons me over. The last specimen is a Japanese guy who studied abroad and has lots of interesting stories. I’m exhausted though, so decide to just Facebook friend him and then head off to catch the last train. One hundred percent meet and stories guaranteed at this spot – if you don’t have any luck (as a woman), I’ll eat my hat.