Last Friday night was a crash course in Tokyo nightlife and transportation.
First, dinner. Dear friend and senpai brought us all out for deep-fried everything and beer, as well as a plate of Russian Roulette- one of the very innocent looking pieces of sushi is hiding a wasabi bomb inside. Fortunately I wasn’t the lucky recipient… this time.
After dinner and Asahi, we made our way to a karaoke bar. A private room on a high floor overlooking the lights of Shibuya. We sang some Japanese and English pop songs (I will be forever grateful to my colleagues for tolerating my alcohol soaked rendition of Adele) and then hit a club on the ground floor.
At some point, I got seperated from the group, grabbed my things, and headed back to the train station early, looking forward to falling asleep in my own bed. Stepping over vomit onto a nearly empty train car I grabbed a seat and leaned back against the window. The train stopped gathering speed and coasted into the next station, doors opening while the car came to a halt. I sat patiently, using my tried and true method of problem-solving: denial that anything is wrong and the fervant wish that ignoring the unwanted issue will make it go away. A security guard stepped onto the train, informing me and the nearly prone man across the car that train service had stopped for the night, in the middle of the line.
I stumbled out of the train car, more tired and irritated than tipsy. In corners of the train station, there were people huddled over, waiting out the night. For a city with such a booming nightlife, some aspects of Tokyo shut down quite early. While reliable and fairly inexpensive, Tokyo’s trains turn into pumpkins after midnight. I checked the price of an Uber, which came to well over 10,000 yen. Google maps informed me that the first trains started running again at 4:30. I decided to join the crowd of people waiting out the night.
Which is how I ended up at 7-11 in the middle of the night drinking wine with two strangers.
I stopped in a 7-11, Someone was already sleeping in the corner, so it seemed like a good location to sit down and charge my phone. I made a few friends there, two very friendly pilots with a private airline out exploring the nightlife, and we stood and chatted about Donald Trump and American politics for a few hours, until the trains started running again. At some point the sleeping man stood up, looked around as if in surprise, and left.In a bizarre mix of American retail apathy and Japanese hospitality, the 7-11 workers never once acknowledged that we were standing around in their shop, allowing us to sit out the night and discuss world events. 7-11, with their international ATM’s, delicious and quick food, and better nighttime service than I’ve gotten in some hotels, will always hold a place in my heart.
I got on the earliest train possible, made my connection, and promptly fell asleep on the train in the wrong direction. I returned home about 7 hours later than intended no worse for wear, and, following Murphy’s Law, ran into more of my neighbors then I had previously ever met.
What started as a quick drink with coworkers turned into a whirlwind reason that I love travel: unideal situations- delayed flights, stopped trains- are often the best way to meet people and have discussions you never would have normally.