Roppongi

I have been in Japan for over six months now, and in my sunnier moments I like to think that I’ve integrated into the culture. I can converse somewhat in Pidgin Japanese. I know that Ichiro Suzuki now plays baseball for the Seattle Mariners. And most of all, I know what I don’t know about Japan. Yet I’m still a regular visitor of the place that expatriates in Japan either love or hate, Roppongi.
Every time I go to Roppongi I come home telling myself that I won’t go again. Yet I inevitably go back. Despite its bad press, Roppongi’s charm is simple and universal. It thrives because of the human need to be able to understand their surroundings. And in Roppongi it’s possible to do this. One can converse freely in English with most people, without worrying too much about linguistic problems. Let’s face it, Japan is a difficult country to understand.
There is no one key element that explains this terrific yet baffling country. Perhaps that’s why there are so many generalisations about Japan and Japanese people. But at Roppongi we’re on safe ground. It’s something that we can get a hold of. While foreigners often feel confused in Japan, Roppongi offers a rare moment of clarity in a sea of uncertainty. I’ve never seen too many expatriates seem lost or confused about directions in Roppongi. Everybody knows the way to Motown…
If the three pillars that govern human behaviour are desire, emotion and knowledge, then Roppongi offers the whole package. Human desire is plain to see at any night-club, especially given that in other clubs around Tokyo and Japan displays of public affection are not nearly as common.
Emotion, the pull of the heart, is plain to see merely by observing all the things that remind you of home. This can help explain the attraction of other famous expatriate places like Amsterdam or that haven for many travelling Australians, London.
Finally, knowledge – the need to comprehend – finds its place too, as Roppongi is one place in Japan where you can listen in on other people’s conversations.
I was told that the difference between a Gaijin and a Gaigokujin is whether you love or hate Roppongi, well, I must be a Gaijin then.
See you in Motown soon!

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