It began just like any other random night with a few drinks at Nonbei Yokocho in the Shibuya ward of Tokyo. Unbeknownst to me I was about to make friends with a guy in the Yakuza and see a whole different side of the city!
The night started off innocently enough as I made friends with a couple local businessmen but hours later my best friend Jared and I would be getting VIP access to several clubs, meeting more people than we could ever possibly hope to remember even if we hadn’t been drinking. Each place that our group went we were escorted through the backdoor and inside the club without a security check or cover charge. As if that was not enough, at each venue people were flocking to our new-found friend, bowing and quietly conversing with him in Japanese.
Yes, apparently we had met some sort of local celebrity.
And he was adding a fresh girls to our group at every club we went to.
Names have been changed to protect the innocent and no-so-innocent alike… As well as myself.
It still boggles the mind, still makes me happy to to reminisce about it, and the same is true with Jared. Although I am still not certain as to why Shinakio became such fast friends with us, why he kept taking us both out on the town at night and out to eat during the day, repeatedly. Everything was always on his tab, if it was not already comped by the staff or manager — even when I offered to pay.
Jared had his suspicions from day one. He believes Shinakio enjoyed taking us out and being around us because we did not know who he was, because we treated him normal, just a few guys having fun. I guess I agree on some level, but still don’t know what to make of it.
We met Shinakio in a hole-in-the-wall bar in Nonbeiyokocho along with his “non-blood brother” as he called him, Takeshi. Both were both older businessmen who spoke modest English, and Jared and I were about to leave to go find a new restaurant to try when these two came in and sat down at the only two bar stools next to us in Non. All it took was about ten seconds for a conversation to start between us. I’d noticed that people throughout Tokyo were shocked to see one (or in this case two) random 21-year-old guys in the city not working or vacationing, but rather “just because…”
An hour later Takeshi decided to head home for the night and so Shinakio invited us to continue on to a famous rapper’s birthday party one district over. And so we did. And it was an absolute blast partying with this rapper and his crew, even though I had no idea who this rapper was or if I would even like his music.
Another night we were club-hopping from midnight to 4am, including Club AgeHa, Club Womb, and Club Asia, among others. The party never stopped with this guy, and seemingly everywhere people knew him. How do you do that in a city with a population of 36 million, the biggest metropolis on the planet!
There were certain other things that made Shinakio appear even more intriguing. For example, he would never talk about his business, saying he did a “lil of this and a lil of that,” maybe some real estate. And at one point he showed me pictures of him with several famous Americans, prominent Hollywood celebrities, the owner of that famous chopper shop in New York… Hell he even had photos of ol’ Hugh and him with a few of the playmates… Whatever he does, he definitely got around. But when did he work? He was seemingly always eating or drinking!
Another interesting fact was that Shinakio was the only one allowed to take pictures in the clubs we want to, no one else was. They all have very explicit ‘no flash photography’ policies yet somehow the rules didn’t apply to him. The next at dinner he would usually gave us professional glossy full-size photos of our adventures from the night before. How cool is that!?
The Mystery Instensifies…
After doing more traveling around Japan I was supposed to finally fly back to the States, but instead I moved in with the girl I was seeing in Tokyo, Mayu, and skipped my flight home. Unable to reach Shinakio, I eventually managed to reach Takeshi.
We planned a night of drinking and at the last minute Mayu decided to come up there with me. But as soon as Mayu saw Takeshi, she kind of freaked out and wanted to leave immediately. She said he was Yakuza! That made me all the more curious hehehe…
Without telling her story to my friends back home, I did email them a couple of pictures and several of them also (out of the blue, with no insinuation) either suggested or asked if he was in the mafia / Yakuza. So the plot thickens…
Anyway, I wrote this post because just this morning I discovered an old box from Japan with copies of photos, random research / preparation files, receipts and import correspondence, and even a couple random Word files on a disc. One was a four-page story about Shinakio and Takesi, and as such I’ve spent the morning re-living those times.
But now that I have finished this post I realize two things: 1) most likely no one has any interest in reading four more long pages about what I’ve already written and 2) I don’t feel like redacting or changing any more names, especially on that long of a document.
So please excuse the lack of purpose to this post, but I was not going to spend twenty minutes writing it only to delete it… I promise the next will be better 😉
Here’s an added bonus mystery for reading to the end: while in the Philippines with the [at that time] girlfriend, one night while walking home a guy slowly bicycled past us and Claire freaked out and clung really tight to me, as if she was almost trying to disappear. For several minutes thereafter she was silent before finally struggling to say in a whimper, “That’s the guy that killed my dad.”
I could never get any more out of her in all our time together. So many questions! Figuratively? Literally? Did he get in trouble for it and was just now free again? Had he never been punished… Just what was it?!? And even though I’ve visited her father’s grave with Claire, she never would tell me what happened. To this day I’m still curious.
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