Vote Charlie!

Japan raves, too, but with fewer drugs

Posted at age 25.
Edited .

Continuing from last week’s experience of finally going to the bars for Tokyo Rainbow Pride, I took some more much needed time off work this past weekend.

Another friend, Taka, came to stay for the holiday weekend, so I had some more reason to go out again. The holiday, by the way, was Golden Week, a series of holidays that is apparently Japan’s main holiday season. The name implies it lasts a week, but most people got off work three days across two weeks.

Anyway, Taka came Thursday afternoon, a day I worked from home, and then I worked in the office Friday while Taka did his own thing. I intended to maybe go out Friday, but like the week before, I had far too much work to do, so I stayed in and worked all night while he went out. I did mostly complete one of the big projects that has been weighing me down, so that was nice, but I was also exhausted after 16 hours of hard thinking in one day.

So Saturday we slept into the afternoon, and then didn’t do much till going out in the evening. The event this time was Shangri-La (Twitter), a gay event that happens here at the venue ageHa every few months. Apparently it’s the same organization that does the event in San Francisco, but I’m not sure.

Like last week, I drank quite a lot at home first, and brought a to go drink as well. This time I opted for a small bottle of Jim Beam in addition to the Coke Zero mixture. I knew this was going to be a big crazy event, and all I could rely on for my confidence boosting was alcohol, of course. And I didn’t want to spend a ton of money like last weekend, where I somehow spent $100 despite pregaming. Plus we were going to stop at a bar in Shinjuku first, where there wouldn’t be security, so I figured I’d drink the Coke mix there and then save the Jim Beam for sneaking into ageHa.

So that’s what we did, meeting Taka’s friend Mitsu at some bar I didn’t even get time to check into on Foursquare before we left to find the bus to ageHa. This was a small problem as I also drank a ton of water before leaving home, intending to pee either before we left home or at the bar in Shinjuku.


No idea.

Nearby we found the line of boys waiting to get onto buses to take them to ageHa. Apparently the buses are fairly new. The venue provides them at several places, such as in Shibuya, to shuttle patrons to the venue. For the gay events, they also pick up in Shinjuku. Convenient for us.

I waited in line with Taka and Mitsu, but Taka had to leave to go fetch his foreigner friend Kris. I tried to talk with Mitsu, but he barely spoke any English at all, and my random Japanese words did little good. We resorted to chatting via Google Translate, which worked fine. Eventually when Taka returned, I started talking to Kris in English instead. We talked about his travels around Asia and how he spends a few months a year in Bangkok, where I went with Yizhen in November. That conversation reaffirmed how much I should have been traveling over the past couple years of working from home!


The line of mostlygaybois waiting for the coach buses to take them to AgeHa for the party.

My need to pee increased, and I was about to go seek a bathroom when the bus finally started letting people on. They must have been throttling their bringing people, as they waited around before letting people on. And, I discovered, they waited around after letting people on but before leaving. I had to pee very badly by the time I sat down, and was contemplating getting off the bus even if I had to wait for the next one. But then a few more people were let on, who proceeded to put down these pop out seats in the aisles, and then the bus departed. So I was trapped.


This is the bus. The aisles have seats. Preventing me from exiting due to a bladder emergency.

The ride itself was 30-45 minutes. Excruciating minutes. I tried talking more with Mitsu, but eventually I just had to focus on not peeing. I tried reading news on my phone, and I tried sleeping. Nothing took my mind off the discomfort, and I thought I might either puke or faint. It was a strange feeling. I thought about switching places with Mitsu and peeing out the window, but the possibility it would spray inside stopped me. I then considered if anyone would notice if I peed on the floor. I cursed at myself for not keeping that Coke Zero bottle with me. Well, now I know for next time.

We did eventually make it, after I stared at the dot on the map moving along the lines to the destination for a good 20 minutes. I got off the bus quickly as possible, with my shorts already unbuttoned and unzipped, and I found I could barely walk. I made it down the stairs, and the first thing I see is a security guard posted at the entrance to the parking lot we pulled over next to. No good, but he appeared to be reclined and unlikely to move quickly. So I walked past him a bit and found an indent in the fence along the sidewalk in this well let area. The fence was adjacent to bushes, though, so I figured I would just go there. I probably couldn’t have made it much further even if I wanted to, and at this point I was willing to risk a ticket or jail time. I peed for what seemed like forever; what a relief!

Taka, Kris and Mitsu chuckled as they walked by, and eventually I caught up to them. It was a good thing I went when I did, because we ended up having to wait in line about an hour before we could get into the venue!


And once we got to the venue, we had to wait in line another hour.


Only $25 to enter, though, so there’s that! Apparently older, local men pay the most.

Finally, we got in. I had finished my entire little bottle of Jim Beam before getting to the door, so sneaking it in was no longer a concern. I did need to buy drinks, though. Or, I probably didn’t need to, but chose to, and as a consequence I don’t remember as much of the night as I would have liked to.

What I can say is the event was very large, with many rooms and levels and places to explore, so it was a great time. Taka claims I disappeared for some time, and I do remember going around with Herman, the guy from Russia I met last week.



I spent a good amount of time breaking a taboo of asking people about drug use, as I was very curious how different the party scene here seemed to be compared to in the states and elsewhere. I got many comments from people that they weren’t doing any drugs, but wanted me to let them know if I found any! Some people suggested talking to foreigners, and some specifically suggested Brazilians, not that I would know how to identify them.


Taka and a new friend I met through my inquiries

This got me researching later about the party scene in Tokyo. I found many forums with accounts of people doing drugs – specifically, ecstasy or (the better) pure MDMA, which is called “Molly” in the states and “Mandy” in the UK. The general situation in Japan seems to be:

  • Japan is one of the strictest countries regarding drug laws, and quantity or intent matter not
  • Drugs that do exist here are therefore much more expensive than elsewhere (“The street price of a gram of cannabis weed was $58.30 in 2005, over twice as much as in the next most expensive nation, Australia.”)
  • People don’t talk about drugs even if they do them. Similar to elsewhere, but more severe. Apparently many of the population are extremely sensitive about this, due to what I can only imagine is an ingrained sense that breaking rules is wrong (“unconscionable”) and you cannot question the rule’s basis. If you even mention drugs, people will stop talking to you and you’ll have no friends.

Herman, me, Taka and Mitsu

Later I found a study involving a relatively small number (300) of self reporters who completed drug surveys at rave venues in Tokyo. The study, “Ecstasy use among Japanese rave population,” found 8.0 percent of party goers used MDMA. This is higher than I would expect based on what I hear about drugs in Japan in general, but then again MDMA users are much more likely to go to raves, as the study points out. Still, it is quite different from events I’ve been to in the states where almost everyone is doing something more than alcohol, and most people readily admit and will talk about it at the event, at least in my somewhat limited experience in San Francisco.


Taka and sleepy friend

Anyway, seeing how the drug war costs America hundreds of unnecessary billions of dollars that should be going to fixing our mess of education and transportation systems, among other things, and how many people die around the world solely because drugs are illegal, I can only say it is fortunate for Japan its citizens are so obedient.

Well, fortunate only in that Japan doesn’t have to fight a “drug war” to the extent the United States chooses to. Not fortunate for anyone looking to spare their bodies and memories all the damage of alcohol by using MDMA instead. Not fortunate for anyone looking to develop deeper empathy for others, introspection and insight through mushrooms or other psychedelics. Not fortunate for anyone suffering from a wide variety of medical conditions for which cannabis is one of the only reasonable or effective treatments.



But somehow, through alcohol or otherwise, people here were having fun, and it was a great night, from what I remember.



Before I knew it, the sun was rising and it was almost time to go to sleep.


The sun is now rising, and these are the smokers.

But not before a little more exploring.


Party on the roof, at 4:30 a.m.




This is why I brought the camera, but I was too tired by this point to care to take nice pictures.