New Year’s Eve at Tokyo Bay

Originally published in Tokyo Notice Board, March 05 – 11 2010 issue

By Dan Asenlund

It’s 3 a.m. and I swim in a stormy sea of heads and raised glasses. Three trash cans float by on my right, the same colors as my favorite Swedish soccer team – I smile. Somewhere ahead (or possibly starboard) is the toilet, my destination, but I don’t have to know exactly where as the stream in the overcrowded club takes me right there. The colors are strong, the lights blinding and I feel as trapped as a character in a Ryu Murakami novel.

Three hours and five minutes earlier and I stand beside a pool – for some reason not enclosed – with a glass of champagne in my hand.  I look at the screen above this outdoor dance floor of Club Ageha which tells me in decreasing digits that a new year is in the wake. Before me three girls constantly dance in a trance-like state. They’ve probably done so since the place opened two hours ago, which I mention to Yuko who stands beside me, also with a glass in her hand.

5000 people, 6000 yen. Tokyo’s biggest New Year’s Party at the club everyone talks about. I’ve been in town for two weeks and this party marks the high point of my stay, the first in winter solstice and negative degrees.

Yuko many times disappears into the crowd, but the colorful hat another friend has given me for Christmas is easily spotted and soon we sit beside each other on plastic chairs by a kebab tent that warms in the wintry cold.

Earlier in the evening I saw the last sun of the year set behind Mt. Fuji from the 50-year anniversary celebrating Tokyo Tower’s observation deck. Later, in a shuttle bus with Yuko from Shibuya I saw through the window the same tower, lit and inviting. But the bus drove past it and onto Rainbow Bridge, colorfully lit as its name suggests. With my mouth wide open I wondered if I’d ever been this drunk without having had a glass to drink all night.

Somehow I manage to float on the wave into the toilet, the undertow quickly taking me back onto the dance floor and then through the glass door revealing Tokyo Bay. Yuko is gone but soon appears, along with the first sun of the year behind the horizon.

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