Trouble in Roppongi

Every month I receive an update from the American Embassy about Visa info, security situations, etc. I usually never read it since the visa info doesn’t apply to me and the rest just tells us that the rest of the world is still unhappy with America and it is in our best interest to lay low. However, the “Incident in Roppongi” caught my eye and I just couldn’t resist reading to see what happened. I had imagined that some young drunk American got in a fight or something like that but this one was a little different. Here is the report:

Incident in Roppongi

The US Embassy has received another report of an incident in Roppongi. An American citizen recently reported that he was drugged at a Roppongi area bar and his credit card charged $7,000 for drinks he has no recollection of ordering.

As always, persons are strongly advised to exercise caution and common sense when frequenting Roppongi at night.


Now for us long term Nippon residents, we most often do not go to Roppongi as it is really does not reflect Japanese culture and we have integrated enough with the culture that we don’t need to go there for fun. However, I have been there quite a few times and have noticed a disturbing trend. It seems that there are now much more aggressive scouts (most likely of African origin) trying to pursuade passers-by to go into the sex and strip clubs or buy drugs. When I first arrived in Japan I could actually walk to where I was going without being bothered once. But now, these guys will walk with you and refuse to leave you alone after you have already declined their offer countless times. The last time I was there, I felt a little uncomfortable with all these guys harrassing me, that I really have no desire to go back there again.

With these repeated incidents being reported, it seems that Roppongi is actually becoming a little dangerous which is extremely uncommon for Japan being the safest country I have ever visited. Also, some of the popular bars such as gas-panic have come up with ridiculous rules like you must always have a beer in your hand and be drinking or else you get kicked out. A further annoyance is a few bars are charging outrageous entry fees for their crappy little venues such as Lexington Queen. This bar has a reputation for attracting East European Models which is partly true but the fact of the matter is it is just a small dirty little bar trying to charge too much.

Anyway, for those of you who are new to Japan, Roppongi is worth one look around and then should be forgotten as it does not reflect Japanese culture what so ever. If you read a little bit about this history of the place, it used to be a barracks for American military personel during WWII. The bars spung up to cater to them and it has remained a night spot for mainly foreigners.

For those of us who really love Japanese culture, Roppoingi is quite an annoyance since there are quite a few bad foreigners there, and when they act up it reflects poorly on the rest of us.

15 Comments so far

  1. Jim O'Connell (unregistered) on July 31st, 2005 @ 1:14 am

    “Drugged” then $7,000 in drinks charged to his card? More likely the guy was estimating the prices of lapdances and champagne based on what they cost him back in Wichita and had to justify the night’s expenses to his wife or company accountant…

  2. Michael(tm) Smith (unregistered) on August 1st, 2005 @ 7:27 pm

    Something like this happened to me too, except it was much worse. I was on drugs throughout most of the years I was in university. After I graduated, my bank started pestering me to pay back some money they said I owed them for all that time I spent in school. I ended up having to do a bunch of work to make enough money to just get them off my back.

    I wish that at the time I had thought of the “I was drugged and have no recollection” ploy this guy came up with, instead of just paying a bunch of money for nothing. Damn.

  3. sid (unregistered) on August 2nd, 2005 @ 10:16 am

    Stars and Stripes recently had a pretty good article about Roppongi’s growing troubles. I think there still are two or three good places to go there, but unfortunately, as mentioned above, it takes 8-12 “no”s and “not interested”s to get there.
    I prefer walking through Shibuya, where most of the street hawkers work for hostess bars that don’t accept gaijin, effectively making me immune from being bothered.

  4. dr Dave (unregistered) on August 2nd, 2005 @ 1:38 pm

    Roppongi is on a downward spiral (yea, I know: it wasn’t starting from much to begin with). Frequentation has all but dwindled over the past 5 years, to say nothing of the post-bubble landing…
    Street hawkers are more desperate than ever to grab the rare peons who happen by, bars have all gone from “seedy and not-so-great”, to “downright filthy and miserable”. Roppongi Hills nearby is stealing most of the crowd with money to spend, as well as the random visiting gaijins. The less people there are, the more explicit all sorts of semi-legal activities become. Hence less people tempted to go there. And the loop is looped.

    However, regarding that American “drugged and charged $7,000 he did not ordered”, I’m with Jim and Michael on this one: reeks of dumbass guy getting drunk-happy with the credit card and regretting in the morning… Damn, I should have thought of contacting my embassy last time it happened!

  5. dr Dave (unregistered) on August 2nd, 2005 @ 1:40 pm

    And btw, would it ever be possible to configure whatever blacklist runs on this server so it doesn’t freak out at the sight of “u s . com” in a domain?
    or at least make it “.u s . com” for chrissake… I can think of a few thousands non-spam domains that end in u s .com…
    unknowngeni u s .com being one.


  6. sid (unregistered) on August 2nd, 2005 @ 2:37 pm

    I’m torn on the guy in the report. I agree it’s most likely he got crocked and banged a drum/gong too many times or got way too many lapdances, but it’s not beyond reason that a club just ripped him off. A friend of mine got royally screwed at a Roppongi strip club (hint: same name as a bad WB show) because they thought he was drunk, jacked up his bill, and when he protested found himself surrounded by bouncers suggesting he pay. He was new, didn’t know how to call the police and felt he wasn’t going to be allowed to leave until he signed the slip.
    I usually direct friends away from Roppongi.
    On a similar topic, where are some fun places to go? I’ve been here a year and am hitting a bad spot, where on weekends I can’t think of anything to do. I know there’s plenty, that I’m just not wired in to the right places to learn of events or cool bars in other neighborhoods.
    I live near Roppongi, but am beyond tired of going there. I’m super open to suggestions for both nighttime and daytime adventures.

  7. Elmateo (unregistered) on August 3rd, 2005 @ 6:23 pm


    I know what you mean about not knowing where to go. In a place as big as Tokyo there are millions of places to go, but unless you hear of them by word of mouth, they can be hard to find since the best places can often seem hidden or unimpressive from the outside.

    The one club where I had the most fun is called “Genius” and is in Ginza. Since we cannot post links on the comment section I’ll put the Genius website in words: www genius-tokyo dot jp. If you go before 8 you only had to pay 2,000 yen instead of 5,000 although you will be the first one there and the price has probably gone up. The crowd is mostly well dressed Japanese looking to relieve some stress by dancing on the 80’s music floor or down on the bottom floor which plays hip hop. Most guys are in suits although business attire is generally accepted. I have a lot of fond memories of that place and hope to head back the next time I’m in Tokyo.

    Another club is called “Air” and is somewhere in Shinjuku although I regret that I cannot find the website or give directions and it is extremely hard to find.

    In Roppongi, the only places I would ever go is “Spacelab Club Yellow” which plays trance and seems to be a pretty hip crowd, although the party doesn’t get started until midnight and you won’t be able to take the train home until morning. There is also another club not far from Club Yellow,” just take a left out of Roppongi station, and go past the street where yellow is till you hit the intersection. There is an ice cream shop on the corner and you take a left there, walk on the same side of the street and is about just one minute from the Ice Cream shop. Anyone know the name? I forgot.

    Finally there is “The Orbient.” Website is www orbient dot jp. I’ve never been there but it looks cool.

    Other than that I would usually just go to Watami and The Hub in Takadanobaba or Ikebukuro with friends, get hammered and then sing karaoke.

    Concerning the guy who lost $7,000, I agree with the rest of you. It was probably his own fault and he should just get over it and try not to get so drunk that he cannot see the bill. Or if he really did get scamed then he should have called the police right after he walked out the door. Probably couldn’t speak Japanese though.

  8. top jimmy (unregistered) on August 8th, 2005 @ 2:19 pm

    i think this is the Air bar you are talking about.

    its fun if you like dj music.

  9. David Zampano (unregistered) on September 26th, 2005 @ 11:01 am

    this guy went to a strip club for heavens sakes. only he got stripped as well. as an tokyo gaigin who spent 5 years seeing both the cultural sideof japan and enjoying the decadence and naughtiness of japan i hope this guys wife holds back her favours for a wee while, just because she can. (And i bet he’ll be visiting another stripclub before too long.).

  10. ramses (unregistered) on September 30th, 2005 @ 8:07 pm

    Hi everybody!

  11. ramses (unregistered) on September 30th, 2005 @ 8:09 pm

    Hi everybody!

  12. Joe-chan (unregistered) on October 23rd, 2005 @ 3:08 pm

    I heard that the Yamaguchi-gumi which has always operated in the Kansai area, is now planning on moving some operations to the Tokyo-metro area. This will surely have a very bad effect on an already dismal Roppongi. Not like there isn’t already enough Yakuza in the Roppongi district.

  13. chpk (unregistered) on December 1st, 2005 @ 5:52 am

    Hi Everyone,
    I just returned from a business trip from Tokyo with a colleague and we went to the Hi-Touch Bar (not a strip club)in Roppongi with a few people from our office and I was charged $1900 USD for 4 bottles of wine and he was charged $500 for a bottle of champaigne and 2 beers. I cannot believe they can get away with this. We explicitly asked how much the bottles were and were told $45 USD, but when the bill came the bartenders played dumb and say it was $450 USD. The “owner” asked them if they said $45 and of course they said no. My credit card was initially denied (the Visa Fraud department denied it) so I was forced to use my debit card. I have disputed with my bank but w/out any written proof of prices its my word against theres and it doesn’t look like I will get any money back. Anyone have any suggestions as far as getting my money back, filing a complaint to the US Embassy, or ANYTHING else.
    Its too bad because I really enjoy Tokyo but to deal with this it makes it very difficult to ever want to come back.

  14. rolly (unregistered) on December 9th, 2005 @ 4:35 am

    “Now for us long term Nippon residents, we most often do not go to Roppongi as it is really does not reflect Japanese culture and we have integrated enough with the culture that we don’t need to go there for fun.”

    Oh, good Lord. Yet another idiot gaijin who thinks he’s integrated into Japanese culture. Get the stick out of your ass, Roppongi is a great place with plenty of restaurants and bars. Let me guess, the “I’m too cool for Roppongi” foreigners never once leave Gaien Higashi-Dori. Figures. Roppongi is a big place. I know people who have lived in Japan since the 80s, and they still visit Roppongi regularly for the nightlife.

  15. Stuart (unregistered) on January 14th, 2006 @ 4:27 am

    David Zampano—trying to find you–we definitely partied hard in Roppongi..I am in the USA–Florida0–send me a line and let me know what’s up…

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