The Birth of Japan Game is a chronicle in ten parts, recounting the early years of Dorian Gray’s journey along the path. The narrative begins some time in 2006 and concludes in early 2012. Names have been changed to protect the guilty and innocent alike.
Momoka was late. I’d been waiting outside Shinjuku Station for fifteen minutes, and I had better things to do than waste time on a complete stranger: improve my Japanese; hit the gym with friends; go shopping for new clothes with Maya, my girlfriend. I didn’t owe Momoka – who I could barely remember – anything, and I glanced down at the time on my mobile phone and considered going home.
Two weeks ago I’d been walking back from a night out with my friends, the other foreign exchange students at the university I attended in Tokyo. We were a hard-partying bunch of Europeans, Americans, and Australians like myself, and we spent almost every night out in one of the city’s numerous bars and izakayas: combination eating and drinking establishments with dim lighting and traditional decor. Textbooks and lectures were passed over in favor of watching Japanese television and making friends with the locals, some of whom had excellent drug connections. On this particular night I started talking to a young girl and the young man who seemed to be her boyfriend as we passed them on the street. I was known for approaching strangers while drunk, a trait that had gotten me in trouble over the years. But this time the girl immediately stopped and stared at me with rapt attention.
“Where are you going now?” I asked her in Japanese.
“What are you going to sing?”
The young man next to her made no effort to interfere, and I ignored him completely.
“Really? I like Björk too, favorite album is Homogenic.”
“You know Björk? Not many Japanese do,” she said.
“Yeah, like I said I have all her albums. We should go to karaoke together and sing some time.”
We exchanged numbers, and then my friends dragged me away. By the next day I’d forgotten all about the girl who had tapped her name into my phone as Momoka. When she called me a week later, it took me a few moments to remember who she was.
“When are we going to karaoke?” she asked, a bit petulantly.
I was cooking spaghetti in the shared kitchen of the student dorm where I lived, and a drama was playing on the television.
“I was waiting for you to call me.”
“Sorry,” I said. “I’ve been busy with my girlfriend.”
“When can we meet?”
“I don’t know, on the weekend? Saturday night?”
I agreed to meet her in Shinjuku, one of Tokyo’s busiest stations, and not far from my university. I couldn’t remember what she looked like and didn’t plan to stay long; I was going clubbing with friends later. Simply put, I didn’t trust my drunken judgment. Momoka would probably be unattractive, boring, or both. I vaguely remembered the Björk conversation, but in my admittedly limited experience, the hottest Japanese girls didn’t listen to experimental electronic dance music, they listened to J-pop and mainstream R&B.
Standing outside with a cigarette in hand, I looked towards the station and watched the hordes of people streaming from the entrance. Mixed in with the salarymen and tourists were countless beautiful girls: university students with dyed brown hair and miniskirts, office ladies in smart form-fitting suits, hostesses with elaborately-styled hair and ornate nail art. I watched them wistfully, wondering how I could get them into my life. Pursuing girls wasn’t my main reason for being in Japan, but I couldn’t deny that it was always at the back of my mind.
Suddenly one of them caught my eye and I stared at her longingly. What would I have to do to meet someone like her? There were lots of young women in my social circle, but none so beautiful and stylish. Girls like her were out of my reality.
Wait. Now she was looking back at me.
I smiled and expected her to look away, but she held my gaze, her expression demure yet intense as she cut through the crowd. Whoever she was here to meet was a lucky man. I expected him to appear soon, doubtless a rough and heavily-muscled Japanese youth in sunglasses, or one of the effete model types crowding the pages of the fashion magazines. All we would have would be this shared smile, and then she’d be gone forever.
Then she walked straight towards me and spoke my name.
This was Momoka?
The same girl I’d forgotten ten minutes after meeting? Whose phone call I’d almost ignored?
I was now looking at a girl like a love goddess from a teenager’s fevered dream. Taller than the other girls and even men walking past her, with a model’s posture and penetrating eyes. Long silky hair, perfect baby doll lips and a captivating, heart-shaped face. Strong yet slender legs gripped by ripped thigh-high fishnets. Generous breasts displayed by a revealing top, and a mind-blowing ass brought into relief by a black miniskirt and the pressure of her ultra-high heels. Her fashion was high-end glamour with a hint of gothic punk, all black lace and coordinated rips. She was eighteen years old, still in her last year of high school, as I would later learn, and already a world-class stunner.
Had I really been so drunk that I’d forgotten this?
All my dismissive cool deserted me. Disarmed by her beauty, I suddenly had no idea what to do. I couldn’t take her to McDonald’s or some cheap noodle house, could I? A girl like this would have expectations, would be used to classy bars and expensive restaurants. But my student budget was already stretched to the limit by Tokyo’s cost of living, and even if I could afford places like that, I didn’t know where to find them. I’d been in Tokyo for six months, but my knowledge of its more upscale night life was pitifully limited.
But Momoka knew exactly where to go. She’d already eaten, she explained, so there was no need to look for a restaurant; why not go straight for drinks? I was hungry, though, so we went to Sukiya, a cheap chain restaurant, where I wolfed down a beef rice bowl. Then, taking my arm, she led me to Don Quijote – often abbreviated as Donki, an all-purpose store selling everything from cosmetics and costumes to electronic goods and cheap souvenirs. On its bottom floor we found the liquor section, where Momoka selected a tall bottle of vodka.
“You buy it,” she told me. “I’m underage.”
Vodka in hand, we headed to karaoke and booked a room for two hours. We ordered drinks – brought up one of the uniformed staff – and liberally topped them up with the bottle we’d smuggled in in Momoka’s handbag. I’d only been to karaoke a few times before and was impressed by the choice of songs; along with the comprehensive library of J-pop were tracks by all kinds of Western artists, even obscure alternative and indie bands. I’d always been obsessed with music, and now I let loose with an array of favorites from my teenage years, many of them mopey dirges and anguished songs of despair. The Smiths? The Cure? Joy Division? Not exactly an ideal date soundtrack, but Momoka seemed to like it and even recognized the bands. And true to her word, she knew every line of every song by Björk, her voice nearly a match for her idol’s. I was in love already, but so caught up in singing that I barely noticed the rapidly-emptying bottle of vodka, and didn’t think to make a move either. Before long an hour had passed, and Momoka was leaning against me, so close that our faces almost touched.
Then she leaned over and shyly kissed me on the cheek.
It was on. I threw my arm around her and kissed her deeply, my hands exploring the rips in her clothes and the sexy curves of her body. She kissed back with equal fervor, darting her tongue into my mouth and gently biting my neck. Soon I lifted her on top of me and buried my face in her breasts. Things progressed quickly and before long her panties were off, my hands sliding them smoothly from under her skirt. I unzipped my jeans and laid her down on the vinyl seating, stopping only to throw on an ancient condom from my wallet.
From my current perspective of nearly ten years later, sex in karaoke seems normal, but at the time I was terrified. What if one of the staff walked by? And what about security cameras? I couldn’t see any, but that didn’t mean they weren’t there. Even so, I entered Momoka and gripped her tightly, feeling that I’d somehow slipped into Heaven. Her long legs wrapped around me as I gazed into her eyes and tried to hold out as long as I could.
“Hoteru iku?” she whispered in my ear afterwards: “Can we find a love hotel?”
For those who’ve missed the countless sensational books and films about Japan, love hotels are full of rooms used by adulterous lovers, young couples who still live with their parents, and anyone else without a ready trysting location. The decor ranges from functional motel-style units to elaborate fantasy themed rooms: jungles, castles, and honeymoon-style suites with kitschy pink sheets. They’re usually found in the city’s seedier districts, such as the back alleys of Shinjuku’s Kabukicho where we were now. After leaving karaoke we continued down the street and saw scores of other couples on the same mission, scanning the numerous hotels for any vacancies. I noticed a few young men turning away from their girlfriends and glancing at us, lingering on Momoka as if to say, “With a foreigner? Really?” I couldn’t believe it myself.
At peak times – weekends and holidays are the worst – love hotels fill up quickly, and it’s not uncommon to find yourself wandering around for ages, searching in vain for an available room. Fortunately, Momoka and I managed to secure one in the third hotel we checked. It was small and overpriced – more than my weekly food budget – but I didn’t care. We drunkenly stumbled inside, still holding hands, and before long our clothes were strewn across the floor. Now we were free to enjoy each other more slowly, without the threat of interruption, and we took full advantage of it. Momoka’s stunning naked body enthralled me, and after kissing every part of her I went straight for the condoms which had been kindly left in the room. Unfortunately, like most Japanese condoms not labelled Extra Large, they were painfully tight, so much so that I finally gave up on them and resorted to the pull-out method. After a few passionate rounds we fell asleep in each other’s arms. Or more accurately, Momoka fell asleep a few minutes before me, so that the last thing I heard as I drifted off was the sound of her soft snoring.
I’ve always felt there’s something captivating about a beautiful girl who snores.
The next morning I woke up with a hangover, still unable to believe the previous night had happened. My phone was full of messages from my friends wondering why I hadn’t shown up for clubbing. Momoka had to get up and prepare for her part-time job at a convenience store, so after a quick shower we threw on our clothes and left the hotel. We took the same train line back, and on the ride Momoka showed me photos on her phone, many of them with her in her high school uniform, her bare legs gleaming in the sunlight.
“Mata au?” she asked: “Will I see you again?”
I smiled like a moron.