4. The Pachinko Palace

Ryu’s Tokyo was exciting. It was Shibuya[1] with its game rooms, pachinko parlors, love hotels and its boys and girls with torn clothes and bleached hair. His Tokyo was Shinjuku with its high-end western restaurants, Roppongi’s smoking jazz clubs and Ikebukuro with its sleazy hostess bars. On the weekend it was the racetrack at Tokyo Keibajo and Oi Keibajo. Sometimes it was the little boutiques, the fancy clothiers and the jewelry stores where he liked to shop. At night it was especially thrilling: clubs full of young people not much older than I, where I could dance to techno or trance or trip-hop or ambient riffs, while he chatted with his unsavory pals.

For the next week or so I spent plenty of time with Ryu. Christian’s fat check kept the carnival rolling, and I was determined to have a good time, to forget my father and the miserable childhood to which he’d condemned me, a childhood spent marooned in prison-like schools. Ryu and Tokyo complied. So did opportunity. Three days after I arrived I had my audition with Hiroshi Nakamura, in his famous dance studio, and I was accepted as one of his students. I’d gone to meet my idol, nervous and distraught, with all the enthusiasm of someone headed for execution. I left on a cloud of euphoria.

[1]Shibuya, Shinjuku, Ikebukuro and Rappongi are districts or “wards” in Tokyo.