When I was in my early 20s, I use to spend New Years Eve in nightclubs in Washington D.C. What made this experience memorable was the the fact it was only reggae music playing. My friends and I would go to these clubs every weekend and would have a blast so it was no difference during New Years Eve.
Since I entered my 30s I no longer desire to spend my evenings in a night club. I would rather settle for a cozy quiet setting that is zen like relaxing. For the past four years, I spent my New Years Eve at home or at a hotel drinking wine and toasting the night away. For some, this is a very boring way of ringing the night club. I think there is other boring ways which I will not mention because it might offend some people who prefer those options.
This year about three days before New Years Eve, I made the decision I want to switch it up. My first choice was to go to Taiwan and celebrate at the New Years Eve show hosted by the Taipei City Hall, which also provides a view of Taipei 101 that would be lit up with fireworks. I was looking forward to the sequential display of numerals in lights on each section that lit up on each section as it count down to the lat seconds. This would definitely be a change, but unfortunately some of my close friends wouldn’t be able to make the trip so I changed it to Tokyo instead since we live in Japan.
The last time we were in Tokyo I looked for Reggae clubs and only found one but we never went there, instead we went to a hip hop club that was quite disappointing because for the 7 hours we were there, they repeat the music selection 12 times. Its like they were forced to stick to the set list and never deviate from it. This time I wanted to definitely ring in the New Years at a Reggae Club because I remember how much fun it use to be especially being from Jamaica and experiencing the magnificence of Street Dances.
The initial plan was to go to Tokyo on the 31st late in the evening, go to a party and fly back on New Years day. That means we would only go for one day, no hotels would be required since we will spend the night at a nightclub. We wouldn’t have to worry about our bags because at the train stations they have lockers and for 300 yen we can store our belongings there for the entire night. Although, it would have been an exciting option, the plan changed.
Instead, we arrive in Tokyo at the 30th, stayed in a hotel in Shinagawa. We ordered some red wine and relaxed in a lounge that had a beautiful view of the city. The plan was to meet up with friends in Shibuya at a night club that turned out to be the same one we went to the first time we were in Tokyo. We thought the experience would be different, but it was not. The Deejays repeat the playlist 16 times within a 6 hour period, and the tempo was inconsistent throughout, therefore patrons became weary and only stayed because the trains stop at midnight and resume at 5am.
While at the club, my wife met a Japanese gentleman who lived in Canada and ironically the same city and knew some of the same people. During the conversation, he told us about a Reggae Club called “The Game” in Shibuya and recommended we go there for our New Years Eve celebration. I asked about the other Reggae Club I was planning on going to and he reiterated for us to go to the one he recommended. When we got back to our hotel, we decided to sleep majority of the day that way we could be up all night.
We left the hotel about 6pm to get dinner at a Thai restaurant called Mango Cafe in Shinagawa. The food was good, spicy and reasonably priced. We went back and took a nap then got back up around 10pm to get ready to leave. Around 1120 we were ready to leave. I decided I wasn’t going to drink alcohol because in the past I had a lot of fun at Reggae Clubs without drinking so I was going to try to do it again. We go on the Japanese Rail (JR) Yamanote Line in Shinagawa towards Shibuya and Shinjuku for 200 yen. When we got to Shibuya, we received a message from the gentleman telling us they are playing Reggae music and the cost to enter the club as 1000 yen ($9-$10) before midnight. Since we don’t want to pay more, we started to rush to the club but was stopped in our track. The police closed off streets in the Shibuya downtown districts for the New Years celebration. There were thousands of people gathered for the countdown and other events at the Shibuya Scramble Crossing. It was about 1130pm and the crowd as do dense it made no sense to try and go through them, plus the countdown was in 30 minutes so we decided to stick around for it. All the time I am thinking about paying extra just because we arrive after midnight.
We finally made it to the club about 1210am. At the door the cost became 2500 from 1000 yen. Since we read on the clubs website that Caribbean people get in free, we pulled the Jamaica card, but it did not work because the policy relates to the Caribbean Sunday parties they throw. When we finally enter the club, the environment was just like a cozy hole in the wall Reggae club in cities like New York, Miami and Washington D.C. What surprised me was a man making Jerk chicken and rice and peas at a small booth close to the entrance.
For those Reggae scholars out there who understands the formula for a Jamaican street dance you would appreciate the knowledge that the Japanese follow that formula to the minute detail. For those who don’t know what the formula is let me elaborate. The formula for a Reggae party playlist that falls into early warming, Roots, Lovers Rock, early Dancehall, and modern Dancehall. At the best Reggae parties, the Deejay would follow this formula and patrons would have a great night partying. At this club, we heard music from the 70s, 80s, 90s, 2000s and today. It included, pop singles from Boy George, Stevie Wonder, Wham, then rare classics from the 80s from Pinchers, Shabba Ranks, Nitty Gritty. The we heard 90s classics from Daddy Screw, Beenie Man, Buju Banton and many more. I could continue but if you are die hard Reggae fan, you know the type of music I am talking about.
This was by-far the most fun I’ve had during a New Years Eve celebration within the last 10 years. We met other Jamaicans at the club and like tradition we were shubbing up gun fingers in the air, beating the wall and falling into trancelike state the entire time. But surprisingly, the same was happening with the Japanese patrons. They knew all the songs, they did exactly what we did when they heard a big chune. It was a fun night and definitely the spot we will go to whenever we are in Tokyo. New Years Eve 2017 was an exciting bashment.