Tokyo Stories from Curious Outsiders

019 : Qi Rari in a Kabuki-cho love hotel, Shinjuku-ku
Born 1980 in the USA, Qi Rari currently works as a vending machine maintenance man. He came to Japan on a refugee visa. Why Japan? Manners, girls, design, style, mini-skirts, and because the Chinese are too sensitive. He digs the following Tokyo bits: Natto Big Macs (his invention), Yamanote Line music, public baths, Kimonos and toilets that clean you. He, however, is a touch miffed by small portions, expensive taxis and the word "gaijin". For more info on Qi Rari you should send an email.


“She laughed at my effort and responded in English, ‘Long time, no seduction.’

O-hi-sa-shi-buri[1], I greeted her slowly, being sure not to stumble over my excitement. She laughed at my effort and responded in English, “Long time, no seduction”. Her hair had changed - shorter - but her style had not - still too casual for a native Tokyoite.

“Where are you taking me?”, she said without hesitation. “Huh? Now you are the local”, I balked. “But still a lady”, she quipped. “A trip down memory lane?”, I suggested.

We drowned our evening in a collage of alcohols and anecdotes. She gave her impersonation of the Homeland Security officer she’d been questioned by for overstaying her visa and I reciprocated with that of the Consulate officer whom I ask about a “Long Term Boyfriend” Visa.

“I’ve got an idea”, she said, as we walked out of the restaurant and into a light drizzle. “But you must be civil”, she said sternly in her best British English. “yakusoku[2], I replied, offering my pinky finger as collateral.

Past the punters and cluster of host clubs, we turned a nondescript corner that revealed a street lined with gaudy love garrisons. Neither of us said a word.

Yada[3] or “saiyaku[4], she would yelp, whenever I hinted my interest in Kabuki-cho[5]. “You want a shirigaru, deshou?” [6], she would say, tilting her head to the left while the “ou” hung in the air, and adding “ne?!” just as it’s effect began to recede. Had something changed? Was she tired?

Kyukei[7], she sighed again and again, as we moved in and out of lobbies, crisscrossing couples. “What’s a ‘kyukei’?”, I asked naively. “We don’t want that”, she said. “It’s too early. Let’s get something to drink.”

It was 15 minutes until the top of the hour when we entered one of the buildings we’d visited earlier. Another couple sat on a black leather couch. We stood on the other side of the lobby. In 5 minutes, 5 couples arrived. 5 more in the next. All waiting stiff, awkwardly. “Is this normal?”, I asked her. “I thought it was supposed to be discrete. But I think these folks know what we’re up too.” “Urusai![8], she squeezed through gritted teeth and eyes. As the body count grew, a staff member appeared and gave each couple a number. I felt like I was in the meat section of a grocery store back home.

Soon, the “stay” buttons on the rooMenu began to light up and everyone hustled for a glimpse of the vacancies, whispering preferences back and forth. We made our selection quickly, paid the fee, and made for the elevator.

I opened the door, traded my sneakers for slippers, and entered a second door. On the night stand beside the bed lay a white plastic wrapper with a small red circle and bolded black words “MAKE LOVE”. Beneath it read: Into a lovely smile that’s blooming. And it’s so clear to me that here’s dream come true.

I still carry it with me. A memento of a love lost…or maybe that never was.

referenced works

  1. "Long time no see."
  2. "Promise"
  3. "No way"
  4. "The worst"
  5. *The* place for anything down and dirty in Tokyo. A good square kilometer of sex stacked atop sex.
  6. "You want an easy girl, right?"
  7. Literally: "a rest" or "break." In the context of a love hotel it refers to the "rest rooms" which are rented not for the night but for a few hours.
  8. "Shut up!"

location information

  • Name: a Kabuki-cho love hotel
  • Time of story: evening
  • Latitude: 35.704426
  • Longitude: 139.707813
  • Map: Google Maps


019She laughed at my effort and responded in English, ‘Long time, no seduction.’ — Qi Rari

018In my dreamy state, oblivious to signs and announcements I often boarded the wrong train.— Momus (aka Nick Currie)

017I was fifteen years old and it was one of those nights.— Yuko Enomoto

016That ear of corn just wanted to go home— Guttersnipe Das

015With his painstakingly coiffured mane blowing in the wind— Digits Wolfowitz

014Her voice, even across languages, betraying her worry.— Olly Denton

013I saw them drawing bamboo sticks from a silver rectangular box.— Daphné Haour

012A simulacrum of someone else's home, equal parts comfort and loss.— Adam Greenfield

011Jumbled Escheresque insanity where geo­graphy in any traditional sense ceases to exist.— Joseph Badtke-Berkow

010I could hardly make out anything apart from his glowing eyes...— Uleshka

009Shibuya was like a stroke.— Alice.d

008I cried for a while and wiped the dead bracken off my karate pants.— David Cady

007Both my tie and my disposition hang limp as I calculate the remaining distance to the station.— Chris Tobber

006I once read about a Chinese maiden whose feet were unbound by a cruel man …— Claire Tanaka

005The Bad Girl strutted off and I was left with a ham egg pie.— Guttersnipe Das

004I arrived expecting an irritated Japanese person to step out of the crowd and identify himself as Hideki.— Ashley Rawlings

003The woman at the ticket window seemed surprised to see another human being. I was the only visitor.— Andrew Douglas

002Flanked on either side by adult manga shops and the like, the smell of yakitori in the air.— Jean Snow

001For two weeks the day began with this morning walk, our shared routine.— Joseph Squier


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