Vision of fun is blurred by bouncers; TOKYO DAYS

Why do foreigners in Japan get so wound up? This, after all, is the most crime-free country in the industrialised world. The streets are clean. The trains always run on time. You never have to tip and, apart from the odd typhoon and a few sticky weeks in the summer, the climate is mild and predictable. So why does it provoke the kind of frustrated loathing usually reserved for third-world dictatorships? Complaining about Japan (the expense, the language, the bureaucracy) makes up a good 50 per cent of expatriate conversations. There are even clinics for foreigners suffering from culture shock.

The other day I began to understand why. My particular epiphany was unexpected because it occurred at what should have been a jolly occasion. Blur, the reigning princes of British pop music, were playing in Tokyo, and I had tickets. "Bra", as they are called here, are big in Japan, and images of the band and their lead singer Damon ("Day Mon") Albarn were plastered over my local record shop. In capital spirits, my friend and I took the subway to the opening concert at Budokan hall.

The Budokan is the country's most famous concert venue and the location of some of the most solemn state occasions. I was here in August for the 50th anniversary ceremony of the end of the war. Unsmiling men with heavy bulges in their jackets had scrutinised our IDs. But the security extended to the Emperor was nothing to that enjoyed by Bra.

Steel barriers funnelled the crowd to the doors, scrutinised by megaphone- wielding stewards. "Unauthorised objects must not be brought into the hall," they warned. Inside, more officials bustled us to our seats in the back row of the upper circle behind a pillar. Even the front row was 10 yards from the stage. Patrolling this fenced-off no-man's-land were more of the fellows in suits. They were everywhere: crouching in the aisles to mop up anyone foolish enough to move out of their seats, inspecting the tickets of anything that moved.

The band bounced on and the entertainment began. My mate and I quickly abandoned our perch at the back, but no sooner had we found a vacant space lower down than the storm troopers were onto us, escorting us back up again.

For the rest of the evening we played cat and mouse in a simple effort to see the band. During one evasive action, we saw one of the suited Gestapo catch a transgressor. She was a schoolgirl, and she had been caught in possession of one of the unauthorised objects we had been warned about. The tone of the man who was barking at her suggested that this must be something serious: a knife perhaps, drugs? No. The object was a small disposable camera. "It's the first time, so we'll let you off," the guard told her. "I have committed a rudeness, I have committed a rudeness," said the girl, bowing repeatedly. She re-entered the auditorium, tears rolling down her cheeks.

On stage the sprightly Day Mon was also about to make a big mistake. "Ye-e-e-es, They're stereotypes,/There must be more to life," he sang, clambering off the stage and towards the crowd. "All your life you're dreaming/Then you stop dreaming," he went on, offering the microphone to the front row. In an instant, eight security guards were on top of him, bundling him back on to the stage. Later he threw his hat into the audience. A hand shot up and caught it. The hand belonged to another steward.

After the show I went backstage and found a frowning Damon who revealed that the band would be fined for this behaviour. Penalties were also imposed for running over time - they gave too many encores.

Bra wanted to have a good time. The girl with the camera wanted to have a good time. I certainly wanted to have a good time. What was stopping us? Japan, more than any other country, attracts conspiracy theories. The conformity and homogeneity, the rules and bureaucracy, you will hear, are all part of a plot orchestrated by the Liberal Democratic Party/Ministry of Finance/Bank of Japan to keep the populace under its thumb. A book published earlier this year seriously claimed that the reason cash-dispensing machines close so early in Japan (mid-afternoon at weekends) is to discourage people from spending, thus promoting savings and fuelling economic expansion with a ready supply of cheap money. Such academic paranoia is easy to pooh-pooh. But in the Budokan I felt for the first time the presence of some great impersonal killjoy force, singularly devoted to snuffing out fun.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
newsAnother week, another dress controversy on the internet
Life and Style
Scientist have developed a test which predicts whether you'll live for another ten years
health
Life and Style
Marie had fake ID, in the name of Johanna Koch, after she evaded capture by the Nazis in wartime Berlin
historyOne woman's secret life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
News
news... and what your reaction to the creatures above says about you
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Telesales & Customer Service Executive - Call Centre Jobs

£7 - £9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: Are you outgoing? Do you want to work in...

Ashdown Group: Finance Manager - Covent Garden, central London - £45k - £55k

£45000 - £55000 per annum + 30 days holiday: Ashdown Group: Finance Manager - ...

Ashdown Group: Systems Administrator - Lancashire - £30,000

£28000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: 3rd Line Support Engineer / Network ...

Recruitment Genius: Graduate Web Developer

£26000 - £33000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Web Developer is required to ...

Day In a Page

Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot
Poldark star Heida Reed: 'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'

Poldark star Heida Reed

'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'
The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

Money, corruption and drugs

The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

150 years after it was outlawed...

... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

You won't believe your eyes

Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn