Along with Shinjuku's Kabuchiko, Roppongi is as close to a seedy underbelly as Tokyo ever gets. While the fashionable twenty-somethings hit Shibuya after an afternoon of shopping, Roppongi attracts a multi-national crowd of mainly thirty and over - and things rarely if ever get going until after the last train.
It's gone midnight by the time we leave the subway and Roppongi is just beginning to move. There are American GIs in baggy jeans and white t-shirts, groups of Japanese with dyed hair and boots that reach past their knees, a man curled up drunk on a patch of grass by a public toilet, so much neon you only know it's dark when you look up at the sky. Taxi doors open automatically like CD player draws, lights scroll, flash and flicker, Nigerians move through the streets handing out piles of 500 yen drink fliers. "Club New York, down here," "Essential, upstairs. Entrance over there," "Hey man, where you from? Looking for somewhere good?"
Wandering the streets with convenience store beer we end up in Gas Panic, where your feet stick to the metal floor and anyone caught momentarily without alcohol is likely to have a menu and torch shoved in their face. No drink, no entry. Tequila shots, 500 yen. Cans of Asahi, six. Rumcola, eight. "I got another year and a half here, man," says the soldier with the broken thumb, continuing a conversation I hoped had ended twenty minutes earlier, "then I'm opening a bar in Texas or California. My family are all teachers. Math, Geography, History..."
We leave the last bar at six o'clock. The sun is up. Bodies sprawl across the train station platform.