One-night stand set for hot ’90s go-go club

by Minoru Matsutani

Kumiko Araki has been waiting 14 years for Juliana Tokyo, a dance club that was a sensation in the capital in the early 1990s, to stage a comeback.

Avex Entertainment Inc., a major music label that releases dance music CDs, will reopen the club for one night, at a different site, starting at 6 p.m. Saturday to fete the firm’s 20th anniversary.

Araki, 38, spent almost every weekend at Juliana Tokyo during the time it was open from May 1991 to August 1994.

“I don’t feel Juliana is something that once ended; I feel I have lived my life with Juliana. I will probably keep dancing even at an elderly care home,” Araki, nicknamed “Araki Shisho” (“Master Araki”), told The Japan Times.

Juliana Tokyo, which was jointly owned by Nissho Iwai Corp., which has since become Sojitsu Corp., and British leisure firm Wembley, was located in Shibaura, near JR Tamachi Station, in Minato Ward.

Since the venue is now a sporting goods shop, Avex, which released a series of CDs titled “Juliana’s Techno/Rave Parties,” will rent the Differ Ariake martial arts stadium in Koto Ward for the one-nighter.

The event is expected to attract as many as 2,000 guests, most of whom look back on the time the dance club was open with nostalgia. The admission is ¥4,000 for men and ¥2,000 for women, Avex said.

Many Japanese of Araki’s age or older still remember Juliana Tokyo. The club became a social phenomenon, and people from as far away as Hokkaido and Kyushu rushed to Tokyo to dance there.

It created fad words like “bodi-kon,” derived from “body conscious” and meaning a tight-fitting, revealing female outfit, and “otachi-dai,” a small raised platform on which only the prettiest women, dressed in bodi-kon outfits, were allowed to dance.

“We will hold the Saturday event as a form of appreciation for Juliana,” said Avex official Hirofumi Takano, who was a deputy manager of Juliana Tokyo and is in charge of the event. Takano noted the firm has not forecast whether the event will break even. The first 100 female guests will be able to borrow bodi-kon outfits at the door for free.

TRF, the first Japanese music group promoted by Avex Group, which controls Avex Entertainment Inc., will perform live at the event. The group debuted in 1992 as a dance music unit. Jon Robinson, a former DJ at Juliana Tokyo, will make an appearance. He was also a regular DJ at Velfarre, another popular dance club in Roppongi, Tokyo, that closed after 12 years in January 2007.

Also Saturday, Araki, who made dancing with a folding fan popular, will compete with others in the Raised Platform Dance Battle at 7:30 p.m.

As part of Avex Group’s 20th anniversary event, Avex is also planning one-day revivals, of other clubs in Roppongi, including Velfarre in December and Maharaja in January.

Juliana Tokyo made Araki an instant celebrity and she regularly appeared on TV to teach women how to dress, dance and behave “properly” at the club, becoming a symbol of the luxurious lifestyle women enjoyed during the bubble economy of the ’90s.

“Back then, young and beautiful women and rich middle-aged men were behaving arrogantly at Juliana, and that was normal, even posh,” Araki, clad in what she calls a super bodi-kon outfit, said at the Avex Group headquarters in Minato Ward.

She even went as far as to claim that her charisma contributed to the economy, as she was the leader of one of the trends at that time that spurred people to spend money on dance club outings and bodi-kon outfits.

While Juliana was known as a classy joint with discriminating taste for the well-heeled, attractive and fashionable, other clubs, especially those outside Tokyo, went too far in trying to compete with their capital rival, Takano said.

For example, many women in the rival clubs danced on raised platforms in their underwear, which Juliana Tokyo did not allow. Some clubs let women wearing G-strings enter for only ¥1, Takano said. Araki said she never danced in her underwear and rarely saw anyone do it at Juliana Tokyo.

After media appearances as Master Araki and graduation from a vocational school for newscasters and event hosts, she made her living by modeling, being a companion for events and an event host and organizing seminars in which she teaches men how to act like macho studs.

Araki observed that single men today are too “wimpy,” as many of her seminar students say they are scared of being hurt. In comparison, men during the bubble economy were “obnoxiously aggressive” in hitting on and seducing women.

“The latter is undoubtedly more attractive as a male,” she said.

She also said women nowadays lack ambition. “When I ask young and charming models what they do on weekends, they say cooking at their boyfriend’s apartment or doing nothing at home. I want to tell them, ‘Why don’t you go seduce company presidents in Roppongi Hills and make them fall for you?’ ” she said.

Araki added that people in the early ’90s expressed their greed much more.

Even though her cockiness remains, she is aware she may not be among the younger women at the one-night Juliana event and has been visiting a beauty clinic for slimming treatment.

“I will not let people say I became dull and my bodi-kon outfit became painful to look at,” she said. “I think people have high expectations of the event and that means they have expectations of me.

“Ordinary people went crazy over dance clubs for just one or two years, but many remember those times as their most brilliant and glorious days. That’s how Juliana is remembered,” Araki said. “Those who never went to Juliana are expecting to see what drove so many people crazy back then.”