"Swedish name, non-Swede" is how my American friend Sven used to like to introduce himself. Looking a little like a young Jerry Lewis, the non-Swede lived in an old 1LDK (Japanese estate agent-ese for "one bedroom with lounge-dining room-kitchen") in the heart of Shinsaibashi in central Osaka, five minutes walk from thousands of hostesses, two Irish pubs and several hundred sunakku (Japanese-style bars).

"Did you know that enough money is spent in Shinsaibashi in one evening to feed sub-Saharan Africa for a week?" he used to quote with learned gravitas, making it up as he went along.

Back in the late '90s and noughties, Sven and I bar-hopped our way around the pleasure quarters of the megalopolis, generally having the time of our lives, but there was always a crucial divide: While Sven luxuriated in city-center living, declaring at any moment during our nocturnal ramblings that he was tired and heading home, or having everyone back to his place, or having a nightcap chez lui with that special someone he had just met, I was always the kid from the sticks, stuck out in the wilds of the endless suburbs, a 40-minute train ride or — heaven forbid — a ¥7,000 taxi ride away.