• SHARE

If you thought the tag “High Touch Town” given to Roppongi meant it was glitzy and slick, you would have been way off base — like most of the 18-year-old U.S. Marines who end up prowling its streets. Instead, the strip either side of the crossing is dotted with dives catering to foreign drinkers and lap-dance joints showcasing shapely foreign dancers.

It’s all in a night’s work at Deep Blue.

As tacky as they are, both kinds of establishments began growing in number as soon as Japan’s economy started its decline, and now Tokyo boasts a “gaijin ghetto” of gigantic proportions. For many would-be travelers, a subway ride to Roppongi is more attractive than an overseas flight.

One of Deep Blue’s patrons gets down.

Veteran establishments, such as Motown, have become so bloated that they have cloned themselves or, like the infamous Gas Panic, evolved into three floors of sodden revelry (which on some nights even spills out onto the street). Newcomers, such as Wall Street and Milwaukee, milk the graveyard shift and beyond. All the foreign dancers, bouncers and bartenders flock these bars to unwind after work.

As the serious city sleeps and readies itself for work, patrons in these clubs are still dancing on the bar and shaking off their shirts.

As Roppongi’s superficial veneer has grown, so too have the tentacles of its established foreigners, some of whom now own their own bars and who don’t necessarily cater to the tourists. Of these, Deep Blue is probably the quirkiest. Perched, as it is, five floors above the street, you will find it relatively uncrowded most nights, making it an ideal escape from the madness below and a good destination if you have a large group in tow.

The manager usually greets guests downstairs and calls the elevator, meaning you’ve passed the tourist test. Upstairs, no attempt has been made at glitz. Deep Blue shares the same patchy dayglow and black-light interior as Leon’s Bar, its predecessor, but instead of a pool table it boasts a proper DJ booth and, possibly as a consequence, witnesses fewer fights. A bar dominates one end, and built-in tables and benches hug the wall leading to a tiny VIP room in back, which ensconces a mix of tie-dye and suit-clad customers.

The bartenders are plugged into the Roppongi circuit. One week you’ll find Ilan serving drinks at Deep Blue, and the next you’ll find him flexing his muscles as security at G Martinis. On your next visit you may meet Suzie, with her mane of auburn curls bouncing stray laser trails like a mirror ball, as she complains about how she was supposed to work at Dejavu that night but it hasn’t opened yet. (Note: It will close permanently next month.)

The music is a grab bag of techno and trance, depending on whose cousin’s cousin is in town with a stash of CDs.

Don’t expect more than a first name on introduction, never ask anyone what they do for a living and, above all, don’t forget your sunglasses.

In line with COVID-19 guidelines, the government is strongly requesting that residents and visitors exercise caution if they choose to visit bars, restaurants, music venues and other public spaces.