In December 1981, a small bar named Red Shoes opened in the basement of a building next to the bus stop near Nishi-Azabu crossing. Though only a stone's throw from what is now a busy intersection, in those days as soon as the sun went down the area was deserted. In terms of partying, Roppongi was the front line and Shibuya had not yet come into play, which meant that Nishi-Azabu was the middle of nowhere at night.

There was no Hobson's or Ganpacho (the barn-size Japanese restaurant where the climactic fight scene in "Kill Bill: Vol. 1" was filmed). La Boheme, which now occupies the second floor of the same building that housed Red Shoes, had not yet opened. There were a handful of bars tucked here and there around the neighborhood, but they all operated well below the party radar -- meaning that they were either dressed up to look like restaurants or tagged as being for "members only."

Red Shoes posed as both. Its vivid red interior decorated with two large paintings -- one of Raijin, the god of lightning, and the other of Fujin, the god of wind -- created the perfect backdrop for the haute Chinese cuisine on offer from the kitchen. And the fact that most of the heavyweights of rock who toured Japan during the '80s would hold their official after-concert parties at Red Shoes meant that you would often find it closed to the public. You could, however, occasionally wangle your way in, which is how I once met David Bowie.