While the naming of newly opened Shag in Omotesando might cause sniggers among anyone familiar with British innuendo, the name — inspired by Sex, a boutique run by Vivienne Westwood and Malcolm McLaren in the 1970s — is fitting for a place that touts itself as Japan’s first mainstream fetish nightclub.
While entrance is free, Shag, which held an opening party during Fashion’s Night Out in September, turned away over 450 people who didn’t fit the club’s dress code, many of them salarymen in sweat-soaked dress shirts and neckties. And yet inside, only a few were dressed up in leather, spandex and other outfits associated with fetish fashion. On the black dance floor, Japanese men awkwardly bobbed their heads to house and electronic music while a performer dressed in a zentai suit (a garment that covers the whole body and face) danced in a cage next to a middle-aged woman wielding a whip.
“We’re located in Omotesando, so this is a place for people who love fashion to hang out. At the very least, be oshare (fashionable),” says Sota Suzuki, the man who came up with the concept behind Shag, which was formerly a members-only nightclub called Sprite.
Suzuki, a well-known DJ and party organizer, has been involved in Japan’s fetish scene for a number of years. In 2001 he introduced Torture Garden, a spinoff from London’s legendary fetish nightclub, to Japan.
Shag plans to be a little less hard-core, so that people who are new to fetish culture or just curious can get initiated without feeling too uncomfortable.
“I want this to be the sort of club where you would show off your newest clothes,” says Suzuki. “Sometimes people feel frustrated because they’ll buy an outfit but they have nowhere to wear it, because it’s too impractical and flashy.”
Suzuki is also a movie fan, which shows in Shag’s interior. The first floor contains the Utamaro Bar, which has red walls, shoji-screen sliding doors and saucy Japanese art decorating the room. There you can try Abe Sada (¥1,000), a ruby-red cocktail named after a woman who killed her lover through erotic asphyxiation, cut off his genitals and carried them around in her handbag. The incident inspired a number of stories and movies, including Nagisa Oshima’s “In the Realm of the Senses.”
The warmly lit second floor is inspired by the Korova Milk Bar from “A Clockwork Orange.” Shag serves up its own interpretation of Milk-Plus (¥1,000), and though it’s drug-free, the addition of what tasted like Malibu rum makes it addictive for anyone with a sweet tooth.
While Suzuki goes through trial and error as he figures out what works best for the club, there have been a few mishaps. For example, the bed for guests to relax on has been removed.
“It broke,” laughs Suzuki. “The customers were having a bit too much fun on it. We need to find something that’s a bit more sturdy.”
While it is tempting to ask what happened, some things are better left unsaid.
2F Festae Omotesando Bldg., 3-18-19 Minami Aoyama, Minato-ku, Tokyo; 03-3475-0788; www.shag.tokyo. Angela Erika Kubo is a freelance writer and bar lover based in Tokyo. Follow her on Twitter @aekubo.