I spent most of the evening today smoking at a place called Chillin’.
I ended up there because today was the first of two consecutive farewell parties for the same people. Tomorrow is the official English Department farewell party but today we had the unofficial “foreigners in the department” farewell party.
Our original plan was to meet in Tokyo and go to an Irish pub because that’s what you do when you’re in Tokyo, especially if you’ve lived in Japan a long time. One of my colleagues, though suggested we go to a shisha bar called Chillin’ and smoke a couple bowls before going to the pub.
I was skeptical. The only hookah I’ve ever smoked involved “beneficial herbs that are now legal in Colorado” (a technical term) and I didn’t imagine sitting around in a haze of smoke would be very interesting without that “beneficial herb”. I thought about arriving later, when we went to the pub but ended up deciding to give the shisha bar a try. I did, however, mention that I probably wouldn’t enjoy spending the the entire evening there.
That, of course, is exactly what we did.
First we bought beer and snacks at a nearby convenience store and were disturbed to the find the bar closed in the early afternoon. We then decided to walk around and drink our beers before they got warm. (Note: walking around drinking alcohol is legal in Japan.)
Eventually we returned and the place opened and there were already people sitting around smoking. We ordered our tobacco: Blue Mist, Spicy Chai Latte and Aloha which, now that I think about it, sound kind of like strippers’ names. I was immediately surprised by how smooth it was and how unlike a cigar, pipe or cigarette it tasted.
We were so relaxed and had such a good time we ended up staying for five hours. Eventually we sent people out for provisions (chicken, chips and beer) and we ordered more tobacco: Chocolate Cocoa; Blueberry and Licorice (which sound like desserts, not strippers). The Licorice was the best, although the Chocolate Cocoa had its moments.
There was a good crowd of Japanese and foreigners and everyone sampled everyone else’s tobacco. (We all had our own plastic mouth piece that we stuck on the hose when we smoked. This led to us trying to explain to the Japanese university students next to us what licorice was. This proved difficult as I’ve never seen black licorice sold in Japan.
Although we had a good time, we couldn’t escape the feeling that we were in the shisha bar version of Starbucks coffee. I don’t know if I’ll go back. Then again, I didn’t actually want to go in the first place so anything is possible.