Monday, August 27, 2012

A Visit to Ubu

I came out of my self-imposed exile the other night and went over to Ubu, an SM bar located in the Kabukicho district of Shinjuku. I went with my good friend (and model par excellence), Rida, who was able to squeeze a little playtime into her hectic schedule.

Ubu is a small watering hole that manages to extract an impressive mass of form and function from its relatively constricted space.

You remove your shoes at the door and once inside, the bar is right there to your left. Walking past the bar (there is an internet station and some eye-catching photos on the wall to your right), you shortly arrive at the tatami area.

Rida at Ubu -- matching pantsu!
Here you will find four or five low tables and some dark wood furnishings with a distinct Japanese aesthetic. There is a big screen TV and a karaoke machine at the far end and up above, a couple of steel pipes hanging horizontally just below the ceiling. You can guess what those are for.

There's a 4,000 yen cover charge if you're packing meat and that includes one drink. After that, drinks are pretty reasonable.

It's not a hostess bar; no women dressed to the nines to buy drinks for. And it's not a show place, although famous characters (such as Naka Akira) come around from time to time and, if they feel like it, may practice a little impromptu kinbaku.

The owners are Yoi-san and Bingo-san and Yoi was tending bar this evening. Both Yoi and Bingo are real life kinbaku practitioners so you can go there and talk freely about taboo subjects that would leave the folks at a regular bar with raised eyebrows.

Fortunately, we were able to use the tatami area to shoot a few photos of Rida.

When I'm taking photos, I prefer to have someone else do the rigging whenever possible, so I thought I would see if one of the customers sitting at the bar would do the honors.

Needless to say, we had a volunteer in roughly 4.7 seconds. Yo-san (not Yoi) came over and hit the ball out of the park. Little did we know we had an expert rigger in the audience. I mean, the guy just looked like a salariman who was winding down after a hard day. Not only was he good at kinbaku, he was also a gentleman.

To tell the truth, I had my eye on him prior to making the offer so I'm glad he volunteered. I had a feeling about him and I had to make sure Rida would be in good hands. I might be reluctant to do this elsewhere, but in Japan I'm not too worried. And just in case things did go sideways, well, let's just say I would take care of things -- without hesitation and with extreme prejudice if necessary. Okay, just joking about that last part (or am I?).

I've been to a lot of bars, clubs, shows, events, you name it. Pretty much by definition, if you're the customer, you're just sitting there -- watching. So, continuing under the assumption that it's better to do than to watch, I dragooned another fellow at the bar into being the official lighting guy.

This was a little riskier because it was more, "Say, could you come out here and hold this light for me?" than "Any volunteers to tie up this voluptuous woman?" Now, I didn't need a lighting guy; I could have managed this myself. But, like I said, I think it's more fun to participate (whenever feasible) than to just sit there and watch. But it is taking a slight risk.

More recent version; better color correction
For one thing, I'm not sure how Yoi-san is going to react. If nothing else, the customer is there holding my light and not ordering drinks.

Well, I think it turned out all right. She even took a photo of the proceedings and put it on her blog. There's the fellow holding the light on the left and you can see my arms on the right.

I think Yoi-san was okay with it. As far as I know, the lighting guy didn't mind too much.

Now, the only downside to the whole evening was that my photos didn't turn out well at all: big problem with overexposure. This is the price I pay for switching from digital to film. My film camera has no LCD screen on the back to check exposure and then adjust the aperture accordingly.

I'm sorry these photos didn't turn out better for Rida's sake, but this is a price I, at least, am willing to pay to learn how to shoot film. And each failure brings me that much closer to success.

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