Not unless JohnRain is a big Nigerian dude !
Firstly, I am terribly saddened to hear that about your friend, BF. Is he OK now?
Please feel free to pass along the following story to your friend.
August 2009. I had a business meeting in Ginza, Tokyo. Imbibed way too much grog. Instead of going straight home after the meeting, I jumped in a taxi with a client and headed to Roppongi, an entertainment district in Tokyo. There were stacks of people everywhere in the streets and I lost my client in the crowd. While searching for him, a young lass (who I didn’t realise at the time was a street tout) approached me and asked me if I was OK. I said that I was fine, but couldn’t find my client. She said that he may have been inside the bar/dodgy establishment we were standing in front of and to have a look. I was fairly drunk, stupidly believed her and followed her inside the bar.
It was quite plush, but very dark and very few punters inside. I ordered a drink and a largely built man of African appearance (I’m not racist - this is a fact) brought it to me. I remember having a few sips, suddenly feeling drowsy and then blacked out. I guess this was around midnight. The next thing I knew, I woke up, covered in red marks, in an alley in Roppongi. Prolly around 5 a.m. I was seriously disoriented. I checked my wallet and 30,000 yen (around $AUD 400) was missing. I managed to pull over a taxi and jump on a train back home.
I was still feeling terrible after arriving home, so the missus took me to the hospital and I had a number of tests. They found rohypnol in my system. I checked my bank accounts and discovered that three of my credit cards (two Australian cards, one Japanese card) had been charged for 10K each, so 30K in total. As much as I can’t stand Australian banks, this is one occasion that I laud their security. Their systems had picked up on a series of 2K back-to-back transactions totalling 10K in a matter of minutes in the middle of the night/early morning. They must have triggered some internal security procedures and the banks sent me emails asking about the transactions. I quickly contacted them, explained the situation and the transactions were cancelled. Thus, I wasn’t outta pocket 20K. Unfortunately, my Japanese credit card was lacking in such security measures and the transactions went through. Thus began a sheet fight with the Japanese bank. I refused to pay & kept escalating it until they finally faxed me a copy of the forged signatures. The signature was basically a squiggle and nothing like my signature (which they had on record). They finally agreed with my point of view and I wasn’t made to pay the charges. I closed the account soon after that experience and changed banking institutions in Japan.
I also rocked up to the Azabu-Jūban Police Station and reported the incident. I was shocked at their nonchalant attitude. They told me that they received up to 50-100 complaints per night from the Roppongi district of similar happenings. They also went on to say that almost every single one of them involved bars run by Nigerians/ Ghanaians. These bars are run by ‘gaijin’ (foreigners) - but they kick back a % to the Yakuza (Japanese mafia). The police raid them from time to time, but they face difficulties in that most of these gaijin have married Japanese locals and deporting them is troublesome. This is what I was told. So, they never bothered to investigate my case.
I contacted the Australian Embassy in Tokyo and they put out an alert re: drink-spiking. The American Embassy had been warning their citizens of similar issues for years. And if you Google ‘drink-spiking in Tokyo’ you will encounter a sheetload of similar stories. Japan is an extremely safe country. I have never seen a single assault and the murder rate is unbelievably low. Saying that, drink spiking (and theft) is a common occurrence, so I hope anyone reading this will be mindful, should they visit Japan.
I feel embarrassed sharing this story, however, it warrants a mention given your friend’s experience. If he needs to chat with someone, feel free to PM me and I will pass on my details and he can contact me. Tell your friend to contact his credit card provider and to refuse payment of that 10K. Even if he never received a police report, he should refuse payment and ask them for proof of his signature. Most of these scammers use an old school crunching machine on carbon paper (requiring a sig). There is no way they could have charged that much without a PIN number otherwise.
Oh, and I never worked out the red marks. They prolly belted me a few times. Not sure.
No, but I honestly considered taking a baseball bat down there and going berserk like De Niro in The Untouchables (not joking about this either). I was fckn livid for a long time. Problem is that there are hundreds of Nigerians in Roppongi running these drink-spiking scams. And they are no longer confined to Roppongi. I have read of similar cases in Shinjuku, Shibuya, etc, etc.
My advice: stick with people you know (do not get separated), use cash (and leave your credit cards in your hotel - if you are planning on partying), DO NOT accept offers from street touts, try not to enter dingy little dives run by Africans (again - not being racist, but you are really rolling the dice in Japan if you do). Understand how it all works here. The Yaks control everything, but you will struggle to see them. They use gaijin to run these scams, peddle drugs, illegal gambling, prostitution, etc. It’s smart. They never do the dirty work, but collect the profits and the gaijin face jail or deportation.
Wow, thanks for sharing @JohnRain.
I remember finding it really weird in parts of Shinjuku where friendly African dudes would try to get you into their clubs.
I was honestly just curious one night, so I pretended to be interested and strung the guy along for a while. We’re wandering and chatting and eventually we pass what must have been his place. He grabbed my arm and basically tried to push me in.
I buggered off real quick but always wondered what was really going on.
Anyway, that’s the only time I ever felt unsafe in Japan.
Yep, Roppongi at night makes me very uncomfortable. That’s a crazy story JR.
Excellent decision making, Jezz. You prolly have no idea how close you were to being robbed.
Yep, that is their MO. Unfortunately, in my case, it involved a Brazilian hottie (as the street tout). My weakness for the ladies was my undoing in this particular case. How do I know that? Well, she actually went into the phone I had at the time, copied my tel number and randomly contacted me at a latter date offering sympathy. Unbelievable, hey? I seriously blasted her over the phone. Upon reflection, I think she was caught up in something that was very difficult for her to extricate herself from.
It mostly likely would have come out during a serious imbibing session over craft beers, when you next visit Tokyo, Jez-san. I was traumatised at the time, followed by a serious anger/revenge stage, but eventually put it into context. I wasn’t a naive tourist. I knew that this sheet went on, however, I let my guard down on a single occasion and paid the price for it. All-in-all, I was fairly lucky to have only lost a bit of coin. It could have been much worse.
I’m full of sympathy for the victims, but these stories are sort of fascinating to me.
Having now been to Japan on a few occasions, Tokyo honestly feels about as safe a city as I’ve ever visited. I’ve walked the streets of outer suburbs and caught the train by myself at night, without any thought of fear (and believe me, a solo Westerner who speaks barely any Japanese really does stick out like dog’s nuts at that time of day). I’d definitely think twice about doing the same here…
I’ve not been to Roppongi though. I know of it and it holds no appeal. I’m way too old for dodgy clubbing. I’ve been to Patpong, King’s Cross, Grey St in St Kilda, The Reeperbahn etc. and don’t need to see more of similar things.
These stories I’d expect more of Osaka (particularly the dodgy part I stayed in…).
Yeap, no idea at all until tonight! Reading your post scared the ■■■■ out of me - I’ve been mugged at knifepoint in Europe (and Werribee ) but that’s not even on the same planet of scariness as being drugged.
Glad to hear you’ve recovered.
Osaka is gritty, but try not to confuse that with Tokyo crime, Bakes. Just Google ‘drink-spiking Roppongi’ or ‘drink-spiking Tokyo’ and read the hundreds of cases (if you are in any doubt).
Oh, I don’t doubt it at all JR (and I will absolutely do some Googling now for my own interest). It just doesn’t reconcile with my own experiences in Tokyo.
Just goes to show, you often do spend your time in a bubble as a tourist…
I hope the experiences shared by BF and myself do not detract from the fact that Japan is a wonderfully safe country to visit. Truly - one of the safest (minus natural disasters) places to visit on Earth. Small kids still walk home unattended (although I haven’t made that leap with my son just yet). But, it would be remiss of me to ignore BF’s questions, following his friend’s terrible experience here (which I have also experienced as a permanent resident - not as a tourist). Such travel advice is gold in this thread, especially given the number of Aussies who frequent Japan. 99.99% it won’t happen, however, if you end up drunk in Roppongi, Shinjuku, Shibuya, etc and are approached by African street touts (or cute lasses) - please ignore them. Cheers.
As mentioned, I’m heading to Japan in March. Is this kind of thing limited to nightclub areas, or are tourists targeted more generally? I’ll be with my 7yo and his mum, so don’t expect to be out late by myself (with possible ltd exception), but…
Limited to dodgy bars/nightclub areas & individuals (both tourists and native Japanese on their own). Will never happen if you are with someone. Hope we are still good to go for that drink. I will take care of you, dude.
Thanks for your response JohnRain.
I was pretty rough on my Mate today when he told me his story. Guess I will give him a bit more sympathy tomorrow. I googled after your post, and there sure gave been lots of victims. Any deaths ?
I have been to all of the seediest spots around the World, but I never did them alone, never leave a drink unattended and generally have a good nose for trouble and staying out of it.
During my visits to Tokyo, I have been very drunk, along with most of the group, and always wondered how Japanese survived with all they drink. Do these attacks ever happen to Japanese or it is only Whate Guys ?
I will be in San Francisco for maybe the next three months, and AusTrade have given me a list of where not to go.
Try not to be such a hard ar*e, BF. Yeah, he was prolly off his dial, but that doesn’t mean he deserved to be robbed.
Yes. I am too tired to add a link, but I recall a famous incident involving a group of international bankers/ businesspersons who died following a spiking/poisoning incident back in the day.
Yes, they happen to local Japanese, as well as foreigners. The latter report them, though, whereas the former do so on a lesser scale.
In SF I followed my nose, which admittedly has sometimes been ill-advised, to a bar called ‘Bottom of the hill’, good small live music venue. Met a girl there who showed me one of the best weeks of my life. May not be your cup of tea. There was also a good (somewhat more upmarket) underground blues bar near my hotel around Union Square back then (2010).
Tokyo is the big melting pot, in Osaka it’s easier to know your place and keep your nose out of business it shouldn’t be in (or go looking for trouble, ahem Brian Lake ahem) and no one seems to be conning tourists afaik. I’ve never heard of this drink spiking stuff here personally.
Watched the SBS slow TV show on the Indian Pacific. Looked amazing. Anyone done the trip?
Took it from Adelaide to Perth in 2001 when l was a younger man, as l was travelling around Australia and thought it would be interesting. Not in a cabin but sitting upright for 20 odd hours. Horrible trip. Not much to see for most of the trip either. Might be better in a cabin but way expensive, unlike the first class sleeper l took from bkk to chang mai a few years later that was an enjoyable experience and way cheaper.