Travel articles usually talk about socially acceptable destinations like temples, museums and sights. But since I write this for Supreme, I offer two NSFW suggestions for your next journey — a famous seven-floor sex shop in Tokyo and watching a ping-pong show in Bangkok. Both were recommended with such hype, but only one of them was actually worth the visit.
That seven-floor sex shop in Tokyo
I have a Tinder f**kboy to thank for this discovery. We never met, but prior to my figuring out that he was a f**kboy, I had told him I was going to Tokyo and he excitedly filled me in on a seven-story sex shop he visited in Akihabara. In the end I let the boy go, but kept his travel tips.
When my friend and I arrived in Japan, it was only a matter of hitting Google and then Google Maps. The top result was a shop called “Pop Life Department. M’s.” Here, we walked in to find porn playing — and at full volume — on several TV screens. My friend started laughing uncontrollably at the sound of the moaning. She continued to do so at the various dildos upstairs, and I thanked the universe for blessing me with such mature company.
I can’t remember the floor assignments exactly, but there was a floor for women and a floor for men, and a floor for lingerie and costumes. There were variations on your standard vibrating dildo, and a number of them moved in ways that looked like they would tear you a new hole — from violently shaking sideways to suddenly punching up. There were dissected flesh lights so you could see every curve, ridge and texture of what you were getting into. It was certainly one of the most interesting places I’d visited, but photos were strictly forbidden. I tried to take a Snapchat and was quickly approached by one of the staff. He didn’t leave my side until I deleted the image in front of him.
More than just being a place to find something for yourself, it was also like an exhibit of what other people were into, with vast variety, textures, features and price ranges for each kind of item. There were fake boobs to snuggle up to, anal beads, used panties sealed in foil wrappers, and sex dolls — some of them resembling innocent little girls (!!!). On top of racy lingerie, they also had a lot of costumes, like famous anime characters’ outfits (we found Card Captor Sakura) and dark blue schoolgirl skirts with strategic slits and openings. And at each checkout counter, there were penis-shaped lollipops and other little souvenirs you might want to give as pasalubong to your friends.
I don’t know how much being a foreigner in a place where no one knew me contributed to the judgment-free vibe I was feeling. But there were a lot of locals in there too, selecting merchandise with the same straight faces they might wear when walking around nude at public baths. The Japanese are very compartmentalized in that sense. They’re perfectly quiet and proper in places where they’re meant to be quiet and proper; they’re naked in places where they’re meant to be naked. And this place was where the broad spectrum of kinky desires ran free. They partook of it with no shame or judgment. The only thing in the entire building that made me feel awkward was my laughing friend.
Those vagina ping-pong shows in Bangkok
When I first heard that in Bangkok, women shot ping-pong balls out of their you-know-wheres, I thought of this as an exotic feat—like a kinky genre of gymnastics. So, on a recent trip to the city, I convinced a friend to take me. He warned me that these shows were utterly base and devoid of any sense of art, showmanship, or sensuality. But there are instances when I can be stubborn about seeing for myself and learning the hard way. This was one of those times. (Spoiler: my friend was right)
We went to Soi Cowboy and hit a regular girly bar. We were walking around afterwards when my friend and I were approached by a man who offered us a “menu” of vaginal stunts. Entrance was only 100 baht per head with a free drink, he told us, so we followed him. We walked into a non-descript darkened room to find half-naked middle-aged women moving around on a shabby stage. They seemed to have learned to queef on command, as they blew out birthday candles through a straw while a recorded Happy Birthday song (the kind you hear at children’s parties) played in the background. (The show my friend had gone to a few years ago, upon the insistence of another girl, involved the shoving-in of objects, taking them out, putting them all into a basket, and passing said basket around the audience to give them a whiff. Sleazy white tourists really loved it, I was told.)
Some of this may sound impressive, but when you consider Kegel exercises and how vaginas are designed to spew out human beings and then snap back to their former size, your realize that it’s really not. You can probably teach your vagina to do anything, if you really wanted to. The “wow moment” or shock value I was expecting never came over me.
BEWARE OF SCAMS
We also almost got scammed. From being told it was only 100 baht per head, they added a host of extra charges for things we didn’t ask for, totalling to more than a thousand baht. I was prepared to suck it up and charge it to experience, when my friend started raising his voice and standing his ground. He threw the promised 200 on the tray and quickly walked out. Stunned and scared for my life, I couldn’t follow him fast enough. One woman even quickly attempted to ask for tips as we went on our way.
“Now do you see why I don’t like those places?” he said when we were finally outside.
“I’m sorry,” I sheepishly responded.
“It’s really just a matter of who backs down first,” he said, matter of factly. He also explained the importance of still paying the amount originally agreed on, at the very least. “If they call the police on you, they won’t be forgiving if they find you tried to skip the bill completely. So pay.”
Originally published in The Philippine Star SUPREME (4 June 2016)
Artwork by Ave Royd Santiago
Photo by Cate de Leon