Roppongi still a seething cauldron of poison

Just got this warning from the US embassy:

July 10, 2009

Warden Message – Roppongi Security Notice:  Drink Spiking

The U.S. Embassy continues to recommend that American citizens avoid frequenting bars and clubs in the Roppongi area of Tokyo due to drink-spiking incidents.

The U.S. Embassy continues to receive reliable reports of U.S. citizens being drugged in Roppongi-area bars.  Most reports indicate that the victim unknowingly drinks a beverage that has been secretly mixed with a drug that renders the victim unconscious or stuporous for several hours, during which time large charges are fraudulently billed to the victim, sums of money are charged to the victim’s credit card, or the card is stolen.  Victims sometimes regain consciousness in the bar or club, while at other times the victim awakens on the street.  Assaults on Americans have also been reported in connection with drink-spiking.

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13 thoughts on “Roppongi still a seething cauldron of poison”

  1. Thanks for the link!

    I wonder if the targets of these crimes are Americans that are by themselves in Roppongi, or groups of 2 or 3 Americans at a time.

    It would be quite unfortunate if the credit card in question were a corporate card, and somewhere in the expense approval process, the hapless American had to explain that they had been slipped a mickey. (I say unfortunately, only unless of course the company in question were Goldman Sachs.)

  2. Sweet, a place in Japan where I can finally get some drugs in me!


    I could use a bit more ‘stuporous’ in my life!

  3. At ボッタクリ屋 (as these places are called), there’s never any danger of seeing a NO FOREIGNERS ALLOWED sign. Ain’t equality grand?

  4. Matt:

    I get the sense that the Nigerian touts go after foreigners specifically because its easier to talk to them in English. On one night this guy followed me for more than a block though I wasnt dumb or drunk enough to listen.

    The best defense against this junk is just dont get so insanely drunk you dont know what club youre being led into. I was watching a thing on TV about Shimbashi whorehouses who use a similar tactic of targeting drunks and nabbing their credit cards

  5. My fiance fell for this in Japan! While he was sober he managed to avoid all the guys (are they all Nigerians?) telling him to come for free drinks and girls, but after a long day and a few drinks, he thought “what the hell, sure!” and followed this guy down several back streets to something like a hostess bar. They fed him tequila ’til they could convince him to start buying the girls drinks (which were super expensive), and the next thing he knew he was back in his hotel, no wallet, no jacket, no shoes. The front desk of the hotel had his shoes, but he had to find the bar again to get his clothes and wallet back. Everything in the wallet was intact aside from the little cash he’d been carrying, but there were some crazy charges on his credit cards. Good thing he has an awesome credit card company o_o

  6. If it was the other way around, Americans charged with spiking the drinks of Japanese and then robbing them, the uproar and publicity would be massive. Probably little word about this from the Japanese media.

  7. “The U.S. Embassy continues to recommend that American citizens avoid frequenting bars and clubs….”

    So the rest of us are fine, eh?

  8. Is the general feeling that these attacks are by Japanese, foreigners, or groups working together?

    Is the Japanese press really beating foreign crime / drug crime over the head? A google news search for 外国人、麻薬 turns up a whopping 9 articles over the past month – it seems like only one of them is about foreigners and drug crime in Japan (and that’s from a regional newspaper, Ryukyu Shinpo) – the rest of them stories in other countries, even one that looks to be about a famous picture of Obama and human rights that just happens to have those two words…. I read a lot of Japanese press and I just don’t see much.

  9. “Is the general feeling that these attacks are by Japanese, foreigners, or groups working together?”

    The arrests that have been reported include both Japanese and foreigners. I don’t think the press has suggested that the crime of spiking drinks and fleecing patrons is being perpetrated primarily by foreigners even when they have included the names of foreign suspects in their reports. The reason for this is that the crime is as old as the hills even though the ATM cashcard angle is a recent twist.

    Foreigners have been dragged into the drug crime panic because they are among those arrested and many Japanese, who have been collared in and around Tokyo, have unfailing identified their supplier as “a foreigner in Roppongi”.

    There are a few things going on in Tokyo now and some of it relates to separate initiatives rather than a co-ordinated crackdown. Recently, police have stepped up their activities in Roppongi. This is in part a specific response to the concern expressed by the US Embassy which probably would have had an effect even without the added bonus that Tokyo currently wants the Olympics, and is especially conscious now of its international reputation.

    Police efforts to combat drugs are directed nationwide but, since Roppongi has been declared fairer game than usual, police have combined both interests in their targeting of after hours bars which are suspected to be hangouts for dealers.

    There is also an ongoing effort to clean-up Roppongi by marginalizing the underworld presence. Redevelopment has put more real estate in the hands of major corporate interests but the overall initiative is already several years old and the objectives aren’t going to be achieved any time soon. Police can nevertheless take advantage of moments like this to nudge the agenda forward a bit more.

    There’s also a metropolitan crackdown on the sex businesses. In Tokyo’s case, the Olympics is an excuse but there are examples of the same happening in Osaka and Nagoya. You can choose from a range of motives: anti-drugs, anti-gangs, anti-underage prostitution are all often mentioned as well as a concern about Japan’s international image which goes back to the US State Department’s complaints regarding human trafficking and extends into more recent debates about child pornography.

    Separate again is the immigration angle. Privately, the police don’t believe that raiding foreign hostess clubs is going to uncover many illegal aliens these days. As far as I understand, of the few who were picked up one major Roppongi raid, only one was an outright visa overstayer, the others were illegally working on valid tourist visas or student visas. The latter doesn’t always result in a conviction, let alone deportation. However, the police do think that particular demi-monde is entangled with drugs so they have other reasons to stop by mob-handed. Also, they have decided they will no longer turn a blind eye to regular breaches of the laws governing bars and clubs. In Roppongi, this means foreign lap dance clubs have felt the heat but all over Tokyo there have been arrests and club closures for some months now.

  10. It sounds exactly like the tricks that guidebooks to SE Asia all warn you about. Will the next edition of Lonely Planet Japan have to warn visitors about roofies?

  11. Damn, wish I had read this before being hustled into a bar for “1 free drink”, my drink got spiked and being Aus$500 out of pocket.

    Lonely planet forgets to mention that this appears to be a common occurance .

    And no – I did not willingly go to a t*tty bar – I left gas panic to get cash, on the way back had a tout get angry that I would not even check out his bar, decided it would be easier after being followed for a block (with arm held), then night dissapeared.

    Oh well, I hear I got off lightly.

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