Two rival busloads of people with no interest in whisky show up at 11 p.m. outside Tokyo Dome. They run to the east entrance but are removed around 1 a.m. because it is private property. The gates of the private property are re-opened by security guards around 4:00 a.m.
A free-for-all follows, as hundreds of day laborers, students, and elderly — plus a handful of malt maniacs — dashed and bashed their way to the East exit for the head of The Line.
In 2018 (and before) calmness reigned at the front of the line. Last year, my friends and I got numbers 1 to 10 and sat calmly in camping chairs, sipping on coffee, tea and Chichibu.
This year there were fists, elbows, trips, and bangs on the head with plastic bottles. A real life whisky riot. Infantile and shameful.
The manager of each bus faction — let’s call them Greed and Avarice — brazenly handed out cash to those day laborers, students and elderly who had obtained a number that guaranteed a material amount to them: 50,000 yen, that is $460, for those with a number from 1 to 100, ensuring a bottle of Chichibu Single Malt. About 20,000 yen, $180, for those who got a number from 101 to 200, ensuring a bottle of Chichibu Malt and Grain. Yep, that’s way more than the retail price of the bottles: $175 and $160. And now the bottles are listed on auction for $4,000 plus. Deceitful and shameful.
The organizers stood by and watched the racket in action. And that’s the most shameful part of all.
The Tokyo Police allegedly instructed the organizers to suspend the sales the next day, Sunday. That was too little, too late.
Anyway, the cat’s out of the bag, the bottles are on auction sites, and there’ll be shill bidding aplenty with those eye-watering prices. A word to the wise, folks: avoid them at all costs.
A review of the actual festival will follow shortly.
(c) Brian Cullen