Tokyo’s Top Spots for Sayonara Parties

by Hilary Wendel

Saying goodbye. It happens a lot in Tokyo. The longer you are here the more you say it. At some point you end up saying sayonara to your closest friend, and it’s a sad goodbye. For the majority of these goodbyes however, you may feel especially sad when you have the privilege of shelling out for a sayonara gift, and some more for the party. Off the departing friend goes, with a new set of lacquer bowls and a signed Louis Vuitton book, on to their next exciting adventure and leaving you behind. You may get the occasional Christmas email, if you are lucky. It doesn’t seem fair, but eventually it will be your turn, so just hang in there. In the meantime, at least you have a party to look forward to and maybe there you’ll make new companions.

Sayonara parties come in many shapes and forms, but here are a few that have left memories for both those leaving and the left behind.

The Traditional
You can never go wrong with a Yakatabune (wearing traditional Japanese yukata on a boat) sayonara party. All you can drink beer, sushi or nabe in the cold season, and karaoke, on a quaint, traditional boat with the backdrop of Odaiba and Rainbow bridge. The cruise is two to three hours, and when you are back at the dock, you can herd the drunken masses to the nijikai (second party), which would probably include a reservation at a karaoke bar, such as Lovenet or Fiesta. For your really good friends, you might reserve the Jacuzzi room at Lovenet!

If you prefer dry ground, Tofuya Ukai Toriyama, is the elegant sister restaurant to the famous Ukai Toriyama of Mt. Takao. Its disarmingly lovely setting, in a Japanese garden with the backdrop of Tokyo Tower, almost makes the high prices worth it, and the food is delicious. Ukai Toriyama only has private rooms and tatami seating, so it all feels very authentic if that is the mood you are trying to set.

And if all else fails, there is always Gonpachi at Nishi-Azabu crossing, with their private room and reasonably priced party menu. No, we will not make the President Bush reference again! Here you can dine in the Japanese country village themed restaurant and then finish the night off in Roppongi, which is only a short walk away. You absolutely must bring your de-parting friends to Mogambos and get their photo on the ceiling—its their last chance!

…the real payoff is the photos
of your friends with teased
hairdos and investment bankers
in eyeliner.

The Wild Theme Sayonaras
The longer you are here, the more in need you will be of a “twist”, something to set this one sayonara apart from the rest. One party, that is still the talk of certain expat circles, is the infamous “Prom Sayonara” complete with a prom king and queen (the departing couple), a prom committee, 80s dresses purchased from Ebay, and yearbooks to sign. While it is certainly not inexpensive to rent a ballroom, the real payoff is the photos of your friends with teased hairdos and investment bankers in eyeliner.

Over the Top
There really is no such thing as ‘over the top’ in Tokyo but if you really want to go all out rent the Presidential Suite at the Grand Hyatt. Sleep in the same bed as Madonna, Leonard Decaprio and Brad Pitt, to name just three.

Only in Japan will you find a fishing-themed restaurant! At Zauo, you can catch your own fish in an artificial river that runs through the restaurant. Your fish is then prepared to your liking (simmered, roasted, or as sashimi).

My personal favorite is the Oedo Onsen Monogatari based on Odaiba, where your entire group will change into the provided yukatas (you get to choose from a variety of colors and patterns). Together you can stroll through the amusement park that is modeled after a Japanese village, complete with old-fashioned games and Japanese snacks. The actual baths are separate for men and women, but the pool where you can get your feet nibbled by small fishes is mixed, so you can enjoy that sensation as a group! Follow this up with cold beer and ramen in the food court, while still in yukata.

Smash Hits. You can love it or hate it, but no article about sayonaras can avoid mentioning the sacred karaoke Mecca. It has every song in English that ever was written. You can rent it out for a reasonable price and they allow you to bring in your own food, so you can go as high end (Luxor) or low end (Domino’s) as your budget and taste allows. You might however want to have a system to prevent the mike hogs from taking over.