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In Tokyo there's even a brothel called Hole-In-One, with a putting green in the lobby. Can't you see some guy wandering in there? "Is there anybody here who can help me with my grip?"
So get to the oxygen bars already.
Right. I started at the oxygen bar because they're all the rage now in Tokyo. Some Japanese believe breathing pure oxygen improves your golf, though I never quite found out how. Apparently they think the rush of oxygen clears your head and lets you visualize the shot more clearly and hit it more smoothly, your muscles pulsing as they are with rich, right-off-the-shelf oxygen.
You walk in—most of the bars are in department stores and spas—pony up 100 yen (about 72 cents) and tell the bartender what your pleasure is: mint, coffee, orange or lemon. She flips a switch and turns over an egg timer, and you stick your face in an oxygen mask and suck for three minutes.
People sniff two or three rounds and then maybe buy a take-home can for later. The cans come in two sizes—5,000 and 10,000 milliliters—and run from $5 to $18. The girl at the oxygen bar in the Takashimaya department store says some customers come in once a week and take home a case.
I guess that's what's known as oxygen debt.
Right. So I ordered coffee, but the only thing I felt was woozy—and I had the overwhelming sense that I'd woken up in Juan Valdez's living room. Still, I bought a can to take with me for Koganei.
How in the world did this catch on?
There is a Japanese proverb: "The protruding nail gets hammered." Conform, or bring shame to yourself and your group. So if one person is sucking air, everybody wants to suck air. If your neighbor is bowling—as everybody in Japan was 10 years ago—then you bowl. And when they stop bowling, you stop. Which explains the giant bowling pins on roofs of warehouses all over Tokyo today.