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Tokyo's Roppongi Clubs and Discos Thriving

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Tokyo's Roppongi is a well known meeting place of foreigners in Tokyo.

According to the Tokyo Police Agency, within two hundred meters of the Roppongi intersection, nearly two dozen discos and clubs are catering to foreigners where marijuana and other drugs are sold and bought as frequently as their handshakes.

"An Ozumo rikshi story? I haven't heard about it at all," a 28 year old woman from France said. "Back home there are a lot of people smoking marijuana. It sounds so odd to hear someone getting arrested for."

A disco popular with foreigners gets so crowded after 1 AM, one could hardly move around. In the dark floor one could hardly see men and women embracing each other. Only a third of customers are Japanese in a typical club.

Former Wakanoho told the police he met a Russian man and black man at a disco in Roppongi district and went to the washroom where he was invited to smoke using a water pipe. "I started feeling so good," Wakanoho reportedly told the investigators.

The photo of Wakanoho was shown to the patrons of the club but all shook their head saying they never saw him there. "This place has many Russian women. All blonds actually are Russians. See if you are a model, there is no charge and drinks are free because there are a lot of guys come in, looking for models," one white woman said.

In this May, there were foreigners arrested for possessions of amphetamines and marijuana at another club nearby. The club was shut down with its club name taken down. A note on the door said, "No entry with knifves, drugs or two or more males".

According an owner of another club, this club was operated from 2 AM to 2 PM daily and they found needles and drugs when their washrooms were taken apart. " We are relieved they closed the place down as we had quite a lot rather seeding looking guys hanging around there all the time."

"Foreign capitals are flowing in to open massage parlors for foreigners. You know the money is calling in more money. You better believe there is no such thing as economic downturns in this place, Roppongi," the man added.

"We are only told by the club owners they have no knowledge of drug trade in their place. Eve club names and club managers change,the owners remain the same so the same type of clubs keep opening up. We just need to quietly and steadily continue our investigation," one police investigator said.

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Police investigations of marijuana use have surged this year in Japan, the result in part of the easy availability of seeds on the Internet for home cultivation, authorities said Thursday, raising concerns in a country long considered immune from the drug abuse problems of Europe and the United States.

The number of marijuana cases handled by police in the first half of the year rose 12 percent from the same period last year to 1,202, the National Police Agency said in a report. At that rate, the number of cases will reach an all-time high this year, passing the 2,288 recorded in 2006.

While the number is still very low compared to many other countries, it rose more quickly than cases involving amphetamines and other synthetic stimulants, which have long been the most popular illegal drugs in Japan.

Police reported 6,216 stimulant drug cases in the first six months of this year.

A major factor in the jump in marijuana cases was an increase in small-scale growing for private use, said a National Police spokesman who spoke on condition of anonymity, citing department policy.

Japanese law prohibits the growing or possession of marijuana for recreational drug use, but seeds are excluded and are readily available on the Internet. Sites generally state that they are selling the seeds only for research, food or collecting.

There has also been a sharp increase in Japanese books and Internet sites that describe how to grow and prepare marijuana, the police spokesman said.

The police report also said organized crime was involved in some of the increased marijuana cases. Japanese gangsters have long been linked to illegal drugs.

A number of high-profile marijuana cases have recently been featured in the media.

Last month, a government worker was arrested on charges of growing marijuana in a specially equipped room in his home in western Japan. He reportedly told police he mainly used the drug with his wife and had bought his seeds online.

In May, Tokyo customs punished officers who lost track of a package of marijuana resin that had been slipped into a random traveler's luggage to test drug sniffer dogs. The package was recovered the next day.

Marijuana is frequently grown in Japan for non-drug purposes. Hemp-based fabrics have long been used in traditional clothing. Hemp growing for medical use and research is also allowed with a permit.

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