I began the week, on Tuesday, with a new tradition. Once a month I am going to take out my students for dinner and drinks. For the month of September I invited all of my Tuesday students to come out for dinner and drinks. Next month I’ll host my Wednesday students. I teach, on average, 20 adults a day, for 100 adults a week. By hosting the students of an individual day of the week I can better focus on a smaller group.
So a month prior I passed out small invitations with the party information. This information was conveniently listed bullet-style with the 5-W’s (who, what, where, when & why.) I constantly remind my students of these questions. So finally the big day had come. We got together on the night of September 27th. I chose this date because it’s the first Tuesday after the major Japanese payday, the 25th. Lessons concluded at 9 PM and I met my students in the lobby at 9:15.
In all I had passed out roughly 25 invites and eight people had come out for the party. Actually eight women came out. No men. Strange, right? I gathered everyone and we went outside to a nearby やきにく (Japanese barbecue) restaurant. The same やきにく that Moto and I visited two weeks before. I had made reservations the day before and so they were expecting us. The nine of us sat down at a large table. The ladies ordered scores of small dishes and drinks. After our drinks had been served I clicked my glass to gather their attention.
“こんばんは、 ladies. Thank you for coming out this evening. Tonight you are helping to begin a grand tradition. Thanks for your support. かんぱい！”
We clicked our glasses and took a drink. Dang, the first drink of beer after a long nine-hour day always tastes good. I started a round of self introductions and we went around the table.
“Please tell us your name and the last movie you saw.”
Even off the clock and I was in teacher mode.
Before long several smaller conversations started and everyone was busy grilling their meat. I had decided to start these monthly のみかい (drinking parties) for a few reasons. I wanted my students to practice English outside of a classroom. I wanted them to get to know me as Alex, not as a teacher. And mostly I wanted them to make new friends. Studying and maintaining a hobby, like English, is always more enjoyable with friends. It seemed my hopes were coming true.
Because it was a Tuesday and a school night, the party broke early. At eleven o’clock we left the いざかや. Everyone said goodnight and we split up to go home. I returned home very satisfied with the evening. Already I’m looking forward to next month’s gathering with my Wednesday students.
The rest of the week breezed by. I stayed two and a half hours after work on Saturday. It was kind of a drag to stick around so long on my Friday night. But I did so totally voluntarily. I really had nothing to go home to that night. And sometimes it feels good to lose yourself in work and just work, work, work. So I stuck around with the manager and tackled a huge pile of work. Finally at the end of the night I packed my bag and hit the door. A long but satisfying week of work.
I slept in until nine on Sunday morning. The air was cool and I put a sweater as I opened my windows. I watched the Nebraska-Wisconsin game. And I wished I hadn’t. After the game I seriously studied some Japanese for a few hours. I ran some errands in Machida and came home for a shower. I had another party to attend this evening.
One of my students opened her home for a small gathering on Sunday evening. Let’s call this woman Yuriko. A quick history about Yuriko. She’s nearing 80 years old and stands just under five feet. She speaks high level English and is a retired university psychology professor. She’s extremely intelligent and has recently started studying Italian for fun. One time in class she told us about her experience starting elementary school six months after WWII finished. That was an unreal story. She’s really an amazing person.
Yuuko invited everyone from our class and all other students using the same textbook to visit her apartment for dinner and drinks. Five others and myself had accepted her invitation and I arrived at her apartment at 6pm. She requested everyone bring a food or drink. I myself arrived with a six-pack of beer, a bag of soybeans, a carton of kimchi and a bag of potato chips (Japanese, Korean & American snacks.) The other guests had also brought over many snacks. So we broke bread and dined together. The conversation drifted in and out of English and Japanese. I think it was nice for everyone to see each other outside of the classroom.
I’d like to mention that Yuriko lives two blocks from me on the top floor of the tallest building at my station. At one point I excused myself from the party to step out onto her balcony. The view was stellar. You could the city lights for miles and miles. A much better view than from my fifth floor.
As the clock neared 11pm my friends kept drinking. Falling asleep in my chair I decided it best to go home. I thanked everyone for their company and gave the hostess a deep and humble bow.
I made the very short walk back home. I brushed my teeth and fell asleep before midnight. Gosh, I’m getting old.
Monday morning I again slept in until 9 AM. I woke up and opened my drapes. I suddenly felt guilty for lying in bed so long after the sun rose. I decided to make up for it with a run. I laced up my tennis shoes and ran out the door. Not long ago I read some good advice for running. “Don’t start running with a predetermined goal,” they said. Some days your body wants to run, other days it doesn’t. Today was a running day. I found a nearby river and ran along it. It was an artificial river, the sides were built up with concrete and the water moved slowly. Still from above I could see hundreds of big carp, ducks & cranes. The further from Tokyo I ran the more the more the scenery turned to trees. It was really nice. Not to mention perfect weather. Eventually I turned around and ran the same route home.
Back at home I drank ice water and stretched my legs. By my rough calculations I had run 15 kilometers (10 miles) in 80 minutes. Not too bad. I’m starting to think that if given the opportunity I could actually run a marathon!
Rejuvenated from the run I took a shower and went grocery shopping. I did the usual house chores and studied some Japanese. At seven my girlfriend came into town and we met up for dinner. Indian food. We ordered two bowls of curry and a huge piece of nan. Amazing. We went back to my apartment and watched a Ghibli movie. Eventually the night grew late and I walked her back to the station. Back home I brushed my teeth and fell into bed. Another weekend was over just as soon as it had started.
Just as the West and China have their zodiacs Japan too has it’s own system for predetermining one’s personality; blood types. When first meeting someone it’s common to be asked, “what’s your blood type?” And so it’s critical to you know your type before attending a party in Japan. Or at the least, to you know the stereotypes so you can lie!
Blood types in Japan, like everywhere, are separated into four categories: A, B, AB & O. Positive or negative doesn’t matter. Each type has its strengths and weakness. A person’s type can also determine their compatibility with others. There is a lot of “research” conducted about this. Although the scientific community widely rejects the claims. Additionally young people are often far less likely to care about blood types than older people. If you’re really curious about this topic you can check out this wikipedia article.
I myself have O blood. When I tell the Japanese people this I’m met with one of two reactions.
“O-type? Oh yeah, I totally see that.”
“O-type? No way, I don’t believe it!”
Wikipedia says the positive traits of type-O are: agree, sociable & optimistic. The negative traits are: vain, rude, jealous & arrogant. I suppose there’s a little truth to all of those. Just be sure to take them with a grain of salt.
Many people know their own type and the traits of all four. That said, most people don’t take it too seriously. For many it’s merely a tool for when socializing. And for that it works very well.