Happy Halloween (Week L)
This week cruised along quickly. Soon enough it was Saturday night. The end of the workweek and time to party. A Halloween party!
On Saturday we had our school’s Halloween celebration. After class we went to Mike’s Mexican restaurant. Over 40 students came out for the occasion. The majority of them wore costumes of some variety. Some pulled out all the stops. Others put on a pumpkin shirt and called it good. It was great fun to see everyone getting dressed up. Regardless of a person’s outfit we had a good time. The four course dinner was of course accompanied with a two-hour のみほうだい (open bar).
My costume was admittedly planned last-minute. I had been planning to take part in a group costume with the members from my futsal club. However the week of the party the plans were cancelled and I had to improvise. Fortunately Emma had a plan. She had bought a nurses’ costume. In true Kiwi fashion, or maybe just Emma fashion, she was going to wear zombie makeup too. So she would be a zombie nurse! I found a doctor’s jacket & stethoscope at a local store and made up my mind; I would be a zombie doctor. Yeah for traditional gender conceptions!
After work the staff scrambled to put on their costumes. Emma and I changed and set about making ourselves look gruesome. A half hour later and our faces had cold white skin, hollow eyes & cheeks and ample blood. “Brains… need brains…” Our costumes were a nice touch for the party. Normally the foreign staff don’t dress up much for the Halloween party. Here Emma and I had gone all out and were matching too. It was nice that our costumes were well received.
Back to the party. As expected some people were over-served. Those that were still standing at the party’s end hopped a train back to the Ono. Back in town we went to the second party. Almost 20 people joined us at the Manchester bar. The alcohol continued to flow and everyone had a good time. However the clock soon approached one and I left for home. The weekend hadn’t actually started yet .
Sunday morning came late. I hadn’t set an alarm the night before. So when I woke up at 10 I was surprised and felt guilty. I was quick out of bed and moved about my apartment quickly. I cleaned up, packed a day bag, ate a piece of toast and hit the door. I caught a train back to the Ono for the afternoon. I had one more party to attend.
Sunday afternoon was the kids’ Halloween party. All of our kid students were given the opportunity to sign up for the Sagamiono party. Over 70 students had signed up for the occasion. 40 preschool & 30 elementary students were expecting us to entertain them for the afternoon.
So at 11 I arrived at school ready to prepare. Thankfully Emma had planned out almost everything the week before. It was my duty, along with Moto, to move furniture. We put our strong backs to good use and prepared the school. We readied three rooms for activities: pin the nose on the jack-o-latern, coloring-and-folding pumpkin cutouts and Kiwi-style-hot-potato.
At noon the preschool children showed up. I put on my doctor’s outfit from the night before, sans-zombie make up. The kids rotated through the rooms and finished with trick or treating from the teachers. No sooner had the youngins’ left before the elementary kids came. They went through the same routine much faster and quieter than the younger kids.
Finally at 3 we were finished. The kids left and the costumes came off. We cleaned and returned all the furniture as fast as we could. In record time we had finished and were ready to leave. So Moto, Emma and I all set out together with big plans. The weekend began when the door closed behind us. Next stop: Oktoberfest.
Naturally Tokyo has many choices for Oktoberfest. But the real jewel of the season is the Yokohama Oktoberfest. Moto, being our seasoned veteran, had us all excited to go drink some delicious beer. We left town and briefly split up. I waited for Mari and we caught up with our friends in Yokohama. Emma, Moto & Moto’s girlfriend, Junka had walked ahead and found seats at the festival. Mari and I followed the traffic to the tents. If ever we weren’t sure where to go, we only had to smell the drunks and walk in the opposite direction from them. A few minutes later we arrived at the festival. And boy was it busy. The final day of the three-week festival meant a few thousand had shown up on a warm Autumn Sunday.
Mari and I navigated the crowds, got a beer and took a seat with our friends. We spent the next several hours drinking big, delicious, expensive imported beers. The sun went down and the warm afternoon turned in a cool evening. Mari snuggled next to me under my arm and we all had a good time.
Naturally after a few pints, and sometimes liters, of beer I had to visit the bathroom. I excused myself from the table and took the long way to the bathroom. I pleasantly enjoyed people watching and overhearing the conversations. I marveled at the uniqueness of Japan. All about me were thousands of drunk people. They shouted and clinked their glasses. Some people stood swaying with wind. I’ve seen mass drunkenness before though not on such a scale. But what amazed me was the orderliness. Everyone was so polite and respectful. The lines for refills were very orderly and moved quickly. No one was causing a ruckus. I laughed to myself about the whole situation.
At last I found the port-a-potties. Three dozens stalls had been set up, half for men and half for women. I jumped in line with the men and waited patiently. Before long I was at the head of the line waiting for my turn. To my left was a festival attendant directing traffic. I saw a door open and a man vacate a stall. The attendant next to me pointed me to the open stall. I stepped into the john and turned around to close the door. I looked back and saw the attendant pointing the next guy in line to the next open stall.
I closed and latched the door. My laughter from before returned. So many polite drunk people and perfect festival organization. This was the Japanese imitating a German holiday and doing it well. I tried to imagine a beer festival in the States with so many people. The amount of rude people and required security seemed unappealing. This was one of those moments that made me happy to be away from home. I finished my business and left the stall. The attendant was quick to usher in next person behind me.
I walked back to our table with the sounds of a live polka band behind me. I sat down with my friends and rejoined the conversation. A decision had been made in my absence; we should karaoke next. Never one to disagree with the masses, or with karaoke, I finished my beer.
”はい. Let’s go!”
We returned the station to leave town. An additional bathroom break was required before we could hop the train. Back in the men’s room I took care of my business while trying to continue the same tranquility from Oktoberfest. However my zen was disturbed by a group of young men behind me. Large muscles, shaved heads and English speakers, it was immediately evident they were military. No sooner from boot camp than high school, they acted like drunk 18 year-olds. Standing next to me I could hear their conversation. Though because of their volume, everyone could hear them.
“So I said to the guy, I’ll never forgive the Germans for bombing Pearl Harbor,” said the apparent leader.
“Haha, nice dude! You told that old guy,” chimed in his friend.
“Dude, the Germans didn’t bomb Pearl Harbor. The Japs did,” a third boy said.
“Haha, yeah but we got them back, didn’t we?” The leader replied.
His comment was met with many lowbrow laughs. I zipped my fly and looked over at the kids, appalled by such crassness.
“Not cool fellas. Look where you are. Not cool at all,” I said.
They replied with an array of insults and curse words. I paid no mind to them and washed my hands. I left the bathroom ashamed of my countrymen. Their behavior gives people a bad image of Americans. And this is why I was displeased with my haircut, as mentioned last week.
However soon we were enjoying karaoke and I forgot all about that exchange. A train ride later and I was home. Surprisingly sober for such an occasion too. I cleaned up and laid down. One more day of fun.
The first half of Monday was business as usual. Cleaning. The second half was a little more exciting. Earlier in the week I had received a very exciting email; I had been selected to run the Tokyo Marathon! A few months back I had entered my name into the lottery without any real hope or expectation of being chosen. Well as luck would have it, I was fortunate enough to get picked with less than a 10% chance. Hot dog! The race is going to be held February 26. So I have four months to get into shape.
At one in the afternoon I laced my up tennis and set out. I was hoping to make it a long run. I set out back to the river I ran two weeks ago. I pushed myself and ran for an hour away from home. After an hour I turned around to follow the same route home. Just over two hours later I returned home. Thanks to the GPS on my phone I was able to record some great details about my run. I had run 21.41 km (13.29 mi) and had burned 1,800 calories, all in 130 minutes.
The first 100 minutes of my run were great. My whole body kept moving without a problem. However during the last 30 minutes I became tired. My knee started to throb, my legs grew heavy, my breathing became labored and my spirits sank. I later decided this happened for two reasons. I had skipped lunch to run. So at the 100 minute mark my body shifted from burning the day’s food to burning fat reserves. Which I understand is much more difficult for the body to do. The other reason; that is the furthest I’ve ever run in my whole life! My body has never endured such an activity for so long. I’m sure next time I’ll do better!
Besides a sour final part of the run I felt good to have completed a literal half marathon on a whim. If I keep this up I think the actual marathon shouldn’t be too difficult!
Monday evening Mari came over after she finished work. We visited the store and picked up veggies for dinner. Back home we made tempura, a popular Japanese food, basically fried food. We cooked dinner and enjoyed being flirty. It was the fourth consecutive day we had seen each other. Nice! Soon as always it grew late. I walked Mari to the station and returned home for bed. My body needed rest after a long run and a longer week!
There are many words in Japanese. And I’ll be the first to admit that I know very few of them. But for some reason it is very common to hear the same words over and over and over. And over. What gives?
Let me start by saying that I am not alone in this observation. I have spoken with many other foreigners, both those fluent in Japanese and others who know less than me. Everyone agrees that the Japanese people tend to use the same words when there are many other options.
Allow me to give an example. A few weeks back I visited an aquarium. I heard the word “かわいい (cute)”, literally a hundred times. There are dozens of other adjectives that could haven been used in place of cute but still people stuck this one choice. Mari and I made a game out of it, counting how many times we heard the word. Sometime after 50 かわいい’s, and halfway through the aquarium I gave up.
I could give many other examples of this trend but I’d rather not waste your time. Instead I would like to understand why this trend exists. I suggest it goes back to the social harmony I’ve mentioned before. If everyone is using the same vocabulary then no real distinctions arise. No distinctions, no disagreement. No disagreement: harmony.
It’s sometimes a shame that this happens. Traditional Japanese culture is very foreign to my own native culture. As such they have words in their language that have no direct translation in English. I think that’s really cool and I would like to know more about those words and parts of the culture. Instead I’m stuck with everyone using the exact same words. Oh well, I suppose it makes learning the language easier, ね？