Sunday, April 22
The Tokyo Huskers celebrated their fourth meeting on Sunday. Four members attended, with three people bringing family. In total seven us enjoyed afternoon lunch at a quaint restaurant in Yokohama (横浜). It was a nice opportunity for all of us to see each other and keep the group operating. I’m already looking forward to our next meeting sometime this summer! Go Big Red!
Saturday, April 28
Saturday was the conclusion of my very popular student parties. For the past half-year I’ve organized a monthly party for my students. This was the final party. And it was a memorable one!
Beginning in September, I invited all of my adult Tuesday students out. (I start work on Tuesday.) Eight attended. In October seven of my Wednesday students came out. November, two Thursday students. February, five people. March, eleven people. And the final party, where I invited all of my students, 25 came.
After class on Saturday I led two dozen people to a nearby restaurant and seated everyone. We enjoyed a two-hour course dinner and all you can drink. I moved up and down the long table chatting with everyone. It seemed everyone was having a good time. Old friends were catching up. New friendships were being made.
As we approached the two-hour mark I was brought the check; ¥ 90,000 ($1,100). Although I wanted to pay for everyone I obviously couldn’t. I stood up and announced the total, requesting everyone’s money. I quickly had a fist full of cash and moved to register to pay. I felt like a big shot paying a 90,000 yen check for 26 people.
I paid, we left, snapped this great picture and all went our separate ways. It was a good conclusion to a good series. I’m sad to see it end, but I need some rest!
Sunday, April 29
If Saturday wasn’t enough fun Sunday was great too! It was the first of my eight-day Golden Week vacation. I was up and on a train early with Mari. We left the suburbs of Tokyo and caught a bus into the mountains, Tanzawa (丹沢). The weather was warm and perfect for a hike. We spent four hours hiking up to a summit. When we ascended past the trees and entered the clearing we were greeted with a giant Mount Fuji (富士山) . We spread out on the ground and enjoyed a picnic. It had been hard work trekking up the hills but well worth it.
With our bellies full of food we set back down the mountain. The last time Mari and I had gone hiking in Tanzawa we took a wrong path and got lost. I was sure not to repeat our mistake. We followed the signs carefully and when presented with two trails back, elected to take the path less traveled. The trail wasn’t as scenic as the one we had taken up, but it did offer less traffic. A real treat after living and working in Tokyo.
Back home we cooked dinner and fell asleep long before the clock struck 10. I can feel myself getting older when I wake up with the sun, spend all day outside and return to bed so early. But darn it, I enjoy it!
Monday, April 30
Monday evening started innocently enough. I met up with Trevor in the Ono to get a beer at Angie’s. Innocence soon turned to decadence. We both ordered the legendary XL beer, 1000 ml of liquid gold. The first beer went down so well we decided to order a second round. To be sensible we ordered an L size, 750 ml of beer.
Before long we had finished the second beer. We weren’t quiet ready to call it a night. But another L would be a bad decision. A pair of M sizes, 450 ml, were ordered.
We rested our empty mugs on the table. Someone suggested having one more drink, an S size, 300 ml, to round off the night. The idea of completing the “Angie Series” in one sitting had often been discussed and imagined, but never attempted. The XL, L & M beers had often been ordered before. But good humor always ended with the third beer. Tonight would be different. “Two S sizes, please.”
The beers were finished in no time at all. We stood up and staggered to the register. Money was dug up from deep in our pockets and nicely placed on the tray. We stepped outside and left the smoky bar behind us. Fresh air in my lungs. Trevor and I caught a train out-of-town. I tried to think of all the beer we had drunk. I did the math in my head. Slowly.
“Trevor, we drank… 2,500 ml of… beer. Hiccup.” I said.
“Yeah, hiccup, so what?” Trevor returned some attitude.
“So… that’s like… 7…”
“…Beers.” Trevor finished my sentence.
I got off at the next stop. My friend and I bid farewell with a series of obscene gestures and vulgar expressions. Parting is such sweet sorrow.
I found my way back home and drank no less than two gallons of water before brushing my teeth and crawling into bed. I laid on my back and smiled. The Angie Series had been challenged, and we triumphed.
Here’s an interesting quirk about the Japanese I’ve noticed. Everyone who is not Japanese is a foreigner. Obviously while I am in Japan, I am a foreigner. I look different, act different and speak a different language. In Tokyo there are literally tens of thousands of foreigners. Dealing with such people is a common occurrence for people here. Because they are not from Japan they are obviously foreigners.
When a Japanese person visits a different country they fail to make a connection. They have become foreigners themselves. But in their minds they remain Japanese. The new locals are actually foreigners.
I find it funny to listen to Japanese people talk about their experiences overseas.
“Alex, I was traveling in Spain last week. I finished dinner and a foreigner started talking to me.”
“A foreigner?” I ask.
“Yeah, a Spanish person.”
I think this tendency may be because the person is speaking to me in English. Perhaps they don’t know the word “Spaniard.”
Moreover I think that part of this behavior comes for the Japanese language. The old word for foreigner is “gaijin” (外人). Translated literally this means, “outsider.” The newer and politically correct word is “gaikokujin” (外国人). Translated this word means “person from a different country.”
Still the old word and created an “Us vs. Them” mentality. I believe that mentality has been a part of Japanese culture so long that it’s continued in the modern Japanese person. Today that thinking isn’t so much a problem or concern. Not like it was during the war. But I do think that it prohibits Japanese people from fully joining a more globalized culture.
“A Spanish person in Spain is not a ‘foreigner.’ They are Spanish. You are the foreigner.” I tell my friend.
“Yeah, okay. Anyways this foreigner started talking to me and…”
Sigh. Sometimes I feel like such a foreigner.