Archive for category Drinking
Tonight was my “unofficial” farewell party. For those who haven’t been following the blog, when a teacher relocates to another part of Japan or moves home they often get two farewell parties: the “official” party which is attended by teachers and staff, and the “unofficial” party which is attended by teachers and students.
Azeroth took charge of organizing the party, inviting students from the two branches that I worked at in the area, Numazu and Mishima. The turnout was really impressive! We started off our evening at an izakaya and then ended up going to the second party at karaoke. The whole evening was a lot of fun, and I’m happy that I got one last chance to say goodbye and make everyone listen to my terrible singing.
After failing to make any progress on packing today, I gave up and decided to go hang out at Koalako’s apartment.
A few months ago, Koalako moved into an apartment with some NOVA teachers. If interacting with students outside of the classroom is not allowed, sharing an apartment must be ultra prohibited, although I’m not sure how much authority they have to tell teachers where they can and can’t live.
The apartment was nice and pretty spacious for a Japanese apartment. Everything looked pretty typical, except the toilet room (in Japan the toilet and bath are often in separate rooms). This is the one room where Koalako really got to express herself, making the entire room pink to annoy her roommates.
I hung out with Koalako and roommates, enjoying some food and beer. Our gathering managed to attract a few more teachers from the area. One of the new arrivals had just returned from Australia, so they brought over some wine. It was my first time to drink wine from Australia – it was dangerously delicious. They also brought one of Australia’s most famous (infamous) foods – Vegemite, which was dangerously NOT delicious. I seriously don’t know how people eat that stuff.
Another fun evening in Numazu – I’m really going to miss this when I move home!
Tonight I made another important stop on my farewell tour – Gotenba Kogen Brewery with my roommates.
For those who haven’t been reading my blog, Gotenba Kogen Brewery is a brewery and buffet restaurant located at a resort on the side of Mt. Fuji. They offer a 90 minute all you can eat all you can drink experience for about $30. It’s pretty much one of the happiest places on earth!
To fully take advantage of the 90 minutes of feasting, you really need to plan in advance. Azeroth loves beer, so he spent most of his 90 minutes refilling his beer mug. Klaxman doesn’t drink, so he spent most of his 90 minutes refilling his plate. I managed to find a nice balance that left me both slightly drunk and wishing I had worn sweat pants. So good!
As part of my farewell tour, I went to Kawasaki today to meet up with my old housemate Kim. We went out for okonomiyaki in Noborito before meeting up with her fiancee Kame.
Kim was one of the most fun people I had met during my time at Hello House, so I wasn’t surprised to find out that Kame was a pretty cool guy as well. We all went to Yoyogi park to join up with a Hello House leaving party for someone who had moved in after my time there. Living in a dorm filled with English teachers means lots of people coming and going. You never really get to know everyone well, but you do get to attend a lot of farewell parties. Almost every farewell party I have attended in Japan was at an izakaya, so an outdoor party was a nice change of pace. I’m really going to miss the ability to drink legally in public when I return to Canada!
Eventually, like with every other party, we ended up at karaoke. I introduced Kame and Kim to Sad Cows Song which they instantly loved. We got back to their apartment late and I spent the night on the couch. It was a very fun day but the morning is going to hurt.
Earlier in the year, I picked up a private student on Saturday mornings. Tonight my student took me out for a farewell dinner. For the sake of the story, let’s call him Hiro.
Several teachers try to supplement their income by picking up private English students. When private lessons work out, they can be a pretty good deal for both parties: the teacher gets paid cash under the table and the student gets more flexibility on their lessons at a lower price. Many cynical English teachers believe that the main reason for NOVA’s “don’t interact with students outside of the classroom” policy is to reduce the chances of teachers stealing customers and turning them into private students.
Hiro worked for an automobile parts manufacturer and occasionally needed to interact with Americans in English. He knew enough to talk about his work in English, but wanted some practice in the kind of small talk and everyday conversation that he would encounter in overseas trips. He was keen to learn and fun to teach.
When I started making plans to leave Japan, I worked on setting up Super Dave as a replacement teacher. During our last lesson, Hiro invited me out to a farewell dinner. I’m not one to turn down good food, so I agreed.
Hiro picked me up in his car and drove us to a small yakiniku restaurant in Mishima. There are a ton of good restaurants in Mishima, but most of them are not easily accessible by train so this was a nice treat for me. Like most yakiniku restaurants, we had a grill right in the middle of our table. I’m a pretty adventurous eater so I let Hiro order for us. Over the course of a few hours we had plate after plate of different cuts of meat show up at table; I ate everything except for the salted squid guts with raw egg – there simply wasn’t enough beer to make that look and smell appealing.
After eating and drinking so much that we could barely move, I started worrying about how we were going to get home. Hiro called a very convenient taxi service that sent one cab with two drivers. We rode in the cab while the second driver followed behind in Hiro’s car. The cost was just slightly more than a regular taxi. This service should be available everywhere!!
I arrived home drunk, sleepy, and with a case of the meat sweats. Thanks again to Hiro for treating me to an amazing dinner! My experience goes to show that if you really want to experience life in Japan, you need to get out and spend time with people other than just English teachers. I’m a lucky man that I got to meet so many cool people during my time in the country.
Last night at my official farewell party I drank sake. I generally try to avoid sake, because in the eloquent phrasing of the great reporter Brian Fantana, “90% of the time it makes me sick every time”. This time did not disappoint.
Today I had a very low key day at home, doing my best to re-hydrate and sleep off a nasty hangover. Eventually when I felt less fragile, I spent the remainder of the day binge watching The Shield and playing Grand Theft Auto.
When English teachers leave NOVA, there are usually 2 major farewell parties: the “official” party with teachers and staff, and the “unofficial” party with teachers and students.
Tonight was my official farewell party. Most of the teachers from the area showed up, and a few staff joined as well. We enjoyed beer and sushi at Ryoba, the most popular izakaya for teachers. I was happy that The Penpal was able to attend for a few hours. Her parents are extremely strict and didn’t like her out late, especially to hang out at an izakaya with a bunch of rowdy English teachers. I’m happy they were flexible for my farewell party.
After closing out Ryoba, the second party included karaoke and pool (billiards) at one of the new karaoke places near Numazu station. It was a lot of fun and I didn’t have to worry about being in rough shape for work the next day: there is no more work!
Taking a short break from being seriously behind on my blog, I’d like to bring you from the world of 2006 into the present for a moment.
I’m writing this post in March 2018, just over 4 months away from my 40th birthday. This is a scary number for me, as I still remember how much I made fun of my father when he turned 40. My wonderful wife (aka The Penpal for those who have been reading my blog) asked me if I wanted to do something special for my big upcoming birthday. Inspired by eating 30 wings for my 30th birthday, I told her that I wanted to drink 40 beers for my 40th birthday.
My wife is an intelligent, caring woman. She politely and correctly expressed concern at the consequences of consuming 40 beers at the same time.
A few days later I was at Tiny Dog’s 4th birthday party and was telling this idea to my friend Junk (who also appears occasionally in my blog). Junk suggested that instead of drinking 40 beers at once and dying, I should try to drink 40 different beers in 40 days leading up to my birthday.
Drinking in Japan’s 40 beers in 40 days birthday celebration
I am looking for suggestions to help me drink 40 different beers in the 40 days leading up to my 40th birthday. My guidelines are:
- The beer should be something I can get in or near Manitoba
- I’m not a fan of super hoppy beers. Suggestions to try a quadruple IPA hopsplosion will likely be politely declined
- I want to drink the 40th beer on my birthday, so I need to start in mid June
Start sending your ideas now! You can use the comment box below or reply on Twitter. Comments may not appear immediately due to the spam filters on WordPress.
After work I had plans with a few teachers to go for a beer at Wara Wara. Our outing started small, but as word got around more people kept showing up. Our table started to get cramped, so we asked to upgrade to a larger table. Wara Ware was already hosting a large party, so they couldn’t give us anything bigger.
Since we didn’t want to remain stacked like sardines, we relocated to Uotami, where we were joined by even more teachers and friends. I’m not sure if everyone really needed a drink, or if people were afraid of missing out: whatever the reason our small group going for a few beers had turned into an event. We eventually outgrew our table at Uotami, so the staff moved us into an available party room.
The good news is that our spacious party room contained a karaoke machine. The bad news was that the karaoke machine did not have the usual selection of English songs that we could find at our usual karaoke places. The thought of staring at an unused karaoke machine was too much for me to bear, so I started searching through the song book for anything that might have more English than Japanese.
Many of the printed songbooks for karaoke rooms show the first line of the song next to the name and artist. I scanned through the list and stopped at something that looked amazing: Sad Cows Song by Japanese ska / punk bank Shakalabbits.
The song was 98 seconds of pure awesome. With lyrics including “Let us drink to much milk hey, because we feel sorry for the cows around the world” it quickly because a highlight of our evening. Hooray for Shakalabbits!
Today is one of my scheduled days off. This morning I was woken up by my phone. I got a call from NOVA asking me to work an overtime shift in Fujinomiya.
I was totally caught off guard by the overtime request and still half asleep so I almost said yes. Somewhere in the back of my brain an alarm bell started ringing, reminding me that Fujinomiya was about a 40 minute train ride away and that the school was full of group kids classes. I like extra money, but I needed the day off more so I declined and went back to sleep for a few more hours. I found out later that the overtime shift came available due to a teacher calling in sick the day after a party.
One of the annoying things about being a conversational English teacher is that everyone has different days off. This allows the branch to be open 7 days a week, but guarantees that no matter which night of the week there is a party, someone is going to have to work the next day.
Drinking is part of the English teacher culture – many of the fun events after work involve alcohol in some way. In time you either learn how to moderate your intake on work nights or how to work through a hangover. Calling in sick the next day is universally considered to be bad form among teachers, and will make you very unpopular with managers and branch staff (as I learned first hand).
It should be noted that “not drinking” is always an option, but then you risk truly hearing how bad everyone is at karaoke. I don’t recommend this at all.
If you are teaching English overseas, always make sure you can get into the office the next day!