Archive for category Friends and coworkers
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!
After work I took a rare taxi ride to the Numazu port area to check out a bar called “Tap Room”. It is a small brew pub with a great view of the port. The house beer was fantastic, and they had a huge selection of (slightly expensive) snacks to go with it.
One of Koalako’s friends was the live music for the night, singing English songs while playing acoustic guitar. We also got a free performance from another one of Koalako’s friends Shinya, who specializes in close magic. It was entertaining to watch him perform the same tricks twice, first in English and then in Japanese for the crowd at our table.
Like most nights out, we all ended up at karaoke later on, ruining some songs over nomi-hodai.
(2017 Update) The correct name of the place I went is Baird Taproom Numazu Fishmarket. The brewery is a local success story – the American owner and his Japanese wife moved to Numazu and opened a tiny brewpub. Supported by family, they slowly grew and now have 6 tap rooms and export overseas. Read more here then go and enjoy a delicious beer!
Tonight was our last night in Japan on this visit. I ate dinner with the family, and after Tiny Dog went to sleep I went off to have a beer with my old roommate Azeroth.
Unlike a few days ago, we decided not to hit the town. Instead we had a night in, similar to many we had while we shared an apartment together. We picked up a variety of beer and snacks from the nearby 7-11, and watched episodes of Drawn Together, Rick and Morty, and Archer while laughing our asses off.
One sign of a good friend is when you can go for a few years without seeing each other and then pick exactly where you left off when you get a chance to meet. My life has changed a lot in the 11 years since I moved back to Canada: I got married, started a career, got a professional designation, and became a father. Even with all of those changes, hanging out while drinking beer and eating mysterious snacks still felt like home.
Happy Canada Day! I hope that I’m not going to be hungover tomorrow for my flight home!
Tonight I went out for drinks with my old roommate Azeroth, who is now once again living in Numazu.
Azeroth and I lived together from 2004-2006 when I was teaching in the Numazu area. I visited him on my subsequent trips to Japan, including a fun night out a few years ago not too far from the broken nuclear reactor. This time no major travel was required – his new condo is about a 15 minute walk from The Penpal’s house.
We met outside his new condo and caught up on life as we walked towards the Nakamise area south of Numazu station. Nakamise is a covered shopping area which was home to my old NOVA branch. The area is full of stores, restaurants, and more importantly, izakayas. Our first stop was a place known for their good selection of grilled meat on sticks. We were joined by Klaxman and one of our former students, and enjoyed some drinks and izakaya food.
Klaxmax and the student called it a night at a sensible time. Azeroth and I dropped them off at the station, charged up with an energy drink, and then went back in search of another beverage or two.
One of the best parts about being friends with Azeroth is that he takes the time to scout every drinking establishment in the area. As we were walking, he listed off our many options and their merits. Truly he has missed his calling as an alcohol tour guide.
Deciding to avoid any chains, Azeroth led us down a narrow alley that I would have normally passed right by. At the end was a door with a picture of a pig’s head and a sign which read “BooFooWoo”. Unless I am missing something, there is literally nothing about the name and picture on the door that would give you any hint that you’re at a bar.
As soon as we entered, Azeroth was greeted like a regular and we were shown past the narrow pathway between sunken tables towards prime seating at the bar. After placing our order, the bartender brought over the karaoke machine that was being passed around. I did a pretty decent version of Ziggy Stardust while Azeroth busted out the Red Hot Chili Peppers. We both got some cheers and applause from the rest of the bar, and made sure to return the favour when they sang.
BooFooWoo is exactly the right kind of place for some low key drinks and karaoke with friends. We ended up having a few more drinks and performing a duet of Come and Get Your Love before calling it a night.
As I walked (stumbled) the long walk back towards The Penpal’s house I realized how much I missed nights out like tonight from my teaching days. Being a parent cuts down the time to go out with friends and getting older makes recovery the next day even harder. I’m happy I got a chance to get out this evening and hope I get another chance before leaving.
Epilogue: I’m pretty sure the Penpal’s father was still awake when I got home. Not sure if he was was worried that I would get lost or just wanted to see how late I came home.
Today I met up with Klaxman, one of my old roommates for lunch. He is a retired game programmer turned English teacher who moved to Japan in 2006 and has been there ever since.
We went for lunch at an Italian restaurant that had taken over what used to be Cats Cafe. They didn’t serve ridiculously oversized desserts like their predecessors, but they did have some pretty good octopus spaghetti. Klaxman caught me up on all of the changes that NOVA has made over the past 10 years since their bankruptcy, and told me about an open source portable game system called Arduboy that he was making a game for.
After lunch we played a few games at the nearby game center before joining some of Klaxman’s friends at Radio City karaoke. I was happy to see that “Suck My Kiss” by Red Hot Chili Peppers was available to sing, but the crowd in the room was a little more Beatles so I decided to hold off on songs with rampant use of the word “motherfucker”. Karaoke is not a rock concert – some times you need to adjust your song choice for the audience.
It was fun to catch up and break my long karaoke dry spell.
After work I went out for some karaoke and drinks with Koalako and her friends in Numazu.
Usually when I go out for karaoke, I’m with at least a few English teachers. Tonight I was the only non-Japanese person in my group, and possibly in the whole building as well. Koalako is functionally bilingual but her friends weren’t so it was a good chance to practice my Japanese. We had a lot of fun and I wasn’t completely awful at singing.
On our way out, the karaoke remote had an unfortunate accident on the stairs to the front counter. We apologized to the staff and Koalako attempted to reassemble the remote for the staff. They acted like it wasn’t their first time to see a remote bounce down the stairs.
Seriously though, who puts a bunch of stairs in a place where people are drinking?
Today was a fantastic day!
I got to spend the day with The Penpal, which was a lot of fun. In the evening her parents took us out for dinner. After parting ways with the family, I met up with most of the local NOVA teachers and staff for a double birthday party for myself and Dom. Numazu summer festival was in its second day so we headed out for fireworks and street beer. The staff were kind enough to get me a happy birthday senbe cracker.
Like all summer festivals in Japan, Numazu festival saw the main streets lined with small stalls selling food, drinks, and toys for the kids. One of the stalls sold a giant inflatable cola can with straps so you could wear it like a backpack. After a few drinks I thought that this would be a fun souvenir. I wore it around for the rest of the evening, which led to random people sneaking up to try to hit it or sumo wrestle with me. I am definitely not built to be a sumo wrestler!
After fireworks we went to the new karaoke place across from Numazu station. It was a big chain karaoke that also had a comic cafe, internet, and movie rental rooms. It wasn’t as cheap as Uta Club, our usual karaoke place, but it did have a free ice cream bar!
Usually karaoke ends a night out, but instead we all stumbled down the street to Farao cocktail bar for some delicious but totally unnecessary cocktails. Usually the bartender is impeccably dressed in a suit that would put James Bond to shame, but tonight he was dressed for the festival in a yukata. I think we ended up getting friend pricing that we used to get when my roommate Palmer was still living in the area. Farao cocktails are delicious and incredibly strong.
At some point I ended up stuck in a drunk conversation with one of the local students; a single mother who had a reputation for “interacting” with some of the other teachers. Being happily engaged, I tried my best to get out of the conversation, using the secret “help me out” signals that I learned in my fraternity days. The signal was passed down from one generation of frat boy to another, and I had used it with great success on a night out in Winnipeg.
Since none of my coworkers had been in my fraternity (or went to my University or had grown up in Canada), the signal unsurprisingly had no effect at all. Eventually one of the other single teachers walked by. I grabbed him and brought him into the conversation before excusing myself and making a graceful exit.
After another cocktail I walked home slowly to finish off my long, full day of fun and adventure. Today was likely one of the best birthday celebrations I’ve ever had!