Archive for category Friends and coworkers
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!
Happy Birthday to me! As part of my birthday present, my roommate Klaxman switched his early shift for my late shift so I was able to go to Numazu summer festival with The Penpal. I went to her house after work, and her family helped me to get dressed in my new yukata which we had bought a few days earlier. Overall it was comfortable, but the bottom of my robe was fairly tight around my legs.
I’m not a tall person, so I usually have a long stride in order to walk quickly. The bottom of my yukata prevented me from taking big steps, which took a lot of practice to get used to. Things got more difficult when I put on my geta; thong sandals with wooden blocks on the bottom.
The combination of the yukata and geta slowed me down quite a bit. Stairs were a very unfriendly sight for my restricted legs and awkward wooden sandals. When crossing the street to get to the train station I held on to the railing tight to avoid rolling an ankle or tumbling down the stairs and wiping out the rest of the people like a pale bowling ball.
We survived the train ride and walk into Numazu’s overcrowded downtown area, and watched an amazing fireworks show surrounded by tens of thousands of people, most of whom were also wearing yukatas. If you ever have a chance, see fireworks in Japan; they blow away anything I have seen from back home, with the exception of Canada Day fireworks in tiny Wabigoon, Ontario, a town that seems to spend their entire budget every year on airborne explosives. Numazu’s fireworks are launched from either side of a central bridge, offering great views from downtown and along the riverside, and amazing views if you are lucky enough to be on the bridge.
It was a very cool experience to see Numazu festival in traditional Japanese clothing. When I first moved away from Canada to teach English, I wanted to experience Japanese culture. Thanks to my wonderful fiancee and her family I have been able to participate in things that I wouldn’t have dreamed of when I left Winnipeg behind.
Although I had a fun evening, I was very, VERY happy to get back into my comfortable jeans and flat, safe shoes.
Today was Atami summer festival. I wasn’t feeling 100%, but I had so much fun last year that I decided that I couldn’t miss out. A few of my coworkers and I met up after work and rode the train through the mountains (literally through tunnels) to Atami, where we were greeted by Koalako.
Before the parade, we did some pre-gaming at Koalako’s parents house. They supplied us with Hapi coats, the traditional vest like garments that people wear to hot, humid summer festivals. Just like the year before, we got to help pull the float through the hilly, winding streets of Atami, completely surrounded by people, noise and lights. It was hot and humid and felt like we were in the world’s noisiest sauna! We all had fun, the only incident being Molly getting beer in her eye on an errant pour.
Koalako’s parents invited us back to their house for a post festival celebration including lots of food and beer. The beer was served in the traditional style, pouring into small glasses from big bottles. Every time there was some space in a glass, one of our hosts would fill it with beer. This is a great way to lose track of how much you’ve had to drink. Having some experience with this before, I kept a close watch on my beer consumption. My coworkers took a while longer to catch on, so making the walk back to the train station particularly challenging.
Despite Molly falling asleep on the platform while waiting for our train, we all got home safely, if a little drunk and sweaty. Just like last year, Atami summer festival was a great time!
After my short vacation in June I have been pretty reclusive, trying to save money by staying home after work as much as possible.
Tonight I went to karaoke after work for the first time in a long time. Fun was had by all and I stayed out too late (as usual).
I woke up around 9:30 with an evil EVIL hangover after seriously overindulging last night. In Canada this wouldn’t be a problem, but Japanese hotel checkout times are notoriously early; we had to be out of our room at 10:00am. Thanks to traveling light and a bit of luck, both Super Dave and I managed to get ourselves together and checked out on time. We ventured out into the bright, noisy, spinning center of Osaka.
The subway ride to Osaka station was extremely unpleasant, and I asked Super Dave for a few minutes to sit down and rehydrate before we continued on to Kyoto. I was actually starting to worry that I wouldn’t survive our day of sightseeing, but after a lot of water and fresh air, we braved the hour long train ride to Kyoto.
Our first stop in Kyoto was Ryoan-ji, which is home to a large zen rock garden. A quiet place of reflection was a great idea given the state of my brain. My only problem was looking at the rocks, which started moving around in my vision making me feel dizzy. Hungover or not, Ryoan-ji is a very peaceful place and highly recommended.
We also went to Kinkaku-ji, the golden pavilion. This was a first visit for Super Dave and a second visit for me.
You could literally throw darts at a tourist map of Kyoto and come up with a fantastic place to visit – there are no wrong choices. We did discover one problem: there were a severe lack of accessible bank machines. Carrying cash is a must in Japan, so it’s confusing why we had no luck finding bank machines in one of the most popular tourist destinations in Asia.
By late afternoon we were both feeling like humans again. Before we took the shinkansen back towards Shizuoka we stopped by a large import store in Kyoto station. They carried such luxuries as spicy salsa, instant oatmeal, and root beer. By the time we left the store, I was overburdened with import goods and my shopping from Osaka, which included a bilingual English / Japanese version of Monopoly that I couldn’t resist buying.
When traveling in Japan, I don’t recommend getting so hungover that you wish for death. But if you do, make sure that you have minimal travel the next day, and head for a nice quiet outdoor temple or zen garden.
Super Dave and I enjoyed a morning of sightseeing and shopping in Osaka before returning to the hotel to recharge and get ready for an evening out.
We set out for Dotonbori, the always exciting nightlife area. The sun was down, all of the city lights were on, and the streets were full of people. We started with a drink (or two) at Hub Pub, a popular English pub chain. From there we found our way to Suntory Old Bar, which unsurprisingly served Suntory Whiskey.
Neither Super Dave or I are whiskey drinkers, but when in a Suntory whiskey bar you can’t just order a beer. We both ordered double whiskey on the rocks. Old Bar had a long, narrow bar with stools and some tables. It wasn’t very busy when we arrived, but I did notice two Japanese women sitting further down the bar. I told Super Dave that he should practice his Japanese skills by talking to the women and asking them to recommend a good place for us to go next. He was nervous about approaching the women, but I kept trying – telling him that he would likely never see them again, so there would be no problem if his Japanese bombed. We practiced some possible phrases and I just about had him convinced, but he changed his mind at the last minute.
Encouraged by the whiskey, I decided to show David that I wasn’t going to ask a friend to do something I wasn’t prepared to do myself. I told Super Dave to follow me, and I approached the women at the end of the bar. I apologized for interrupting, and then introduced us as English teachers from Shizuoka who were visiting Osaka for the first time. I said that we didn’t know the city well, and asked for a recommendation on a good place to go. One of the women called over the bartender; as someone who doesn’t often approach women in bars, I was half expecting her to complain about us. Instead she asked for a pen and paper, and proceeded to draw us a map to a cool sounding bar called Rock Rock.
I thanked them for the help and offered to buy them a drink. They politely declined, so we finished our drinks and went on our way. Having a conversation like this would have been extremely difficult (or impossible) when I first arrived in Japan, so I felt proud of myself as we followed our hand drawn map to the next venue. Thank you Japanese lessons and alcohol!
Rock Rock was a bit of a dive, but with its own style. It wasn’t very busy when we went in, and one of the other customers appeared to be passed out in a booth. Despite this, they impressed us with their music choices; Alice in Chains was playing when we arrived and it only got better from there. Also, Rock Rock served us beer metal goblets! We had a few goblets (not a phrase I ever expected to type), before deciding to find somewhere different.
When we hit the night air outside of Rock Rock I realized just how drunk I was. Super Dave was feeling no pain, but I was really hammered. We wandered the area until we found ourselves in an area with narrow streets and lots of tiny pubs. I suddenly became very aware of the fact that I needed a bathroom break. Just when I had started to give up hope and consider finding a dark alley, a beacon of light hit us: a sign with Merseybeat Mojo on it and an outdoor speaker playing The Beatles.
We rushed inside, I made good use of the bathroom, and we moved over to the bar at the end of the narrow room. The bartender was friendly and spoke English fluently. We ordered drinks, and I finally noticed that despite playing Beatles on the speaker outside, they were playing the Blues Brothers soundtrack inside. When I was a kid, the two movies I watched the most were Blues Brothers and Ghostbusters, likely over 25 times each. I mentioned this to the bartender, his face lit up, and he searched through his rack of CDs to find the Ghostbusters soundtrack.
We were joined at the bar by two Korean women who were out on a pub crawl as well. They were also well into their evening, and the bunch of us attempted to have drunken conversations in Korean, Japanese, and English.
Details after this point are a bit fuzzy – we did leave the bar at some point and flagged down a taxi. The driver had no idea where our hotel was, but thankfully we had brought a brochure from the hotel that included a map – this is a highly recommended travel tip, especially when alcohol is involved. I don’t remember getting back to our room, but I do have some memories of spending much of the night next to the toilet in our bathroom. Sorry Super Dave!