Archive for category Karaoke
Something strange happened today; something that has never happened in my 19 months in Japan so far. Something I didn’t even think was possible.
I think I did too much karaoke tonight after work.
Tonight was the next in a series of recent farewell parties. This one was for Charlie, who had recently moved to Mishima NOVA from Fuji NOVA.
Charlie had only been in Japan for about 6 months, and never really got used to life here. She was a very nice, friendly person, but she never really got used to living in Japan: she didn’t study the language, didn’t want to eat Japanese food, and didn’t always get along with other teachers. One of the factors in this was that she didn’t drink, and wasn’t all that interested in going to places where people would be drinking. Not drinking is not a problem, but if you want to spend some time with coworkers, you still have to be willing to go to izakayas or karaoke occasionally.
Not a lot of other teachers were planning on showing up at the farewell party. I had been working late Saturdays with Charlie and she specifically asked me, so I made sure to attend. The small group of people who showed up did have a pretty good time. We spent a few hours at a karaoke room that had pizza on the menu. Charlie seemed to have fun, so it was a successful farewell.
A note about the karaoke: Most karaoke machines have shortened versions of certain songs. For example, one of my staples is Copacabana by Barry Manilow. I’ll give you a minute to stop laughing. Take your time. Anyway, the original version of the song has a 2 minute long instrumental section in the middle. This may work in a live music performance, but at karaoke the singer basically has to stand around for 2 minutes while listening to a crappy midi instrumental solo. It seems like all of the English songs in this particular karaoke machine had the same issue. If I ever go back to this karaoke box, it’s going to be an all Ramones lineup.
After work, I joined yet another weekend party already in progress. Working the late shift on Saturday means that my coworkers have already had a few hour head start on the evening.
Like most parties I have been to in Japan, this one started at an izakaya. Food and drinks were ordered, interesting cocktails consumed, beers chugged, and general good times.
At some point the first party started to run out of steam. The crazy people who wanted to keep going moved along to the second party, which tonight was at a late night karaoke place (as usual). We closed out the karaoke place and got home in the wee hours of the morning.
(2015 Update) I really wish I had recorded more details about nights like this when they happened. Izakaya and then late karaoke describes far too many nights during my time in Japan.
Tonight was another fun night out with Azeroth and friends.
Azeroth was friends with Koalako, one of the students at Mishima NOVA. I had taught her many times before, and she was always a fun person to talk to. Koalako lives in Atami, a nearby city built on the side of a mountain on the ocean. Atami is a terrible place to try to ride a bicycle, but a great place to see fireworks, and is famous for its many hot springs.
I met up with Azeroth, Koalako, and Koalako’s friend (that Azeroth was interested in) in Mishima. I was just finishing work and they had already had a few drinks. We all got on Tokaido line for the 12 minute ride east to Atami. In Atami, we drank beer while walking down the steep roads towards the waterfront. Azeroth, being the classy guy that he is, stopped to pee on the side of the mountain while the ladies and I were watching the fireworks. When you’ve got to go, you’ve got to go.
We caught the end of a fantastic firework show, with colours reflecting off the ocean. After the show was done, Koalako got a call from her parents. They had never met anyone from outside of Japan before, so they invited us to have some beer and snacks at their local pub. Azeroth and I are not known to turn down beer, so we were on our way.
The pub was a traditional “snack” style izakaya. The room itself was small, with several tables facing a long bar counter. In total there was probably seating for 25-30 people maximum. It was a small mom and pop bar that catered to a small group of regular customers from the area. The atmosphere was cozy and friendly, especially because we were the guests of some regulars.
Koalako’s parents were very friendly and outgoing. They greeted us and then started ordering an impressive display of izakaya food and beer. All of the beer was in one litre bottles. The women at the table took turns filling up our small glasses every time there was any space in them. Azeroth and I didn’t pour any of our own drinks. When you are drinking from small glasses that are instantly refilled, it is very easy to lost track of how much you have consumed. Naturally, this led to only one possible outcome: karaoke.
Mama-san (the female owner) brought over the microphones and the song list. There were only about 8 English songs in the whole book. The selection would have made Canadian AM radio proud; Elvis, Paul Anka, Ritchie Valens, and for some reason, Celine f**king Dion. Since we were being treated to our beer and food, Azeroth and I did our best to entertain our hosts. My Elvis and Paul Anka were passable (despite not knowing the songs well), but my version of “My Heart with Go On” was epically awful. Azeroth was laughing the whole time at making the Canadian guy sing Celine Dion. However, he did bail me out half way through the song as we turned it into an over the top duet.
After more beer than I can count and some good karaoke thanks to Koalako and parents, we noticed that it was getting dangerously close to the last train of the evening. Koalako’s father was worried that we would get lost walking to the station, so he got mama-san to call us a taxi to get us to the station. We thanked our hosts for the fun evening, and protested as Koalako’s father made sure to pay the taxi driver in advance as we were leaving. Koalako’s father is great!
The train ride home seemed about 6 times as long as the ride there, and the walk back to our apartment took forever, owing mainly to the fact that we were unable to walk in a straight line. The evening was a lot of fun, but I am not looking forward to the next morning.
(2015 Update) This is a greatly expanded version of my post from 10 years ago. I added in a lot of detail and mentioned that Koalako was a student, something that I smartly omitted the first time around. I ran into Koalako’s father when I was visiting Japan in 2013, and found that he was still as friendly and outgoing as ever.
Everyone at work has colds. I felt like I was starting to get something, so I had a very relaxing day off. To be fair, I am pretty lazy on most of my days off.
In the evening I hung out with The Penpal and her friend Williams, who had just returned to Japan from a 3 month trip to England, with a run through Italy, Belguim, and France on the way home. His English definitely sounded different after a few months of speaking with native speakers.
When a Japanese person goes to another country to practice English, they usually come back with a bit of the local accent, and some more casual expressions. Nobody was going to mistake Williams for a Londoner, but he did sound more James Bond than he did previously. He was also using “like”, “you know”, and “know what I mean” liberally. These space filling expressions really help an ESL speaker sound more like a native speaker.
Despite my intentions to take care of my voice, the three of us ended up at karaoke. My new song of the evening was “Foxy Lady” by Jimi Hendrix, which thankfully doesn’t require a lot of singing ability. After the song finished, I had to try to explain what exactly makes a lady “foxy” to both The Penpal and Williams. English is hard!
Today I went to the immigration office in Shinyurigaoka to get my re-entry permit for my passport. I now feel pretty confident in my skills at navigating the immigration office, and can usually be in and out in about 10 minutes.
Like most people, my work visa expires after a certain period of time (one year for me), and will also expire if I leave the country. To prevent the visa from expiring when I go home, I needed to buy a re-entry permit. The permits are available as one time permits or unlimited times for the period of one year. Since I am only planning to leave Japan and return once in the next year, I bought the cheaper one time permit.
Immigration officers are not allowed to handle cash directly, which is a nice way to prevent anything shady from happening. I had to go to a small convenience store in the same building to buy a voucher for a re-entry stamp. I then returned to the immigration office, where they exchanged the voucher for a sticker in my passport.
After finishing up at the immigration office, I spent most of my day exploring some cool stores in Shinjuku, Shibuya, and Harajuku. I bought some books for my flight home at Kinokuniya, and a cool Weezer shirt in Harajuku.
In the evening, I met up with Okonomi in Noborito. We went out for Okonomiyaki for dinner and then went to karaoke. Since I was traveling back to Numazu, it was a much more reserved karaoke experience that the last time. After karaoke I gathered up all of the Christmas presents that I couldn’t bring home on my shopping trip to Asakusa, and then returned to Numazu. It was a fun day, but the highlight was explaining to a taxi driver at Numazu station where I lived in Japanese, and having him drive me to the right place!
If you have only ever spoken one language, this doesn’t sound like much of an accomplishment, but trust me, it felt great.
Today was my first day at my new branch, Mishima NOVA. My new school only has a total of 8 teachers, which is a nice change from the 24 or so in Kawasaki NOVA. The atmosphere is a lot more relaxed and organized, and there is already a much greater variety of students. I don’t expect to have Sundays full of four engineer lessons anymore!
The school is in a building directly across the street from the south exit of Mishima station. The classroom area is less claustrophobic than Kawasaki NOVA, and there are good sized Voice and NOVA Kids classrooms. The only complaints so far are that the teacher’s room is small and extremely narrow, the surrounding area doesn’t have a huge choice for food, and the washrooms only have squat toilets. I am very concerned about the squat toilets!
After work I went out for drinks and karaoke (again) with Azeroth and one of the branch managers. This was my second night in a row at Uta Club. Both Azeroth and the manager were very good singers, so I had to compensate by being very loud.
Karaoke rule number 1: If you can’t sing well, you should at least sing loudly while flailing your arms around 🙂