Archive for category Shenanigans
Today was Veronica’s last day as an English teacher, so after work we had a big farewell party at an izakaya in Numazu. Veronica had been teaching for a while and was very well liked, so her party attracted teachers from Mishima, Numazu, Fuji, Fujinomiya, and Shimizu branches.
The highlight / lowlight of the evening was Brad’s (not very) erotic dance. Brad is one of my coworkers at Mishima NOVA who is soon moving to Fuji school. He is about the size of an NFL linebacker, and has a huge booming voice that you can hear from a great distance. Working with Brad is fun, if you don’t have to be in the next classroom competing with his huge voice. The staff usually does a good job of trying to put him in a classroom away from other teachers if possible.
For some reason (alcohol) Brad decided to entertain us by trying to do a “sexy” dance. He had a completely serious look on his face at the time, and most of his moves appeared to be stolen from N-Sync. It was hilarious and terrifying at the same time.
As usual, the second party was at karaoke, which went late into the night. Farewell parties are a lot of fun, it’s too bad that someone has to leave in order to have one.
I got a call from Junk to go for lunch at Dirty Ken’s restaurant downtown (not the real name). Junk picked me up, and we tried to find a parking spot downtown that wasn’t completely filled with snow. After we braved the snow filled streets and got parked, we found that the restaurant was closed.
Our backup plan was Stella’s in Osborne Village, which was excellent as always. After breakfast we hung out for a few hours watching Simpsons, and then I returned home to prepare for the New Year’s Party at the fraternity house.
Due to the crazy amounts of snow and the fact that I was planning on drinking too much to safely drive home, I took the bus to the frat house. Winnipeg Transit is not the best form of transportation, and it doesn’t even come close to Japanese trains, but it sure beats driving in the winter.
The party was pretty good, even though only about half of the expected people showed up due to the snow. The people who did show up enjoyed a typical evening of alcohol fueled mayhem. Highlights included a live band in the basement, a sad female singing in Portuguese in the shower, communal baby duck, a cool projector, and getting to hang out with Hippie, who some of you may remember as one of the people who came to visit me in Japan in the summer.
My good friend / drinking buddy Triple D showed up late from work, and we recreated some of our wrestling night stupidity by attacking each other with plastic champagne glasses. It seemed like a fun idea at the time, but we both ended up with cuts on our foreheads. Fun fact: non stick cooking spray in an open wound stings like crazy.
Later in the evening Hippie, who was living in the fraternity house, retreated to his room with his girlfriend Sunny for some “alone time”. He left her alone in his room to have a shower, so Triple D and I (after way too many beers) decided to hang out with Sunny and interrupt their plans. When Hippie returned and found us hanging out, he was less than pleased. After much pleading and several threats, Hippie thought we were finally about to leave. At that moment, Triple D picked up some bongos and initiated an Epic Bongo Challenge.
One of the cardinal rules of being a Hippie is that you must own bongos. The related rule is that you are never able to turn down a bongo challenge at any time for any reason.
Triple D picked up Hippie’s bongos and played a pretty good beat, considering his blood alcohol content. Hippie took the bongos and responded to the challenge. I encouraged them both, and took the picture above. I honestly can’t say how long the epic bongo battle continued, but it probably seemed like hours to poor Sunny.
Eventually we did leave the room and I ended up crashing on one of the many available couches long after most people had gone to sleep. It was a fun New Year’s Eve with friends that I was going to regret in the morning.
(Updated Jan 4 – changed Hippie’s girlfriend’s from “Hippie’s girlfriend” to “Sunny” by request)
I started my day in Portage la Prairie with a visit to my old employer. I had worked there for several years during University, so it was good to drop in and say hi to my old coworkers. Naturally I brought donuts. I missed Canadian donuts.
In the afternoon I went to Winnipeg to hang out with the fraternity guys. I joined them for a group outing at a place called Xtreme Tactics. For the rest of the afternoon we chased each other around an indoor maze shooting each other with Airsoft pellet guns. I had played paintball before but never done indoor Airsoft, which is why I was not appropriately dressed for the occasion. I ended up with some nasty welts on my arms.
After spending the afternoon shooting each other, we all went to Boston Pizza for dinner and then returned to the fraternity house for the Brotherhood Bottle Exchange.
In Delta Upsilon, new members are assigned a “big brother” when they join. The big brother is an existing member who is supposed to guide the little brother in the ways of the fraternity. At the brotherhood bottle exchange, big brothers and little brothers exchange bottles of alcohol and then everyone hangs out for some beverages and brotherhood. It was a great chance for me to catch up with my friends and hear some fun fraternity stories.
During the course of the evening, the following events may or may not have happened:
- People mixing shochu in their beer (a very bad idea).
- A centurion – this is a beer related challenge where participants drink one shot glass full of beer every minute. While one ounce of beer seems like a small amount, once ounce of beer every minute works out to about standard bottles of beer every hour. Centurions usually don’t end well.
- Vomiting in a holiday themed hat.
- A poker game which started with low stakes and ended up resulting in people losing part of their next month’s rent money. The big winner, who claimed several hundred dollars from other players, decided to tear up all of the IOUs and return the winnings.
- A stripper was hired, but since you can’t discuss prices over the phone, a long negotiation about money occured inside the front door. Both sides at times threatened to walk away from the deal.
- A WWE style wrestling match pitting man vs. wicker chair. After a long battle, the chair eventually lost after several Hulk Hogan style legdrops. It ended up being thrown over the balcony into the snow below.
It was a good time for everyone except the chair.
We arrived in Roppongi around midnight, which meant that we were committed to staying out all night. As soon as we got out of the station, we were swarmed by the usual group of Nigerian touts trying to get us into their clubs. Phoala bargained with them like a pro. He is outspoken and not afraid to speak his mind – remember that for later on in the story.
We ended up stopping in a basement pub close to GasPanic called New York something – I can’t really remember. It was basically a narrow space with a long bar that served sensibly priced drinks. There wasn’t a lot happening inside, but it was a good place to keep our buzz going from all you can drink karaoke without going broke. The bartender tried to entertain us with some of those small metal sliding puzzles. They are difficult at the best of times, but as we were a few drinks into our evening they were nearly impossible.
The attractive female waitress, annoyed that we were spending too much time playing with the sliding metal puzzle, took it from the member of our group that she was obviously flirting with (not naming names here), and hung it from the cleavage of her low cut tank top. I quietly told him that he should retrieve it from her cleavage with his mouth, which he did. The effect was instant – she suddenly had lust in her eyes, grabbed my friend and started kissing him intensely. She then whispered in his ear that he should meet her in the bathroom in a few minutes.
Nobody in our group was expecting that kind of reaction, not least was the recipient of the surprise makeouts. Even though the waitress came onto him and he didn’t have a chance to escape, he felt guilty because he had a girlfriend. Realizing that nothing else good could come of a further stay in the bar, we settled up and decided to move along to the next venue.
Our next stop was GasPanic, which was completely packed even though it was after 1:00am on Friday morning. We hung out and enjoyed the cheap drinks. I had learned my lesson from a previous trip months earlier that the “you must have a drink in your hand” rule was not a challenge.
Somewhere after 3:00am we went to Yoshinoya for some gyudon. Yoshinoya is famous for gyudon, which is delicious grilled beef and onions with sauce on rice. Gyudon is delicious any time, but when you have been drinking for over 6 hours it is the single most amazing food ever. While in Yoshinoya we struck up a conversation with an Australian guy, asking him for recommendations for other places to go. At first he seemed pretty cool and helpful, but he kept badmouthing some members of our group when they weren’t listening. Taking this as a bad sign, we ditched him soon after we left the restaurant.
This is where the evening takes a strange turn. As we were standing around deciding where to go next, one of the touts came up and told us about a really relaxed, fun place that was a bit out of the way. There were no hourly charges, and the drinks were good. This sounded okay, so we started following him. I was a combination of drunk and tired, so I really don’t know how long we walked or in which direction. I do know that this bar was really, really out of the way. It was on the lower level of a large office building and appeared to be the only business still open in the area.
When we went inside, the first thing I noticed was that there were no Japanese people in the building. The bartender, the waitress, and the huge scary bouncer all looked Russian. Seriously, this bouncer looked like he lifted weights in prison for fun. All drinks on the menu were 1000 yen. Shortly after we ordered, the four of us were joined by four very attractive blond women who asked if they could sit with us. They were all from Georgia and Chechnya. The waitress walked by and “suggested” that we buy the ladies a drink. At that point I realized that we were in a hostess bar, and our evening was about to get really expensive. I wanted to leave ASAP, but two members of our group were single and were really enjoying talking to the women.
The drinks arrived, and we were all making small talk, when Phoala asked one of the women nicely if she liked working at the bar. She responded that she wasn’t working there, they were just visiting and wanted to spend time with us (not likely). Knowing BS when he heard it, Phoala told her she was lying, she worked there, and we all knew it. She insisted that she didn’t work there, and that she was just out for a fun evening and really wanted to hang out with us. Phoala again told her she was lying, and that he knew it. He did this much louder than the first time.
Japan is a very safe country, and you really have to be looking for trouble to find it. Being really drunk at a shady Russian bar off the main streets in Roppongi at 4:00am and yelling at the hostesses would probably count as “looking for trouble”. I quickly ordered another round of drinks for the ladies, paid the waitress, and dragged us out the door.
It was now close to 5:00am, and amazingly some members of our group were looking for another tout to find the next bar. By this point I was well and truly done for the evening. I said goodbye to the other guys, returned to Roppongi station, and waited for the first train of the morning so I could go home.
I took the Tokyo Metro to Shinjuku, and switched to Odakyu line to get home. I managed to fall asleep standing up, and woke up just before Noborito station. When I first arrived in Japan just over a year ago, I would not have been able to sleep while sitting down on a train. I got off the train and walked to the ticket gate. It was then I realized that I couldn’t find my ticket. I checked all of my pockets and still couldn’t find my ticket. I even moved off to the side, crouched down and emptied the entire contents of every pocket I had on the ground – still no ticket.
At this point I had two options: explain the situation to the station attendant, or “tailgate” behind someone else through the gate. It was now 6:00am and I didn’t have a lot of confidence in my communication skills, so I waited for the next big crowd and followed someone through the gate. The doors swung and smashed my kneecaps, but I pushed through and kept walking. Remember kids – it’s only okay to do this if you really, truly, honestly paid for a ticket. Don’t tailgate to get free travel.
After a long sleep I spent the rest of the day rehydrating and trying to recover from one of the most eventful nights of my life. Good times!
Other than the amazing sightseeing, my personal highlight from my day exploring Kyoto with my family occurred as we were ready to leave Kinkakuji. It involves a conversation between an American soldier and my sister.
There are about 50,000 American military personnel stationed in Japan. This is due to a treaty signed with Japan at the end of World War 2. The United States has pledged to defend Japan in cooperation with the Japanese Self Defense Force. Due to the large numbers of servicemen, it’s not uncommon to encounter them especially in popular tourist areas.
There were a small group of American soldiers in civilian clothes doing some sightseeing. While we were taking a short break before returning to the hotel, one of the soldiers started chatting up my sister. She seemed to enjoy the attention of the nice looking young man.
At some point my dad walked over, which forced my sister to awkwardly introduce him. The young man shook my dad’s hand politely. Then my sister mentioned that my dad was a retired Captain in the Canadian Forces. Instantly the young American snapped to attention, standing straight and tall. My dad tried to engage him in some small talk, and the soldier started responding with “yes sir” and “no sir”. He seemed to be intimidated by my very non threatening father. My sister was not amused at all.
Shortly after the soldier excused himself to rejoin his friends. My sister was annoyed, my dad didn’t understand why, and I stood off to the side laughing. Good times!
(2014 Update) My dad could have been a Major, but turned down a promotion so we didn’t have to move while I was in the middle of high school and my sister was in the middle of junior high school. If the young American soldier reacted so strongly to a Captain, I would have loved to see his reaction to a Major!
It was a lot of fun rewriting the posts about my friends’ visit to Japan. My original blog posts ranged from two sentences to a paragraph each, which was not nearly long enough to properly describe the events. Using a combination of my original blog posts, pictures from the time, and recent conversations with some of the guys, I was able to flesh out some of the details.
There are a few small things that got missed in the daily updates:
Flounder stands out: Flounder was stared at almost everywhere we went because he was gigantic compared to most people. He actually started counting the number of people staring at him on each day. He was in the double digits but stopped counting when we walked by a few hundred elementary school kids.
So much Playstation: We played a lot of Playstation while working off our hangovers. The most popular game was WWE Smackdown: Here Comes the Pain. I only had two PS2 controllers, so two players had to use PS1 controllers that we borrowed from Lux. Since taunts were only usable on the PS2 controllers, we had to impose a house rule banning them.
Hippies like gyoza: Hippie took a serious liking to gyoza from Shop 99 – the awesome 99 yen store near Hello House. I have never seen someone so enthusiastically demolish an entire package. “I like dumplings” because his catch phrase for the trip.
Laryngitis: I had a bit of a sore throat when the guys arrived. They bombarded me with so many questions about everything around us that I actually lost my voice completely a few times in the first days of their visit.
Are we there yet: On our many train rides, the guys would annoy me by asking which station we needed to get off at. Then they would ask how many stops were left. Then they would ask me which station again. Then they asked how many stops now. It was a variation on the classic “are we there yet”. I told them to just get off the train when I did and to stop asking questions.
To stop this game, I got off the train unexpectedly at a station on Odakyu line with no explanation. All of the guys followed me off the train and then I jumped back on suddenly. They all scrambled to get back on the train before the doors closed. I though this was hilarious. They didn’t appreciate the humour.
Representing Canada: Like most Canadians, we proudly displayed the Canadian flag in our travels. However, all the flags got put away when we were drinking and acting like idiots. This was something we learned in our fraternity days – don’t act stupid while wearing fraternity letters.
Not everyone can read Japanese: On one of our Tokyo adventures, I needed to hit a bank machine. I told the guys to meet me at the coffee shop across the street. They asked which coffee shop. I told them it was the only coffee shop on the street. They still didn’t see it. At this point I realized the problem: the coffee shop sign was in Japanese and I was the only person who could read it.
Thailand: If you are standing on a train holding on to the handle and someone asks you what the capital of Thailand is, you are about to get punched in the junk.
The final word:
It has been ten years since my friends came to visit me in Japan. We don’t always see each other very often, but when we do we always have fond memories of our 17 day adventure in Japan. We have all grown up since that time and now all have real jobs. The crazy guys who had a non stop karaoke, video game and booze filled vacation are now a professional accountant, an elementary school teacher, a train conductor, a corporate account manager and something to do with military intelligence. Hippie and I were in each other’s wedding parties and I look forward to setting up play dates with my newborn son and Flounder’s soon to arrive baby.
If I hadn’t joined a fraternity in University I likely would never have met Code Red, Green, Hippie, or Flounder. There are some people who say that joining a fraternity is just a way to buy some friends. If that’s the case, I didn’t pay nearly enough.
I had to work today. The guys went to a sword museum in Tokyo, and then met up with me outside Kawasaki station at the end of my shift. They all requested another night out in Shibuya. We spent our time in game centers and then went back to Don Quijote, this time sober enough to fully enjoy the experience. Green and I both bought small beer chilling machines which claim to cool a beer from room temperature to drinking temperature in 90 seconds. For the price of 2000 yen this seemed like a reasonable gamble.
We got to Shibuya station a bit early to avoid any chance of missing the last train. Our route home was the always crowded Keio line to Shimokitazawa, and then Odakyu line to Noborito. When we got to the platform we saw the second last train loading up. It was literally wall to wall people. This gave us a chance to see Japan’s famous train pushers for the first time. They are railway staff that push all of the arms and legs into a crowded train car so the doors can close. If you want a true Japan cultural experience, you have to see the train pushers in action.
We went to the front of the line and waited for the last train of the evening to arrive. We were in the last train car standing against the back wall of the car in a row. I regretted my purchase of the beer cooling cube as I had to awkwardly straddle it while the train car filled up. By the time the train was ready to leave, the train car was packed like sardines and we were pressed up against the back wall. Due to my awkward straddling position, a nearby drunk man tried to use me as a seat.
As we got moving, a drunk woman crawled between Flounder’s legs and started looking like she was going to be sick. Flounder described the situation to me as “It’s like a game of leapfrog, but nobody’s jumping!”. Everyone in the area who could understand language was laughing at the situation.
When we got closer to Shimokitazawa station, I instructed the guys that we had to get off the train quickly and run to Odakyu line. I let them know that we only had a few minutes to make our connection before the Odakyu line left. I made very clear to them that if they didn’t get off the train before the doors closed, that they would have no way of getting back to Hello House.
At Shimokitazawa the doors opened and a crowd of people started flowing out of the train. Japan is a usually very polite and orderly country, except on crowded trains. When the train is crowded, anything goes. Hippie, Code Red, Green and I all forced our way off the train, but Flounder was trapped behind a man who stood directly in the doorway with his arms crossed.
Flounder yelled out “I can’t get off the train!”. I replied “you HAVE to get off the train NOW”.
Flounder, hearing the urgency in my voice, decided that desperate times called for desperate measures. He tried to go left – not enough space. He tried to go right – too crowded. He then grabbed the door blocker by his elbows, picked him up, and carried him off the train.
The door blocking man was furious at being picked up like a toy and moved out of the way. He turned around angrily and found himself staring directly into the middle of Flounder’s chest. As he slowly looked up at the giant smiling gaijin, he decided that he wasn’t all that angry anymore and quickly got on the train without a word. The nearby people on the platform thought this was hilarious. Flounder simply shrugged and told me “you said I had to get off the train now”. We all continued laughing as we ran for the Odakyu line to catch the last train back to Hello House.
Description on the beer cooling machine:
Drinking a glass of beer helps yourself release fatigue and mental stress after you come back home. Just pull down the lever and get a chilled canned beer for your relaxing time. COOLING CUBE creates a healing time and space beyond reality for you. Since 2002.