Posts Tagged drinking in Japan
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!
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!
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 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 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!
Today was St. Patrick’s Day, a cultural celebration of someone that I assume was named Patrick. Like many Canadians, I don’t know the reason for the celebration, but I do know that it’s a great excuse to wear green and drink.
It’s not easy to find a St. Patrick’s Day celebration in Japan, but my coworkers managed to do just that. They learned that Speak E-Z, billed as an English school and bar, was hosting a St. Patrick’s day event.
There is nothing particularly wrong with Speak E-Z, but among NOVA teachers it had gained a reputation similar to the way that people react to GasPanic; meat factory for foreign guys to meet Japanese women. Speak E-Z was far less sketchy than GasPanic, and didn’t have any indication that you needed to have drink in your hand at all times to remain inside (author’s note – don’t take that sign literally!)
After work the other teachers and I headed straight to the bar, which was already unusually busy. I would guess that Speak E-Z should comfortably hold about 50 people. There was a band set up in the corner taking up space, and by the end of the night there must have been over 100 people jammed into the remaining space. I didn’t care because they had 300 yen green beer.
My memories of the evening are fuzzy. I remember running into Palmer’s ex-girlfriend and talking to her for a while. When she and Palmer were together, she was ALWAYS at our apartment, even when he wasn’t. This kept Azeroth and I from getting along with her, so it was good to get a chance to talk to her afterwards. She is a pretty cool person overall.
I also remember drinking more than enough green beer, and then later finding out that the mugs had left green rings around my mouth. This led to another vague memory of deciding that I was done with green rings around my mouth and that I should switch to tequila shots.
Drinking pro-tip: if you are half way through an evening out and suddenly think that tequila shots are a good idea, go home. You’re judgement is impaired and you will only make bad decisions from this point forward.
We left at closing, covered in green spills, smelling like cigarette smoke (yes, you can smoke inside in Japan), and still tasting tequila. Someone decided that they would offer Vivian a ride home in their bicycle basket. Vivian is a tall, full figured British woman who has trouble buying women’s clothes off the rack in Japan. She was not designed to fit in a bicycle basket. They surprisingly lasted about one city block before the bicycle fell over, spilling both driver and passenger. I ran to assist and managed to twist my knee YET AGAIN. Despite the anesthetic effects of the alcohol I had consumed, I had a miserable walk home and an unpleasant sleep.
At least I didn’t have to work early shift like the other teachers!