Posts Tagged izakaya
Tonight was my “unofficial” farewell party. For those who haven’t been following the blog, when a teacher relocates to another part of Japan or moves home they often get two farewell parties: the “official” party which is attended by teachers and staff, and the “unofficial” party which is attended by teachers and students.
Azeroth took charge of organizing the party, inviting students from the two branches that I worked at in the area, Numazu and Mishima. The turnout was really impressive! We started off our evening at an izakaya and then ended up going to the second party at karaoke. The whole evening was a lot of fun, and I’m happy that I got one last chance to say goodbye and make everyone listen to my terrible singing.
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!
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.
My parents and I spent the better part of the day with The Penpal and her family. They dropped us off at Numazu station after our visit to Mishima Taisha so we could spend the evening together.
Today’s sightseeing included a lot of walking around (again), so my parents were looking for a relaxing evening activity. I suggested a movie, so we took a short walk over to Joyland (best name ever) to see what was playing. Fortunately for us, Japanese people prefer subtitles to dubbing for foreign movies. This makes it possible to enjoy Hollywood movies. We ended up choosing the Chronicles of Narnia, which was pretty good.
After the movie I was starving, but my parents still weren’t hungry after our ginormous lunches. Suddenly I had a good idea: beer! I took my parents to Uotami, the classy izakaya located conveniently across from the south side of Numazu station. Like most izakayas, there was a good selection of small orders of food in addition to delicious beer.
I was describing how Uotami was known as the classy izakaya among English teachers because of it’s sunken tables and glass floored entrance way built over a small zen rock garden. As we approached the entrance, we saw a very drunk man trying to help up a very drunk woman who had fallen over right outside the front door. Having been in Japan for a while, this was not as surprising to me as it was to my parents. My mom started to get concerned about what kind of place I was taking her to. I reassured her and asked her to trust me, hoping that the very drunk couple didn’t have a group of very drunk friends stumbling their way out as we went in.
We were taken to a table incident free. The tables at Uotami are all separated by tall wooden slats, which gives a bit of a privacy while still allowing you to feel like you’re in an izakaya. The huge, colourful menu was filled with pictures of food and drinks, complete with English descriptions. Even if I wasn’t there, my parents would have been able to order by pointing at the pictures. Uotami has a really good selection of food, beyond the standard “meat on a stick”, and a nearly endless cocktail menu. My mom ordered a cocktail and my dad and I ordered large bottles of beer so we could drink Japanese style from small glasses.
An izakaya visit turned out to be just what everyone needed. We enjoyed spending time together and trying a bunch of different items from the food menu. The non-stop sightseeing was great, but tonight was probably my favourite night of my parents’ visit so far.
Thanks to crappy weather, my parents and I returned to Numazu a few hours early after 4 days and 3 nights in western Japan. One of the things that surprises visitors to Japan is the amount of walking that they end up doing while sightseeing. In the past few days my parents and I had walked around two castles, an aquarium, temples, shrines, and deer filled parks, not to mention around several very large train stations. By the time that we returned to Numazu, they were understandably tired.
We got a quick bite to eat, and my mom decided that she was ready to call it an evening. My dad was still interested in exploring, but my mom couldn’t be convinced. It was then that I had a fantastic idea: beer! I asked my dad if he would like to go for a beer at an izakaya with me. He was very excited by the idea, so we dropped off my mom at the hotel and set out for the nearby Ryoba.
Ryoba has become the regular izakaya of choice for English teachers. If we are going for a drink after work, usually we got to the branch south of Numazu station, which is conveniently close to NOVA. There is also a branch north of Numazu station, which is conveniently close to Hotel Miwa and the apartments where most of the teachers live. Just as we were about to enter the building, we saw my fun coworker Vivian coming up the street. I introduced her to my dad, who invited her to join us for a beer.
North side Ryoba has some tables, but I wanted to give my dad the full experience, so we proceeded to the tatami floor area with low Japanese style tables. The table next to us was full of businessmen unwinding after a long day, ties loosened and ready to become headbands later. We enjoyed some delicious beer and meat on sticks, and my dad seemed impressed by the small bowl of snacks that came with our first drink order (a great Japanese tradition). Vivian and my dad are both outgoing people used to talking to anyone, so the conversation flowed easily. In the end, my dad picked up the tab for all of us.
It was cool getting to take my dad out for a beer in Japan. Even though we have seen a lot of cool things, this might be one of my personal highlights of my parents second visit.
After work I went out for some beer with Palmer, Azeroth, and Christopher Cross at our favourite izakaya.
For the past few months, Christopher Cross and I have become very competitive at chugging beer. I can’t drink a lot of beer, but I am able to pound them back pretty quickly when needed. This is a skill I acquired during my fraternity days in Canada, and that I have been practicing in Japan. Usually I am one of the fastest, but young Christopher managed to beat me more often than not.
We decided to order a round of beer for the next stage in our never ending competition. Coincidentally, we both had to go to the washroom at the same time, right after we had placed our order.
One of the many cool things about Ryoba is the urinals; they look like barrels cut diagonally, and they are filled with ice cubes. There is something strangely satisfying about trying to melt as many ice cubes as you can while using them. Please note: we did not attempt to compete with each other at this.
We returned to the table to find our beer had arrived, although it looked uncharacteristically foamy. Having already enjoyed a few beverages, we decided to ignore this and start the countdown for our race.
One, two, three, SALT!!!
We pounded back our beers in a few seconds each, and then did our best not to undrink them just as quickly. The foaming was caused by the soy sauce that Azeroth and Palmer had added to each of our beers while we were away. Soy sauce infused beer is NOT good.
Christopher and I decided that the best way to get the salty taste out of our mouths was to order another round of refreshing beer, which we guarded very carefully.
Never leave your beer unattended!
Holy crap – my favourite izakaya now has 1000 yen all you can drink for 90 minutes. 100 yen beer nights have the potential to be dangerous, but all you can drink on a timer is just asking for trouble. Unlike some of my friends, I took it VERY easy on the all you can drink both because I have to work tomorrow and because I ate a huge dinner and was still full.
If you can’t get drunk for cheap in Japan, you are drinking in the wrong places.
Only 64 lessons left until my vacation!
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.
After work I went out for cheap beer and sushi with coworkers. (Yes, like almost every other night).
Tonight there was a huge crowd of older ladies in Ryuu. Usually the izakaya is filled with English teachers and salarymen. Tonight we were surrounded on all sides by obasans. It was a bit of a different dynamic, but the power of beer and sushi still allowed us to have a good time.