First on my list has to be a uniquely Japanese tradition which I experienced for the first time last night: all you can eat/all you can drink parties. You hire the table for 2 hours and omnipresent smiling Japanese waiters bow and prance and bring you plate after plate of food and jug after jug of beer. Truth: these parties are probably disasterously bad for your health. Another truth: they are great for breaking down awkward cross-cultural barriers. There is nothing like free-flowing Asahi to make you willing to embrace/tell all your secrets to/have deep political discussion about the governmental treatment of your country`s indigenous peoples with even the quietest Japanese person. The only problem is that time does fly. Getting your money`s worth in two hours time is quite the challenge, one which every JET seemed amenable to last night. Hence the prone bodies and unusual silence in the Board of Education office this morning.
Secondly - karaoke. Now, I know this exists elsewhere, but no one does it like the Japanese. Once again you can sign up for all you can drink. And you are shut in a small dark space teeming with beer. And it is amazing how quickly all inhibition vanishes. Most of the Western world are terrified of public performance - I have scraped from the back of my sodden brain some fact to the effect that public speaking is a greater fear for many than death (personally, I am more afraid of crows than both of the above. Their BEAKS). Performing `My Humps` in front of a bunch of strangers must then be akin to public nudity at a great height whilst on fire. However, this is what I did last night. With dance moves. And vigour. And probably the odd hip-thrust (prays to God that no photographic evidence exists of this frightening memory. I will never be President of America if that comes to light). And this from someone who has point-blank refused to sing for anyone (aside from within the protective ranks of a choir) for the last 10 years. And the grand protective blanket that covers all this latent Japanese exhibitionisim? The culture of forgetting. At a drunken, tuneless staff party, all may be revealed. Cohorts who have never spoken two words to one another may confess deepest secrets, or communicate how genuinely terrible they believe the other to be at their job. The type of confessions which, in NZ, would lead to black grudges borne for decades, and ascribed on tombstones - in Japan, in the light of day, blank slate. Absolutely. No one will be held to account for dire drunken behaviours. Definitely a cultural nuance that makes the morning after less cringe-inducing. So I guess this AM amnesia would be make third on my list of desirable Japanese traits.
Fourth - takoyaki. Also known as octopus balls. Don`t knock it til you`ve tried it. Gooey, fishy, savoury, delicious.
Fifth - Buses that actually arrive on time. To the minute. Now that I`ve experienced it I know it can be done. New Zealand bus-drivers: take note. There is no excuse for this 20 minute give or take that seems to surround the approximations that we laughably call a timetable.
Sixth: Coca Cola Kit-Kats. Why has nobody thought before to combine these two addictive indulgences? Only the Japanese.
That is all for now. I am going to go discover more things for my list.
To end: a few things that Japan could do with borrowing from NZ: mumdademilymaddyliznicolediallyrupertflissllew. Sort it out guys. As you now know, I`ve got lots of great snacks waiting for you.