The Japanese have a reputation as one of the hardest working races around. They work long hours, they almost never take weekends off - and even their packed lunches often look like they took hours to create. Seriously, this it not unusual:
I imagine that this is why Japanese apartments are so small - they are simply never there. They are busy falling asleep at their desks or coaching nine hundred baseball teams. However, there is a little known fact about the Japanese calendar which explains why they manage to work thusly without simply dropping, quietly, dead upon the extremely clean footpaths. This fact is the abundance of National Holidays. In New Zealand, I feel like these come around about three times a year. Off the top of my head can think of Labour Day (where we celebrate Helen Clarke) and Anniversary Day, were you pretend to celebrate the wonderfulness of the city you live in (Kawakawa Anniversary Day anyone? Huzzah!). I do NOT count Waitangi Day because I feel like in the 22 years I have been alive, it has fallen outside a weekend maybe TWICE. Is this even possible? Feel like perhaps someone must have conspired against Pakeha's celebrating the shamelessly usurping of an entire landmass from the indigenous by sleeping all day and eating chips. How rude.
In Japan this would NEVER happen. Their National Holidays are always orchestrated to fall either on a Friday or Monday (thus giving you a long weekend, during which to prepare your lunch box for the next working day) OR on Wednesday, thus giving you a welcome break in the middle of a tiresome week. The best part about these holidays is that they do not celebrate any particular historical event, or even any suitable seasonal shift. They are TOTALLY MADE UP. That's why they can make them fall on whatever day suits best! They celebrate things like "Greenery Day" (during which day, you must spend ten minutes worshipping leaves) and "Marine Day" (during which day you must spend ten minutes worshipping dolphins) and even "Substitute Holiday" (during which you worship... substitute teachers?). While my explanations of these days may be a little suss (that is, 100% fabrication), these holidays are genuine. "Respect for the Aged Day"! "Health and Sports Day"! There is even a "Children's Day", which shows my Mother up nicely for claiming that "Every day is Children's Day". Sorry Mum, it's actually May 5th. Write it down. Why this subject matter? Because I write to you on a Wednesday, from the comfort of my own bed, enjoying, in my own unique way, "National Culture Day". One might imagine that on a holiday thusly named, I would be inclined to visit a museum, or a heritage site. Instead, so far, I have booked flights, watched The Simpsons and eaten Choco Pie's. My most impressive accomplishment to date has been showering. And I didn't even wash my hair.
But I am glad of National Culture Day, for it gives me a chance to blog to you fine people about the weekend just been.
As you may have garnered from the title of this post, Friday night was spent, once more, in the company of my favourite crazy Japanese man. That said, I feel I must warn you that this might be the last post with him as the subject, as I fear we may have killed him. The night started tamely enough, with gyoza at a local restaurant. Aravin and I rugged up and walked the three minutes to the small restaurant, where we were happily surprised to encounter two friends. We sat down, and Aravin was immediately engaged in "conversation" with a Japanese man seated to his left, which involved said Japanese man waving a newspaper depicting the Japanese baseball draft (v important here, apparently) in Aravin's face and gesticulating wildly, possibly bemoaning/celebrating the outcome of the draft, and Aravin alternately nodding and shaking his head emphatically. He makes friends very easily here. Gyoza and Asahi and miso soup were copiously consumed, and we decided to introduce our friends to Crazy Takashi, who up til now had been a discovery of ours only. When we entered his bar, it was apparent that Friday night does not necessarily mean raging custom for Takashi, we being, once more, the only customers. Nonetheless, he was pleased to see us, especially when Aravin gave him his coat. See?
Why does Crazy Takashi make Aravin behave like a teenage girl, in that, the minute they encounter one another, they start trading clothes?
I do not know.
But, it did seem to inspire the spirit of generosity in Takashi, who immediately placed a bottle of shochu and a bottle of plum wine before us, and invited us to pour our own drinks, managing to communicate that it was far too expensive for us to drink by the glass, and that we should therefore purchase the bottles in their entirety. Can you imagine this happening in a bar in NZ? "No, no, don't buy a shot of tequila for $8, that's just ridiculous! Here, take the whole bottle for $30, that's much more sensible, there's a good girl now..." Anyway, we were amenable, it being Friday and we being impressionable. As the bottles got low, conversation flowed more freely, the language barrier apparently not being immune to a tide of liquor. Takashi was enjoying himself immensely, drinking a good three glasses of spirits to every one of ours. He was having such a good time, in fact, that as soon as the bottles looked ready to be empty, he presented us with a free bottle of whiskey, so best to prolong the evening. It was now 11.30, and looked like the party might go on in to the night - but then Takashi hit the wall. He staggered to the two tables in the restaurant and lay down across the seats and appeared to pass out immediately, glasses askew. We gaijins looked at each other - this was clearly an invitation either to depart, or partake of a restaurant sleepover. We decided upon the former. After quick consultation, we left thrice the proposed bill in 1000 yen notes on the bar, $20 just not seeming to be an adequate charge for three full bottles of alcohol. Aravin roused Takashi just enough to indicate the money to him, with the intention of soothing his mind of thoughts that he might have been robbed by four tall and unruly foreigners. But when he saw the money he seemed to become insulted - I don't really know, my Japanese not being great at the best of times, and considerably impaired by plum wine. At any rate, he then began to slap Aravin across the chest and face, yelling in slurred Japanese.
Aravin mananged to extract himself, whereupon Takashi collapsed back upon the seats, and we all left together.
We have not been back since.
So you see my dilemma... We love Takashi. He is a nice man, with slightly crossed-eyes and a text-book drinking problem. He wears yellow pants, and this is endearing. But we never know what to pay him, and we never know what to expect. We also don't know how he manages to stay open, when he only has two customers, and he never properly charges them.
Oh Takashi. NB: Readers, I will let you know when I summon the courage to revisit. Am aware that chances are high that he doesn't actually remember that we were ever there.... Or that he owns a bar... Or that owes Aravin a coat...
After Friday, came Saturday (it usually does). It being October 30th, that night there were numerous Halloween parties at the numerous foreigner bars around the city. Judging by the costume stores that I visited, most Japanese women take this as an occasion to dress up variously as a french maid, a dirty nurse, a school girl or a bunny rabbit. Since these costumes would fit around maybe half of one of my thighs, and get me banned from the subway, I went like this:
Gave a few older Japanese women heart attacks. Also made these children cry: