Joe Darris lives in Japan with his darling wife, and would it if you shared his blog with your friends!
Monday, August 11, 2014
24 Amazing Hours in Japan: Part 1
The last twenty fours were filled with excitement. The English teachers we replaced came to visit, and we all went out to a fireworks show together. Stoic citizens of Takayama held 3 foot tubes filled with explosives and wrapped in rope as showers of spark rained down on them until the tubes exploded. We stayed until one of the teachers couldn’t resist getting closer for a better shot (he quit teaching to be a videographer, which is good, he’s quite talented and we wouldn’t be here if not for him leaving).We left once security escorted him back to the spectator section. That’s some footage I want to see.
We went to dinner together, but then parted ways. They were invited to a wedding dance party, but with a 2000 yen cover charge, we decided to forego the party for our regular stomping grounds, Desolation Row.
A bootleg of Sid Vicious was playing as we plopped down next to the rival English teachers in town. They were with good friends of theirs, a couple of Israelis, though one of them is from Ukraine, and joked that with him here, soon Japan would go to war as well. The other Israeli was asleep, and wasn’t woken until his German friend came to rouse him.
“We are taking a plane tomorrow at twelve. Let’s go to bed.”
We English teachers all laughed mercilessly at this and the sleeping Israeli refused to leave.
“How long was I out?” he asked, lighting a cigarette.
“30 years, actually this is your daughter,” the Ukrainian Israeli said, gesturing to my wife.
“Wow, you are all grown up,” he said, not missing a beat.
Sergeant Pepper started up, and the other English teachers asked me if I thought Billy Shears or Paul McCartney was singing. We tried to talk about the genius that is the conspiracy of Paul’s death, but the music took us, and soon we were all singing.
Impressed with our voices (or trying to drown them out), the bartender put on Abby Road, and later The White Album. The beer mixed the albums together as we belted out “Oh Darling,” bounced to “Obla-di Obla-da,” and talked shit about Ringo during “Octopus’s Garden.” The Ukrainian Israeli insisted Ukraine girls really were the best and Raquel and I waited to stun them all with our flawless rendition of “Rocky Raccoon.”
At one point the English teachers we replaced showed up. One had the hiccoughs and the other had a look on his face I call the sake-stare. “They had a cask of sake and some crazy woman was pouring it down our throats. I’m drunker than I’ve been in a year!” Somehow he still managed to assemble his camera and film the Beatles sing-a-long. More footage I’m desperate to see. They vanished without getting a beer. They knew the way home, so we didn’t follow them.
I hoped they made it alright, but currently the Israelis were beating their stomachs demanding food.
“You are not hungry? How can this be? We are so hungry! Come, join us, we know a place near the train station.”
Well, that is on our way home.
“Spoken like a true American! Come, eat with us!”
We left, but not before the resident Hungarian grabbed my arm.
“Tomorrow we will go to see my meteor in the morning. You have car?” He had already described his meteor to me. It had crashed sixty-five million years ago and the aliens had repurposed it into an underground bar. Really he had built it out of sheet metal and covered it in faded ink, but that’s not the kind of description I can walk away from.
Uh… what about Monday?
“Tomorrow is better” he gestured to his friend from Myanmar.
“Great, ten am? You have car?”
Uh, how about eleven?
“Yes fine. You have car?”
“Good. See you here, tomorrow at eleven. Bring your car.”
The Israelis dragged us through the empty streets of Takayama. Fortunately it had stopped raining (the first time in five days) because someone had stolen our umbrellas. We stumbled into a basement near the train station, then through halls of private dining rooms, each filled with patrons and hidden behind sliding wooden doors. This seemed like a great place to conduct business unseen.
The waitress led us to our own private alcove and the Israelis plopped down. I carefully folded my legs and lowered myself down to the low table, amazed that our friends had sat so quickly. I tucked my legs under me, cautiously sat, and…
I knocked the sliding door/wall behind me into the hallway. Raquel and the waitress held it up until a team of Japanese came to my rescue. Convinced that I’d just destroy the door, they removed it, and we ate in a three sided room.
“This place is normally so quiet!”
“I’ve never seen it so open!”
I turned red while the Israelis laughed and laughed.
They ordered a huge amount of sashimi and pizza and began to shovel it in their mouths. Raquel watched in horror as I kept up.
“We are out of soy sauce, tell the waitress to bring some or you will destroy more of this place.”
I laughed, pretended to call for her and almost bowled over another waiter. The Israelis stopped laughing. “How drunk are you?”
Raquel came to my rescue, “He doesn’t need to be drunk. He’s just clumsy. Ridiculously clumsy.”
As we feasted we talked of the Japanese who ate quietly in hidden rooms all around us.
“They make noises to be polite.”
We all chimed in, with our best attempts at conversational Japanese: “So, so. Hai. Hai. Dozo! Eto… Eeeeeto,” which roughly translates to: “Mhmm. Yes. Yes. If you please! Um… Ummm…”
Filled with delicious sashimi and pizza (how one place can do both so well boggles my mind) and quite sure we had offended the locals, we left. The one who’d slept thirty years, Raquel’s father, waived away our pathetic attempts to pay as effortlessly as her real father would have.
We left, carefully dodging the puke on the stairs, and parted ways. The rain had started up again, so I stole an umbrella as we passed a convenient store, hopefully adding another link in a chain of umbrella-theft that goes back decades. Raquel gave it away the next day, but that’s another story, for another post. After a week of rain, the sun is out. We need to go warm up before the typhoon returns.