18.05.2007 - 19.05.2007
We've just got home from a day of wandering around Machida (a city two stops from us) with our friend Ken.. we sorted out Japanese lessons starting next week, ate yummy food (including a big bowl of ramen) and wandered around the shops pointing at some of the odder clothes and drooling over many an item!! Japan truly is a shopper's paradise especially if you are looking for something a bit different from the status quo at home.
We were meant to be exploring a mountain that houses flying squirrels, temples, acclaimed Soba restaurants and views of Fuji-san.. however plans sort of fell apart because we were worried it might rain and then missed our train to meet the others and generally weren't too enthusiastic about it when we crawled out of bed.. which may have something to do with our shenanigans last night!!
We had decided to take a rain check on a big night out with lots of other teachers and choose to explore our local "counter pub" as the sign said above the door of a bar 3 minutes walk from our humble abode. We also recruited Ken to join us. After some trepidation upon approaching the place (mainly because it looked closed), Ken bravely reached for the handle and opened the door of the most surreal little bar I have ever been too. It consisted of a very small room with a curved bar running all along it and comfy stools/high seats at the counter. The clientele seemed to be mainly middle-aged Japanese business men - although there was only about 7 people there and once we sat down there were no seats left! We ordered our drinks (Asahi Dry beer for the boys, a tipple known here as a Lemon Sour for me, it's is made from a spirit distilled from sweet potato, very good!). Along with our drinks we were given various nibbles by the 3 lovely middle-aged Japanese ladies who were the sum total of the barstaff. As the night progressed and we befriended them, and some of the other punters too, we were also given some Kyoto sweet pastry things and a few glasses of some delicious pinky red liqueur! I gathered it was made from plums but also had something to do with red leaves, and apparently it is quite rare.
You may well be wondering how exactly we befriended the staff and other drinkers, given that they were Japanese, twice our age and we were unable to speak their language.. well, mainly we owe thanks to Ken who is half Japanese and was our interpreter and representative! But also the guy next to Matt spoke English, and in any case not all communication is based on language - we found that singing did the trick!!! Unlikely as it seems to us, this teeny tiny local bar had fully functional, all singing, all dancing karaoke equipment and we charmed their cotton socks off with renditions of beatles songs and, upon request, Amazing Grace! Needless to say the locals were much better than us but I think they appreciated our efforts - Matt even ended up doing a duet with his English-speaking friend!! Also, there was one old man in the corner, drinking whiskey (I think) from a bottle that was clearing kept aside just for him, who had the most amazing voice ever! He put us to shame!
The night ended when Ken had to catch a train home - though only after many hugs from the bar staff and reassurances on our part that we would come back!! It was an absolutely magic and eye-opening experience for us! No Westerners had ever been there as far as we could tell, and we couldn't have had a more Japanese or a more welcoming experience!
PS I forgot to mention their A/C was offline and it was very hot.. so to remedy this the ladies who worked there passed around free ice lollies (popsicles for you Americans!).. Now that's service!
addendum: I said Ken left to catch his last train.. well, he did catch it and arrived 15 minutes before the connecting train that would deliver him to his doorstep.. and there he sat down and promptly fell asleep only to wake up a few minutes later, just in time to see the train he was meant to catch pulling out of teh station!!!!! it was of course his last connecting train so he had to pay 4000 yen (about 40 US bucks) to get himself taxi-ed home! Ah, the joys of public transport..