My Japanese Welcome Party

My initial idea about Japanese parties is that they are filled with beer, beer, raw fish and more beer. To a point, I’m right but after my welcome party here at ESD Kagoshima, I discovered that there is more to Japanese parties than beer, raw fish and more beer.

For my Welcome Party, we went to this Japanese Restaurant in Tenmonkan… nothing extraordinary. They have reserved a room with two tables especially for our delegation. Actually, there are many rooms in the restaurant… proof of the Japanese people’s love for beer parties.

Being a typical Japanese restaurant, the tables are lowered and we had to sit on the tatami-matted floors. I’ve done this a hundred times before and still, I am never comfortable sitting the Japanese way for dinner. It hurts and I have to move all the time just to prevent my legs from aching even more. Of course, it would have been rude if I complained so I just kept silent and ignored my aching legs.

My Welcome Party actually coincides with Kuya R’s Farewell party. That’s a good thing because I don’t have the monopoly of all the attention of the employees. Kuya R will be leaving for the Philippines next week to prepare for his wedding early next year. Afterwards, he’ll be moving to the States with his wife to seek a new life in the USA.

As expected, the first thing they serve is beer. “Kanpai!” (“Cheers!”) is probably the word of the day. The Japanese people love beer although surprisingly, that is not always the case. Some just drink a few bottles of beer and keep their glasses half-full to prevent others from pouring more beer into their glasses. I’m not so much into beer so that’s exactly what I did and it’s quite effective.

They have this tradition that you shouldn’t pour your own beer. However, it is everyone’s responsibility to pour beer into everybody else’s glasses once they get empty. If you keep your glass half-full, nobody would pour beer into your glass. Emptying your glass is like a signal for the others to pour more beer into your glass.

This tradition is very convenient for me because if I want more beer, I just have to empty my glass. I don’t have to make excuses for not drinking as many beer as the rest. In fact, I don’t really need to drink beer. I drank beer nonetheless because besides, it’s free.

Although the Japanese don’t need to talk to ask for more beer, I noticed that they talk a lot when they drink beer… even just a few glasses of beer is enough to make them tell their life’s story. It’s quite surprising because foreigners like myself are normally used to the silent and timid Japanese and when they get together for a drinking party, they get extraordinarily talkative.

I have no problems with that. In fact, I like that because when they’re drunk, I can get to know them more. Even though I don’t understand most of what they’re saying, I do get an idea of what the conversation is about. And sometimes, they take the extra effort to translate what they said to English just so that I understand. They’re really kind, even when they’re drunk.

Then, in the middle of the party, the organizer would stand up and say something in Japanese. I heard my name so I know he’s talking about me. Not understanding a thing that he said, I asked my boss, who can speak English, and he told me that I had to make a speech. It’s a good thing that I’m already prepared because Kuya R already informed me about the speech.

So, I stood up and recited my memorized speech (in Japanese). No problem because it was short and I already have it memorized. I just thanked them for the Welcome Party and told them that I am really looking forward to my seven-month stay at ESD Kagoshima. However, what really got their attention was the part where I was describing Kagoshima City. I said that Kagoshima City is a beautiful city… except for the ash fall. I guess they can easily relate to that.

After the party, some of the attendees had to go home for one reason or another. However, those of us who decided to stay are going to our “Nijikai” (“Second Party”). I would love to tell you more about the Nijikai but that would take another article. Besides, some things are better kept unsaid. 🙂

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