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A few months ago I cracked open a can of
beer while sitting on the subway and sprayed
foam on the guy sitting next to me. Not a
lot of foam, just a few sprinkles really,
and only on his suit jack, which he had resting
on his lap.
The beer spray was embarrassing, of course,
and I apologized profusely. I don't usually
drink on the train, it was just kind of a
whim. Drinking on the train for me really
has very little to do with drinking per se,
but a lot to do with the fact that I'm on
public transportation. It just seems so out
of place, to be downing a cold one while
whizzing through the downtown, that I can't
believe I'm allowed to do it. It gives me
a bit of a thrill. Eating and drinking on
the train is certainly bad manners, but as
far as I know it's legal.
Japan's drinking laws and customs are one
of the things that make me feel that Japan
is an exceptionally civilized country. The
whole system can be summed up in two words:
freedom and responsibility.
You can buy any type of alcoholic beverage
that you can think of beer, wine,
hard liquor from a plethora of vendors.
You can go to a liquor store, of course,
but you'll also be able to find booze in
24-hour convenience stores, street stalls,
train platform kiosks, and even vending machines
on the street. As far as I know, it's pretty
much legal to drink anytime and anywhere.
This is what I mean by 'freedom'.
You would think that the abundance, ubiquity,
public acceptance of alcohol would result
in people being perpetually drunk and rowdy
in public, but this isn't the case at all.
People are relatively restrained. Drinking
in public is the exception, not the norm.
When people are drunk, in the vast majority
of cases they are still very cordial, civil,
and clean. This is what I mean by 'responsibility'.
You could never get away with this
of freedom in Canada, basically because
aren't responsible enough. Young people
still have a kind of 'Viking rampage'
towards drinking and partying. The
form of alcohol consumption for the
is essentially going to a bar or party
binge drinking without eating. If you
allowed people to drink on the subways
Toronto, for example, it would be a
There'd be parties, and screaming,
and beer sprayed all over the walls
People just don't have any respect
places and property in Canada.
Anyhow, the guy who I sprayed on the
didn't seem too interested in my admiration
for Japanese drinking customs, so I
just try to lay off the beer while
transportation in the future.
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Some good news this week: Karen got
visa and we won't be getting deported
time soon. What a relief! Now we can
buying things for the apartment again.
When we weren't sure if we were staying or
going we couldn't bring ourselves to buy
any decorations for the apartment or to spend
money to get things repaired. I mean, because
we're not planning on shipping much of our
stuff back to Canada when we leave, anything
that we buy now we'll just have to resell
or toss out when we move.
Now that I think about it, even though we've
been here for over five years, we still often
act as if we're going to leave 'anytime soon'.
We don't commit to long-term projects, and
we never put any time or money into making
our apartment look nice.
I suppose this loose commitment to life and
surroundings is just part of an unsettled
life abroad: not quite travellers, yet not
Anyway, Karen's visa will give us another
three years to muse on the mindset of the
semi-permanent resident if we so choose to
stay that long.
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I took my parents to the airport today.
going back to Canada. I miss them already
because having them around made me
In other news, Javier from Argentina, a long-time
Hunkabutta reader, has a sharp new photoblog
up that you should check out:
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I took my dad on a short tour of some of
our local bars the other night. When I say
'bar', I really mean 'tiny little place with
a counter and seven stools selling raw fish,
chicken skewers, sake, and beer.'
We started our little pub crawl at a yakitori (skewered chicken) bar near Minowa station,
and the plan was to work our way back home.
We opened the sliding door from the
stooped down under the blue half-curtains
which hung over the entrance, and walked
in. The entire place was about eight
wide and twenty feet long. The room
down the middle by a counter with a
Behind the counter a husband and wife
did all the work. The husband tended
chicken grill, which spilled out onto
sidewalk outside, and the wife served
customers at the stools.
As soon as we walked in everyone stopped
talking and took on a stone-faced expression.
It was as if a couple of big, awkward Martians
had just entered the room. The only thing
that broke the silence was the background
chatter of the nighttime drama that was playing
on a TV up in the back corner.
I looked at the woman behind the counter
and I could just see her mind working.
was thinking, "Shit! Now how in
hell do you say 'Welcome, please sit
in English. I know I learned it back
I said good evening to her in Japanese and
she breathed a sigh of relief.
I ordered a couple of beers and plate of
maguro sashimi (raw tuna) for my dad and I. As we were
eating, a guy sitting alone a few stools
down from my dad was showing obvious signs
of amusement. He too was eating a plate of
sashimi. He struck up a conversation by asking the
usual opening question; "Are you American?"
After a bit of the usual chit chat he told
us that this was the first time he had ever
seen a foreigner eat raw fish, and he was
He then went on to list all of the
gross things that Japanese people eat
and asked us if we would ever eat those
raw chicken or raw horse for example.
him that I've eaten the raw chicken,
try to stay away from it.
He then proceeded to order himself a plate
of raw octopus so that he could see us eat
it. The women behind the bar pulled out a
big old tentacle from a clear plastic bag
and started to hack off hunks and give them
to me to eat. It tasted fine, I thought my
dad was very brave to try such strange new
In fact, they were all very impressed with
my dad. The guy told us that my dad was very
handsome and dashing. I asked him why he
thought so, and he told me it was because
the image that he had of older foreign men
is that they're all big, fat, and bald. My
dad is none of those things. I said, "Oh
really. That's kind of funny, but I suppose
it's more or less true." We all had
a laugh over that one.
He then went on to survey everyone in the
bar on what famous actor they thought may
dad looked like. The woman working behind
the counter came up with the actor everyone
finally agreed upon: Marlon Brando. Kind
of strange, I thought, but could be worse.
After everyone finished talking about my
dad I figured it was time to move on to the
next bar. We paid the bill, and with a whole
lot of half bows and statements of thanks
moved on out into the Tokyo night.