Japanese People and Drunken Explosions
The title pretty much says it all. Japanese people… Tightly wound and constantly practicing enryo* and gamman* (the Japanese practices of ‘holding back’). But when the sake (or beer… or whiskey… or whatever the drink du-jour happens to be) gets flowing, it all comes undone.
I can’t count the number of times that I have seen the following happen:
End of year - bounenkai party season – all the office members make their way to an izakaya (Japanese bars) and the drinks start to flow. All fun and games at first, and then at some point in the evening a fight breaks out. There is yelling, there is screaming, and from time to time there is even a little bit of physical violence. Maybe someone gets a little too irritated with the new guy who wont shut up, or maybe Mr. Shy finally gets up the drunken nerve to tell the office cutie just what he thinks about her and her short skirts… But no matter what the situation, the example is illustrated.
And it doesn’t just stop there. Believe it or not, its not an uncommon occurrence for a Japanese man who lives away from his family to call in a drunken rage and proceed to yell at his wife blaming all his problems on her. Then, as if that isn’t quite enough, he’ll even go so far as to make her put the kids on the phone so he can share the brunt of his drunken decision with them!
And if the office and the home were where it stopped, you might not be reading this post.
But as it would seem, it seems to seep its way into the streets, parks, trains, and anywhere that these drunken time-bombs walk.
My story comes to you back from the year 2007… I was sitting on a bullet train on my way to Sendai Japan when a man who smelled of alcohol from 5 meters away decided to wobble his way over to the seat next to me and try and start up a conversation. To add to everything, he thought it would help his cause to speak English.
He slammed himself into the seat next to me and opened the conversation with “My daughter’s a b****” (which I would later find out he was mistaking for the word “whore”). My jaw hit the floor and his story began.
The next 25+ minutes (which felt close to an hour) was filled with his attempt at telling a story in English…
What was the story about? While I could barely understand a word that came out of his mouth, his message was still crystal clear: He was not happy.
My tipping point in this particular conversation was when the man started going on and on about how his daughter liked gaijin and how gaijin were destroying this country, his daughter, and his life.
Honestly… what in the world could have possibly possessed this man to think that I would be the person to talk to about this?!?!
But I just kept telling myself, ‘He’s Drunk. He’s Drunk‘ figuring that it would come to a sleepy end soon enough. But then the bomb finally went off and he spit out the line that I suppose was inevitable,
“So go back your country foreigner”.
At this point, my face kinda looked like this –> (O.o)
I was tired, he was drunk, and honestly, I just wanted to enjoy my train ride.
So, I thanked him for the conversation and stood up.
And what does he do? He grabs my arm and pulls me back down into my seat. And to this, my reaction was less than passive.
I grabbed his hand by the wrist, looked him in the eye, and asked him quite sternly not to touch me again.
He paused for a moment.
And then… something mysterious happened…
He reached for his bag… and as if pulling a rabbit out of a hat, he pulls out a bottle of Japanese alcohol.
He holds it in front of me and with an almost mischievous grin on his face, says, “let’s drinking!”
What would you do?
I have never really been one to turn down interesting opportunities or situations in my life, and so I accepted.
As the time passed and the contents of the bottle depleted, the tension that once filled the air dissipated and the man who once seemed my enemy was now seeming much more like my friend.
We drank and talked (or at least tried to talk) for over a good hour. We showed pictures of our loved ones, talked about the good and bad of Japan, shared life stories and laughs, and even exchanged business cards. And in the end it came to a close just as I had originally predicted… He fell asleep. And that was it. I got off at my stop with another story in my pocket, and a difficulty walking a straight line.
He didn’t really want to fight. They very rarely do.
And so we wrap up yet another rant. Hopefully a little wiser, or at the very least, feeling slightly entertained.
After speaking to friends, colleagues, and random Japan-lovers about this, I found that many people have their own unique and interesting stories in this area, so I invite you to share!!