Monday, November 22, 2010

Sakasai and Bingo

Life in Japan roles on. In the last few weeks i’ve played bingo in the rain, got falling down drunk in a nightclub, eaten food cooked by students, seen heavy metal moshpits in the afternoon and fallen asleep on a train. I think i’m fitting in quite well.

The place i work is a university filled with people far cleverer than i ever could be (tri-lingual biotechnologists make dreaming bums like me seem a bit daft) and they know how to have a good time as well. Most universities in Japan have a festival every autumn where the campus closes down for a weekend and is taken over by the students who set up stalls making different foods, play little gigs and share whatever hobbies and interests they’ve got with everybody else. To celebrate the start of the festival last week there was a game of bingo played amongst a crowd of people in front of a small stage at the entrance of the university. Unfortunately it was shitting it down with rain on a cold November evening at the time and the pre-game entertainment of a faux boyband singing ballads was slightly tempered by the fact that the amp didn’t work properly and so they had to share one microphone. In the rain. Before a game of bingo. They were followed onto stage by a group of dancers who jigged and bobbed and clapped in time to a remixed version of Desree’s You Gotta Be. In the rain. And then we played bingo. The winner, whoever it was, won a Playstation 3. Everybody else got mild hyperthermia and seemed pleasantly happy with that. But then a lot of Japanese people seem to have “pleasantly happy” as their default setting.

The festival itself was a colourful mix and mash in the middle of the campus bursting with people, food and music. I stood amongst the buildings and trees and bodies trying to figure out how and why there was a heavy metal band playing to an audience of about a dozen men, some who had dyed their hair green for the occasion, who were throwing themselves at each other in a sober mid afternoon moshpit. About ten metres or so away was the cycling club who were all, for reasons that are still unknown, dressed in drag and doing line dancing all day. Next to them was an old woman stuffing her face with fried noodles next to a cute girl wearing a t-shirt advertising, “Noddy the Pig Hunters” as she ate a chocolate covered banana. I looked around and wondered how it was that even amongst a combination like that i still kind of self-consciously stood out as being foreign.

A night out in Tokyo is, as you’d expect, extremely good fun. The main problem though is that as i live about an hour by train from the centre of things you can’t get a taxi back home (they’re way too expensive) and you have to either get the last train around midnight or stay out until the morning. I thoroughly recommend staying out until the morning. Especially if it includes a nightclub that has several DJs and a live James Brown-esqe blues/soul band with a lead singer who only sings about temperatures and directions, “Hot now. Get down. Yeah, bring it up. Mmm right. Cool that.” By about five o'clock i couldn’t even pronounce my own name and made several nice women wish they were sitting or standing somewhere else. Which they then politely did. I got the train home at about six. Or at least i tried. I definitely remember getting on the train heading back to Kashiwa but I woke up at 9am on the train in Tokyo so i was probably slept all the way to Kashiwa and all the way back to Tokyo again without knowing it. Still, great night. Great city.

Thanks for reading. I’ll write some more rubbish soon.

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