This past Thursday I had a meeting with a teacher from 粕川小学校 (Kasukawa Elementary School) about a visit next week. When we finished planning the lessons, the teacher got out a small sheet of paper with some English writing and a map. The map was of the area surrounding 仙台駅 (Sendai station) and the following was written: “To Wesley, we would like to drink with you. Please join us this Thursday.” 粕川小学校 has tried inviting me out to drink about four times, but each time they asked a day or two before the event and I always had something else planned (especially during my busy summer). This time, however, I had nothing planned and couldn’t say no.
My Japanese is still limited, but I felt accomplished when I was able to read the map and find the restaurant on myown. I showed up right on time and found the room with my coworkers. Once everyone showed up, it was time to order our first round of drinks. Right away I knew this party would be different than those with my 中学校 (junior high school) because it was a smaller event and the teachers were more willing to interact and attempt to speak English. However, they were all about me speaking Japanese too. When the waitress arrived to take our first order, they made me order for everyone. Mission accomplished; I was able to order 7 rounds of drinks.
As we all began to loosen up, one of the teachers suggested we have a name quiz to see if I knew everyone’s name. Now, I have to say that I’m terrible with remembering Japanese names. Part of it is because a lot of names sound similar (e.g. Ryoichi v. Ryuichi) and another part is because it’s hard to have meaningful converstations with people, which helps to establish and remember names. Even if I know the persons face, what grade they teacher, what their personality is like I still forget their name. Anyway, the name game started and I wasn’t doing well. The teachers had fun with this rather than making me feel embarrassed. If I didn’t remember a teacher’s name then they would try to give me English hints. The best by far was from a guy named きくち (kikuchi). His first hint was “flower.” He couldn’t remember chrysanthemum so it took me a while to get the first part (kiku). Then, the second clue was “blood” and he held out his arm and made a squirt sound accompanied by miming a needle going into his arm. For the rest of the event his nickname was Flower Blood. The man next to Flower Blood was just as funny. His name is ひかわ (hikawa) and his two hints were ひ (hi) and (かわ). The latter was easy enough because it means river in Japanese. Now, the first part was a bit harder. Even though the Japanese for “sun/day” can be read “hi”, the kanji in his name means something else. He tried to explain in English: “Rain…roof…” followed by hand gestures for water going down a pipe. I said, “Oh, a ‘gutter'”. He was extatic that I understood and said, “I’m Gutter River.” I then had to explain how gutter has a negative connotation so I looked up the Japanese word for gutter which happens to be associated with sewage. Upon hearing this, everyone erupted in laughter at Gutter River’s new name.
Later into the night, Gutter River asked me if I would join the teachers on a trip in November to Akita, a prefecture to the north. I was having so much fun with them that night I figured it would be just as fun in November. “Sure” I said, “What are we going to do.” His response was holding up his hands to his nipples and pretending to twist them. I cracked up and asked for an explanation. He started saying, “Nipple Bath, Nipple Bath.” Ok, so I got the bath part. We’re going to go to an onsen. But, the nipple part? Is it because we’ll be in the nude? Turns out, the name of the onsen we’re going to is actaully called nipple bath in Japanese. By the way, nipple is 乳頭 or にゅうとう (nyuutou) in Japanese.
So, come November I’ll have to update you on how the Nipple Bath experience was.
The rest of the night with the elementary teachers was a lot of fun. I got invited to the after party by those who chose to make one. Then, after that I got invited to the after after party with the same group. More hilarity ensued and I got to know the teachers a lot better. I also got invited to play music for a play the students will put on next month. In the states, a drinking party may seem rauchous and unprofessional but here in Japan it is a great opportunity to really get to know your coworkers; it is a way of life.