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Friday, June 13, 2014

Drunken Japanese Businessmen and A Gaijin

You know you have made it as a writer when your boss sends you a link for a possible story idea - and it has nothing to do with your day job, but rather for one of the blogs you write in your spare time.

I don't know why I am saying "YOUR" when it's obvious I am talking out loud about myself. Why am I talking out loud? Use your inside voice, Andrew. Inside your brain. Inside MY brain. Dammit.

Anyhow... today's topic is durunken Japanese bizunesuman...

Although I haven't been drunk in over 15 years (when you are sober, you can feel every single effing minute of that 15 years), I certainly did my fair share of drinking while in Japan back in 1990-1993...

Actually... between the years of 1983 and 1999, I did more than my fair share of partying, and proving to whomever needed 90% proof, that I could outdrink anybody.

I think it was me that needed the proof, because I'm sure no one else really cared.

Well... actually, as a young, single foreign male in Japan for the first time, every person you meet wants to see if you, the gaijin (foreigner) can keep up with the notorious Japanese and their supposed penchant for imbiding copious quantities of fermented or distilled plant matter.

I could keep up.

I might have had to killed many brain cells to prove it, but aside from one Japanese gentleman, Arakawa-san, I out-drank every Nihonjin (Japanese person) or foreigner I ever met in Japan.

Arakawa-san and I engaged in a drinking contest with two other foolish AETs (assistant English teachers) on the JET (Japan Exchange & Teaching) Programme one evening after a provincial enkai (party) and each drank 47 glasses of cold sake (yes, it really was that high a number) before having to call it a tie, as he had some late night meeting with the Tochigi prefectural school board and I had to go and be an annoying drunk at a hotel dance bar. The two other contestants in our little tête-à-tête - one wisely passed out after 8 or so drinks, and the other lasted to maybe 17 or so before his brain realizing he was going to hurt himself if he continued.

Strangely, no women wanted to enter the drinking competition. I suppose the women I know prefer non-competitive drinking. I bet that's true.

Anyhow... I drank a lot in Japan.

I never drank alone - rule number one.

Rule number two - never say "I need a drink." Come back later when you 'want a drink'.
Because I was a very personable guy who got invited out a lot by the local Japanese in Ohtawara-shi, Tochigi-ken, I would get a lot of drinks bought for me.

After the first or second night out with companions, it was no longer about competition to see if the gaijin could keep up with the mighty Japanese (he can), and instead the evening evolved into simply having drinks, getting drunk and releasing all of one's inhibitions in a bond of friendship.

I know... why does one have to be drunk to do that?

Conversation lubrication.

The Japanese have been accused of being uptight people who don't know how to relax - which might be true because there are effing rules of decorum for every single effing thing that it almost seems like the life has been sucked out of them.

As well... because Japanese workers are expected to work long hours to show dedication to the job, leaving only when the boss wakes up from his nap in his office to finally go home, the Japanese seem to be burned out.

But... because everyone at work seems to feel that way... while the bosses might head out to their mistress' home or to a Soapland or to a private noodle bar to get noodled, the common worker might head out for some food and drinks.

They might briefly talk about work, but for the most part they don't and instead talk about stuff that might be fun and interesting... and soon with drinks abound everyone has forgotten about how much they hate work and instead is having a great time.

When the Japanese get together with colleagues (almost always ONLY work colleagues, as who has time to hang out with friends?), it is okay to get plastered, because everyone else is doing it. Let's get drunk as a team and do some bonding, okay? Super ok!

It's like having a "get out of jail for free" card (Monopoly) as there are rarely every any recriminations about one's behavior, nor are there any assholes taking photographs.

Except nowadays... where I think most of the photographs taken of drunken Japanese are by smug gaijin wanting to have a laugh.

In fact... let me direct you to a funny (sort of story) HERE about Drunken Japanese Businessmen.

I don't find anything overly disturbing about seeing images of drunken Japanese business dudes... BUT, I do find it disturbing that these poor bastards in the photos seem to have been abandoned by their comrades as they tried (in vain) to make their way home.

Whatever. It's a social thing.

As an aside, I did nearly meet my match in Japan from drinking.

While I certainly NEVER had a hangover (NEVER... not sure why, but it explains why I never learned my lessons), I certainly did get drunk and did indeed puke up the previous decade's lunch, thereby helping remove that bowel obstruction.

The Flaming Blue Lamborghini was one of those super sweet cocktails where you were drunk after one drink; incapable of walking after two drinks; and passed out after three.

Or so my bartender said to me. Yes... I had a bartender in Japan.

I'm pretty sure he made it extra strong, but I never reached passed out stage - at least not at the bar. I would hang around for about 30 minutes after that third drink and then stumble home like I had some internal GPS working and maybe make it into my bed. Once I just got into the front hall before passing out.

Whatever... my reputation was alive in the outside world. I had 10's of people respect my drinking ability. Probably. Maybe.

The only good thing I can say about my behavior while drunk out in public, is that I don't get abusive or touchie-feelie... I just get funnier and louder. I'm already pretty loud, but who knew I could get funnier?!

Anyhow... photos of drunken Japanese business men. Whatever. I can see that they are pretty effing funny, because they are.. but drinking in Japan is simply a part of the social structure. Granted, you don't have to go through the extremes I went through, but I was also trying to prove myself.

I was trying to be better than the Japanese in everything, and thus by being better than the Japanese in everything, they might see this gaijin as their equal.

Cheers (I'll drink to that),
Andrew Joseph

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