Tuesday, January 29
Today after work was a welcome party for myself and one other relatively new person. We all left work together and trained to the restaurant. It seemed pretty fance….nice stonework and a pond with goldfish in the lobby. We took off our shoes (anytime you’re in a restaurant and you sit down at the table, you take off your shoes before entering the table area), and headed to a nice Japanese-style ‘booth’. There were about 20 people, at two tables. It was so much fun! We had a full-course meal…appetizers, first, which was a piece of shrimp, a seaweed roll, and something that I didn’t know what it was. I asked, and they didn’t really know either, but it was really good! Then they brought out sashimi (raw fish). Next came ‘nabe’. There were burners on the table, and they brought out a low pot of soup stuff, a platter of raw chicken, and a platter of assorted vegetables. We let the soup heat up and then put everything in it for 10 minutes or so. It was so good! Then they brought out ‘udon’, a thick Japanese noodle which we also put in the soup and let heat up. They also brought out cheese fondue, meat shishkibobs, and a cheesy pasta. Dessert was a jello-type thing with cream on top. We also got infinite drinks, so I tried Japanese beer, a couple cocktails, and some Jikaze – Japanese sake/wine. What I read about Japanese dinner customs was correct – everyone was always offering more drinks, or filling up your beer cup. And, I noticed – if someone wanted more to drink themselves, they rarely just poured it. Instead, they offered it to everyone around them until someone caught on and took the bottle and offered them some. I spent half of my time trying to follow their conversations, and half the time having half-English & half-Japanese conversations with them. I also had to give a small ‘speech’, so I did – but in English. And – it was Hicky’s birthday, so I convinced a guy to sing Happy Birthday to him. This guy had had a reasonable amount to drink, so he stood up and sang it nice and loud. It was very funny. After the dinner, everyone stood up, someone said something special, and everyone clapped together, once. It’s a custom that wishes good health upon everyone at the dinner. It was a great evening. Then we all took the train again, and everyone got off at random stops. Everytime someone left, everyone bowed and alternately repeated ‘Doumo’ (thank you) and something else that I think means ‘Good Night’. I had a great time!! If you had asked me last week if I would do this again, my (honest) answer would have been “No”. But now, it’s “Yes”, and I think that eventually it will be “Yes – in a second!”. I am going tomorrow after work to buy a pass so I can start going a couple times a week. I’m pretty excited for that, too. I also found out more about this hike that I’m going on….I need to buy spikes for my shoes and there will probably be 10 cm of snow! I saw some pictures of the mountain…it looks beautiful, but definitely snowy. We all meet at a train station in the morning, shop for lunch supplies, and take a bus to the bottom of the mountain. It’s only 2 hours to the top (which doesn’t sound like too much to me, but I guess it depends on the terrain!), and then have lunch. We hike back down, bathe at the onsen (spa), and take a bus back to the train station. I think it will be a lot of fun! That’s it for my adventures today…I’m sure there will be more tomorrow!