Ok, so first off; I guess I owe everyone out there a giant obnoxious all-caps rendering of Happy New Year! (I was remarkably light on the cards this year after all… hey, it saves trees). So, HAPPY NEW YEAR! I hope you’re all coming to terms with the Christmas weight gain, and have dealt with the New Years day hangover (both alcohol and credit-card debt induced).
And to all those native Japanese speakers that I neglected to send New Year cards to (hey, it’s not my cultural tradition… and it saves trees) a big Akemaste Omedeto! I hope you enjoyed your time off from the salaryman/salarygal salt-mines. Now back to work!
This is how they party in Tokyo; with precarious steel cables all round! Sometimes I wonder if the city has such a quaint idea as a 'fire code' in force- there is no evidence so far to suggest this.
So here we are, once more with a brand new shiny year to look forward to, full of hope promise and ‘Yes We Can!’ spirit, and a dusty old year we can hopefully look back on with a sense of satisfaction and pride rather than loathing and disgust.
So, in terms of keeping the public record current, I’m here to present a short sampling of some of the more memorable moments of 2008, as witnessed by this humble soul:
New Year 2007-2008, it’s best to start at the start; so when the year of the rat ticked round I was sprinting through a throng of people in Harajuku, Tokyo on the path leading to Meiji shrine, head full of ideas about ‘Hatsumode’ and spending New Year partying with Japanese people in a Japanese way, the clock ticks down, there’s screaming, shouting and general cacophony, and then… cold. And the reality of waiting in a queue for hours to have low-denomination coins likely impact the back of your head sets in. We decided to head back to the pub instead. This year I got things right by just curling up with a pint from the get go.
Salarymen in the classroom; I love my shiney new high-school gig, but I firmly believe that the world of the Eikiwa (conversation school) is unrivaled when it comes to quality of soundbites. ‘Sensei, please explain ‘Suck me sideways’, I think Japan should be king of the world, like Toyota’, ‘My wife is a whore, it is bad for our health’, ‘Is Australia big, like the ocean?’ ‘You are a man who is worthy of fine death’ and ‘Does this textbook have sexy pictures?’ Are just a few of the question/comments I fielded in the line of duty.
Leaving Sasebo; It’s fair to say that my leaving party in Sasebo was possibly the biggest ego-trip a person could imagine; I’m not sure if I’ll ever get over walking into a bar plastered with my own visage and standing on stage singing mangled Backstreet Boys songs for a goodly portion of the night. To everyone involved again, a massive ‘Thank You!’
Return to Oz; I’d often wondered during my time away what coming back to Adelaide might feel like, but I know I never visualized being semi-conscious and nauseated. My girlfriend pleaded with me to stay a few extra days, (‘Shaun, you might die’ being her exact words) but in the end she dosed me with Tamago-saki (that’s hot saki with raw eggs dumped in it, uhhh… thanks Mina) and gave me a shoulder to lean on as I staggered to the departure gate. I stopped over at Singapore and blacked-out on some benches; then got back and tumbled into my parents arms. A definite candidate for most horrible aeronautic experience ever.
Cultural-reaclimitisation; It’s amazing just how ingrained cultural-behavior and expectation can become; after a year of bowing and ‘arigato gozaimas!’ It’s hard to stop, and I’m sure I weirded out more than a few baristas in the Rundle Mall coffee shops, using a knife and fork again seemed novel, and my house seemed HUGE. In terms of food too, switching from bento-boxes and sushi-platters to plates of steak and pasta was kinda trippy. It’s always strange to be reminded just how much you are a product of where you are, some things never change though; I still tingle whenever I take a bite out of a Tim-Tam (no matter which hemisphere I’m in)
Reality-checking; Remember that old TV show ‘Northern Exposure’ about that big-city doctor who got sent up to Alaska kicking and screaming? That kinda what moving to Nogata felt like; I remember riding the train in with my luggage and seeing a giant chain of rice paddies and thinking maybe I should be scoping for Viet-Cong out there; images of having to grow my own vegetables and bartering stuffed koalas for baked goods ran through my head. Lucky for me I’ve got a giga-mall next door and I like the wildlife; now I love Nogata, it’s like the ultimate blend of quiet-living and wanton commercial decadence!
Parties, parties, parties; End of year parties are a giant deal for the overworked proletariat the world over, and this year was no exception; there are school parties, private parties, company parties, family parties… and as a minor local celebrity (‘cause of y’know… bein’ foreign and speakin’ English and all) I end up going to a lot of these things, which is fun; but often ends up with your colleagues trying to recruit you to sing old sea-shanties… in Japanese, or your students grandma starts quizzing you about your financial independence, just in case romance is blooming, or your girlfriend’s co-workers giggle manically while trying to embarrass you with poorly phrased ‘risqué’ questions (‘girls… you like?’) Sometimes a guy just wants a beer and some cake!
Who knows what wonders/terrors the year of the Ox/Cow/Water-buffalo/Bison (whatever it is) will hold? Only time, and rampant global governmental spending will tell!
Actual snow, in *my* town; which like all snow looks pretty but is actually cold, wet, slippery and dangerous. Making snowmen is still fun though.
Party like it’s 2009 (‘cause it is),