How does one traditionally celebrate a birthday in Japan, you might ask?
I might respond with: that's a great question. I have no idea. But I do know how I celebrated the big 3-1.
The Mister and I have already managed to make a few great friends in our short time here so far. Interestingly, the number of Japanese people we have befriended in Japan is fairly small compared to our expat friends. You might see this as a waste of being here, I don't know. But I do know it makes me more comfortable to have made friends with others with whom I can hang out and speak English and share the weirdness that is experiencing Japan as a non-Japanese person.
|I'm not that tubby-looking,|
but I definitely match that dude with tan lines at the moment.
Even while we're out trying to make social connections, we're not seeing it as super common for a Japanese person to want anything to do with a gaijin (aka foreigner), other than to take a picture like Lilo takes pictures of tourists.*
What I'm saying here is that we had a celebration with a bunch of other foreigners to celebrate the (joint) birthday. Who, in this gathering, all happened to be Australian.
*more than once during our birthday party, we had people walk up and take pictures of our party, then walk away without really talking to us at all.
I met KP2 (I'm sure you're reading this - if you would like a different blog pseudonym, lemme know), a few weeks ago, and we've become fast friends. She's a fellow artist here in Nagoya with her S.O. And like me, she has taken up house-wifing while here. AND, as facebook friends have pointed out, we look a bit alike. The cherry on top of all that? KP2's birthday is just a few days after mine, so we had a joint birthday celebration where we both wore black dresses because why not turn up the twinnies knob to almost creepy levels?
|I'm on the right, if you're not paying attention.|
I wanted to celebrate by baking a cake. She wanted to celebrate by making a paper chain (how do we not have a photo of this glorious paper chain?!) and going out to a fun bar. When our powers combine
I am Captain Planet! we made a great birthday party.
We started at KP2's house with the idea that we would eat a dinner of Pizza Hut (the 'Hut exists here, but they're a fancy splurge), eat the cake (I made funfetti! from scratch!), and then after getting sufficiently carb-loaded, head out to the bar (to, to, the bar!**)
**shout out to my college friends who will understand this small bit from a yesteryear when we all had much more resilient livers.
1. I learned that my tiny toaster oven cannot bake a full-sized cake all the way though (so it was a funfetti cake with "cake batter filling," which no one seemed to mind).
2. When we headed out to the bar to capitalize on the Nomihodai (飲みほーだい), we learned that you can drink all you want, as long as you also order food.
Nomihodai is Japanese for "All you can drink." You pay a flat fee and for two hours you can drink as much as you can fit down your gullet, assuming you are skilled in flagging down the waitress to keep the rounds coming. And so long as every single person at your table orders at least one plate of food.
Maybe you were paying attention to the part where I mentioned we had already eaten a significant amount of cake and pizza... so we each had to waste an additional 700+ yen ($7) to order food that we either didn't eat, or ate, overfilled on, and paid the price for later. But now we know - live and learn folks. Moral of the story: don't eat before you go to the all you can drink, even if that logic seems real backwards.
Meaningful life lessons aside, the bar we went to for our celebration is called "American Dining Bar BJ's," where BJ stands for "Big Joy" (get your head out of the gutter). They have American-style food with American-size portions, which is very rare for Japan. But more importantly, they have a nightly pole-dancing show AND flair bartending!
We got to watch a few pole dancing shows, which are not what you're probably thinking, the girls all kept their clothes on and danced to such "raunchy" hits as "Popular," by Mika.
Really, the flair bartending was the bigger entertainment for the evening. Unless you were the party behind us which contained one VERY drunk man who was determined to give the dancers a tip.
He ran up to the bar once and slammed his beer bottle down with enough force to make it fizz over onto the bar, creating a "water hazard" on the dancer's stage (definite party foul). His friends dragged him back to their table. About 20 seconds later he ran back up and laid down on the stage with a 1000 yen ($10) note in his mouth. Again, angry friends dragged him back. One last time he ran up, CLIMBED ONTO THE STAGE, and held onto the pole with both hands like a child throwing a fit would while his friends pulled on each of his legs and the waitstaff yelled.
And then they actually pulled him off the bar from his tantrum leg first which - you guessed it - meant his head hit the ground with a pretty decent thud. Drunky McDrunkerson bounced right back up like a tennis ball, as if nothing happened, and then his (understandably, at this point) angry friend punched him in the neck.
All of this took maybe three minutes total to transpire, and I was unable to look away from such a train wreck. Particularly because in Japanese culture, if you are drunk, you are forgiven all your misconduct by the time you sober up. It is a culture that believes "oh, he didn't know what he was doing, he was drunk, it's not his fault."
...that's a hard idea to swallow for my previous life as a college administrator who handed out consequences for drinking. Or really, it's just a hard idea to swallow for any person who believes your choices are your own. There are too many applications of that idea that lead to horrible, life altering events - sexual assault, injury/ violence (see above), accidentally stepping in front of a train... you see where I'm going with this. But Drunky seemed fine, they ordered him another round, and I went back to
sipping my tea eating my complimentary pile of whipped cream with a sparkler stuck on top.
Do you remember the movie Cocktail with a young Tom Cruise? Where he was a bartender and learned to make cocktails while juggling bottles of vodka, rum, and whiskey? If not, good job being young. It fades, cherish your youth while you can.
Point is, the juggling and stuff is what's called flair bartending. And it's SUPER fun to watch it first hand. Even more so when it's your birthday so they sit you front and center at the bar to watch the main flair show close up... where they make you your very own birthday cocktail, then invite you behind the bar to chug that cocktail in one gulp while the crowd cheers.
I'd say the American and the Aussie were proud to represent their respective homelands by schooling the two Japanese folk in the bar in their own drinking contest, though the next morning did not feel like a proud moment for either of us.
How did you celebrate your last birthday?
Tell me in the comments!
Slightly related tangent - Today I finished putting together my birthday present; two floor-to-ceiling shelving units to help me organize the craft/ office room we have previously been using as a "oh, we have some crap that needs to go somewhere? Just throw it in that room somewhere. On the floor is fine because who needs to walk in or use that space anyway?"
|Top L: Before. Top R: Bubba, king of the shelf boxes. |
Bottom: After, plus some debris because I started crafting immediately and only later remembered pictures.
So now I can use it for crafting, and have already managed to christen it with blood. How? I was sawing a trash can in half***. You know, like you do.
***halloween is coming, prepare yourselves.
today's little language lesson
O-tan-joe-bi o-me-de-toe go-zai-mas
(literally: birthday congratulations)