Monday, December 25, 2006

Christmas is Over...

It was a nice one. I woke up around 8am, took care of some household maintenance issues, then opened my presents, which were greatly enjoyed and appreciated. Later, in the afternoon, I went to Ohgiya for dinner.

Actually, it was a toss-up between Ohgiya and Denny's. I also briefly considered going to an Italian restaurant not far from my apartment, or finding a more upscale dinner-spot. But since I'll be throwing money around like a terminal patient on a final fling in Tokyo in a few days, I decided not to spend more than 2000 yen.

And Denny's was packed. It was Girl City in there, which was nice. But I didn't feel like waiting for possibly half an hour just to take a table solo while late arrivals watched the Lone Gaijin hogging up prime real estate.

So Ohgiya.

Ohgiya recently remodeled. In years past, during the winter they'd put a heavy, clear plastic sheet around the patio area and stick a kerosene heater out there. One of my Nova students had the back of an expensive jacket ruined because he sat too close to the heater and scorched it. Now, it's surrounded by some really nice but fragile glass and wood sliding doors.

Which will probably end up demolished by some drunk-ass sometime before spring.

Christmas Day night was a very mild evening, probably too warm for the heavy coat I was wearing and this was a good thing, because it was still 10 minutes until Ohgiya's opening time. Inside, I could see the two staff members on the early dinner shift putting on their aprons.

I stood around, watching the shoppers. The street was busy as the sky darkened... strolling couples and shopping groups. Lots of girls in fur coats and tall, over the knee boots. A group of Nana-esque gothy-punk girls who caught the appreciative eye of a gothy-punk boy. He gave them a lingering look over his shoulder but they never looked back, being absorbed in their own chatter and laughter.

After a few minutes, the revolving orange light on the Ohgiya sign came on and with it, the white paper lanterns along the facade.

The manager is an elfin-faced woman in a special burgundy tee (as opposed to the black or navy blue tees the regular staff wear, male and female), and she opened the doors to put out one of their banners.

Smiling because she recognized me, she asked, "Maji?"

Which means, "Really?" I haven't been there for a while, so she was surprised to see me. I nodded happily and went in, took off my jacket and found a spot to sit at the bar in the back. The server took my drink order... "Cola, onegaishimasu!"

For my Christmas dinner, I ate yakitori shio (salt yakitori), ebi furai (fried shrimp), furai potato (french fries) and daikon salada (Japanese radish salad with a delicious herb dressing). The cost was around 1300 yen.

While I was eating, a few middle aged dudes came in and ordered beer. Yakitori is beer-drinking food. These middle aged guys love to order a few dishes and drink big mugs of beer, or else order the gigantic bottles they have at Ohgiya.

These bottles are probably as long as your ankle to your knee. I think they're sho-chu or chu-hi and not beer but they're brown glass, whatever they contain. When I went to a sashimi restaurant with one of our students a few months back, he ordered one and set it on the floor beside his chair. A convenient spot for it.

After I finished, I paid and offered a sincere "Gochisosama deshita!" (a polite phrase that roughly means "Thank you for treating me") and caught the #9 bus back out to Sanaru-dai to relax and reflect on a peaceful, enjoyable holiday spent far from family and friends.

Christmas in Japan is a romantic holiday. It's more a time for couples to get together and have a cozy, intimate dinner at some candlelit restaurant. Thinking along those lines, I sent a "Happy Holiday" email to a girl I really liked two years ago... only to find out she'd deleted her Hotmail account without telling me her new email address.

So much for that.

Then I texted with a friend for a while. She just started a new job with Suzuki, and she's having a hard time adjusting. It's a great company for her to work for, and Japan is the Land of Lifetime Employment. She's made, she's got it made if she can fit into the corporate culture, which is still pretty blatantly sexist here. Plus she'll have to get used to the non-optional after-hours drinking thing... and all the welcome parties and farewell parties, as well being expected as part of your job to go to coworkers' weddings on your days off.

Then I watched Fellowship of the Rings.

Note: Not only is Suzuki a high-powered auto and/or motorcycle manufacturing company... or companies (I need to research this more)... the name itself is practically the Japanese equivalent of "Smith." I've lost count of how many Suzukis I've met.

Which reminds me of a joke my dad once told me (on several occasions):

There was this guy who lived in Smithville, and he was getting pretty sick of all the people there named Smith. Practically everyone in town had that name. So one day, he hopped a freight train to escape and fell asleep. Waking up the following morning with the train stopped, he jumped off only to see a huge factory labelled "Smith Manufacturing Plant."

"Dammit," he said. "I was trying to get away from Smiths, and here I am where they make the sons-of-bitches!"

I wonder if people here sometimes think that as they ride the JR train to Toyohashi and pass big Suzuki building along the tracks.

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