The most popular English phrases for Japanese people have to be "I was surprised," and "Long time, no see." Out of those two, my favorite is "I was surprised." Whenever someone tells you about his or her experience abroad, you'll more than likely hear this expression. Usually it's some comical culture shock thing.
When I was in America, I thought I was pretty strange. Not your run-of-the-mill person. But after hearing Japanese stereotypes of Americans, I'm forced to admit I'm pretty damn American. I'm a John Wayne walkin' talkin' example of everything American to the Japanese. I'm funny, I'm positive, I'm confident to the point of arrogance, and I'm optimistic.
I also have a massive appetite, and I've fired guns.
On the other hand, people seem to expect me to be a heavy drinker. While that was true in the past, it's not true anymore. This year, other than a few social events, I've barely had any alcohol and I'm becoming less and less interested in indulging. A beer or two with dinner, like last night, is fine. But going on a massive binge just doesn't thrill me.
Maybe people have me confused with some of the other gaijin in Hamamatsu. Many of them are heavy drinkers. I had two roommates at different times who were incipient alcoholics. Places like Down Under, Groovy Gravy and No Name Bar are the centers for gaijin socializing and most nights you'll see the same faces in the same groups.
So I can see how that particular stereotype got started, at least in this city.
Speaking of last night...
I went to a new (for me) restaurant called Vivace. It's an Italian place. Inside, it's comfy and modern, with dark wood fixtures and white walls. There's a semi-private enclosed dining area near the front, and a bar for solo diners, such as myself.
The reason I went was one of our students works there and I told her I would. My co-teacher had already dined there, and I'd managed to promise twice and renege both times. So I was locked in.
The student was happy to see me when she walked in. She quickly told the other server that I was her English teacher, then she leaned over to me and asked, "You speak Japanese, don't you?"
"Chotto," I replied. A little.
I spent 2900 yen, which is around 30 bucks. A little pricey, but the food was good. I had some sort of strange but delicious sardine spaghetti with nuts in it, and then a margarita pizza which was the best pizza I've had in Hamamatsu. The crust was thin but chewy, the way I like it.
We were able to have a little conversation while I ate. At one point, she bounced over to me and nodded back towards the kitchen where the chef was looking out, smiling. "He said he thought you were my boyfriend," she told me.
We laughed together.
"It was a joke, maybe," she said.
After I finished off the pizza, she had the chef make a special dessert for me. She asked, "What's your favorite sweet? Chocolate, fruit or cheesecake?"
She talked to the chef and came back after a few minutes with a slice of fudgey chocolate cake with some sort of semi-sweet creampuff topping and a scoop of berry sherbet. It was excellent. I'll have to get some friends together to dine there sometime.
Vivace could use the business. Granted, it was a Wednesday night, but the place was dead. There was just a young couple in the corner having an intimate dinner, and later, two women who'd just finished a day's shopping and then an older married couple. It seems a shame that's all the business they had while I was there, although I was dining early for Japan.
That's another observation. I can't tell you how many times I've had dinner at 8 or even 9pm. People here think I'm weird because I want to eat at 5pm.