Friday, July 29, 2005
Night out in Hiroshima town
I met Michiyasu for lunch. He could not meet on Friday night because his daughter had a ballet recital. Years of hard work and overtime seemed to have worn him down, and he looked positively tired. He would only get 4 hours of sleep a day since he worked two jobs. He did perk up when talked about American football. I have met three Japanese men so far – Masaki (Etsuko’s husband), Inoue (the restaurant owner), and Michiyasu. All work long, grueling hours not because they want to, but because they have to. They all have wives and children, and since they are the only breadwinner, they do not complain, but rather do what they have to do. Unlike the U.S., welfare is just not an option. We chatted about the past, and after awhile, it felt as if we were talking back then in 1994! I showed him my blog, and he let out a laugh of recognition when he saw the photo of Saito-san and his wife.
I then met Kiyoshi, a friend from the University of Oregon, at 6:30 pm in front of the station. We chatted for awhile, and then we decided to celebrate his passing his oral comprehensive exams. So we went to a yakitori restaurant, and ate very delicious sticks of roasted chicken parts. I love the “junk” meats such as liver, tongue, crisp fried skin, etc. the owner of the restaurant, originally from Yokohama, came to talk to us, since he noted that we were gabbing away in English. I learned that I have to say I am from America, and then the reaction from other Japanese becomes more positive. But does that mean that non-American foreigners from other parts of Asia do not get good treatment?
Then it was off to town to visit the gaijin (foreigner) bars from my past ten years ago. I first looked for Mac, a famous watering hole popular with English teachers, marines, and counter-culture Japanese. I remembered their huge CD collection of English songs as well. But when I went to their spot, the building was gone, replaced by a shiny new building. At a loss, I stopped two gaijin women walking down the street and asked if they knew where Mac was. One was an English techer from Washington, and the other used to live in Eugene, Oregon. They told me where Mac was and also the name of other gaijin bars. We then looked for the new location of Mac, and when we got lost, I asked two marines and their Japanese girlfriends the location. See how you can use the gaijin network?
We finally discovered Mac next to some parking garages. Yuri, one of the owners exclaimed (in Japanese), “Hello, it has been a long time!” and then she started talking about mutual friends, mainly from Latin America. Her words brought back so many memories! Like I said, these Japanese are memory machines. This is a mellow place, and I saw a few Marines in here with their Japanese girlfriends, some Japanese businessmen, and some Japanese youth, but no bad vibes. In fact, I ended up talking to a Japanese salaryman named “Saito” and we talked about Japan and America. He has distant relatives in Portland, Oregon.
We then went to a watering hole known as Jacara. The owner recognized me and greeted me for being away so long. The owner is on the lower left of this photo.
I even got a bit extra whisky for being away so long. The bartender (center of the photo) knew a mutual acquaintance of mine, and so we chatted for a long time. He was very friendly, and I enjoyed talking to him while enjoying the rap music. Gaijin do not come anymore like in the past, as the management had too many problems with the marines coming and getting into fights. I still remembered the sign from ten years ago (now gone) – “Marines, please do not molest the Japanese women.” It is sad because I met so many cerebral Marines back then who did not fit the stereotype of over-hormoned young men itching for a fight. But I guess the problem just got too bad. So Jacara has turned into an all-Japanese place, at least for this Saturday night.Here`s a picture of a friendly customer who sat next to me. The bar seemed considerably emptier than before, but still a pleasant atmosphere. But man, EVERYONE was smoking, and it became a gas chamber in a small, enclosed space.
We then entered the Shack, a new American-style bar and grill packed with gaijin. I met a student from the University of Hawaii and we spent some time talking about Japan. Kiyoshi and I also drunkenly debated someting - what it was I have no idea.
I love playing darts while drinking and so we went to the dartboard. Some American men and Japanese women were already busy at work practicing their English and Japanese on each other. This is what we call the beginnings of “international exchanges.” The Japanese girls next to use were joking in English with each other, saying dirty stuff they must have picked up from the movies like,“I must have sex!” Yes, so many Japanese speak English so badly that they cannot even string together a simple sentence to order a hamburger, but they become bilingualwhen it comes to dirty words. I couldn’t keep a straight face and burst out laughing and scolded,“Watch your language!” I wanted to take their picture, but they refused, probably out of shame. Anyway, I got too flustered and kept on laughing and so my darts aim just deteriorated, so Kiyoshi won that round of darts. We then said goodbye to the dirty-talking women (I kept laughing so hard), and then went to Snappers, a stand bar from long time ago. Unfortunately, it was closed, and when I went back to Jacara for more drinks, someone told me that it had shut down awhile ago. Maybe it is closed for the vacation? Or maybe it shut down for good? We then taxied home. Taxi drivers often seem tense when I talk to them. Do they think I am a Chinese criminal?