For me, this week has been all about putting off preparations for moving house. Oh yeah, and going to various people’s “goodbye” outings. Yesterday I swung by Kyoto to go to an English pub with some friends. This was a regular thing for them, but I’d just started going recently.
The place did the English-pub schtick with moderate success. The effect of sitting in a pew seat, pint glass in hand, and looking out of the window to the dreary modern skyline of Kyoto was, well, a little jarring. These outings ran on tradition. The tradition was: get in early and drink while happy hour was still going on (sure, I’d love to use the Housemartins song in the post title, but we can’t always get what we want) from 5 to 8. The place was usually deserted, so we hung out there, chatted to the bar staff, and got “merry”.
Extremely merry. We left a little past eight to go get some sushi, leaving behind a few people who weren’t hungry. Despite having eaten at the pub, I was end-of-the-night drunk by 8pm, and needed something more to soak up the alcohol. At some point we twigged that one member of our party was missing, and we started asking each other “Where’s Jay? Where’s Jay, dude?” Jay had gone home – after doing four tequila shots in quick succession he had apparently thrown up, not in the urinal, but around the urinal.
Probably just as well that was the last regular outing.
In the sushi restaurant, I discovered that like most foods, sushi tastes even more delicious when you’re pissed. After shouting for soy sauce at the top of my voice, I noticed the foreign couple opposite our table were giving us dirty looks. I shot one right back – there’s no use acting superior. You’ve probably indulged in some dumb gaijin behaviour before. Don’t act like you haven’t.
After polishing off a few plates of sushi, I decided I wanted another drink. I got a beer from a convenience store, and went back to the river. In summer the wide banks of the Kamogawa are full of people sitting and enjoying the view. In my opinion, there is nothing finer than sitting by water (a river, the sea, whatever) on a warm summer’s evening, drinking a cold beer and watching the world go by.
Fate, however, had different plans for my evening.
I’d met up with the guys who didn’t get sushi, and now the others came from the restaurant and found us. Suddenly I heard “HUMAN CHAIN!” and just like when anything stupid gets suggested, I jumped right in. My friends were forming a human chain to reach down the sloping concrete bank to the river. I ended up second from the top, with the guy at the bottom dipping his foot in. Karma must have decided to step in and punish such DG behaviour, because the next thing I knew, the chain had broken and people were scrambling up the bank, leaving two guys at the bottom clinging on to the moulded concrete.
They tried climbing up, as another guy went down to help them. Bad decision. I saw, as if in slow motion, the bigger of the two lose his grip and fall on the lower guy, and both of them fell in the river with a resounding splash. Once I clocked that the river was shallow and they were in no danger, I laughed long and loud. If there’s anything funnier than seeing your friends fall in a river, I don’t know what it is.
Looking up from watching the guys struggling, I saw a policeman talking to someone. “They’re bringing rope, dude!” a friend shouted. Rope? Why the hell do we need rope? I thought. Surely we can just reach down and pull them up. A few seconds of frantically scrabbling on the concrete, I was disabused of such notions. I noticed there were more policemen now. Quite a lot, in fact. I counted about seven, surrounding our group and taking people’s details. This is OK, I can wait this out. Then I looked up towards the street, and noticed more officers running towards us, one of which was carrying some rope.
This was something else. I started counting the coppers, then started over. I was sure I’d drunkenly miscounted. No, I was right. There were FOURTEEN police officers surronding us. This was a police swarm. What could bring so many police out in such a short time in the UK? Someone ringing a bell in Parliament Square? Caling a police horse gay? I dreaded to think of anything more serious.
So there I was, drunk, underage, an open can of beer right next to my stuff, surrounded on three sides by the police and on one side by a river containing two of my friends. It was just going to be one of those nights. I gave my details to one of the policemen, while one of them threw down the rope and helped my friends up. They were very nice about it, and didn’t even mind when I started taking pictures. (Note: photos are (badly) edited out of respect to the officers of the law who fished these guys out of the river.)
Speaking of photos, at one point during the rescue operation someone grabbed me and said “There’s people taking pictures from the bridge! We’re going to be in the news tomorrow.” We later met up with some of our party, and discovered that it was them snapping our brush with the law. Funny as the whole experience was, I want to keep my contact with Japan’s police to a minimum for the rest of my stay here.