Category Archives: antics

Politics and Alcohol

True story: on Friday I was standing in my friend Ed’s garden, hungover, watching him throw up a hastily consumed Pot Noodle (and noticing that, disgustingly, it looked the same coming out as it going in). On Saturday, almost exactly twenty four hours later, I was at a conference on East Asian relations in Leeds, listening to some very complex presentation on aspects of regionalism in East Asia. Yep, this is my life: a series of events so bizarre I’ve basically given up on any causal relation.

I went to Leicester to attend Ed’s goodbye party, before he goes to Germany to study for a term. A few drinks in the union bar, and then a long walk to a club in the city, we rocked out to various rock’n’roll hits from the 60s. After the antics of Thursday night, the Friday was pretty sedate, mostly spent at Ed’s house chilling out (and watching him fight a losing battle with instant noodle snacks). The day after, I was back at Leeds for the conference, which featured a few lecurers from my department, as well as visiting experts. The whole thing was very interesting, and finished off with a good question-and-answer session which prompted some fairly in-depth discussion among the guests. I hope I get another weekend combining intellectualism and inebriation soon enough.

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It’s the little things we do, when you go out in the night

No, no, no. Never again. No nay never, no never, no more. I am never drinking again – until the next time, obviously.

A housemate’s birthday is always a big occasion, and Saturday was J’s 21st. A bunch of J and S’s friends came up from their hometown, and with most of my housemates elsewhere, hosting duties were down to me. What with their having started drinking early on, I was very well-lubricated by the time we went out to the Elbow Room. Make that completely smashed. I was dancing like a loon amongst all the trendy types on the dancefloor, getting odd looks and the occasional thumbs-up. I knew what a fool I was making of myself, but I didn’t care. Self-awareness mixed with joyous abandon – it’s a good combination, and the way I’d like to live all of my life. Shame I have to get terrifically drunk to do it.

Arriving back at the house a little after everyone else, I found my room turned upside down and my safe gone. It was a practical joke by one of our guests, who kept dropping me subtle hints for the rest of the night about whose room he’d left the safe in. This made me laugh in the morning. We weren’t exactly in Da Vinci Code territory – I was having trouble understanding simple sentences, let alone coded messages.

The following afternoon, we braved the outside world to go to the pub and watch the football. I don’t really support any team, but I can watch a football match and appreciate it. The trouble is, I do it in a rather detached way, which coupled with my hungover state meant I was the only person in a crowd of cheering Manchester United fans sitting down, clapping my hands at the goal and drawling “Fantastic. Jolly good show. Super-duper.”

I have a feeling that they somehow had me pegged as a casual fan.

Unfortunately, today classes begin again and I have my nose to the grindstone once more. Expect more adventures to the furthest edges of my sanity Japanese grammatical forms, as 2007 rumbles on.

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Talking it over, Part 2: in which your hero finds his flow seriously messed wit’

I’m looking forward to it – going over the experience made me realise what a great time I had over there. Considering how apprehensive I was in the run-up to my departure, I want to convince everybody that it will be as good for them as it was for me.

Oh, I had a plan. I had a plan alright. A plan that disappeared the moment I saw Ilkka had come to the meeting as well.

Ilkka and I were at Kansai Gaidai together. He was a professional cynic, and his heart certainly was in it. We’d had some great times together, but considering that he’d spent most of the year bashing Gaidai and its large American population, I wasn’t looking forward to doing the presentation with him.

We got up and stood in front of the first years. After a brief introduction, I began telling them a little bit about Kansai Gaidai. As soon as I paused, Ilkka was ready…

Ilkka: You might hear that Kansai Gaidai is a Japanese university. It’s actually an American university…
Me: Well, there are a lot of Americans th-
Ilkka: …where the foreign students are kept separated from the rest of the students!”

And on it went. I was giving a presentation on Kansai Gaidai, and Ilkka was constantly interjecting with observations from the Twilight Zone. He said that Hirakata was a hellhole, and that Japan was the only country in the world where he’d been attacked on the street. (Given that I there at the time, I think the reference was a sly dig at me, as he thinks I was responsible for it).

Every one of Ilkka’s asides met with shocked laughter from the first years, and sotto voce pleas from the teachers to say “something positive”. I was out there on my own trying to hold the show together, as the presentation degenerated into a back-and-forth exchange of bizarre and contradictory statements like some twisted manzai routine. In fact, I wish it was manzai – at least then I could shout at Ilkka and slap him every time I wanted to. Which was a lot.

After the talk, I had a few first years coming up to me and asking if the stuff Ilkka said was true. I replied “No” to every one and tried to give them some real gen on Kansai Gaidai, to make up for the damage done. Everyone, from the teachers on down, seemed universally stunned. If there’s any kind of lesson I can draw from this, it’s that you have the best plan ever, but it won’t work if you’re confronted with someone determined to screw it up.

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KGU connections

I went out to a Japanese Society social last night. I was rather pleased to find my Japanese hadn’t deserted me completely. I met a student from Kansai Gaidai, which was rather fun, and a little nostalgic.

I’m enjoying my Asia-Pacific module at the moment, as I can appear intelligent in class by simply saying things I’ve cribbed from Scott’s Pacific Rivalry course back at Kansai Gaidai. It worked a little too well when one of my comments segued into a showing of the same documentary series we’d watched in Scott’s classes.

All these coincidences … is Kansai Gaidai in fact the Lost island? I’ll have to find a picture of the time my friend Joe was in a wheelchair. Don’t tell him what he can’t do.

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Low Crimes and Misdemeanours

As a famous aristocrat once wrote, “Never apologise, never explain”. But then, sometimes it does you a world of good. Last Saturday, after the excursion to London, I went round to the hosue shared by fellow activity organisers at the school for a barbequeue, which turned into a late night party. At some point during the evening, punch was made in a plastic bucket. Thinking punch is basically fruit juice with a little more of a kick, I went straight for it, unaware of what precisely made up this punch. For the record, it was almost entirely rum. It was not so much ‘punch’ as ‘GBH’. The last thing I remember that night was coming round and wondering why I had a redhead wig on my head.

The big question this week was whether to say sorry for getting amazingly drunk, abusing their hospitality, smashing all the slats out of the spare bed and crashing at their place. But oddly enough, the only thing I was asked about was a missing bottle of white wine that one of the girls had put in the fridge. I don’t remember drinking it, and I don’t think it would have been physically possible in the state I was in to open it. But still, tonight I set off for the staff house carrying a bottle of white wine that I have pinched from my family’s store (in the manner of a Wehrmacht officer billeted in a French chateau). If you had to ask me why, it wouldn’t be for the need to apologise somehow for my ridiculous behaviour, or the thought that it wasn’t worth arguing over something I don’t even know if I did or not. It was because of one of the important rules of my life: that it’s never a good thing to get on the wrong side of a pretty girl for too long.

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My Second-Last Day

Last night I went out with some Australian and Japanese students for a few drinks at an izakaya. Which turned into a few drinks and karaoke afterwards. Great fun, and reminds me that karaoke should also get a mention in the previous post. It’s hard to believe that by tomorrow I’ll be back in the U.K. Still, it’s been an amazing nine months.

I will continue to keep an eye on Japan, blog on any news or issues about it that I find interesting, and of course carry on learning the language. For than anything else, the year abroad has reminded me of why I’m interested in Japan. That’s definitely going to help with the remainder of my degree. And after that, I’d like to come back here. While my interest has widened to other countries in Asia over the course of this year, I’m pretty sure that Japan will always hold a special place in my heart.

UPDATE: This post from Adamu at Mutant Frog looks back at his experience in Japan. A good read, and sort of says what I was trying to say.

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Fukuoka: Part the First

So, on Thursday I went down to Fukuoka on the shinkansen. It was raining in Osaka, and all across the area of western Japan we tore through in the morning. Arriving at Hakata station, though, the sun was shining. Hah! Moore – 1, weather – 0.

I dumped my stuff in the hotel, then met up with Jake and the other Leeds people studying at Fukuoka. I got a miniature guided tour of the city, wandering through the Canal City development, across the river and up to Tenjin, the big shopping/partying centre. I was struck by how small it all seemed after Osaka, but that wasn’t necessarily such a bad thing. It was nice to be in a city where “the centre” was something you could cross on foot.

A rough trajectory of the evening follows:

– We see a animation show on the top floor on a bookshop, by an outfit that do short films of oddly-done jungle animals. They are giving away free badges on the way out. I grab a few for presents.

– We sit outside a conveience store where one of the girls says she’s going to look for “HedgeCat”. I assume this is someone she knows, as she uses nicknames for everybody (real quote from her: “I’m not worried about MaxiHat anymore, because now I have MiniHat.”) Turns out HedgeCat is a real cat, who lives by the store. For a stray cat, he looks remarkably healthy. We pet him for a bit, before he takes offence to me, hisses and runs off. He must be able to tell a Kansai resident from a Fukuoka one.

– We go to an izakaya (Japanese pub-style place). When ordering drinks, I ask for a “big beer” and am brought something the aproximate size of a rain-water butt. I drink it dry and ask for another. Finally, a place that knows my tastes and does its best to accommodate them.

– We go to an amusement arcade. The girls try a game where you throw balls at a screen to zap various things threatening cute characters. The game is called “GASHaaaaan!” which makes me laugh out loud. The guys go for “House of the Dead 4”. I mow down crowds of zombies in a tube station, an experience which brings back traumatic memories of rush-hour Osaka and Tokyo. We meet back up, and have all have a go at the ball-throwing game together.

– We head upstairs to go bowling. As I haven’t gone bowling in over a year (and I was rubbish back then) I’m not looking forward to this. We talk about the low-rent bowling alley near Morrisons’ back in Leeds, and how my old flatmate from last year stole a pair of bowling shoes from there to wear in clubs and other places with “formal” dress-codes. I am surprisingly good at bowling, even though Jake tells me I strike a “Spiderman” pose at one point. I explain that I was bitten by a radioactive bowling ball.*

*(I actually didn’t. But it would have been funny as hell if I’d thought of it at the time.)

– We go to a club called Happy Cock (yes, really) to have a few drinks and watch the England-Trinidad and Tobago match. Because we get there super-early, we get wristbands which mean we can drink all we want for 1000 yen. I pronounce this the greatest thing ever, and immediately get a drink to celebrate.

– The dancefloor is filling with Japanese people in b-boy clothing. They look like the breakdancers who practice in Hirakata train station, and throw shapes at each other in a hilarious “You Got Served” style. Jake tells me that they are members of the Fukuoka University breakdancing club. I tell him that I “could do better than that.” He motions to me to go ahead.

– The dancefloor has turned into a circle of breakdancers, who take turns performing jaw-dropping moves in the middle. Jake asks if I’d like to try and do better. The circle breaks up temporarily, and I step to the dancefloor and tear it up for a bit. They don’t ask me to join their crew, but I think I earned their respect. Now all I have to do is beat a Japanese person at Dance Dance Revolution, and I will have something to legitimately boast about.

– Jake introduces me to two friends of his, who happen to be hot Japanese girls. I try to think of things to say to them, and realise my level of drunkenness has gone right past “Language ability magically improves” and into “Language ability goes straight to hell.” I must be more drunk than I thought. This is confirmed when one of them asks me to go up and get a drink. Let’s break this down a minute:

Normal thought process:
Hot girls suddenly interested in me + lack of nomihodai wristbands + request to buy drinks for them = manipulating whores using me to get alcohol
My drunken thought process at the time:
Hot girls suddenly interested in me + lack of nomihodai wristbands + request to buy drinks for them = Wow, I’m such a stud. I’d better get them a drink.

– Having got what they wanted, the girls proceed to ignore me. I am angry beyond measure. Charging up to the bar to get a drink for myself, the following conversation takes place in my head:
“Dude, you’ve been drinking a lot. Don’t you think you should slow down, get some water in between?”
“Well, they are cocktails. They’re not strong. In fact, look at the amount of vodka she put in that last one. That’s a piss-weak drink by anybody’s standards.”
“Yeah, I guess there’s not a lot of alcohol there.”
“And the mixer is basically like drinking water anyway.”
“Yeah. Slam a couple more, you’re doing fine.”

– It is later. I am not doing fine. I am sprawled on a sofa trying to watch the match, but sinking into semi-consciousness with each passing moment. I miss seeing England’s last two goals, but hear the reaction and manage to cheer with everybody else as the replay unfolds.

– We leave the club. I decide to rant to Jake about how women are “manipulating whores” and that his friends are “off the list”. Perhaps sensibly, he does not ask me to elaborate.

– The Leeds people point me in the direction of my hotel, and get a cab back to their dorms. Although it is literally a straight line to my hotel, I have to stop people several times and ask them for directions. I stagger into my hotel room, and glance at my watch before I pass out. I have been in Fukuoka a little over twelve hours.

To Be Continued…

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