I just had my most amazing night here in Japan. My local Izakaya is incredible. I decided this time to bring some of the postcards as well as one of the travel guides I got from the tourist center talking about Philadelphia written in Japanese. I gave the postcards to the people I'd met yesterday and the travel guide to the bar. Then it was a rousing night of great times, with one sad note: Ito-san's mother had died yesterday, at some point while we'd all been drinking. She was eighty four. Nobody expected Ito-san to come out (including me) but he was there, a bit sad and probably drowning his sorrows in alcohol, perfectly understandable. I did my best to express condolences and empathy, but I really don't have the words in Japanese. Hopefully the expression did the trick.
I gave out the postcards and travel guide I'd brought with me soon after Ito-san arrived. They were a hit! Everyone was asking questions. I pointed out on the street map in the guide where my house was, and invited everyone to come visit if they were in the area. One of the regulars really loves the TV series Cold Case, which he knew was shot in Philly, so we had that common point of bonding.
As the night progressed, I asked to take pictures with the other Jyouren (regulars like me) and we sat in the Tatami room and did it Japanese style. I'll have these uploaded shortly. Then, later on, the regulars were talking about a party on Tuesday night. Not only was I invited, but it seems I'm now a guest of honor, and that the party is at least partially a welcome party for me. And then as I was leaving, the owner of the bar gave me two hand-made knitted figurines he had made himself as a present. I was sooo touched. I have a feeling, in retrospect, I was supposed to refuse them a couple of times, (so I hope I wasn't totally offensive by simply thanking him profusely) but I did my best to make it clear (with broken Japanese and sincere gesturing) how touched I was and am by the gifts and also everyone's kindness. I think back to my first night here in Toyota, huddled on a hard wood floor, sleeping atop my towel, wrapped in a snuggie with a coat covering half of my body. I was freezing, tired and feeling overwhelmed. Now not only am I comfortably settled in, but I have friends, a place to go, and a community I'm steadily becoming a part of. Before I left, everyone made it clear, “we are all friends.” That makes me so happy! It's been an incredible day, and incredible night, and now after a shower (to get the cigarette smoke off of me) I'm going to settle in for some incredible sleep.
The Izakaya is closed tomorrow, but I am confident that I will have an excellent day, meet new people, and forge yet more connections as the day progresses. In a little under two weeks, my world is totally different from anything I imagined, and totally amazing. I'm excited to meet my schools on Monday, to teach, and all the other things of my new life.
So far, so great!