“So this is a goukon. Do you know what that is?”
I scrambled to look up the word in my phone’s dictionary. It read: a mixer, party, get-together.
“Oh yeah yeah, I know.” Why didn’t she just say party? Or one of the more common words for a get-together? The waiter returned with our drinks.
The weekend after New Year’s I went to eat with a JTE and her friend. I had never met her friend before. But early in the evening I realized it was pointless to dabble in light introductory conversation. Her friend already knew a great deal about me. Things she could have only found out from the JTE. As the night went on, I got the vibe that this was more a blind date and less about trying the new restaurant in town. But I didn’t think too much about it. Because when I mentioned that most of the ALTs in the area were men, they seemed fairly enthusiastic to meet them. Overall, the vibes were really dope that night, I had a feeling we all would be chilling again soon.
On the walk home, my mind was still stuck on this word; goukon. What did the JTE imply when she said that? I did a more in-depth Internet search on the word when I got home.
Well, a goukon is more like a speed dating party. At least that’s what the word implies in context to my situation. This language…this society, seems to be built on an understanding of a situation’s context. The indirectness. The saying of things without really saying anything at all. I still get Lost in Translation sometimes. Now I see why her friend knew my whole profile. Why the JTE asked me earlier that day if I had invited any friends to the dinner (may have expected me to bring a guy friend along). And why the JTE probably sent me this text on Saturday night: my friend wants to drink again or something…do you have a party with many people?
Actually I take that back. I have no idea why she sent me that text. But what does it imply? Why didn’t she just ask if I wanted to hang out? It just seemed so surprising that I couldn’t help but think that there was some premeditation behind the message. I declined because I was in Tokyo at the time. But probably still would have declined if I was in Ibaraki. I don’t think I know enough people out in the countryside to even host a “party with many people.” Let alone round them all up by tonight.
Over the next few days I thought about that text. At first I came to the conclusion, from a bruised egotistical point of view, that they were just interested in meeting the other male teachers in the area. My only basis for this conclusion was that they both were single, and that they got fairly excited when I told them that most of the teachers in the area were men. My other conclusion, filtered through past experiences, was that they were only interested in practicing English more. It’s quite common to be befriended out here for the sake of free English lessons. It’s happened to me and no doubt has happened to many other friends and expats in Japan.
But you know what? Eff it. I’m sitting here thinking about a text message?!?! Remember Malcolm: simplicity. No over thinking about meaningless things. But how will this mentality work in such a high context society? Hmm…I think it’s about time I get more in touch with my instinct. Stay Tuned.
P.S. If you asked for a postcard and still haven’t got it please let me know.