I paid my monthly visit to Nyan Peace last weekend. I’ve been going to the bar less and less recently; even though the walk is so much easier now that it’s spring. But I gotta save those yennies. This trip to America has already put me behind in savings more than I would like to be. Yet I guess one or two beers wouldn’t hurt. After spending an evening in Tokyo two Saturdays ago, I got on the Joban line for home.
I initially planned to go right home; I was hungry and tired. But after arriving at my station, I noticed the last bus was at 9:16. It was now 9:25. After walking for hours in Tokyo, I didn’t feel like taking that half-hour walk from the station to home. I threw in the towel, got some fast food nearby and brought a grape chu-hi (they need to import these drinks to the States). Feeling a lot more energized I headed to Nyan Peace instead of going home. I had more than enough energy to make that walk later in the night.
There are no bars in my actual neighborhood so I usually come to the area nearby the station for a drink. A few bars and tiny restaurants flank either side of the train tracks. Walking deeper into the neighborhood and you come across even more, dimly lit watering holes. I went to a few bars around this area when I first arrived in the fall. Some were chill, others were filled with old people. One bar I came across was ran by a bunch of older women and a girl around my age. It was just a weird place. Whenever I went, which was only twice, I really felt like an alien. Like literally: the bar was a science lab and I was their specimen. There wasn’t anything physical going on, but there was always a weird question or two for me to answer. I didn’t mind having these conversations for the most part, but if I had been Japanese I’m sure the conversations would have taken a much different route. There’s one thing I respect about the people I met in this bar though: as crazy as their inquiries might be, they’ll never ask me a question that they themselves wouldn’t feel comfortable answering. One thing I don’t respect about them though: the outrageous table charge. Last time I went in November, I had two draft beers at the bar (not at a table). My bill ended up being a little over 3000 yen ($30 USD). I never paid that much for two drinks in some of the most expensive clubs in Tokyo. They were obviously trying to screw me over, and had the nerve to boast earlier that evening that they were one of the cheaper bars in the neighborhood. A complete lie. Haven’t been back since.
Since then I’ve mainly been going to two bars: World Peace and Nyan Peace. They’re two of the few bars that attract a diverse group of people; young, old, and everything in between. Most of the bartenders at Nyan Peace are all the same age as me, so we can relate to things. The owners at World Peace are pretty big music heads; we can talk for hours about artists. I don’t feel uncomfortable being the only person at the bar singing English songs. There’s also one other bar that I sometimes go to: Deep. This one is a little off the beaten path, so not many people go there often. All of it’s clientele (around 4-5 people on the days I was there) are in their mid to late-twenties. I should go there more often, because everyone there seems cool. But there’s something about it that hasn’t drawn me back. Maybe it’s just too chill; I actually almost fell asleep there once.
There was a really big crowd tonight at Nyan Peace. By big I mean more than twelve people crammed in that tiny space.
“Oh hey, bratha!”
“Yo Ryota, my brother!”
My old drinking friend welcomed me. I hadn’t seen him in a few months since I’ve started saving for my trip in June. He was more than happy to see me. Ryo and I kind of struck up a good connection when we first met this past winter. He was a little odd like myself, often drank himself under the table, and had a crazy enthusiasm for learning English. So over time, our conversations evolved into some weird form of Japanglish.
Masta, Mama, and the usual bartenders were there. For those who don’t know, the Masta and/or Mama of a drinking establishment in Japan is the owner (male or female respectively) of that establishment. He or she could also simply be the oldest bartender working that night. Masta invited me to grab a seat next to my brother. At first I declined. Judging by the unfinished food and drinks, someone else still had to be sitting there. When I pointed it out, they just removed the stranger’s belongings to the next seat. I guess I would be enjoying the rest of the night with my already drunk brother.
Ryo, who I will now on refer to as my brother, is slowly becoming one of the more mysterious characters among my group of acquaintances. Considering the hours we might spend talking on any given Friday night, I know relatively little about him. All I know is that he likes collecting fish for his aquarium, he’s 35, his parents moved in with him recently, and he likes to drink. Yet I don’t even know how true these things are. One night a few months ago, while we were chilling at Deep around three in the morning, we came across the topic of relationships.
“Kanojo, uhh, do you have?” he slurred in Japanglish. I told him I was single and hadn’t been in a relationship since I was back in America.
“Do you have a girlfriend?” I asked.
“I’m thirty-five, no girlfriend. I’m what the Japanese call,‘makkura’” he said and cracked up. I looked up the word in my dictionary. Pitch black, total darkness. A metaphor for a bleak and hopeless future.
“No, no brother you’re not makkura. There’s still hope!” Upon hearing this he laughed some more, took another sip of his tall-hi, and put his head down.
“There’s no hope for me” he said still smiling. Just like that, his smiling self was about to break down and cry. It happened all so quickly. His facial expressions were still the same, yet there was something different about his vibe. I patted him on the back. “It’s okay man, I’m single, too. You’ll find someone for you one day.”
Now, let’s fast forward back to two Saturdays ago. I’m chilling at Nyan Peace with Masta and my brother. He pops the usual question:
“So Eric, have you found a girlfriend yet?”
Not again. I didn’t know how to explain that I was dating so I just said, ‘I don’t know’ and smiled. Of course he wanted me to explain myself so I just switched my answer to “no.” I then returned the question. To my surprise, he said yes. Then I asked a few questions about his girlfriend.
“How long have you been dating?”
One year!? Is this the same guy who was in tears just a few months ago?? I didn’t get it so I asked to see a photo. After getting confirmation from Masta and a few of the regulars, I settled on his truth. I was so confused. In both situations he was drunk. But I don’t think he would make up a story and start crying for no reason. In addition, it could be a language barrier thing. Depending on the context, the verb for “going out” intimately with someone could very well mean just being acquainted with someone. Still, I was left confused. I dropped my line of questioning and my brother picked up the conversation with one weird question after another. All the while, periodically taking breaks to sweet talk the women into coming over to have a conversation with me. My brother was doing his best to look out for me in his own special way. But at that point in the night, he could barely finish any sentence he started.
1:30 and I was yawning. It was time to head out. Until next time, my very interesting friend.
P.S. Does anyone know if there is a word in Japanese for that stage between the first few dates and going out with someone? (Seems like there’s not a word in English for this as well, lol)