The Boss’ Drinking Buddies

Originally published on 18 June 2006. This is part of a series of “e-mails to home” from my first ever trip abroad–to Japan!

Konbanwa! (Good evening!) For those of you in the USA, Ohayo Gozaimasu! (Good morning!)

Today was a unique experience! I started out doing laundry and ended up going out for sushi with Mr. Koda’s “Drinkin’ Buddies.” That’s right! Me, a tee-totaler!

To start the day, God was looking out for me this morning. I washed my laundry, talked to my Mom for a little bit, then she went to get some KFC and I went to the laundromat to pay nearly two dollars for 20 minutes of dryer time. On the way there, it started to sprinkle. Not what I wanted, especially since I’d already had my shower. I prayed that it would hold off till I got to the dryer place, and it did! Little things make all the difference when your only transport is a bike, you know? So then it did rain a little while I was inside. I prayed it would stop when it came time for the 5 minute ride back to the apartment, and sure as the world–it did! And it started back again as soon as I got back with my dry clothes. How’s that for perfect timing!

I put up my laundry and talked to Mom and Dad a little while longer, then read and did some stuff around the apartment until the Kodas came to pick me up for lunch. Honestly, I almost called to tell them I was sick, because I wasn’t feeling great (I think it was bad mushrooms or something I ate yesterday). I rarely RARELY get sick, so I had to be feeling pretty bad to almost cancel on the Kodas. I couldn’t bring myself to say no when Mrs. Koda called to say she was coming to get me, so I just prayed for the feeling to go away enough for me to eat with them. And I did feel better as the day went on!

So anyway, we went to beautiful Futami (where the ocean is!) and ate at a new hotel there with a Chinese restaurant up on the 10th floor. It was a very nice place, and since we were there a little late (we got there about 1:30 or so, didn’t eat till 2), we were the only ones there most of the time. We could look out on the ocean and the mountains as we ate. A waitress who spoke some English came out to help me with the menu, and I got scallops and broccoli. It was all very good, including dessert.

Rice, pickled veggies, scallops and broccoli, dumplings, soy sauce, and miso soup!
Custard with fruit in the little cup, and doughnuts in the middle of the table.

After that, they took me to Toba (where Pearl Island is). The clouds had cleared up, and it turned out to be a pretty day. We took a boat tour around to all the islands in the area. One is dolphin island, and there were 3 or 4 others, but I didn’t catch what they were called. It’s so beautiful out there, though! With the mountains meeting the ocean and the sun shining, I was so thankful to have the opportunity to see it all. Mr. Koda got some octopus stuff in soy sauce with mayonaise (which is a more common condiment here than in the States–not my favorite, though). I ate a couple of pieces out of politeness and just the experience of eating it, but I was definitely not hungry again so soon after lunch!

Mr. Koda and the Octopus!

After the boat tour, we didn’t have time for Pearl Island, but they said we’d come back soon. This is where the drinkin’ buddies come in! A couple of days ago, Mr. Koda asked Anna and me to go with him and meet his friends at Isobe (I think that’s how you spell it–it translates to “Sit-down Alcohol Shop”.) It used to be an alcohol brewery or shop or something, but they’ve made a small place for a restaurant in the back. Anna had plans already, and I was a little nervous about being the only 20-year-old female in a room of several 50-60-year-old men. I asked if Mrs. Koda would be there, too, and she said if I wanted her to be, she would.

My sweet friend, Mrs. Koda!

It was fun! I was a little uncomfortable at first, but the Kodas were right there, and the guys were actually very nice! They wanted to know where I’m from and why I came to Japan, the usual questions I get. There were two other women there, too. And there was SO much food! It was only about 5:00, and I was definitely not hungry, but I couldn’t say no to the offerings for fear of appearing unappreciative or rude. There was pork, sushi, fried chicken (Japanese-style!), edamame, and alcohol out the wazoo. No one pushed me to drink, though. The looked at me a little funny when I asked for water instead of orange juice or tea, but water was all I thought I’d be able to handle along with all that food! I was able to stear clear of the pork and chicken, but I can always make room for sushi! These are my new friends:

We were there about two and a half hours, and conversation was so funny. Like I said, they wanted to know things about why I was here, where’s Tennessee, do I like Japan, will I come back to Isobe, etc. I think Mr. Koda told them I was coming, so they were curious about me before I got there. One man had made some CDs of American music for me, which I thought was so sweet! He had burned three for me–Dean Martin, Paul Anka, and Benny Goodman. Everyone was really nice. They are pretty heavy drinkers, and a few of them even said so! One spoke English pretty well, so between him and the Kodas, I think most of the conversation all got translated. I heard a few stories and questions more than once. After about two hours, a couple of them told me I’m pretty (which I’m always happy to hear–whether they’re drunk or not!), but no one hit on me, and no one shoved sake or beer at me after the first time I said I didn’t drink. Seriously, how can anyone stand the smell of alcohol? A couple of pieces of sushi got thrust in my direction, but I had to say I was full (I think I might’ve exploded if I’d eaten any more), and the guy just ate it himself instead. Easy fix!

So that’s the tale of the day! Never in a million years did I think I’d end up hanging out with my employers’ drinking buddies!

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