season in Japan
is a strange one, no matter how you look at it. Everything is parties, parties, parties. At the last minute, as we went to the subway
, my host mother told me I had to write a speech for that night's party, a formal event for everyone in the Rotary club
. So I sat on the Midosuji
train and scratched away at a sheet of notebook paper, trying to make something coherent. No matter what I tried to say, it would always come out like "My name is Sekicho, exchange student from America! Merry New Year!
" I finally decided to stop writing, because it was time to change trains at Umeda
With one minor incident. As we went through the turnstile, I reached into my pocket for my wallet, which contained my commuter pass. It was gone. I checked the other pocket, then my butt pockets, and there was no wallet. Fuck, I thought, that's got five thousand yen and my bank card and my subway pass in it! So while I sweated bullets on the Osaka Loop Line, my speech went unwritten.
So we arrived. The party was atop the Imperial Hotel in Sakuranomiya, twenty-some stories above the ground. All around the ballroom, you could see a Blade Runner-like cityscape stretching to the horizon, rivers of neon piercing an ocean of concrete. There was a big Christmas tree there, and the requisite necessities of a Japanese party: Kirin Ichiban beer and Suntory whiskey, platters of nigiri sushi and tekka maki, and scores of old-looking men and young-looking women. When the time came for my speech, I stood up, slightly inebriated, and delivered a token "Merry New Year!" monologue, eventually prompting one of the Rotarians to ask me to sit down.
Over the next few days, I lived in debt to my host family: by the time NationsBank finally got a new card across the Pacific Ocean, I owed them something like a hundred dollars. The holiday season is not a good time to get cut off from an overseas bank account. To save money, I spent my time practicing the piano at home. There was a talent show-themed party coming up, and I told them I would play and sing a song. It was something I was just putting together, a silly novelty song about being a clueless gaijin in Japan, and I figured my friends would love it.
A couple of days before the party, we got a fax from the president of the RYE alumni group in Osaka. She said that they couldn't get a piano at the hotel, so could I please plan to do something else? "Gomen ne if you've been practicing." I thought, Gomen this, knowing there wasn't much I could do. As I rode the train out to the mountain 'burbs, I was still thinking about what to do for the stupid show.
When I got there, one of the alumni people suddenly said, "Hey, we got an organ! You can use that instead!" I agreed, even though one of my more astute friends said "Do you know how to play it? I couldn't play without a damper pedal." So after a number of really good acts—most notably two guys playing drum 'n' bass on a cello and taiko—I was thrust to the stage with nothing but a strange instrument and my wits, neither of which would save me.
The song still wasn't refined, so I didn't know what to play. After a couple of seconds of confusion, an ultra-cute Brazilian girl said "Play something Christmas-y!" So I played a few bars of "Joy to the World," which impressed nobody, and then I got off stage as quickly as possible.
After the party, we had ramen in an Umeda shopping arcade, amid Utada Hikaru music and the smell of cigarette smoke. Somehow, even with all these friends, I felt very lonely... and those feelings were about to bubble over.
< what came before - what came later >