Saturday, May 29, 2010

Language "school"

Happy to report that the third "class" at the izakaya (Japanese bar) went well on Monday night.

Hiroyki was waiting for me with his friend, Junko, a high energy, hard drinking lady. Whew!

We had such a grand time that we made plans for a different type of meeting. Next Thursday, Hiroyuki and Junko are going to take Joan and me out for sushi at a restaurant near the station. I don't think it is going to be the usual conveyor belt sushi but the real deal. I'm a little nervous.

Another good thing is that I remembered to bring a camera this time, so I was able to get a few photos of the izakaya and my new friends!

Hiroyuki is closest to the camera with Junko just past him. Ryoko, the multi-linugal bar help, is in the back right. As you can see, the izakaya is extremely narrow. The front door is right behind Hiroyuki, and the open back door is visible to the right.

Ryoko took this picture looking the other way.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Report card - "A maru!" (A plus)

So, I went back to the izakaya last night for another round of alcohol-assisted language learning. Again, it was a complete success!

One of the first words I learned how to say was 二ζ—₯酔い (fu-tsu-kyo-ee = "hangover") to describe how I enjoyed the first class last week.

My new friend, Hiroyuki, the insurance salesman, was waiting for me, and we quickly started chatting. We were soon joined by Yoshimoto, another suit who works for a women's underwear company in Asakusa. As per usual, it was whirlwind of drinks and tasty fried food and two and a half hours of trying to communicate in Japanese.

I had learned my lesson from last time, so I just stuck to my one large glass of sake and only one glass of shochu and ocha (green tea) from Hiroyuki. I successfully resisted his attempts to keep refilling my glass, which is what got me in trouble before.

We talked about my recent trip to Yanaka, one of the few places in Tokyo that survived the American firebombings, which has many old temples and other buildings. I learned about their families; Hiroyuki has three grown sons: the eldest works for 7-11 in management; the middlest is a police officer; and the youngest is a "freeta" who lives at home and doesn't work. They asked me about the differences between American and Japanese universities.

Finally, exhausted, (did I mention I worked out before lunch and then played badminton for two hours with the club in the afternoon?), I dragged myself away and on to my bike. Not before, however, promising to meet Hiroyuki and Yoshimoto next Monday, same time, same place. Stay tuned...

PS I'll try to remember to take my camera and get some photos next time!

Monday, May 10, 2010

Language experiment!

I have been studying Japanese very seriously now for the last year. The first six months or so of our time in Japan was consumed with learning how to function in a foreign country, teach a new set of students, and everything else. Also, there were a variety of ways to study: different textbooks, classes, tutors, etc. It took awhile to figure out what worked for me.

I finally settled on Rosetta Stone, a computer based, immersion system. Both Joan and I find it effective, fun, and addictive. And along with the audio tracks to listen to while running or gardening, as well as a Iphone/Itouch flash card program to be able to review the material anywhere and anytime, it seems a perfect combination. We feel like we are learning boatloads.

However, all this formal Japanese makes me sound like a mentally disabled grandmother... "The cat is watching the fish." "They are reading a book in the library." And if someone tries to talk to me about something else besides what time the train arrives, I'm screwed.

So, I decided to take the plunge last night. There is a tiny izakaya (bar) up the road from us that we have been to a few times, a real hole in the wall. It is probably no more than 20 feet long, six feet wide, and has maybe 10 seats. They have always seemed friendly and entertained by the foreigner. My plan is to make it a weekly visit to drink a little sake or shochu and have to communicate in "real" Japanese for an hour or two.

Well, it was 110% of what I hoped it would be! Two of the locals made a spot for me between them and quickly poured me a drink from their own bottle. Within moments, I was struggling to explain who I was, where I come from, and what I do. Thank goodness for the photos on the Itouch! I quickly turned the tables and started asking them questions, which of course generated answers that I struggled to understand.

Hiryoki, an insurance company office worker, adopted me and made sure that my glass was never empty and that I was involved in the flow of conversation.

It helped that that woman working part time behind the bar spoke passable English, Spanish, and French, so she was able to help me out a little. If we didn't know the word in one language, we'd just through it in from another language, mid-sentence. My brain hurt, but it felt soooo good!

And this morning my brain hurts, as well as my stomach. Why? Because I learned that I should not drink shochu (Japanese rice "vodka") with Japanese business men at their pace. It'll kill me....

Hiryoki invited me to come back next Monday and drink with him. I'm going, but I swear I'm not going to drink as much shochu this time...