Making friends at the izakaya

An izakaya – best compared with a tavern or a bar that also serves food – seems to be a great place to meet people. In a previous post you could read about our encounter with Asahi-san on our first evening in Japan (click here to read the post). A few nights ago, we had another encounter in an izakaya.

We were quietly sitting at a table in Tsubasaya, Dennis’s favourite izakaya, eating and minding our own business (trying to be well-behaved gaijin).

the entrance of Tsubasaya in Toyota city (I did not add these chickens myself)

A group of Japanese people stumbles in. Clearly it’s not their first izakaya visit of the evening, judging by the staggering walk that some of them have. They take up a box close to our table. As the box is not big enough to fit them all, some of them sit at the other end of our table. Of course I try to take a sneak photograph of the group without them noticing and of course they notice. Immediately their interest is sparked and the guys at our table start a conversation.

the sneak photograph - you can see the box in the background

As soon as the other members of the group notice that gaijin contact has been made, several of them flock to our table. A lively conversation starts. In Europe we always think that Japanese are silent, shy and reserved. But put them together in an izakaya, throw in some alcohol and you get quite the animated group of people (to use an understatement).

The result of the evening is that I am now on the Tsubasaya blog! The manager – a stately lady in kimono – saw me talking to a Japanese girl and exchanging telephone numbers. Inspired by this intercultural contact, she asked to take a picture to post on the Tsubasaya blog. Check out the Tsubasaya blog (click here)! If anyone could translate what they write about the picture, I would be most appreciative.

Tsubasaya blog screenshot

a sneak shot of the Tsubasaya manager

First impressions

My first impression of Japan: what a green country! On tv we always see skyscrapers and concrete as far as the eye can see. But believe it or not, there is a countryside in Japan and it is beautiful.

Green countryside between Nagoya and Toyota City

We were picked up at the airport by a very friendly driver. Mind the white gloves.

Our driver, who gave us a Japanese vocabulary lesson

Upon arrival in the hotel ‘Hotel Toyota Castle‘ (everything is called toyota-something here), we had our first Japanese bath. One sits on the stool and scubs oneself down from head to toe. Once completely clean, you immerse yourself in steaming hot water. There’s nothing like it to recover from a 12h flight.

Scrubbing area

the bath is deeper than european baths, so it is possible to be completely immersed instead of having to choose between your shoulders or your knees

And of course there is the obligatory picture of the Japanese toilet – with pre-heated toilet seat. Again, I could get used to this. I haven’t worked up the nerve yet to press any of those buttons though.

High tech toilet

control panel for high tech toilet

Another impression: the humidity. It feels like a tropical country because of the heat and the humidity outside. Not ideal for people with frizzy hair! From now on, every day is a bad hair day.

Portuguese often appears on signs and official communication. It seems there is a large Japanese community in Brazil and many people from Brazil and Peru come to find jobs in Japan.

Portugese signalisation in city hall

On our first day, we had dinner in an izakaya (bar/tavern). No easing into Japanese cuisine for us, we went straight for the raw squid. Yum! We got talking with the man sitting next to us. He immediately insisted on paying our dinner and taking us out again some other time. It seems that fortunately the stereotype about the reserved and shy Japanese does not always apply.

Raw squid

Sashimi a.k.a. more raw squid (and other assorted marine creatures)

Asahi-san, our new Japanese friend