Apple Country

Stories of rural life as an ALT in a northern Japanese fishing town.



(A month late… I will get back into posting, I promise!!)

Last year I spent the evening of my birthday drinking wine in the bath.  This year I sat in a jazz bar eating sushi and being charmed by a drunk Japanese businessman.  Both years were enjoyable, but I think I can look forward to my birthdays again if they all turn out to be as fun as this year’s!

Every Tuesday I meet my barber friend for English/Japanese practice, so I was planning on just going out for some food with him and my friend in the next town over.  At the last minute he suggested we go to his sister’s bar in Hirosaki, I imagine because the restaurant I originally wanted to go to is owned by his wife and he’s probably sick of it!  We picked up Lauren and drove over an hour through a snowy blizzard to get there.

Like a lot of bars in Japanese cities, it was situated down an alley underneath a building full of other bars; the inside was only big enough for a handful of people but didn’t feel cramped at all.  There were five or six bar stools of the worn-out suede variety, surrounding a sunken bar area where the mama in her black crochet shawl and red lipstick stood puffing on a cigarette.  She welcomed us in, chatting away as she poured us some whiskey and the other lady pottered around in the kitchen out back, bringing us little dishes of food one by one.    We had sushi, nabe, pickled vegetables and a little bowl of pork soup, followed by a kind of fruit pastry cake.  I wasn’t expecting any of it, so it was a lovely gesture and truly appreciated!

Toshiya said he wanted to hear me play something on the piano, so I brought some music just in case because I am one of those people who lack the ability to memorise any music worth listening to.  The time came, and I played my failsafe Nocturne No. 9 by Chopin; probably not the kind of thing that they hear in a jazz bar very often, but it was fun to play for people again.  When I finished, I saw that we’d gained an audience member in the form of a rather drunk salaryman, which explained the distant cheering I heard halfway through playing.  He proceeded to entertain us for the rest of the night, despite repeating half the things he’d already said, and gave the other bar mama some money to go out and buy me flowers from him.  Lucky me!

It makes me so happy to have friends like Toshiya; it’s thanks to the hospitality of Japanese people in the community that let me do things like this.  Even though I find it hard to befriend Japanese people in my tiny town, I’m glad to have met the handful of friends I do have.

6 thoughts on “Tanjoubi

  1. That looks amazing and lovely flowers too. A birthday to remember ! x

  2. I think it’s wonderful that you’ve been able to make lovely Japanese friends and really experience their amazing culture.

  3. Oh looks so lovely, going to be a truly memorable time in your life when you get to look back at it….meanwhile continue to enjoy! Lots of love.

  4. Nel, nice thoughts in your last paragraph. From a totally different perspective (itinerant traveller) I too enjoy those short meet ups with local folks, but know it ends after minutes or hours. It sort of influences my effort to connect up with local guides where possible to be shown the sights – and connect up with one or two locals.

    Veronica and I are heading up as far as Morioka in late April, and probably doing a day in Kakunodate to enjoy the cherry blossoms and samurai houses.

    Not Aomori, Any suggestions for what you do in Kakunodate for a day?

    • Thank you for the lovely comment!! It definitely helps having people to show you a few places hidden around. I have never been to Kakunodate, but have read about it before and would love to go someday. However I have heard that Lake Tazawa and Nyuuto Onsen are great side trips from Kakunodate!

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