SRF / Singin the Blues

A lot of people ask us what jon does, why we’re out here. Most of you know he’s an engineer for the navy, but that doesn’t really explain much. For most of our trip, jon has been the guy with the clipboard and the clicky pen, helping to train his Japanese counterparts on how to work with nuclear vessels. “um. I help SRF oversee their program for different types of stuff that…” Okay you guessed right, there actually a lot of jon’s job that he’s not allowed to tell you. Sounds awesome, right?

Which brings us to an evening with the folks from SRF (Ship Repair Facility), Jon’s japanese coworkers. Why they decided to do a “team building” night at the end of the trip is beyond me, but it was fun to meet some of the people that come up in work stories every so often.

dinner w/ SRF

dinner w/ SRF

The Japanese drinking culture is a little different here. It’s copious, often done in groups, and most often involves food. Not meals, mind you, but small bites. “Izakaya” is quite a bit like tapas: small plates.

dinner w/ SRF

They don’t seem to have the same shared-food/shared-check phobias that we do. Drinks are usually ordered in rounds, food is put on the table, and everyone tosses money on the table at the end.

dinner w/ SRF

Chu-hi is a common drink that can be bought either in the can (from 7-11) or in restaurants, where you’ll always get it fresh. Making it is simple: mix fruit juice, soda water and shochu (the local spirit), throw in some ice and you’ve got yourself a party. What I love is when you get your chu-hi so fresh that they want you to work for it. Interactive drinking. I love it.

dinner w/ SRF

Another thing that’s incredibly japanese is Karaoke. Sigh.

Karaoke

It’s not that I’m intentionally trying to be a buzzkill, it’s just that I know I’m terrible at singing. Why does everyone insist this isn’t a prerequisite to singing in front of groups?! I had just about made it through two years, but I think jon had had enough of my bailing early and excuse making. Tonight’s the night.

Karaoke

Karaoke bars in the states usually have large stages where you sing in front of the entire bar. Perhaps this eggs on my distaste of them? Here it’s a little different because you have a private room for your group. It was odd at first, but thanks to our j-friends, we quickly got the hang of it.

Karaoke

Not to mention, there was an extra dose of “oddly translated english” to have fun with!

Karaoke

Sakai-san unabashedly sang and danced, and entertained us all with his mad-karaoke-confidence. He looks like such a quiet, older, man – you’d never expect him to be so funny!

Jon did spectacularly, though I think that was in part due to a good selection of songs.

Below, jon singing a love song to Rich. Okay, it’s not a love song… more like a… well. it was a song that probably shouldn’t have been sung between two [straight] guys. :)

Karaoke

Rich, singing and sakai-san and meeha? Mija? Mi-ha? (Jon, how do you spell her name!?) being so moved they had to dance.

Karaoke

At the end of the night, after being assured that we “probably had enough time”, we headed home. As luck would have it, we got to the station just as the the lights were flashing – our signal that we had just missed the last train (and only by two minutes!!). Had it not been utterly cold, rainy and miserable out that night, we may have considered hitting another bar and sleeping it off in the (outdoor) train station till morning.

Luckily for us, a new friend offered up his guest room. I can’t tell you how appreciative I am of dan – a distant coworker of jon’s, who seemed to be one of the most genuine and kind people I’ve met in a while. (And I’m not just saying that because he roofed us!)

the morning after karaoke

All and all, a good night. Good adventures, at least.

the morning after karaoke

Ebisu / Yebisu & Odaiba Island

Ebisu: ‘hood in Tokyo. Stop on the yamanote line. One of the 7 lucky gods (he’s the god of good fortune, fishing & merchants)

Jon & Ebisu

Yebisu: Beer. Specifically, one of Tokyo’s oldest breweries. It started in 1890 and is now owned by Sapporo. It tastes… much like all japanese beers. You’ve had kirin/sapporo/asahi right? Like that.

yebisu brewery

After ramen, Will, Dave, Jon & I took to exploring the city. I’m not sure if we had a plan or if we just happened to be in Ebisu, but somehow we find ourselves at the Yebisu brewery/tasting room/museum.

yebisu brewery

Hey, have you met Dave? Dave works with jon/will. He’s a nice chap. Very pleasant, easy to hang out with. Generally goes along with everything. Has a white DSLR. yeah. it’s weird. So is ordering everything from vending machines. Even my beer? Come on.

yebisu brewery

Anyhow, after hanging out for a bit in Ebisu, we mill.

walking to Meguro, tokyo

Dave had recently discovered the island of Odaiba. Discovered. Planted a flag on that shit. Please excuse my poor word choices – Dave knew about this place, it was a beautiful day, and our band of four was looking for adventure…

Tokyo Island (Odaiba)

Who knew there were beaches, boardwalks, and palm trees in the center of Tokyo? This city’s got it all!

Tokyo Island (Odaiba)

What the heck is that? Will decides that we have to go into the ball. I’m skeptical. Why am I always skeptical? Can someone teach me how to be less uptight? I’m serious.

Tokyo Island (Odaiba)

Walking down the boardwalk, we’re chilled by the wind but determined to find the ball.

Tokyo Island (Odaiba)

Getting closer, but what is it? Can we go in!?

Tokyo Island (Odaiba)

Hoo wee, what a view. Tokyo Tower (on the right) looks like a rocketship.

Tokyo Island (Odaiba)

We make it up and find a viewing deck inside. If you don’t want to pay and go into the main viewing area, there’s still a killer view. We didn’t know it then, but the building we were in was the Fuji TV headquarters – known for its unusual architecture:

fuji ball

photo c/o Wikipedia

We stayed up until the sun set over the city, and then headed back into the technicolor wind.

Tokyo Island (Odaiba)