Attack of the Gaijin

Last night Maggie and I were looking for a place to eat. A guy was on his PCS phone (everybody has one, and they’re smaller than a Mars bar) outside of a Yakitori shop. Yakitori are little skewers of meat, fish or vegetables, and they’re generally eaten as snacks with big bottles of beer. He saw us, and convinced us to go into the shop.

As he opened the door, he shouted to the little crowd inside “Hey everybody, I just found a couple of foreigners!” Actually, the only word we understood was “gaijin,” but that was enough. We both started laughing and the night was off to a good start.

The guy from outside was a regular at the restaurant, and the whole place had three tables and was the size of two Yogen Fruz stands side by side. He spoke some English, and helped us order some chicken meatballs, salmon, and a big bottle of Asaki beer. He also offered us a skewer of Japanese nuts, which tasted a lot like pretzels, and they went great with the beer.

There were another six Japanese in the place, and we were definitely a rare spectacle. We bantered back and forth in broken Japlish, and they joked about one of them being a sumo, and another a pro surfer, even though he couldn’t swim.

The food was delicious (the salmon was tender and boneless), and the guy from outside bought us another beer (they were the big quart bottles). I also learned that when drinking in Japan, you never pour your own drink; it’s like telling everyone you’re an alcoholic. So, Maggie and I took turns filling each other’s little glasses from the giant Asaki (quite a change from university).

An older man came over on his way out and tried desperately to tell us how much he liked Canada, and wanted us to have a great visit. I took the Canada pin off my jacket and gave it to him. He didn’t know what the hell to do with himself, he was so happy. So he tore out of there and we all laughed.

About ten minutes later, as we’re finishing our meal, the old guy shows up in the bar again, and bows deeply as he presents us with a little metal and fake leather keychain, embossed with the name of some obscure North American company.

Note to future vistors to Japan: the Japanese take their gift-giving and receiving very seriously. Unbeknownst to me, by giving him my pin for his simple enthusiasm, I had obligated him to find some gift of similar value and symbolism for me.

OK, so it’s time to go, and we get our bill, and as I’m taking out my wallet the four guys left in the restaurant start yelling at each other. Turns out, they were fighting over who got the priviledge of paying our bill! We told them, no, no, we’re paying for our dinner, but they insisted. All in all, they probably coughed up CDN$20 for the honour of jawing with a couple of crazy canucks.

Domo arrigato, mister roboto.

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