Last Thursday was the last day of second semester (with the kids, at least), so most of the schools in town had a work party, or enkai.
I’m not sure what work parties are like in the States, having never worked at a place that held one, but in Japan, they’re loads of fun! That being said, there is always a level of discomfort for me, and on occasion they’re a chore if I’m placed next to people who either A.) don’t speak any English, or, more often than not, B.) are too afraid of the “embarrassment” of miscommunication to try to talk to me.
This year, I’m happy to say I had an amazing time! Also, I’m so proud of myself! My speaking skills are still dismal, but Thursday night I was able to follow the train of conversation fairly effortlessly, and I needed no prompts at all from anyone to understand what was going on!
This year I went with 8sho to Sumihiyori! Pic courtesy of their website:
Our enkai was held in a Japanese-style room with wood floors and tatami mats and low tables we sat at on the floor with our legs dangling underneath. We had to take off our shoes and put them in a cubby before walking into the room; of course, this is when everyone (and I) noticed that my socks were two different colours…
At most enkais, everyone brings around 5,000¥, about $50, for a two- to three-hour course meal. Japanese restaurants are the most popular (though I’ve been to one at a French restaurant once). The party started out with a speech from several teachers, including one in English from one of the 4th grade teachers. She did a great job!
Our first course was nabe! It’s basically a one-pot meal. This evening we had napa cabbage, chicken, carrots, tofu, leeks, enoki mushrooms, and Chrysanthemum greens with noodles hidden in the bottom:
The nabe boiled for a while, and then we ate it – mixed in with raw egg! I’ve had dishes similar to this before, so I’ve gotten used to the strange texture of the egg. It’s actually pretty good!
While the nabe cooked, we had octopus salad and fried mushroom salad (no pics, was too busy enjoying the food!)
Next they brought out sashimi! It was shrimp, tuna, and yellowtail.
I never had sashimi until I came to Japan. I’m from Kansas City, smack dab in the middle of the U.S., so fresh seafood was always too expensive for my budget. I only knew of it from one of my dad’s stories:
When he was in his twenties he traveled through southeast Asia (and eventually he met my mom!) For Christmas (or his birthday?) he was in Micronesia, and he decided to pool together his money and buy himself a special meal. He went to a restaurant and ordered. The waiter brought out a big bowl of sauce, and after a while, when nothing else came out, my dad thought he had misread the menu and only ordered soup – so he drank it! Then, after a little while, the waiter brought out raw fish…and my dad had to eat it all on its own without the sauce!
I definitely sympathise with him! Often I’ll go to restaurants and the menu will be all in kanji, which I can’t read, and so I just pick anything that looks vaguely familiar. Also, I didn’t realise until recently how much I rely on watching other people to know how to eat!
Like this chicken, it came out looking perfectly normal, but then the waiter gave us a small bowl with a raw egg yolk…apparently it was supposed to be poured over the chicken!
I wasn’t a big fan of that one, but oh well!
Christmas work parties are special in that we do games. It was opened by one of our new teachers who, willingly or unwillingly, I’m not sure, he was all smiles and bounced on the balls of his feet the entire time, came in in a reindeer outfit. Dude was a good sport!
My team consisted of me, the music teacher, the science teacher, and one of the secretaries.
The first game was 私はだあれ？ or basically, “Whoooo am I?” A teacher read out three hints, and the teams had to guess which teacher he was talking about. I understood most of the questions, but I don’t know my teachers that well! Alas, our team got 0 points.
The next game was odd, and I didn’t understand it until we played the first round. Each team was given a whiteboard, and we were presented with a list of four things – for example, four kinds of sushi. We had to pick our favourite one and write it down in secret. When everyone finished, we held up our boards, and if our board was different from all the other teams’ boards, we got a point!
Yeah, we got 0 points that game too.
But then the final game! Redemption! Each team got a plastic counter that kept track of shakes. That’s right – for ten seconds I had to shake the damn thing as fast as I could, pass it off to the next team member to shake for ten seconds, and so on – and I shook it twice, because we had to shake for 50 seconds. We got second place in that round, which bumped us up from fifth (last) place to fourth! Wooooo!
These Christmas games are always pretty weird. My friend Kristy posted a video of hers – the game? One teacher had to feed another teacher a bottle. Like, the kind you feed babies milk with.
But ours was fun! The teachers were all in a good mood, and it was a nomihodai, or all you can drink, so the beer was flowing freely! Alas, I biked, and everyone knew it, so I couldn’t drink. But I still enjoyed myself!
Dessert was pumpkin ice cream. The secretary didn’t want his, so I got two!
All in all, a great night! Probably the best enkai yet!
So much good food. I love enkais because they’re my opportunity to eat Japanese food I would probably never even know to try on my own! And I’m at a point where my teachers are always trying to include me in the conversation. Thank you for a wonderful evening, 8sho!