Last Friday night I went to a “Single Party“ in Shibuya to meet up with a group of people I didn’t know, in a location I had never been to.
Sounds sort of scary, doesn’t it? I don’t mean scary in a “I’m afraid I’ll end up murdered in a dark alleyway“ but in a “this could be plain awkward and uncomfortable“ kind of way.
Funny enough, after about a month in Japan by myself, doing this didn’t feel strange at all. I wasn’t out of my comfort zone but right in the middle of it. I’ve gotten to a point where, when leaving the house, I just accept whatever happens and I’m genuinely happy about whoever I meet. It’s a point at which the magic starts to happen. (If you don’t like cheesy lines like this, better stop reading now. There is more of this to come.)
This is the first “Single Party“ I’ve ever attended in my whole life. (I’m sure that’s what everyone says. It’s true though. I can hear younger me laughing in disbelief.)
I get to the venue an hour late. (Teaching kids full-time makes me fall asleep after work these days.) I walk down the stairs like the descriptions said. At the foot of the stairs, I’m greeted by a chipper, tipsy guy who collects the cover charge. His warning words are: “Sorry there aren’t many women in there“. Always happy to help with the quota. I enter the room where there are about twenty people of which only two or three are female. I try to make a round and say hi to everyone but can barely get through because every guy I pass offers me a seat next to him. Overwhelmed, I just sit down anywhere. For the next hour and a half I’m caught up in a vivid conversation with several guys around me who have made me their center of attention. This is just bizarre.
One guy, let’s call him Lawyer Guy, asks me a lot of questions that at some point start feeling like an interview to determine my suitability for a future wife. It seems I’m losing points when I say that I just started a full-time job that takes up a lot of my time. He’s also not happy with my footwear and strongly advises me to wear high heels “to look more beautiful“. I keep smiling politely while thinking „WHAT – THE – …. ??!?“ It also makes me uncomfortable when he keeps giving me all sorts of compliments in front of everyone, ranging from how smart I am to “how much more beautiful Western women are compared to Asian women“. He also tries to impress (me? everyone? himself?) by showing pictures on his phone of him on a boat. He declares several times that him and I should definitely meet again to “teach each other English and Japanese“. (I’m not saying this is not a valid reason to meet up with someone but this just feels inauthentic.)
Another guy, who can only be called Shy Guy, doesn’t say a word the entire evening. To be fair, he does talk, but only when asked a question directly. Eye contact seems to scare him.
There is also Funny Guy, who is having a great time throwing all sorts of random comments into the conversation. I don’t mind it, because when he does, it draws attention away from me for a few moments.
And then, there is the guy who sits opposite me and in all this madness turns into my lighthouse. I find myself looking at him most of the time when talking because he doesn’t give the impression that he wants to put a wedding ring on my finger by the end of the evening. We just laugh. And talk. And laugh some more. The shortening of his name is Tomo. Which is significant to me, because tomodachi means friend in Japanese. He laughs heartily about my interpretation of his name. We make plans to go to karaoke together some day.
The bar closes and we have to leave. Door Guy asks me (in all honesty): “So did you find a boyfriend??“ Nope, but I found a friend who lives only four subway stops away from me. Which measured by Tokyo/Yokohama standards is like a next-door neighbor.
Walking inside the dungeon that is Shibuya station with Funny Guy and Tomo, Funny Guy shares an observation: “You two look like very close friends.“ We tell him that we actually just met an hour and a half ago, which surprises him. He says we gave the impression that we went to the meet up together. Then it’s goodbye because he has to take a different line. Appropriate for the name I secretly gave him, he says: „THANK YOU FOR FUN!“ and disappears through the ticket gate.
Tomo and I venture on a crowded train to get home to Yokohama. He watches out for me so I don’t get squished by the other passengers. We are the only people talking on the otherwise quiet train and everyone must be looking at us, but I don’t care. I made a friend. This is the beginning of my new life in Japan.
I’d like to wrap up this post with the cheesy but ever so true words: “There are no strangers here, just friends you haven’t met yet.“