My sake store/calligraphy/English student friend has an annual wine party at the end of November. Lucky for Jess, Flo, and I, we were invited to be part of the staff at this party/60th birthday celebration. At our last English lesson, he said something about how we would be serving wine to people as they walked into the ballroom. He thought it would be cool for his guests to be greeted by gaijins (foreigners). He had me write out a speech out for him in English so that he could shock the viewers with mad English skills. On top of that, he asked me if I could say a little something about why I decided to come to Japan, and how awesome Murakami is. Sure, no problem!! Our compensation would be the nijikai (after party) with the rest of the staff members.
Jess, Flo, and I walked over to his sake store to catch the bus to the party. On the bus, we met some pretty hilarious characters. This old man talked to us the whole ride about his life and the happenings of Murakami while his wife kept showing off her mink jacket that she won through janken (paper scissors rock). Upon arrival, we were immediately put in our wine-serving place, and told to try the wine we were handing out, but make it quick, so ‘kampai’ chug, done. Not too much after, we were told to go to the backroom, where we were assigned tables and instructed to pour the first of 9 wines. Every 20 minutes or so, the next wine bottle was to be brought out to the tables. White wines, red wines, Italian wines, California wines, and peach wines were all part of the menu. There was a schedule of performances: at 7:00 the band will play happy birthday to Kudo, 7:15 he’ll give a speech; 7:30 he’ll sing, 7:45 the guest singer will sing; 8:00 Naomi will give her speech, at 8:15 Kudo and the band will change into their Hawaiian shirts and play a couple songs and so on. To my surprise, I was worked into the schedule more than just the speech. I was to give the guest singer flowers, talk in front of the 206 attendees, play the tambourine with Flo and Jess for 2 songs, pull tickets for the raffle, and be the center janken person for the bike give-away. I was a little nervous about the speech since I hadn’t really prepared anything on paper. I knew what I wanted to say, and how I would deliver a couple of the sentences, but it was all in my head. Thankfully, by the time I was called to the stage, the audience was feeling the buzz from their 4 glasses of wine, and gave me a huge round of applause after every sentence. This gave me enough time to think about what I wanted to say next. Plus, it made me feel like a star. Let me explain the mass janken tournament in a little more detail. I stood on center stage, everyone stood up and we paper scissor rocked. If anyone lost or threw the same thing as me, they would sit down. We’d do it again, and again until an old man won the brand new white basket bike, which he took for a goofy ride through the elegant tables. There was crazy dancing from both adults and kids going on. The proud mink lady did a funky solo dance for the crowd, babies took the stage, and Jess pulled Flo in for an intense swing dance routine. Everyone loved us and treated us like celebrities. When it was all over and done with, people asked to shake our hands, take pictures with us, and gave us business cards. This whole evening experience was all the payment we needed for helping out with the party, so the after party was just a huge bonus. Wine, sushi, delicious Japanese hors d'oeuvre, and hilarious conversation were a perfect cap on the night.