(written Sunday, March 22 but not transcribed until today)
Sean’s dojo has him tied up with other Sayonara parties and events his last weekend in Japan and I, too, am occupied those days. My soon-to-be ex-bookclub and I have arranged a hanami for next Sunday and I imagine myself in Kyoto next Saturday; stalking geishas in Gion. As such, Sean and I decided to hold our school Sayonara Party today in our small apartment. I’m dusting, arranging tekka maki on a sushi platter, slicing cucumbers and octopus for the tako su and ruing the fact that I can’t find Sprite for the pitcher of naranjada. We’ve invited a handful of coworkers out of politeness but since we’ve been so antisocial in our time here, we only really expect the few we actually had rapports with to come. As 2 o’clock and then 3 o’clock pass, it appears that we are correct. Sean is slightly miffed but what did we really expect? Avoid company party invitations and yours, too, will be avoided. At 4 o’clock, the handful of people we expected begin to ring the doorbell and take off their shoes at the door. We are both relieved.
There are eight of us and we’re listening to music on my computer. I’m passing out the slightly deformed sushi rolls and explaining that naranjada is a Latin American punch that’s supposed to be made from orange juice and Sprite but this being Japan, all I could find was Mitsuya “cider,” which tastes of candy and ruins the whole thing. It’s Sean’s idea to start listening to various countries’ national anthems on the internet – he starts, naturally, with Ireland and segues into others representing our guests: the U.S., the U.K., Australia, Japan, and Israel. We’re passing around photos, chatting, and arguing over which cookies are best. I’m content to keep opening bottles of wine and sake.
Everybody is laughing and sharing tales of living in Japan. Sean’s switched to Beethoven, which makes him, Bob and I nostalgic for our first days here, when we were neighbors sharing Irish tea in Sean’s shoebox apartment. For all of the coworkers apart from Bob and Sir Steve, it’s their first time visiting our apartment but it is somehow not strange for either misanthropic Sean or perpetually shy, nervous me. It is the first party we have held, indeed, the first time we’ve really reached out to the coworkers we met after training, and the apartment is so cozy, lovely and filled with giggles that I’m wondering why on earth we didn’t do this before.