Sunday, July 18, 2004

A night out with Masao's family

July 17, 2004
I had to get to work a bit earlier because we had to do a DSC run in the morning. So, I got into my last day of work at 8.45 am to use the internet before Masao got to work at 9.30. I posted my blog stuff and pictures from last night. I took pictures of my apartments because I knew had to do it sometime. I also got to test the low light photographing in my camera. There is a bit of blurriness in the pictures due to the camera shaking. But yeah, that was last night before I went to sleep.
But instead of me doing the DSC run, Masao did the whole thing again. At least I know the process involved. All I did was email, chat, and browse random blogs again. I also saw that there were a lot of hits from random people. That was kinda exciting. And yeah, I got a reply from Bhav after quite some time. And yeah, as usual I missed Andi online again. But I got to talk to her mum. We did a quick lunch at the Chinese place and got back. I packed the glass and precipitates for the trip. I also googled time tables for my trip back to Kumamoto from Tokyo on July 20. I have it sort of figured out. I hope that�s good enough.
I left for Kami-Kumamoto station to pick up Ben. I had to wait for about 30 mins because he was taking a later train. We got a taxi to take to the apartment to drop off Ben�s baggage and then took the same taxi to Sojo. The fare was not that bad, just $22. I paid for it with my credit card which was really cool. They have it set up to a wireless internet thing I think or maybe satellite internet. It was pretty hi-tech. And when I buy my car, I will equip it with a powerful GPS unit because it will be sweet! Well, what can I say, I am a technophile. Seeing the how nice the GPS units in Japanese cars are makes me want them even more. Ben was taking about the GPS unit in the car that came to pick him up from the airport. It would tell you when you take a wrong turn and point you back in the right direction. It also gives you a perspective of what the scene should look out of the front windshield. Talk about how far ahead of the US that Japan is in technology.
While Masao was showing Ben around, I checked my emails again. And I read some of the current affairs occurring around the world. I try to keep up with the news as far as possible because I would be utterly clueless otherwise. I am still following the Birla fortune dispute going on in India. It�s like a soap opera since it has to deal with billions. Some of the Birlas left their estate and financial resources to a chartered accountant in their company to which they seemed to have no ties. It should be interesting ahead and as far as I know, the whole country is watching as the drama unfolds. It�s national news! By the way, in case you were wondering who the Birla�s are. Just think Indian version of the Rockerfellers. The Birlas own the largest conglomerate in India which produces practically everything. I tried to find out the situation with the Pakistan�s scheduled mother-of-all-nuclear test either late this month or early next month. Stability in that region is probably a far fetched dream. And the most likely spot for the emergence of WWIII if it ever happens.
Around 6.15 pm, we left Sojo University to go to the hotel where we were having dinner with Masao and his family. We took a taxi there instead of walking. Thank god! I was in no mood to walk in my jeans and knowing Masao, he would have probably made us walk there. The hotel was about 10 minutes away and near Kumamoto castle. We waited for his family to get there for a while. We browsed around in the souvenir shop in the hotel and found better postcards than what I had sent. I wish I had seen ones like these earlier because I liked them much better. Masao bought us some food thing which Ben was carrying him. I need to ask him later what he gave us. And when Masao went to check if his family was waiting upstairs, they walked in and recognized us immediately because we were the odd ones out waiting in the lobby. Of course we were the out of place there as me with my chocolate skin and Ben with his vanilla flavored appeanance was bound to stand out in an oriental dominated ethnic population. His wife and younger daughter came to dine with us. They were dressed very well! They gave us a bag of gifts. I haven�t opened it yet but I think it has fans. I don�t know. His wife is a divorce counselor but can�t speak any English. But she is a very elegant lady and beautiful even at her age. And then Ben and I introduced each other to Chiori. She was dressed in a semi-formal one piece with a short skirt. And she probably applied her make-up in haste because her lip-gloss (or lip stick?) was all over. She is educated in the US at a big university but I can�t recollect the location. She was a pre-med and math major. That was very interesting to hear. She has varied interests but she doesn�t want to go into research but obtain a medical degree in Japan since she says that there are no international admissions in state medical schools which are more affordable that private med schools like John Hopkins. Masao and Chiori are not talking to each other presently due to the clash of future goals that he has in mind for his daughter and that she has planned. She is 28 years old and I was extremely surprised to hear that she was that old because she looked like she was 21-22 years old! But back to the point, she is pretty old and starting med school that late. She doesn�t have any plans of getting married any time soon. She also had a lot of schooling ahead of her. But I wish her good luck ahead. I hope she goes through with it though.
And yeah, family dynamics. This was the first and only Japanese family I have seen. First thing she told us when we told her that he was looking for them upstairs was that he is weird. I was kinda surprised that she would talk about her father like that to complete strangers. I later realized that the culture here was different. I also told her that I had asked him to introduce me to her so that she could show me around the city and my evenings would be more entertaining. She told me that he never told her. I always wondered about that, and now father-daughter not talking explained it. Him being an alcoholic and wife beater early in her childhood came up as well. That instantly showed a completely different view of his personality to his professional life. I don�t know how their marriage is going on now, but I doubt if there is any love left in the marital relationship. They had an arranged marriage because it was really common during that time. Just like India. When she was telling us stuff about her father, her mom just smiled which told us that she agreed with most of what Chiori was telling us. Well, I assume as much because she was pretty smart and was picking up on the context of our conversations mostly from my reactions.
Now onto the actual dinner. We went upstairs and found Masao. We were seated overlooking the Kumamoto castle towers. It was a beautiful sight. Chiori acted as a translator between us and her mom. We were handed menus but they were all in Japanese script. So, Chiori translated the menu with the constituents of the different dishes. We were asked to choose 2 appetizers, an entr�e and a dessert. All I could make out were the prices since they were in English numerals and I realized that this was going to be a $50+ meal per head because it was an opulent restaurant catering to people with money to spend. So I ordered Sashimi which is raw meat. I asked for raw horsemeat because I was feeling adventurous and I was told that it was a Kumamoto delicacy. I had a full grilled sea fish and fruit for dessert. I also tried Masao�s wife�s� sashimi of fish. I really liked the raw meats! They were very surprised to hear that I liked it. The horse meat was red but not bleeding and it was chewy. It was my first memorable brush with delicacies which I normally couldn�t afford. And the fish was also good. Ben didn�t like it as much but I must have been conditioned with fish eating at home because we ate fish every day. We ate the sashimi with soy sauce. And then arrived the entr�e which was a complete fish. I tried tearing the flesh with the chopsticks but it didn�t work. So I asked for a knife and a fork to tear the meat. After stripping the bone for meat, I used chopsticks to eat the meat. Chiori dived in to eat the eye balls of the fish because she loves it. I like the skin of the fish for some odd reason; I always have. It�s weird because I was the only one in my family who loved skin. I also was offered to try the beef dish that Chiori was having. It was sweet, and like the way the meat was marinated and cooked. And yeah, we were having beer while eating this fantastic meal. And to end it, I had fruit salad which wasn�t particularly Japanese. We left soon after that and they offered to drive us back to my apartment.
En route, they stopped by the gates of the Kumamoto castle and showed us how it looked in the night up close and personal. And then, we got back and I showed them the apartment I had been living in. I don�t know if they have ever done any living in this sort of a place. They were amused when they saw how small it was. If I thought Masao was a gracious host, they were even more gracious by offering to drive me early in the morning to the Kami-Kumamoto station on Wednesday so that I didn�t have to take a taxi. I went to bed around mid night after talking for a while to Ben. While talking, Chiori�s incessant flirting came up. He said that he had read its normal in Japanese culture for girls to be friendly. But all the slight touches? I would say that it was blatant flirting. I guess I was �friendly� too but not blatantly to return the favor. But then I am always �friendly�. Hehe. So, it didn�t really require a lot of play acting. In other places, guys would assume that the girl was interested in them. It�s called �letting on� in slang terms in the US.

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