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Okayama

“As I write these words, in a little black moleskine I bought in Newcastle in
the misguided belief that I am Ernest Hemmingway, I am presently stuck in a
train station in a place called Aioi. I have no desire to be in Aioi, I want to
be in Hiroshima, which is several hundred miles to the west of where I am
currently seated. Failing that I’d settle for Okayama which is where several
trains have promisedme I was going before informing me that they were going to
drop me of in the middle of sodding nowhere. Aioi train station is not exactly
thrilling. I have bought a drink, and thus exhausted it’s possibilities for
amusement. The only thing I can do to possibly while away the hours is to
attempt to work out how exactly one pronounces Aioi, something like ah-ee-oh-ee
which sound a bit like a painful grunt. I will probably type this all up on my
blog if, and this is a big if, I ever leave sodding Aioi.”

Eventually, after over an hour, I did.

How I got there in the first place required a spectacular misjudgement on my part, one of several I had made that day leading up to a not exactly successful start to my trip.

The previous night I had packed my brand new bag. Not knowing what the weather or sleeping conditions would be liked in Hiroshima I had prepared for the worse. I had placed my gameboy, phone and camera on charge and went to bed giddy and excited.

The next morning I awoke, quickly packed my things, had breakfast and headed off to make my way to Hiroshima.

I decided to take the JR rather than the Shinkansen for the simple reason that the Shinkansen costs more money and would be too easy for my poorly planned little adventure. I use the JR quite frequently and have never before had any problem deciphering it’s maps and complicated system of multiple speed trains before. Furthermore when I got to the JR station I discovered that although the map didn’t have Hiroshima listed it did have Okayama, a city I have been to before on the JR and where I had done, well this.

I knew that from Okayama you could get the train to Hiroshima so I made this destination number 1. Now I did mess up somewhat straight away. I remembered from last time that when we went to Okayama we had to transfer once before reaching it. I didn’t remember which station we transferred in so I decided to aim toward Himeji reasoning that they would probably have an Okayama connection there. That’s a reasonable assumption right? Two big cities probably have a train running between them.

In Himeji there were many trains listed as heading to Okayama. I boarded one.

It did not go to Okayama.

Instead it dropped me in a tiny little rural train station and returned to Himeji. However this train station also promised connections to Okayama, in half an hour.

These subsequent trains did not go to Okayama. Instead I had to catch a series of ever progressing local trains inching my way towards Okayama.

All of which led to me sitting in a train station in Aioi for an hour and the rant at the start of this post.

Having said that, the journey was not entirely unpleasant. The scenery was absolutely lovely all the way to Okayama. Japan is really characterised by its mountains. There is no horizon in this country, look far enough in any direction and all you’ll see is mountains. Climb and mountain and there’s still no horizon just more and more distant mountains. Hell look out to sea and you’ll probably spot an island or two. The mountains inform so much of Japanese culture and how the country feels. Leave the city and they really start to creep into your brain, they dominate your thoughts. You simply can’t escape them. At times it can be quite intimidating, you feel squashed in and trapped. However in this instance they were lovely, like the train was boat travelling in a green sea. It was sunny, quiet, warm without being hot and I had nothing to do but read and gaze at trees and mountains.

Having arrived in Okayama I decided to sod the JR and try my hand at the Shinkansen (bullet train). This is such a symbol of Japan that I knew I would end up riding it one day anyway and I was so desperate not to be on a train anymore that I paid the extra fair and set off.

The Shinkansen is more like a plane than a train really. It has its own station that feels much more like an airport than a train station. The doors are airlocked, the corridors are very narrow with low ceilings and the décor and shape just screams plane at you. Except it isn’t a plane, and it has absolutely scads of leg room. I rode it in blissful happiness that I was finally making some progress to Hiroshima.

Eventually I arrived. 6 hours later.

One benefit of all the extra travelling time was that I’d had plenty of chances to consult my guidebook and look for a place to stay. The plan was to try and find a cheap-ish hotel and failing that to just find a coin locker to store my bag in. The guidebook pointed out a youth hostel right smack dab in the centre of the city and next to the peace park. This was exactly the sort of area I needed to be staying in so I headed to the Aster International Youth Hostel.

Asking for a room for two nights resulted in an ominous Japanese collaborative huddle (i.e. they all had to ask each other if it was okay) the end result of which was that yes they did have two rooms but I would need to check out each day and check back in again.

Fine, whatever, I give up questioning you Japan.

And the room was great. Fairly basic but this place was meant to be a hostel! I got a room to myself a TV and an en-suite shower and bath. I’ve stayed in hotels that were much worse than this place.

Depositing my belongings I hit Hiroshima to see what it was like.
It was then that I realised that I had left my camera back in Kobe.

Arse.

The first thing I noticed about Hiroshima, trams. As in it has them, and as far as I know is the only Japanese city that has them. Now I love trams, don’t ask me why. I can’t possibly identify any specific aspect of trams that I find appealing but for some reason I do. I think it might be a boy thing.

And because of the trams the streets are really, really wide. Startlingly wide actually. I’m used to Japanese cities being cramped and busy but Hiroshima was full without being crowded in the slightest. There are acres of lovely space in those streets.

It’s also much leafier than most Japanese cities too, particularly around the peace park and bordering the peace park on either side is a wide, slow moving river. The combination of river and tress was particularly lovely on this hot day with the shade and the feel of the water giving me some much needed cool.

In fact Hiroshima doesn’t really fell much like a Japanese city, it’s got lots of green space, it’s wide and uncluttered and it has a grand river running through it with riverside cafes. These are not qualities I associate with any city in Kansai, in fact at times it feels positively Mediterranean. Disconcerting but perfectly pleasant.

This had all put me in a good mood and I ventured out to explore peace park and possibly get something to eat. I had spotted on my way to the hostel that there was some kind of festival in the peace park so I headed in that direction hoping that they would have food.

I needn’t have worried, this is Japan and anywhere people gather there is always food.
I set myself up with a beer and this thing.

Yes, an omelette on a stick. I have said before that the Japanese have a great fondness for putting food on sticks but even I could not quite believe that they would put an omelette on a stick. It wasn’t bad though, a bit gooey in the middle but it had onions to give it some crisp and was pretty tasty.

I wasn’t quite full yet so I continued searching for more food on sticks and elected to have some barbequed squid on a stick. I was tucking into this delicacy and heading into the park when who should I cross paths with but Steve.

You all remember Steve right, from Yamasaki.

With a mouth full of squid I couldn’t say anything but fortunately he recognized me too. He was on his jollidays from work too and had been in Tokyo the night before. Small world isn’t it?

Turns out Steve also has a blog on deviantart. He was visiting Hiroshima with his friend Daniel. Fortunately both of them are big photographer geeks and have many, many spectacular photos of that night. I will post them as soon as Steve puts them on deviantart.
The festival was a “festival of flowers” and was in honour of “Greenery Day” which is an actual national holiday in Japan. As well as all the usual festival distractions (i.e. food) the main events were a stage with some dancing and a display of candles in peace park.

You could buy a candle, write a message and add it to the display. This consisted of a long table running down the centre of peace park, some fixed candles on stilts in the reflecting pond and some stands with candles on them. There were also giant glass cranes in the style or origami cranes that lit up. The effect was really quite beautiful and as I say, Steve has pictures.

The dancing was much less impressive although not bad. The most memorable part for me were some boys who, judging by their costume, were either from Thailand or India. I had actually spotted these boys in costume when I checked into my hotel and was a little skeeved at the time. Most of the boys were in a masculine costume, a purple robe with a gold effect headdress and some other gold effect components. They looked quite Indian basically and I’m sure you can all guess their general appearance. However some of the older boys had elaborate gold head dresses, skirts, make-up and what I can only describe as belly shirts exposing their mid riff. They were definitely boys, I saw one up close as I checked in but they were dressed in phenomenally feminine costume. Creepy.

The rest of the dancing was competent and occasionally amazing but substantially less mind searing.

Having wandered around chatting and taking photos we set off for dinner. Hiroshima is famous for two things; seafood and a kind of okonomiyaki called Hiroshima-yaki that is made with noodles. My guidebook mentioned a department store called “okonomi-mura” that promised a wide selection of Hiroshima-yaki places so we set off to find it.

Could we find it, could we bugger.

The map in the guidebook was complete crap and didn’t tell us where the actual store was instead opting to give us a few landmarks and then make us guess. Worse nobody we spoke to had ever heard of okoni-mura or the entertainment district we were looking for. Eventually we found a guy who did know what we meant and directed us to a street we must have passed about 6 times. There we saw a sign saying in hiragana “okonomi-mura”. That meant that when we were asking where the entertainment district Sintenchi was we were in Shintenchi. Yet not one person we asked had ever heard of Shintenchi.

The Hiroshima-yaki was good though. A little bland maybe, with too many noodles and not enough sauce or meat. Still it was tasty enough to satisfy. Hiroshima okonomiyaki doesn’t hold a candle to the stuff in Osaka though.

I finished up in a bar called “Zepplin bar” because I liked the sound of the promised classic R’n’B and rock. Not exactly common music in Japan. What I got was Chicago. Bloody Chicago! Still I got chatting to a nice Japanese bloke who used to live in Canada and had a couple of “just what the doctor ordered” beers.
And that’s it for day 1. Still 2 more days and many, many photos to get through so stick around.

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So this blog appears to be developing a theme as yet again male nudity forms the basis of most of my post.

First up here’s a video I made at James’ recent cheese and wine party. I was attempting to record James and Adam playing some Enka (Japanese country music) and I did, however at first I got side tracked by a long conversation about Drew’s nipples.

Enjoy!

Secondly I’m not sure if this will work but my friend Kate put together a fantastic video of the Naked Man Festival that reallty brings the whole event to life. You can watch it here . However I’m not sure that link will work. If it doesn’t please comment on this thread and I’ll see if I can get the real video from Kate.

In other news today was the “farewell party” for my san-nensei. Basically a special assembley with videos, the brass band playing, the choir club singing and lots and lots of photos of the san-nensei. It was unlike most Japanese assembley type activities in that it was pretty fun and interesting. The photos in particular were hilarious and it was really cool to see what my kids looked like before they were my kids.

There were also a couple of photos of me in the display too which all drew big laughs from the kids. I’m not sure I know what’s so funny though.

The best part of the day was chatting with some of the san-nensei afterwards. In particular one girl who I’ve got to know really well from the letters we’ve being exchanging. She hasn’t sent me any for a couple of weeks now due to her exams but today she gave me a last letter and next week when they have the more formal graduation ceremony I’ll give her my last letter. I copied all her letters to me today and it’s a really fantastic souveneir of my first year and something I’ll keep forever.

She also gave me an actual souveneir; a phone charm from Kyoto of two frogs. Apparently it keeps couples together and stops you being in a car accident. So now I can finally get my driver’s license!

This would be the rewarding part of teaching. Connecting with and inspiring people.

The un-rewarding part is stopping boys from reading manga every time we go in the library. “Yes I know Black Jack is a cool series but this is an English lesson not a manga lesson.”

I did like the one boy who was meant to be researching Thomas Edison and was in fact reading a samurai manga. When I asked him what he was doing he looked at me with a totally straight face and pointed at a samurai and said “Edison.” Then he pointed at a girl on the page and said “Edison’s girlfriend.” When I flipped a page and pointed at a demon he pointed at it and said “lightbulb.” Massive props to this kid, if you’re going to dick aroudn in my lessons the least you could do is make me laugh whilst you’re doing it.

A very pleasant sign seen in Okayama.

Just a quickie this week as generally nothing particularly interesting has gone so permit me if I may to talk about Den Den town.

Den Den town is an area in Osaka famed for its video games, electronics, manga cafes and generally it’s geek stuff. It is wall to wall robots, games, anime and manga and is generally what I thought all of Japan would be like.

This Saturday myself and Ryan hit up Den Den town and along with all of usual stops hit a few new sites.

The only site I have any photos of though is this amazing retro gaming store that we found. Purely by chance we wandered in and I entered into a kind of nerd nirvana. It was full to the brim with computer games and consoles, quite a few of them older than I am.

The floors of this place were papered with screen shots from old 8 and 32-bit game title screens. In the above pic I recognise Streets of Rage, Sailor Moon, Indiana Jones, R-Type, Lemmings, Mickey and Donald in Dreamland, Gundam, Ultraman, Rampage, Dragonlance, Tetris and Castlevania.

One of the more impressive things in here was a working original Nintendo Famicom. This was only ever released in Japan but was re-tooled to become the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) in Europe and the States. The NES was the first console I ever owned (and it’s still good fun) and here was its big brother for a piddling £20.00!

Pictured here is another Japanese only console, the colossal failure that was the Virtual Boy. Launched in the early 90’s in the height of the VR fad it bombed hard and is the only console Nintendo ever launched that did so in Japan. Part of the problem is that the whole gear you see before you was meant to be worn on the head. And my word is it heavy. A game boy is meant to be portable and lightweight, this needed a specialised stand to be used. The other big problem was that the system reportedly gave people huge and frequent migraines, not a big selling point. Finally the red lines it used to simulate VR were apparently quite hard to see so some of the games were simply unplayable because you spent all your time struggling to see what was happening. Nintendo themselves only ever released one game for the console and then quietly ignored it.

Still, if I wanted one here it was.

2 of the older consoles on offer. No idea about the “snoopy” but the minestorm is actually asteroids (if anyone remembers that game) that could be played at home! Imagine a world where you don’t need to go to an arcade to play videogames!

These appear to be pictures of Mario drawn in a realistic style. No idea whatsoever what is going on or what the context is but I think the spaghetti eating turtle is totemo kawaii! (very cute)

I have no idea what this is either. I just know that he’s been haunting my nightmares ever since.

However, easily the most impressive thing in the entire shop was this little guy. It’s ROB or the Robot Operating Buddy.

ROB is almost single-handedly responsible for computer games still being alive today. In 1983 there was a massive market crash in the states amongst computer games stockists due to Atari’s poor business practises. Stores in the states were not prepared to stock any new computer game consoles as they couldn’t shift the ones they had. In comes Nintendo with a product this is not a computer game, but in fact a newfangled robot toy, with an attached console that was just necessary to make the robot work. The gamble worked and shops in the states were prepared to stock ROB and the attached Nintendo Entertainment System. 2 games later (gyromite and stack ‘em) all support for ROB vanished and Nintendo started doing their real business. Getting families and shops that didn’t know they’d bought one to start buying games for computer consoles.

Poor ROB isn’t remembered much these days but he is a true hero of gaming history.

Other than the gaming store our big visit was to the Gundam shop. This was two floors containing nothing but Gundam related merchandise. Gundam shirts, toys, models, DVD’s, CD’s, games, FOOD! and most notably a giant Gundam hand thrusting through one wall.

Ryan, who approaches a religious fervour in the presence of Gundam, was happy, to say the least. I was searching for a Tequila Gundam but alas none of the ridiculous Gundam from G Gundam were in stock so I left empty handed.

Having sufficiently geeked out we headed to possibly the nerdiest place to eat on the planet. A maid café.

Japan has a big service culture and a service industry that stops at open prostitution but certainly sidles up to it. There are a lot of very, very stressed people in this country and there exist a huge variety of businesses prepared to “relieve” that stress. These range from massage parlours and spas at one end to the hostess bars at the other. Hostess bars are basically places where men come to pay to flirt with women. They go to see their favourite girl, buy her drinks, laugh with her, flirt, sing karaoke, have some dinner and a few drinks and do everything short of actual touching. I guess the closest western equivalent is an escort service except some of these guys form relationships with the hostesses that are closer than with their own wives.

Maid cafes sit comfortably in the middle of this spectrum. They are cafes catering to a very specific fetish, guys who want to see girls dressed as anime-style maids. Honestly the outfits these girls wear are outrageous. Perfectly modest from a sexual standpoint but incredibly cartoony and unreal.

Den Den town is full of Maid Cafes, most of which offer an , ahem, “refresh service” which is wonderfully vague in the details but appears to be along the lines of foot and back massages by girls dressed as cartoon characters. To each his own I guess.

Myself and Ryan were not seeking a “refresh service” (I am more than happily attached) but I didn’t want to come to Japan and pass up on seeing something so patently bizarre and with my girlfriend’s arrival due imminently I thought this might be my last chance. So we searched and searched and eventually found a place just selling food.

It was hilarious! The girls flirt with you outrageously, they called myself and Ryan “master” dropped to floor level to pour drinks and generally rushed round like we were the most important people in the world ever. I think they gave up on us a bit when they twigged that our Japanese isn’t good but they were continuously flirting with the table next to us.

And the food, well the food was pretty good actually. We both ordered a tonkatsu (breaded pork cutlet) plate which was huge. The table next to us ordered the “happy time surprise” which turned out to be an omelette and rice (don’t ask) on which the maids drew a little smiley face in ketchup.

I do not think there is another country on earth where grown men pay to have a woman draw a smiley face in ketchup on their food.

No pictures alas, they ban cameras and if you want a picture you have to pay to have one taken with the girls so here are some poached off the internet to give you an idea of what maid cafes are like.

I doubt I’ll be returning but I am glad I went.

Oh and one last thing. Pictured is one of the fabled beer vending machines. However more unusually the bottom row is cans of ramen! Beer and noodles in one machine, what more can a man ask for.

Japan doesn’t have the same nudity taboos that we do in the west. Partly because the population density is so much higher here and historically has always been so. There’s precious little space to live in Japan so issues like nudity and personal space aren’t really as important.

The other reason is that in Shinto-ism nudity is considered to be purifying and so there are many “naked” festivals in Japan known as Hadaka Matsuri where hundreds of men at a time all go and do something religious, whilst naked.

Alright, not totally naked but wearing a fundoshi and some tabi and nothing else nature didn’t provide. Tabi are socks with a split in the toes to separate your big toe from the rest so you can grip sandals. They also have a pad in the bottom like a light sole. Ninja wear these. A fundoshi is a loincloth, the same kind of nappy thing that a sumo wrestler wears. Although according to wikipedia fundoshi is just traditional Japanese male underwear and was pretty much the standard until after World War 2.

For whatever reason (temporary madness, a desire to do shit that I won’t get away with when my girlfriend arrives, drunkenness???) I decided that I wanted to go and join in the nearly nude fun in the middle of February (when it is cold) for Okayama’s Hadaka Matsuri, one of the biggest in Japan.

This is my adventure.

So firstly I’ll set the general tone of the evening as it was explained to me. There are some men, they are naked, there are some priests, they will throw some “lucky” sticks into a crowd of the aforesaid naked men. The aforesaid naked men will fight each other for sticks. Doesn’t that sound like fun?

Initially two more complete idiots were meant to join me in making a spectacle of myself, Gavin Coutts and Randy Rymer. However, Randy wasn’t allowed to attend as a runner because he had tattoos. Tattoos in Japan are a sign of the yakuza and pretty much every place with public nudity frowns on or excludes tattoos. This matsuri has a particular problem with tattoos because the lucky sticks are highly sought after. Some Japanese companies will pay up to £5,000 for a stick. The yakuza have apparently being waiting by the gate you have to pass through if you win, dragging off the winners, beating them up, stealing the stick and giving it to one of their mates. Previously people with tattoos have been allowed to cover themselves with make-up but this year there was a total ban. So Randy was out.

That just left two idiots, myself and Gavin.

Oh and a small crew of pervy ladies who wanted to stare at men’s naked bottoms. Nicky, Kate, Becky and Gina. Perverts, all of them.

We met up, travelled a very far distance on the train and consumed copious amounts of booze on said journey.

Yup, on the train. In Japan it is perfectly okay to drink on the street or public transport hence the beer vending machines. Train beers, as they are known to we gaijin, are an essential part of any night out in Osaka or beyond.

Arriving in Okayama myself and Gavin had 30 minutes to get more beer and fuel our bellies (we opted, naturally, for ramen) before boarding a bus full of extraordinarily drunken men from all four corners of the Earth.

But mostly from Australia, which speaks volumes doesn’t it.

It was at this point that the “safety” instructions were given to us. These ranged from the sensible (tape your hands up so people can recognise you and tape your socks on so you don’t lose them) to the worrying (please complete this sheet with your blood type, if you don’t know your blood type but O-) to the downright ludicrous (do not participate under the influence of liquor, oh how we laughed).

More drinking ensued.

We arrived at the shrine and walked through a pretty standard festival set-up before being ushered into a special tent for the competitors.

In here was FREE BOOZE. Well free sweet sake, which isn’t exactly my preferred tipple, but it certainly did a fine job of warming me up.

After some procrastination Gavin and I finally had to bow to the inevitable, doff our vestements and submit to have a grinning Japanese man put on our fundoshi for us.

Incidentally I kept my fundoshi afterwards. It’s difficult to photograph but basically imagine a strip of white cloth about 13ft long and 1ft wide.

Right, now imagine that 1ft width being gathered up and thrust violently up your arse.

No woman is ever allowed to complain to me about thongs ever again. Thongs are floss thin and sneak up there over the course of a day. They are not furiously thrust up your fundament by some cackling Japanese goblin.

Needless to say I’ve had better moments.

Well now properly, um, attired I had little to do but stay in the tent drinking more and keeping warm by the heaters inside. AT one point I got chatting to an incredibly old man. His skin was like wood. He was so wrinkled and dry that he looked like a normal man had been dried like some jerky. He was lovely though and full of fun. Apparently some old guys participate every year. Last year somebody had a heart attack and died so I hope lovely old jerky man was alright.

My heated revelry was interrupted by a command from a veteran of this festival.

I had to go run through a pond.

Yes, water, in the cold, at night, in the nuddy.
Apparently it’s purifying.

Fortunately I was very, very drunk at the time. So I did.

It wasn’t that cold actually. If you stayed in enough of a crowd to have your arm round someone’s shoulders (did I mention I was drunk?) and kept running you didn’t really feel the cold. And the wet didn’t bother me much either.

On the way back from the pond we met up with the ladies again who fed us and took photos. I am in possession of a fine photo of my chapped, freezing and wet arse but I have been forbidden by my missus from putting it on this site. However if you’re one of my facebook friends then it is easily found.

I didn’t manage to take any photos myself, after all where would I keep my camera? So all the photos in this post are courtesy of the lovely Kate, pictured above.

Getting back to the tent I now had more of a wait before the big event started with nothing to do but jump and down to stop shivering and drink more sake.

Now I want to ask you a question. What will happen if you get a huge bunch of gaijin in a tent with nothing to do but drink? Men who have nothing in common except a shared language and desire to run around nearly naked in February.

What will these men do to entertain themselves?

You may not know the answer but if you are a man when I tell you the answer it will feel right and true and just. This was the proper course of action.

We started singing Queen songs; complete with improvised harmonies. And we did the whole of Bohemian Rhapsody.

Bliss!

Finally the main event was due to begin. We were chased out of our tent and made to run around the town in a huge crowd. All holding shoulders and screaming “Washoi!”

And no, I have no idea what it means.

It was fantastic good fun. Pure, unbridled and primal. We were men, running screaming and naked and it felt awesome. Due to all the bodies it was pretty warm and not in the slightest bit cold. Even after they made me run through the pond AGAIN!

The crowd were loving it too, particularly the ladies and they were very pleased to see so many gaijin men. I kept going back to high-five people and shake hands. All the while screaming “washoi” of course.

Finally we got to the main alter of the shrine, basically a big platform with some steps leading up to it. On this platform and on the ground below were 4,000 nearly naked men in total. All competing for a grand total of 7 sticks.
The priests threw more purifying water on us and everyone jostled to get a good position. The closest situation I can compare it to is a big music gig. It’s the same inability to move, the same trouble breathing and the same mad desire to get to the front.

However, in gigs I try and maintain a bit of civility. This was not a time for civility, this was a time to be an animal. And so elbows out I used my massive gaijin strength to ensure that I was solidly on the platform. I have never felt stronger or manlier in my life. I wanted a damn stick.

After much sweaty and vaguely homo-erotic shoving and pushing the priests dropped the lights and cast out the sticks. Cue an immediate surge of people forward and to the sides and I got swept backwards somehow. I pushed my way back in and managed to gain some distance when the second stick was cast out. However somewhere around the third of fourth stick a random surge tripped me up and I fell down the stairs, giving myself a nasty scratch down my right side. I was up in a flash though and back in the game.

Much shoving later I was sadly bereft of any sticks but did feel fantastic. I was purged, freed of all my build up caveman instincts and riding on a massive adrenaline rush.

One of the winners.

We got back to the tent somehow and I was immediately deflated to find out that I had lost my underpants. All my clothes were in a bag, except my pants. Now I am in no way accusing somebody of stealing my underpants but it was a mystery that I still can’t really get my head around.

Besides, how many times can you claim that a night was so chaotic that you lost your underpants?

More festival food (ramen AND takoyaki, this was a good night for me) and we hooked back up with the girls and headed back to Okayama.

Of course we had missed the last train home so we had to stick around in Okayama until 6am to get the next one. First stop on our all-nighter was an American theme bar playing some kind of Japanese Ninja-themed porn. A bar I promptly fell asleep in.

Having been woken up we set off in search of a club called “Friends.”

1 hour later we found it.

1 hour of wandering up and down the same 4 sets of streets, screaming into phones, meeting people, losing people and drinking from vending machines.

I wasn’t complaining though, all the cold air had woken me up.

When we eventually found “Friends” it was a great place. The barman was massively incompetent and had a nomehodai (all you can drink offer) that he had no idea how to enforce. This basically meant we were drinking for free. I usually hate Japanese clubs (well the music in them) so I was really pleased to hear some 90’s classics being boomed out and got to dance the night away for the first time in ages.
And it had a shuffleboard. How random is that? We ended up staying the whole night.

All that was left was a sleep train ride home (we lost Gavin because he nipped off the train to pee. He’s fine now though) and then to stumble into the comfortable embrace of bed.

Quite frankly a fantastic night.

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