2005 photo essays
Week twelve (June 12, 2005)
· Night activities
I'd say I'm always ready to go out at night to have a drink or check out a party - it's a good chance to meet people in an informal setting and also good to compensate for work stress, especially since with our working times, it is about the only chance to get in contact with people from other country's pavilions.
One thing that cuts short most night activities in Japan is the total lack of public transportation after midnight. In between 2400h and 0500h there are no trains, subways or buses running, so if you stay later than until the last train leaves, you either have to stay out the whole night or take a cab home. The first alternative is not really feasible with our work hours and the second one is not as cheap that you would want to use it very often. It's not like I came here to party all the time, every day, but the very restricted time limit that is imposed by this does bother me sometimes - at times, you would have maybe liked to stay just another half hour longer.
When you go out here it often feels like "back to high school": you always need to take care to leave early enough and run to get home at midnight - well not because your parents but your last train is waiting. As I wrote before, the same is very much true of the setup of the Expo: there are no night buses going to or from the site and no extra transportation available, so if you depend on the train you need to leave any party you might be going to latest at around 11 pm.
· Japanese vs. foreigner staff party
I had already mentioned in my May events roundup entry that the number of Japanese at the foreign pavilions' staff parties has risen dramatically and that it seems that they are having a lot of fun there - maybe because those events are quite different from what a party can look like here. Last week we had a fine opportunity to observe this difference in direct comparison: the weekend had a staff party by the Expo association and another open-air festival by the Global Common 2 (the Americas) going on. I went to both for about an hour and I can tell you that it was quite a different experience.
The beloved and ever-popular Expo Association finally coughed up some cash for a staff party and formally invited the pavilions' staff to the Rotary Hall on the Expo site. So this staff party started at 7 pm (bad luck, late shift) and lasted until 10.30 (by which I had long returned because I couldn't stand it anymore). First of all, the location was really remarkable because the hall was illuminated by a grid of neon lights at the wall and ceiling and even brighter as day. I don't know about you but I prefer a more cosy atmosphere - especially after work when you don't need everybody to see the wrinkles and eye-rings you so nourished during the day.
The reception started at 7 pm with the opening of the food buffet which featured all kinds of snacks and finger food. Once again, the free drinks consisted not of beer but happôshû - sorry guys I still can not drink this! Still, food and drink and popcorn resources were plenty at the beginning, probably not so for the staff which arrived later. It was also very remarkable that the guests were almost completely Japanese staff, only a handful of foreigners had already touched down on time. After all, we regard showing up on time somewhat impolite - from my own experience I know that when you set a time for the start of an event, people will arrive one hour late at the earliest. In Japan, it's the other way round - arriving late is impolite, so people show up a lot earlier than the announced time.
The "fun" part of the staff party was to be found at the back walls, where a lot of toys were lined up on tables. After a short while, the games corner was opened for the eager staff - you could play ring-throw and fishing in small inflatable bathtubs and actually keep the crappy plastic prizes on display! The feedback of the Japanese staff was overwhelming, huge crowds of people thronged the lined-up tables to participate in the child games. My my, and I had hoped that my caption "Kindergarten Japan" would not be taken literally.
A quite different set-up was provided for the open-air Global Common 2 (the Americas) party on June 10th. Even though some events took place from 7 pm on, the main performances (bands, singers etc.) were scheduled to start at 22:00h. Due to the usual delays, the schedule was not held up and most performances started a lot later than intended. Nobody minded that though, because the atmosphere was relaxed, the beer was free and many many acquainted faces were to be seen all over the place. This party was what we call in German "one single big hello" ("ein einziges großes Hallo"), because you meet so many friends and people you met before that you can't seem to stop greeting new people all the time. I didn't have the chance to stay for more than about 45 minutes at this festival, but I congratulate the hosting pavilions for a great event which I really enjoyed.
· German pavilion Bergfest (June 12th)
Another remarkable event was the "Bergfest" ("mountain/peak festival") of the German pavilion. To be sure, I hadn't known the expression before, but the Bergfest is the party that is held at half-time (the "peak", or, as in our case more fitting, the "valley"). The selected date was a little too early - after all the first half of the Expo ends at June 25th, but without a doubt nobody minds that knowledge if the beer is free. The early shift - which on this day, for a change, did also include myself - was received in the evening in the VIP lounge with drinks and snacks. From there, we proceeded to the German restaurant, where the official party started at 2130 hours.
The festival was overshadowed by a few unfortunate events. Some of the German staff had stayed at the American party until five in the morning and were consequently late for work at the early shift. This led to some reprisals by the pavilion management and to the distribution of a memo explicitely asking the staff of the early shift to show up at work "punctual, well-rested and above all sober" - and that memo was published on the day before the Bergfest which was slated for becoming a huge drinking feast with all-you-can-drink German beer and wine. It was also a somewhat awkward situation when, at the reception, the General Commissioner asked the staff "Well, are you still having fun at work in spite of all the stress and troubles?" and got the answer "You shouldn't ask this question on a day the pavilion ride had a breakdown".
He didn't mind, though, and held two speeches on the remarkable success of the pavilion and the laudable effort by all staff. After that, the restaurant staff manned the battle stations, for the food buffet and the bar were finally opened. I guess it was a special occasion for some of the staff to eat German sausages, bread and esparagus after three months in Japan. Still, the food prepared for the buffet was exceptionally tasty, and most visitors didn't hesitate to storm the bar for white, black and Pils beer and other beverages.
The whole affair lasted well after midnight when the beer taps where finally closed and the preparations for the next day were started - the early shift had to work as usual, of course.
· Next week: Recyclomania