Sunday, November 06, 2005

A weekend in Japan part 2...

The slide show forgotten, my weekend soon progressed towards it's true purpose. Ostensibly, the weekend was about watching hot air balloons, but that was merely a side attraction, for the night of Saturday 5th November 2005 was the night that nations, generations, and ideologies met in what can only be called...

That's right - me, my uncle-in-law and a fridge full of Kirin Beer. My fiance and her aunt were at the table for chitchat and comfort, but this was all about the lads. Ever since Yoko mentioned to me that her aunt and uncle drank every night, I was looking forward to the weekend. Usually, such visits to relatives are rather sterile, formal affairs, when you have to be seen and not heard and raise your beer cup even if you are in the middle of raising your chopsticks to your mouth. This was so different in all sorts of ways. First of all, uncle-in-law put a fourpack on the table between us before so much as a morsel of rice was even looked at, which is an incredibly un-Japanese thing to do. His eyes said "we fill our own cups in this house", his grin said "let's get fucking hammered". Secondly, he and his wife asked me lots of interesting questions, and really listened and responded to the answers. Almost all of the other inlaws I've met follow the distancing protocol of "how is your job?" and "how is the weather in England?". Uncle-in-law? Hells no! He was more along the lines of "How exactly do I pronounce London?", "What's the best beer you've had?" and "Tell me your drunken stories!". I was in a little corner of Heaven.

But I digress. Back to the contest. Although it wasn't stated, both of us knew that there was honour to be upheld. Each of us was curious about the drinking prowess of the other, and we were, for a night, foreigner with generations of beer in his genes and native with a lesser constitution but a generation of beer experience. We had a table full of yakitori, pig's trotters and sashimi and our respective other halves. It was perfect.

So we drank, and ate, and talked, and drank, and made jokes, and drank, and generally made merry for about 3 and a half hours. Beer was quaffed, suspected empty cans were shaken and fresh were quickly pulled from the fridge.

And the result? On the night, after drinking around 12 pints each, uncle-in-law was a little worse for wear. He would giggle and insist on shaking my hand every few minutes, and his speech was slurred. As for me, I had a little warm feeling in my legs but that was about it. However, the next morning I felt like merry death, and uncle-in-law was rather chipper. This would be a tough one to call.

The verdict: a draw.

Being a good foot taller and 25lb heavier, as well as European genetics, in a one off contest I would most likely be the victor. But over successive nights, uncle-in-law would most likely win, due to his supping stamina and night in, night out ale.

Although it could be said that the battle was mine, the war, should it ever come to that, would assuredly be his...


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