Afternoon Tea

So I have decided that Japan will probably be dead in a few generations. If people continue to do stuff like I went to yesterday, then I believe this assessment isn't that far fetched.

Yesterday I went to an enmusubi or match-making party.

My friends had arranged the event and invited me. Knowing their track record for putting together some fun parties, I decided I would go. Although, it was a little embarrassing that the email I had gotten from my friend about it was in Japanese and opened with: "This is an announcement for still-looking-for-a-boyfriend Emily." *sigh*

I went to the event website and checked out the details. Then I filled out the form that they had on there. I had to give my name, job, age, blood type (that's huge over here – almost as important as knowing someone's star sign), if I'm the oldest child or an only child or "other," if I got married would it be the first marriage or if I was divorced, and you could check boxes for hobbies you have (drinking, gambling, shopping, etc). Finally there's a box where you can write in some PR about yourself. So I did. For some bizarre reason I thought that just my friends would be seeing that part.

I faxed in my paper and then transferred them the money. The only gig was that usually I only do transfers of money home, and I made a special card to do that. So it took me a second to remember how to do that. I remembered there was a fee for doing transfers, so I added that fee on top of what I was paying and once I pushed the button, I realized that they add that fee on top of what you sent. I sent too much money.

In a few days I got a letter in the mail with a printout of 33 people. It was a list of all the guys participating in the event. It had all the info I had to fill out above except names and contact information. There were only about 3 people in their late 20's, the majority was folks in their early 30's and then the late 30's early 40's peoples.

I didn't know what to expect.

I showed it to my Japanese teacher, because I felt like this was something she would really be into. She's approaching her mid-30's and she wants to get married as soon as possible. She talks about it a lot. We've talked about how many kids she wants and how she's going to wear the traditional white kimono to get married in, another kimono for the reception and a really nice dress for the after party. She's got it all planned out in her head how this is going to go down, she just doesn't have the man yet. Anywho, after seeing the paper and the other info, she said, "I think this might be serious."

It was then that I thought about not going. In Japan arranged marriage still happens. It's not as common as it used to be, but there is still a match-making industry and there are still parties that you can go to (usually really formal events with your parents) to be hooked up with people you don't know from Adam, to get married to. I didn't think this party would be that serious, but you never know what other people are thinking. I've heard of some girls going on a few dates with a (local) guy just to have him suddenly pop the question. And here they don't do the down on one knee thing. It sounds more business-like (at least on television shows). The guy always says, "Get married to me, please." In much the same language I might ask a superior to help me file some paperwork.

I was a little worried about that.

I even told my friend when I saw she was on messenger the other night, and she was like, "HELL no! You should just go and see what happens."

So I went.

I tried to read the map that I was sent, but it was a little hard to understand. Mostly because there were no landmarks on it. And there are no road names here. So I had to figure out how many streets the venue was from this other store.

I finally found it. I realized that it was The Vienna, a gigantic, chapel-looking place, that you always see from the train when you are heading out towards Kobe. Although, following my map, I was coming from the back of the building. Which just looks like a big, brick building.

I got inside and my friend called me to ask where I was. It was at this point that I was a mess, because on the ride down (on my bike, of course), I was already feeling like crap. I never had PMS before coming here (at least not regularly), but now it seems like my hormonal swings have become much bigger. During the ride I was thinking about how I really want to come home and see everybody and how I can't make plans to come home until I figure out if they're really going to destroy my house and it was cold and I was lost and I couldn't call anyone because I knew I couldn't explain where I was (at the corner of 2 nameless streets and there's an ugly apartment building on the right). By that point I was trying not to cry, and I really wanted to duck into the restroom for a minute, but my friend had called me and I had to walk out to the lobby the meet her.

I went upstairs and signed in and she told me not to worry about the party. It wasn't serious. True to form, the friend I had chatted to the night before had told on me.

I put on a little card with a number and wrote my name on it in Japanese. I waited until they lead a group of ladies downstairs. We stood in a side room where they were keeping the coats. Then we were asked to make 2 lines and stand in the order of our numbers. Once we made the lines we all walked into this big ballroom. They were playing Maroon 5 (I think. It was a slower song that's in a commercial right now, where the main guy keeps singing, "You're beautiful.") As we walked in and lined up the guys were already in there room and they were clapping.

After some announcements of how the day would run, we started. The basic flow of the afternoon's activities was that we played a game, break, then talked, break, then talked, then played fruits basket, and then paired off, sat at tables and ate a nice dessert.

The first game was kind of a get-to-know-you game…enmasse. There were 2 people on the stage. One person held a card with an X and the other had O (in Japan O is used instead of a check mark). They would ask a question and if you were a "yes" person, you'd stand in the O group and "no" was the X. Meanwhile, between questions some people were holding a rope between the groups. I guess so there would be no confusion about who was on which side. They asked questions like, "Do you like being outdoors," "Do you like children," "Do you like to cook," "Are designer bags important to you," and so on.

After this we took a small break and then had to pick a chair. Actually there were 2 rings of chairs. The outer ring was for the ladies and the inner ring was for the men. We originally sat according to our numbers. So me and the #19 guy sat next to each other. Then they asked the ladies to move back 2 seats. From that point, everyone had their printouts with the participant info (sans names – except for mine – which was really embarassing). The ladies got to keep their seats and the men walked around. We talked to each person for 2 minutes and then they would ring the bell and the person would move to someone else. I think that made it easy for people to talk to each other, but I feel like sitting side by side kind of sucked (since I wanted my personal space, at least half of my butt was hanging off the seat for most of the day). It should have been like the American speed-dating where people sit at tables. Then some lady could have popped her boob out like 40 Year Old Virgin.

I ain't gonna lie. Most of those guys were in the "no way, not evah" category. And it didn't help that some didn't even care enough to clip or at least clean under their finger nails. There was one guy, though. I thought he was kind of cute, in a really young Billy Crystal sort of way. I mean, Mr. Roger's Neighborhood young. I was really nice all day long, even to the hikikomori. But when he came over, I was a little bit of a smart ass. I mean, he asked what I thought of Japanese (language) and I said that I hated it.

I was funny because you could kind of tell the people who were friends of the people who put this together. Most of us weren't really that serious about being there. There were some folks, who as they spoke to each other, were taking notes on their print outs.

We took a break and some older guy asked me lots of questions about food. I really wanted booze. I think the event would have run much more smoothly if only I were allowed to drink.

We started the talking again. Then some guy in his 40's started talking about stuff from the news like the situation in Iran and Hilary Clinton. I have no idea about that, but I'm not a fan of either. Or that creepy man.

After the talking portion, we took another break. Before break, we put all the chairs into a circle. Alternating the girls' seats (which had pink bows attached to the back – those were moved to the front when we put the chairs in a circle) and guys' seats. This was for Fruits Basket. This is a really popular game to play in school in Japan. It's awesome because you don't have to do anything to prep for playing it. The main idea is that you have everyone sit in a circle. The person who is "it" says something and everyone it applies to has to get up and find another chair. Yesterday about 60-something people were playing, so 3 people were it. That meant, when you got up to run to another seat, there are 3 seats less than there are people. The girls had to find girl seats and the guys guy seats. I was one of the "it" group and had to make a question so I said, "People who like cheese."

It was kind of dumb. After this, though, we had to pair off with the person to our right and head to a table to eat dessert. I tried asking the guy I went with questions about motorcycles, but I was having a hard time making the sentences. Speaking only Japanese all day long was making my brain tired. This is not a complaint. I don't know how to explain it, but it was definitely draining. If I did meet someone here, they need to at least try to meet me part-way. At least until I get better at this fucking moon-language.

Desert was good, though. It was really fancily laid out. There was a small cup of pudding with fruit in it and another cup of fresh fruit pieces. There was also a small piece of maccha (green tea) cake with maccha icing. And a baby raspberry tart.

I don't know how long it went on, but this was the find someone and talk to them part. However, I was not so interested in finding someone to talk to. I kind of wanted to talk to the guy from before, but apparently he was friends with the organizers, so he was surrounded by people. Since I didn't bring a posse to this event, I wasn't feeling so ballsy. Instead, I'd talk to people here and there. I met one lady who kept talking about cake. She reminded me of Hatchet Face from the John Waters' movie Crybaby. I think that was why I felt like it was ok that she was saying things like, "Cakes are very interesting. Isn't it great when we see a nice, round cake?!"

When talking time was over, it was time to fill out the white cards. On these cards you would write the # of the person you were interested in and your name and # and then your contact info. On the bottom you would write a note to the person. You could choose up to 3 people. Hatchet Face totally had 3 already picked out. She told me that she wanted to get married right away!

I just did the card for that one guy. I invited him out for coffee sometime and just put the mail address for my cell phone.

We were asked to fill out surveys and then, finally, everyone lined up again, according to their numbers, and we were given envelopes with (maybe) the cards from people who were interested. In addition, everyone was given a parting gift of a box of noodles and coupons lunch at some nice place in Himeji.

They played music and then the ladies left the room first.

I got my coat and waited for the crowd to die down before talking to my friends. The funny thing is that you could check your cards and if you and someone else gave cards to one another, then you were a "couple" and you could get a prize. One of those prizes was a special 2 pack of yebisu beer. That's the dollar-dollar beer here. It's pretty good. But that might be because it's about $3 for a can.

As for my envelope, I got 2 cards. One was from one of the guys in his 40's. Totally creepy. And I guess he was trying to rock the creep vibe when he wrote, "I want to see you again," and then some illegible scribble at the bottom of the card.

I also got another one from my friend, who was one of the staffers. I guess we'll cover that story at another time...