Monday, October 27, 2008

My 40 hours in Tokyo

What a crazy trip it was. $1500 for the plane ticket, another $50 in parking, approximately $200 spent partying (even though food and drinks were paid for at wedding reception as well as the second party we went to), and I only got to spend 45 hours in my home country. To put it in perspective, I left my house in Richmond at 5:30am to catch the 7am flight to Chicago. From Chicago, I took the 10:50am flight to Tokyo which arrived around 2pm on Friday (Japan time - that's 1am EST). Add another couple of hours for driving from Narita International Airport to my house in Japan and door to door, it took 20 hours (actual total flight time one way is about 15 hours). Shockingly, coming back, it only took about 18 hours... I think there was less time for layover and we must have had decent tail wind. So, my total travel time for the trip was 38 hours. The total time I was in Japan (excluding periods of transit, ie the 2 hr car ride from the airport to the house each way) was 39 hours. Phew, what a trip. It's exhausting to put it on paper.

But it was totally worth it.

You see, this was my buddy's wedding. And this guy is not just a good friend. He's like a brother I never had. I've known him since high school... I don't even remember the first time we met but like many of my friends from the school days, I know I met him through basketball. And we played a lot of basketball... I mean when I look back to my high school days, that's pretty much all I remember is how much we played. On the weekends, we would get together after lunch and play for like 5-6 hours. There were plenty of hours spent in between and after wards, just sitting on the tennis courts (where the basketball hoops were set up) and talking about the usual stuff that teenage kids talk about (I am assuming)... girls, teachers, girls, basketball, girls... We got along, we thought alike, we even liked the same girls (and dated a few of the same), and so we obviously spent countless hours together and formed a very strong bond over the course of the teenage years as we were slowly being shaped into young adults.

I was quickly introduced to "his group" of friends to which I have quickly become a part of. This wasn't exactly normal, especially in Japan, because they were two years below me. I was a part of class of '94... these guys were all '96ers and in Japan where the age hierarchy is strong, even in an international school, most people embraced the concept of older = superior mentality... I, like in many instances, was an exception to that rule. By my senior year, I had very few friends in my grade and most of the people I hung out with were all two years my junior. Funny thing about this group is that at one point or another, we all fell in love with/chased/hooked up with the same girl. She was quite popular and now a very good friend of ours. At one point in the wedding, they had a slide show put together of all the older photos of the bride and groom growing up and there was a photo of all of us from the high school days taken at a beach... I turned to the girl and said, "hey, those were the good ol days when we all used to be in love with you! Do you miss that???" She slapped my arm and all of us at the table laughed. Drama back then was a good memory now.

The wedding was amazing. I had never been to a wedding in Japan before... well, I did go to one when I was much much younger... it was my uncle's wedding but I don't really remember anything from that aside from my mom crying. At that time, crying because you were so happy was a concept totally foreign to me so I remember being somewhat confused with why my mom was crying at such a happy occasion. But anyways, as such, I didn't know what to expect. The wedding itself was more western than the traditional Japanese. Makes sense since my buddy is Burmese (but now permanently resides in Japan with his parents and his sister) and his wife is a Japanese girl with a not-so-traditional outlook on Japanese culture and customs. The only glitch was that even though my buddy told me that he was asking me to be the witness to his wedding, I had no idea what that meant. I asked him what that meant and he just told me that I just have to "stand there and witness me signing the marriage certificate." At the time, I thought, oh ok, no big deal, just don't make me forget it. What I didn't know was that this was to occur during the ceremony. So, next thing I know, they are exchanging their vows and then I get called up... to witness, ie sign, the certificate after my buddy and his wife signed. Um, HOLY SHIT! That was a much bigger deal than I expected and all my friends did confirm that I looked like I didn't know about it. I never had much of a poker face...

The ceremony was followed by a sit down dinner reception at the brewery. It's clear that both my buddy and his wife love drinking though because plenty of references were made to getting drunk and not remembering... During the reception, where the dinner was like a 10 course meal, there were tons of speeches and good times were had by all. At one point, they changed into a traditional Burmese attire which was very cool too. After the slide show, my buddy came over and he said that he tried to find more recent photos of us together... since college, I've stayed here in the US and since he went back to Japan, the times we spend together post college has been reduced to few weeks a year. He said when he looked through the photos that we had from my most recent trip back in June, they were all inappropriate photos... which makes sense because I believe most of the photos were taken after he passed out and I was making obscene gestures or drawing a big penis on his arm... holy shit, how old am I again?

But being at the wedding and seeing old friends from high school brought back tons of old memories. One of my friends who was part of "the group" is from Fiji but now lives in Australia and I hadn't seen him since I graduated high school. And yet, when we started talking, it was as if not a single day had passed. We picked up right where we left off and even though some things were different (like he was with his wife, I had one and then lost one), much of it were the same and it was as if we were back in high school. When they saw how I interacted with "our girl" (which involves constantly arguing over the most mundane things) they just laughed and commented on how some things never change... even though at one point when we were going somewhere and she fell behind and missing for a little while, I was like "ah, who cares, let's just go to the next place. She knows where it's supposed to be" and my friends go "ah, that's different from the high school days."

My friends 1 - 0 me

Being with them reminded me of how we were in high school. In a sense, I miss those days. We had a whole life ahead of us full of dreams and ambition. We were so naive but eager and excited. But everyone is growing up and eventually, we will all be living our own lives. And for that, there was a piece of me that felt a little sad. But seeing my friend happy, I couldn't be happier for the two of them.

MnM, congratulations!

1 comment:

jamyhawk said...

Don't be sad for you still have your whole life ahead of you. And you are still naive and eager ;)

I didn't start the best years of my life until I was 34 years old when I met my current wife.

Would love to see any photos you took in Japan...