The annoying sound of the 蝉 (semi – cicada) was all I heard while waiting for my colleagues at work, I’m at fault for arriving too early at our rendezvous point. The humid-hot summer and this annoying sound are one of the things which come into the mind of the Japanese folks during this time of the year.
After 30minutes of waiting, my colleagues finally arrived! we all met at the city’s train station where most people go to enjoy the city’s entertainment district, a few meters from it is our destination; A Hokkaido-themed bar where we could get unlimited-drinks for 5000￥(USD50) plus 10 orders of anything on the menu which would serve as our appetizer, since it is Hokkaido themed the specialty is seafood.
This isn`t an ordinary drinking weekend with your buddies or workmates, rather this is what we call in Japan as 送別会 ( sobetsukai – farewell party ) it is considered as a respectful way of saying goodbye to someone who is retiring from your company. It is often attended by your department head, manager, supervisors and the rest of your colleagues being unable to attend is commonly considered disrespectful, I wouldn`t recommend not attending especially if you are a foreigner working here.
This party is quite unusual because of the number of our retirees, there is Mr. Hashimoto, Mr. Sugita, and my dear friend Mr. Kikuchi all three gentlemen turned 60 years old last month and this means that they could finally retire and do whatever they want.
This is the direct effect of the country`s aging population, for now, this is the correct term to describe it after 10-15 years I think it is safe to use the word diminishing population.
Mr. Kikuchi spent 40+ years in the same company, went through the dreaded Japanese job-interview once, wrote his resume only once, drove the same road going to work and home for 40+ years which is 11-minutes away, sometimes he arrives late, he was already a man when the late Emperor Showa died, he lived through Emperor Heisei and will witness Emperor Reiwa`s reign as a retired man.
We became friends right after he discovered that I am not a pure Japanese, I tried to conceal it to see if ever my colleagues have this rumored prejudice against foreigners but after years of working in the company all I witnessed was their dislike for bad manners, Japanese manners to be exact, these are basically greetings, being mindfulness of others, and apologizing for even the simplest mistake. A lot of snowflakes have been writing about it and all I can say is their non-acceptance to Japanese culture and their extreme entitlement made it difficult for them to work here some of them even made pitiful vlogs saying about how their company couldn`t accept them for who they are etc. but I`m not here to write about them.
I explained this to Mr. Kikuchi and he said he knew it when he heard me mispronounce a 関西弁 (Kansai-Ben – Kansai Dialect) word, my entire team knew it back then but never told me, perhaps they never saw me as a Gaijin I haven`t really asked.
Mr. Kikuchi at his age of 60 never got a chance to get married, when his father died he said all he did was help his mother who is now suffering for dementia and is very weak to eat and relieve by herself. This caused a lot of trouble for Mr. Kikuchi, whenever he goes home to his house of 6 bedrooms he would often find her mom wandering around their house with dirt and most often starving. His mom is now 81years old, they no longer have any relatives to help out, their neighbors are having the same problem. Mr. Kikuchi tells me that sometimes his work is his only escape from this dark and sad reality.
I try to entertain him with some jokes I learned from the Philippines, like about the three ex-presidents namely; Estrada, Arroyo, and Aquino who were being arrested by the military; Arroyo who was the smartest climbed a tree and mimicked the sound of a bird this made the soldiers ignore and eventually she was able to escape, Estrada imitated her but mimicked a sound of a cow! he was arrested, then Aquino being the smart-guy he thinks he is, hid inside an empty straw sack and remained silent, soldiers noticed it and tried to poke it to check what was in it until Aquino yelled, KAMOTE; he was also arrested. None of my mates at work got this joke so I had to explain the characters of the three ex-presidents. They still didn`t get it so I just learned Japanese jokes, which made my colleagues appreciate what I`m doing for Mr. Kikuchi.
One day I tried to ask him why he never tried to get married, he just smiled and blushed probably it was an embarrassing conversation for him having thought of it I just joked that maybe he wanted a foreign girl, this made her laugh boisterously he just nodded and asked me to introduce him to one of my relatives; I told him that I would but he needs to brush his teeth because he has bad breath we just laughed about it, then he remained silent for a moment.
(Honestly, I haven`t thought about it)
(If only I`ve thought of having a family early, there wouldn`t be a problem)
His words stayed in my head for a couple of days, it reminded me how back in the Philippines, teenagers are so desperate to get in a relationship mostly resulting in teenage pregnancies.
Mr. Kikuchi has no other members of their nuclear family, meaning no other siblings and no offsprings if Mr. Kikuchi passes away that would be the last of his family, another family lost and would be forgotten in the list of families per city in Japan.
When we were in the final hours of our party, he was asked to speak by our Department Head, he laughed first drank his 日本酒 (nihonshu – japanese sake) and said:
(30years of working, thank you very much)
We all clapped our hands, went on our way. I walked slowly in order to catch-up with an old friend he walked slowest trying to wipe his eyes from tears I wanted to cheer him up but I didn`t want to embarrass him, it was probably the same reason why the other guys left him they wanted to honor him and so I did, Seeing him wipe his tears, his thick-framed glasses, his checkered shirt, his grey hair, It broke my heart, my dear friend, he noticed me and gave me a brave stare, probably showing me his strength or maybe telling me to stay away and leave him be, and so I did I honored the last wish of a crying Samurai.
of mixed race, spending time living in both countries gives me a very good perspective on both.