STORY TIME || 2 AM ceremony trapped in a room with a crying Japanese man
The backstory needed to properly explain the above circumstances - around how I became trapped in a room with a drunk & crying Japanese man at 2 AM starts a week prior.
5 DAYS BEFORE
After spending 3 weeks venturing around Tokyo I decided to hop a train & spend a week in Oiso. Oiso is a small beach town that is close to one of my favourite destinations in Japan; Hakone. Staying in Hakone can become quite expensive so I opted to stay in an Air BnB 40 minutes away. This Air Bnb was a traditional Japanese house with 4 stories & a rooftop with a nice view of Mt. Fuji.
Upon arriving our host informed my travel buddy & I that there was another man staying in one of the other bedrooms. We did not mind as she told us he was in & out often & the house was huge, so space was not an issue. We unpacked & spent the first 3 days exploring Oiso & surrounds. We hiked up one of the many mountains & had a spectacular view of Mt. Fuji.
On the third day we set off to Kamakura slightly later in the day, and upon exiting the property we were greeted by an older Japanese gentleman. We talked with him for a few long minutes (it was hard to escape his conversation) & he offered us one of the many beers he had purchased that sat in his bicycle basket. He told us his name was Tiger & that he was staying in the other room. We said goodbye, as we were about to miss our train to Kamakura, but not before he punched my travel buddy in the gut proclaiming he was a Kendo master & could teach him a few moves as well as a bit of calligraphy.
We laughed about the interaction on the way to Kamakura. That night we only talked to him briefly to explain where we were from, how long we were staying & to exchange some local traditional sweets from Kamakura as a reciprocating gift. We said goodnight & parted ways. But not for long.
At a sparrows fart, we were woken by a loud knocking on our door. Bleary-eyed, I staggered to my feet from my tatami matt to open the door. To my surprise, I found Tiger with a plate full of heavily salted half microwaved eggs. I thanked him & collapsed back onto the floor. We ate our "breakfast" & fell back asleep only to be woken again by a loud knocking. Tiger was back, telling us to get up, shower & get ready. It was about 8 AM. We reluctantly did as we were told because we had come to the conclusion that Tiger was now our grandpa.
He was grandpa we deserved, but not the one we needed right now.
We went downstairs to the kitchen so we could make some coffee to kick our asses into gear. Tiger started to talk to us about some of the books on the bookshelf. After about 40 minutes of explaining how money corrupts people, he started crying about children & religion? I still have no idea exactly what he was crying about as I could only make out 40-60% of what he was saying (most of the time).
After this bizarre experience, he took us out into the street to show us some of the plants we could eat. To be honest, most of them looked like weeds; but I'm still here after eating them, so they couldn't have been that bad for me....right?
After our botany lesson, he took us upstairs to one of the tatami rooms to show us how to do some calligraphy. This part I did not mind because it was truly an amazing & educational experience. I still have the calligraphy I did with him. After about an hour the host came to the property to check on us/the house. Tiger started talking to her in rapid Japanese (probably about children & money because he started crying again). She looked as confused as we did & to make the situation funnier she kept making racing car noises in agreement ( Mmmm Mmmmm Mmmmmmmmmm).
The next day we were greeted with the same wake-up call. Heavily salted half microwaved eggs & a firm kick up the ass. We had plans to visit Hakone that day, however, he insisted that we go to dinner with him at his friends' restaurant at 7 PM. We couldn't say no & we were looking forward to eating some traditional Japanese food.
THE CEREMONY EVE
That night we met Tiger at the house. We walked with him down the road to his friends' restaurant which served traditional sushi. We were the only people in the restaurant & because of this, we sat right at the bar in front of the chef. We were presented with a vast array of sashimi, sushi & other dishes I could not name. One of them consisted entirely of small silver fish which you ate whole. It was squishy, slimy & crunchy all at the same time. I ate that quickly with little chewing.
Along with the procession of dishes were the overflowing cups of sake. Tiger was a heavy drinker, which we had noted during our stay. We feared that we had bitten off more than we could pay for; for this was a truly extravagant dinner. As we pulled out our yen Tiger exclaimed that he had already done away with the bill. We were relieved, grateful & half cut.
But we were hardly done.
Tiger then said we had to visit his friends Izakaya. We then marched a little further down the road. We all shuffled into the 5 seater Izakaya. Two of the seats were already taken by two women, one of whom we came to realise was Tiger's love interest. She was not having a bar of his crude & boisterous behaviour & neither was the owner. The owner was an older Japanese woman who, during her prime was one of the most sought-after Geisha in Kyoto. She was highly skilled in the art of calligraphy & dance. She even wrote some good wishes for us & signed them with her thumbprint.
During our stay at the Izakaya, we were given a plate (nay two! upon drunken request) of the most delicious soft cheese & honey we have ever eaten. I will never forget it & when drinking I frequently crave the same creamy treat. By the time we were done, we were half falling off our stools with laughter from the absurd conversation & ongoing theatrics. It was 2 AM & time to head home. We thought that we would slip drunkenly into our beds for a long night of deep slumber but this was far from what was to come.
We marched home in quick succession, eager to get to our beds. Tiger showed us how to walk properly, which is done by walking from the center of your being rather than being guided by your feet. Below is how I felt, walking through the streets of Oiso at 2 AM.
After this life lesson, we then had to stop in order for Tiger to sit on the street to show us another edible weed. What happened after this was a little blurry until we finally made it back to the house.
With my hand on the doorknob to our room, I said good night to Tiger. I had almost stepped over the threshold, but Tiger was too quick for me.
"COME HERE! I HAVE SOMETHING TO SHOW YOU BEFORE YOU GO TO BED!"
Please no more microwaved eggs, please.
I turned around reluctantly & followed him into his room. His room was filled with books, nick nacks, a tv & copious amounts of empty alcohol bottles. He sat us both down on his Japanese style sofa & told us to wait. He then pulled out a tiny red prayer book & poured 3 glasses of liquid (lychee liquor) & closed his eyes. We sat in his pitch black room waiting for God knows what until he finally lit a tiny red candle. He started singing from what I could tell was a prayer because he was clapping & bowing. Tiger then thrust the prayer book into my hand & told me to read it. Thankfully I can read Hiragana so my reading ability was up to scratch for whatever ceremony he was making me be a part of.
After my part in the whole saga was complete he started talking about money & children & other topics I couldn't make out in between his sniffles & sobbing. As I looked around the room during this whole surreal experience I noticed his suitcase had reams & reams of 1000 yen notes stuffed into the outer mesh pockets. At this point, I really started to worry about what I had gotten myself into.
Was Tiger part of the mob? Was he on the run? Who is this madman & why is he always drunk & crying?
These are some of the thoughts that quickly came barging into my mind, but not before two huge polished rocks were thrust into both of our hands. He told us these rocks were married & held some sort of importance. The finer details escape me for I was looking for my own escape route. He poured us more alcohol to drink & started to wrap the rocks up for us. But these weren't the only gifts. He handed us a stone Buddha statue & some other miscellaneous objects.
After closer inspection of the items a few weeks later we came to the conclusion that the Buddha statue was stolen from a shrine & the rocks were, in fact, the same kind of rocks found in a water feature.
After the 1 hour ceremony was complete Tiger then crawled onto his tatami matt & fell straight asleep. We were still sitting on his sofa with a bunch of rocks & no freaking clue what just happened. We quietly exited his room & went to sleep. We were hoping to stay in bed until midday but we should have known better.
SPAMMED WITH SPAM
At 7 AM came an all too familiar knocking (bashing) on our door. C'MON GIVE US A BREAK WE ARE TOO HUNG OVER FOR THIS SH*T! We ignored it. More knocking. We ignored it. Louder knocking. OKAY OKAY!
My partner got up to answer the door, but I was not having any of it. My head was throbbing, I was tired as hell & I needed my god damn beauty sleep. I pretended to be dead & it worked. However, my partner in crime was not so lucky. He was forced to go downstairs & have breakfast. During this time I gained a few extra hours of sleep. But Tiger came back for me. He was taking no prisoners. First, he knocked, then he bashed then he busted into the room!
"GET UP FOR BREAKFAST!"
I complained that I was too hung over & tired. I rallied for more sleep. Tiger was not having it. I had to get up otherwise he was going to stay in my room & continue to berate my sleeping habits. Let me just remind the readers of last nights events...
With sleep still in my eyes, I came downstairs for breakfast. I was expecting half cooked microwaved eggs but instead, spam, shrimp crackers & a glass of sake was on the menu. I was sat down on a tiny wooden stool & forced fed the above food items. I begged for water in place of sake. Tiger told me that it was actually water & he was just joking about the sake. It was not water.
After the feast, I met up with my partner in the hallway. He relayed to me the events he was subjected to while I was asleep, that included but were not limited to;
Forced to drink sake & beer
Forced to eat the above-mentioned breakfast items
Forced to sing Japanese songs for an hour
Having a bath ran for him then thinking Tiger was going to join him because he grabbed his towel too
Thankfully no crying ensued & the owner showed up. Tiger was momentarily distracted. This gave us enough time to pack our backpacks & get the hell out of the house. We were still heavily hungover, confused & tired. We came home that night & had a brief encounter with Tiger discussing our plans for the next days. The next morning his room was locked & he had disappeared. We did not see him again & the owner told us he often leaves with no explanation. As a parting gift, we attached a small token key ring to his door with an engraving of Hakone Mountain & our names on it.
So that's my story of being trapped in a room with a crying Japanese man at 2 AM. To be honest I was pretty much trapped in a room with a drunk crying man for almost a week if you put together all the little interactions (some I did not write about). Despite his flaws, Tiger was a very generous man & I will be forever grateful for the experiences he showed me. To this day I'm still super confused about the whole week. It was a very surreal experience.