Article first published in November 2003's edition of JETFuel


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Alcohol.  Mmmmm.

An Enkai1 of Enkais

or “Do you Have a Pension?”

by “Sherry Rhodes”


I had already been to two enkais with my colleagues, and they had been reasonably quiet affairs.  Nothing out of the ordinary.  With the possible exception of the karaoke-under-the-influence-of-Asahi-Super-Dry2, which should be illegal.  It would save lives.  But that’s another story.  Nothing, however, was to prepare me for the enkai which was to celebrate the successful production of a school play by the teachers for the amusement of the students.  Yes, I was given a main part, and was proudly handed a script in kanji.  But that, again, is another story.  And so, the enkai-to-celebrate-completion-of-school-play (“general excuse for a piss-up”) began…


I arrived early at the Korean restaurant, not quite sure what to expect.  We were all seated on the floor around four or five low tables with gas burners in the middle for us to cook our food.  Most of the teachers involved in the school play were there, and although I had been rehearsing with them every night for two weeks, I still didn’t know many names.  Also present were the kocho-sensei3, kyoto-sensei4 and the (all-important) head-of-discipline.


Just to give you a bit of an introduction:  The kyoto-sensei is unquestionably the most powerful teacher in the school, and is a formidable man.  He speaks (or so I believed) no English, and hardly ever tries to communicate with me, although our desks are adjacent – preferring the occasional belittling grunt in my general direction.  He also at times seems to find me hilariously funny, and will break out into manic belly-laughs at my expense.


The kocho-sensei however is a small, quiet man, who speaks excellent English, and from time to time comes for a chat.  The head-of-discipline is also quiet, and has always been very kind to me, although like the kyoto-sensei, doesn’t speak English. 


All three men are extremely formal, the kocho-sensei especially so.  The other teachers, by contrast are a lot more easy-going.


As I sat at the table in the restaurant, trying desperately to keep my legs somehow folded out of the way, and attempting not to set fire to my chopsticks in the gas burner, I looked around at the now-familiar faces of my colleagues and realised that only three or four of them spoke English, two of them only when drunk (my Japanese isn’t up to much!).  The flammable chopsticks proving to be a real problem, however, I didn’t mind the lack of conversation at the start of the evening.  (“Do you have chicken in England ?”).


In fact, the evening kicked-off as expected – beer, small-talk, beer, food, small-talk, beer, food, beer, food, beer…


After a while I felt a tapping on my shoulder.  Kyoto-sensei.  “S’ki? S’ki?”5.  Yes, I like chicken, thank you.


Then a little later.  “S’ki? S’ki?”.  Yes, I like lettuce too. 


This continued as each new dish was brought to the table.  Things took a turn for the worse when the kyoto-sensei decided to attempt English (obviously the blood-alcohol level was increasing).  This was the first English I had ever heard him speak. 


Pointing to a fresh plate of sliced ox-tongue, kyoto-sensei exclaims, loudly, “Sherry-sensei6.  Do you like tongue?”.


After all that beer, I’m trying not to laugh.  But what am I thinking.  My teachers don’t have dirty minds.  They are fine upstanding refined Japanese people.  And the kocho-sensei is sitting with us, listening.


 This meat? [possibly worse] Yes, I like it. 


Then I catch, out of the corner of my eye a greasy little teacher waggling his eyebrows (and his tongue) in my general direction, in a disturbingly suggestive fashion.  This delighted the other teachers, giving rise to a giggled chorus of “Seku hara!  Seku hara!”7, of which greasy-little-teacher looked increasingly proud.  Much to the great amusement of my co-workers, I joined in the chorus.


A teacher sitting next to me explained that greasy-little-teacher “is Party Animal”.  Oh.  That explains it then.  I reached for my beer.


The conversation returned to more mundane things, and the beer and food kept on flowing.  But…tap tap tap.  Kyoto-sensei.  “Sherry-sensei”.  Yes? “SECRET SECRET!” Um, yes?  “YOUR PARTNER?  HE LIVE WITH YOU?” 


Of course, all the teachers are listening by now, very intrigued.


He will when he comes to Japan . 


“Ah!  Phone him!  Get him come party NOW!”


Um.   That could take a while.  He’s still in England .


Finally getting the point across, the conversation was drawing to a close and I was contemplating my pint, when I noticed the greasy-little-teacher unzipping and re-zipping his fly.  Incessantly.  Quite surreal.  I had some beer.


He saw me looking, and pronounced, “Fastener”.  Fly.  “Fastener”.  Fly.  Fastener” all the teachers chorused back.  No, in England it’s a fly.


Eventually they relented.  It may be called a zipper.  In America , yes, but in England it’s a fly.  “Fry”…more beer.


All this time greasy-little-teacher is zipping, unzipping, zipping, unzipping.  I had some sake8 (the kocho-sensei suddenly taking it upon himself to get me drunk – the beer apparently not having the desired effect). 


Suddenly greasy-little-teacher leaped to his feet, unzipped, pointed to his – ah – open fly, and proudly announced to the room “I HAVE A PENSION”.


I couldn’t contain it anymore.  I laughed.  A lot.  Poor guy.


Um.  That’s nice, but it’s not called a “pension”.


“Oh, sorry sorry.  I HAVE A PENCIL!”.  He looked so proud. 


I turned to helpful-teacher sitting next to me, waggled my little finger at him in a “small penis” mime.  Does he really mean…?   With a totally serious, nonplussed expression he replied, “Oh yes, I think so”. 


This caused even more laughter. 


Eventually, after announcing his possession of stationary a few more times, he sat down.  I had some more beer.


After everyone had settled down again, and the level of conversation returned to normal, the head-of-discipline decided it was his turn to approximate the English language. 


He turned to me, and with a look of absolute sincerity which my words just cannot describe, said, “Sherry-sensei,”  yes?  “Your face…”  …er…yes…?  “…looks like… France !”.


I burst out laughing.  He looked crestfallen.   France ?  How so? I’ve never been told that before!


After a long discussion with the kyoto-sensei they reached a consensus.  The kyoto-sensei translated, “You face…charming!”.  Oh.  Ok.  Ta.  But how is it like France , again?


Someone’s keitai starts to ring.  Yup, it’s pension-teacher again.  “Ooooo!!” exclaim the teachers. “His wife….she check on him!!! Hahahahaha!”.


“NO!”  pension-teacher interjects.  “My boyfriend!”


Huh?! Ok.  So even after everything that came before that still surprised me.  To helpful-teacher: Does he really mean ‘ boyfriend’?   “Oh, yes.”


Pension-teacher overhearing, looks at me and yells (while pointing at his phone), “SEX PARTNER! SEX PARTNER!”.   The other teachers didn’t seem in the least surprised at this.  More beer.


After the phone call he again turns to me, “My sex partner, he come here now.  You meet him!”.  Beaming at me.  He was positively glowing.  Jolly good.  Righto then.  Looking forward to meeting him.  More beer.


A while later in walks a slightly-older than middle-aged man in a suit.  He puts down the bag he’s carrying and takes his trousers off.  In the middle of the restaurant.  After fighting off pension-teachers attempts to molest him, he puts on new trousers and sits down.  He is introduced to me as “Sex Partner”, a label he seems very proud of.  Dozo yoroshiku onegaishimasu9.  The other teachers seem to know him already.  More beer.


The conversation returns to normal, except that it gradually dawns on me that I can understand everything that’s being said around me.  God!  This is good beer!  Unfortunately I then realise that all the teachers (and I do mean all of them) are speaking English.  To each other.  Odd.  Admittedly it’s not perfect, but it’s pretty good.  They clearly don’t realise they’re doing it, either, as when they see the expression on my face they burst out laughing and start mimicking each other’s English accents! 


I have noticed that the English ability of my colleagues increases exponentially with the amount of alcohol consumed.  Can we introduce a sake-scheme with the students?


Damn.  Pension-teacher is trying to talk to me again.  He wants a threesome with me and his sex partner.  Oh.  Thank you.  No.  Ok, ok.  He wants to have sex with his wife, his sex partner, then me.  Me last?  No, I must be first.  He looks hopeful.  Damn sarcasm. 


By the end of the evening, I had consumed an extremely respectable quantity of beer and sake.  I had to stand up, put my shoes on and walk to the door (pretending to be sober) in front of the other teachers.  There then ensued an extremely wobbly bike-ride home. 


All this happened before 9.30pm !


I don’t think any of my colleagues had any idea just how drunk I really was, but the evening was definitely an ice-breaker.  More of the teachers come to speak to me at school now, and pension-teacher smiles conspiratorially at me whenever we pass in the corridor. 


This truly was an “Enkai of enkais”.  I just can’t wait for the next one!!!



1. Enkai - a party, where people typically get very very very drunk

2. Asahi Super Dry - the best beer in Japan!  In my opinion, anyway.

3. Kocho-sensei - Principal

4. Kyoto-sensei - Vice-principal

5."S'ki? S'ki?" - corruption of "Suki desuka? Suki desuka?", "Do you like it? Do you like it?"

6. Sherry-sensei - ok, ok, he called me "Ade-ru sensei", lit. "Adele-Teacher", sensei being the honorific for teachers

7. "Seku Hara! Seku Hara!" - lit. "Sexual Harassment! Sexual Harassment!"

8. Sake - this word actually means all alcohol, as well as the traditional Japanese rice wine we all know.  In this context, I was referring to the rice wine. 

9. Dozo yoroshiku onegaishimasu - part of formal greeting used when meeting someone for the first time


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