Every year my husband’s company has an office party.
He works for one of the “big” ones in Japan. His co-w0rkers bring their families. In total hundreds come.
Last year they hired a girl idol band to perform. As his co-workers drank, some started to show that their “otaku” side (nerd-side) as they cheered for the girls performing in frilly skirts with bows and sparkles all over.
This year, my brother came with us. There was no girl idol band (unfortunately), but there was a lot of alcohol and barbecue.
Since my brother and I are Texans we found the Japanese-style BBQ to be very amusing. Office parties in Japan are outdoors (or at least that’s how my husband’s company does it).
There is a raffle ticket you are given when you sign up for the lottery — the big prize is $10,000 — and a ticket for your food.(This year’s winner was a foreigner who, when his number was called, went to the stage in confusion. They had to bring up a translator to explain that he’d won the grand prize. His eyes went wide as saucers and he blurted out “REALLY?” Which brought chuckles from the audience.)
We all three got our tickets and headed to the festival. There was a set of benches in front of the stage where workers did skits and performances for the mothers and children.
There were several tables full of paper plates, chopsticks, plastic forks, and paper cups, as well as sauces and seasonings.
After grabbing some plates, our trio headed to the dozen of grills where lots of the workers socialized.
Japanese BBQ does have beef and pork. It includes squid, fish, other seafood item, and onions and green peppers. In Texas, it was always my experience that someone worked the grill and put the meat on other people’s plates.
However, in Japan you just grab what you want off the grill using your chopsticks. This was difficult for Sean — culture shock — who a.) struggles with chopstick and b) couldn’t speak Japanese. It felt weird to just grab off the grill.
There was nearby place serving shaved ice. While I went to get some Blue Hawaii flavored-shaved ice (like a snow cone but larger and finer), the wife of one of my husband’s co-workers snagged my brother and took him for some drinks.
Along the way, after introducing himself, he told Sean, “Let’s get you some beer!”
My brother replied, “I don’t drink beer.”
The man responded cheerfully, “Tea! Let’s get you some tea!”
And off they went.
Meanwhile, several of my husband’s came up to me and praised my husband — while we was a way. Many were married women with children who told me how he was always understanding if they needed to leave early for their children. They sung him to the moon.
Later, when my brother came back, a couple of the big wigs in the company — managers near the top of the food chain in a multi-billion dollar company — sputtered out in their best English compliments about my husband. When they had left, my brother leaned over and whispered to me, “Your husband is very respected here.”
I replied, “I didn’t know.”
I really didn’t know he was that revered.
My husband is a humble man, so he has always downplayed his importance. I thought he was a grunt worker in the company, but several of the co-workers were former members of his “team”. He has people working under him. People that he manages.
My heart glowed that day to realize how happy he makes other just by working there and he is so respected.
I learned a lot, so did my brother.
By the end of the evening, said our goodbyes and headed home.
Another year, another office party.
I wonder what secrets next year’s party will reveal?