Sunday, November 18, 2007

Alone At Last

If you know me, you know I love traveling alone.

While I've had many great adventures with friends - and for the last two weeks with family - there's something to be said for the lone wolf. A certain spirit. A certain attitude. A certain freedom. Such a great feeling that it makes you want to go buy a t-shirt with a big picture of a wolf on it, proclaiming your independence.

Alright, maybe not that last part. But going solo is cool, mmkay?

Tonight, for example, I finally had the opportunity to venture out on my own. As I walked from the hotel to the main business/entertainment/whatever area of Okayama, the usual questions hit me. Will I be able to communicate? Will I stumble when ordering drinks? Will anyone talk to a scruffy-looking Yank? Hell, will I even find a place I'd want to go into?

The answers were to be found at Aussie Bar: Yes. No. Yes. Yes.

Ok, I just heard that record scratch in your head. Yes, I'm in Japan. Yes, I went to an Australian expat bar. Now this may seem counter to exploration of a country and its culture, to eschew its rich traditions of izakaya, dark whiskey dens, and hostess bars. But au contraire, mon frere, I hereby posit the theory that expat bars can be rife with opportunities for cross-cultural exploration.

I walked in and was immediately greeted by the owner, Jason. An Aussie from Melbourne, he's been in Japan for 11 years and running the bar for four. Ok, nothing special there. You can't spit anywhere in the world without running into some Australians. They travel. A lot. But sip your drink as he talks to his bartender in Japanese... with an Australian accent. Then it's become a hell of a lot more interesting. Throw in a big-screen TV showing some Fox talent-show crap from America... with Japanese subtitles. Throw in conversations about traveling and living abroad, and the experiences and lessons from it all. Then throw in some rusty Japanese + Engrish conversation with the bartender to round out the experience.

Ok, all that was an excuse to go and have some Bundaberg rum and Coopers Sparkling Ale, Aussie staples that we don't get in the States.

But like I said in an earlier post - I'm really damn good at rationalization.

And it was really nice to get away for a night, even if it wasn't a fully Japanese experience.

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