Journey in Japan Part 39: Last Day of Summer

Journey in Japan Part 39: Last Day of Summer

Today is the Autumn Equinox; officially the day that summer ends and autumn begins. The weather seems to have forgotten about the shift in seasons, and has kindly gifted us with a clear sunny day and 27°C temperatures; the perfect day for say, a boat trip.

The boat wasn’t cheap, we paid in advance ¥8640 each. The price includes ‘nomihoudai’ and ‘tabehoudai’, ‘all-you-can-drink’ and ‘all-you-can-eat’. At half twelve we meet up and head to Umayabashi Bridge, where our boat eagerly waits for us.

The Japanese boat is referred to as ‘Yakatabune’, a traditional wooden boat with tatami flooring, primarily used for entertaining guests. The forty of us pile in and take a seat on the floor at a huge table where a banquet is already laid out. The boat gets moving along the Sumida River in the direction of Odaiba. The organiser, makes a speech, we toast, then start to eat. The meal initially consists of sliced raw fish, salad, edamame, rice, pickles, and prawn tempura.

Beer is passed around in huge bottles to fill small glasses. My glass is always kept topped up by someone else when it gets low; in turn I return the favour when I see someone else with a glass running absent of alcohol. The food is delicious, the beer ever flowing; a great start to the afternoon.

As we cruise along to excellent views of Tokyo, I take photographs, before eventually coining the word ‘boatographs’. We cruise along in the direction of Tokyo Bay. More food comes out; white fish tempura, eel tempura, sweet potato tempura, and finally my favorite, mushroom tempura.

A few of the Japanese guys gather at the bow of the boat cheering each other on to drink massive glasses of Japanese saké. I go over to take a photograph, and am dragged into the madness. I am handed a glass of saké, everyone cheers, so I drink. “No good, one more time,” they say. Great. After a second chant I drink a second glass of strong saké.

After about forty minutes, people seem quite drunk. We anchor in the middle of Tokyo Bay, opposite the Fuji TV Building.

Another speech is given, an endless supply of food continues to flow from the small kitchen. The beer just about stops, and people begin to take advantage of the all-you-can-drink spirits. There is a huge selection of Shōchū, wine, saké, and whisky. After a while, we all head to the upper deck for a group photograph, before heading back below for more food and drink.

Karaoke begins, bringing with it a drinking game. A microphone is passed around and everyone sings one line of the song. Whoever sings the last line of the verse has to drink. When the microphone lands in my hand, I just make something up in English to the same tune. People applaud and somehow I escape the fate of trying to sing broken Japanese lyrics.

We sing many songs and drink many drinks. I make some new friends and talk to the people I already know. The boat tilts from side to side, the party in full swing. The organiser goes around everyone pouring drink into a glass and asking them to down it. It seems that everyone is determined to empty every bottle on the boat, and we do just that.

The boat starts up again and cruises back toward Asakusa. More speeches are delivered, followed by more Karaoke. We are treated to a black bean dessert, before finally docking back at the Umayabashi Bridge. A traditional clapping ritual takes place to signal the end of the festival, and we all head off the boat for one last group photograph. It is only 4pm but I am already wasted.

Read the next part of my Journey in Japan, where I investigate tourism from around the world and Japan, and meet Miss Hawaii 2013 by clicking here.

Or alternatively, click here to begin the journey from part one.

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From England, Luke is a writer and editor living on the edge of Tokyo. He enjoys finding the strange and wonderful amongst the seemingly mundane moments of everyday life and travel, and writing about them.

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