Tags: Floor Drinks
Went to a コンパ today.
We started off on the 5th floor of Taito Station (which is the popular brand of Japanese game center) near the Shinjuku West Entrance. The fifth floor is packed to the brim with rhythm games. It is the music-game club, so I wouldn't have expected anything less. After watching the seniors play Beatmania and playing some Jubeat and DDR myself, we all gathered outside. About 19 of us in total so organizing everyone was a mess, especially since none of us new people really knew anyone else.
It's really strange to be a first-year student again, even though I am a third-year back home. A 21 year-old first-year student in the midst of 18 year-old first-years. It's not so bad, and I have a lot in common with the seniors, being about the same age anyway.
In any case, we all gathered outside and set off the コンパ. A コンパ is just a big party with a bunch of friends. In this case it was a 新歓コンパ, where we all get together and welcome the new students to the club. コンパ typically involve food and drinks. It's all very informal and very fun.
We walked some way from the Taito Statio and eventually, maybe after 15 minutes (and losing some people who was caught by the stoplights), everyone gathered on the ground floor of a massive apartment complex. The entrance to this apartment complex was guarded by those sliding glass doors. Once we brached those doors, it felt as though we broke into another world that stood in plain contrast to the bustling posture of Shunjuku. The doors gave way to a waterfall of nothing... a solid 40 floors of air and light, introduced by a beautiful skylight some hundreds of meters above us. There was some water playing on a water-wheel nearby where we met our club advisor. Doors to the apartments, from the second floor on up, traced the circumference of the building. We all took the elevator to the 49th floor.
Waiting for us was an Italian restaurant, off all things. It swallowed (maybe) a full 200 square feet of the 49th floor. What really struck me about this place was the emptiness, especially given what we had walked though on the way here. We saw almost no-one walking towards this place. We all sat down, maybe 6 to a table, and introduced ourselves once again.
A コンパ is an interesting experience. Food is brought out in table-portions typically one dish at a time. First they ask for drinks (I had an orange juice) and then the dishes come out. First it was a sampler of fish and vegetables, then a salad, then spaghetti, then pizza, then more drinks and finally bread and garlic and oil. A very delightful evening of food.
But what really made the night was the conversation. I loved every second of being around these people. I was the only non-Japanese student in the group, but that hardly was a bother. I kept along with the conversation just fine and even I learned a lot of new words. It's a little embarassing to ask for clarification on some (word) but it's definitely helpful in the long-run. I even got the opportunity to order an Asahi super-dry, which helped me to feel more comfortable.
We sat towards the edge of this massive, 50-floor building, tucked away comfortably in the back of this restaurant. Having a seat right next to the window an awe-inspiring experience. From this vantage I could see all of Tokyo Tower just a few kilometers away. I spent a moment staring at it with one of the first-years next to me. He was pretty cute but he had a propensity for hard questions like "Why are you studying in Japan?".
Pull the e-brake. Even I don't know the answer to that fucking question. And I'm the one who's gone through all the paperwork, all the forms... I've put the work in, and even I am not exactly sure what it's for. I spent a full year in preperation for this half-year... I drove over ten hours twice to the Japanese consulate in Geogia just to take five minutes of their lunch break to hand over a piece of paper. I'm not sure that even I can understand why I'm here, why I'm not in school at my regular university, why I'll graduate a semester late, why I've studied Japanese without ever having taken a single class on the language. Is there anyone that does?
We finished our meal, drinks, and took the long, dark elevator ride down from that 49th floor. Then we gathered in a large circle outside and introduced ourselves once again, sometimes interrupted by the strong gale of downtown Tokyo.
We headed home on our various metro lines. I took the Chuo-Sobu to Asakusa station and spent the walk home kicking the ground and thinking really hard.