Minna de

Wow, I don’t remember the last time I drank so much that I woke up still drunk. (Oh and rice wine, ouch. That stuff goes straight to your limbs and doesn’t give you a buzz like beer does, it just starts paralyzing your abilities but you’re still capable of thinking “Um, what?”. It’s really strange, it’s kind of like you’re a spectator of your own drunkenness. Or maybe I’m just not used to strong liquor, if I drink I usually drink beer, I can’t be sure. I’ll see if I can find some when I’m back home and I’ll ask the experts πŸ˜‰ )

Anyway, let’s just type this quickly, before the hangover sets in. Of course, yesterday I watched the soccer match. Usually, I don’t care so much for soccer (I like the reruns, when they only show the interesting stuff like red or yellow cards, penalty’s and goals πŸ˜‰ ), but yesterday’s game was, in my humble opinion, pretty good. I mean besides the fact that we won πŸ˜‰ But anyway…

What did I want to type? Oh yes, I remember, I have a pretty coherent story to tell (yes rly). That hasn’t happened in a while, all my previous messages were fragmented bits and pieces glued together in an awkward way, but today I’ll talk a little more about Japanese culture. If you’ve had enough of that, you’re reading the wrong blog πŸ˜‰

On one of my first days here, there was a welcome dinner for me and Pierre-Marie, organized by the research institute. We had dinner somewhere in Kyoto and after the dinner, someone asked me what I wanted to do next, and I asked what the options were. Turned out, some people wanted to go home, some wanted to go to karaoke, some wanted to go to another bar. So I replied that I’d join the group going to the next bar. Easy decision, right?

Not here.

After a short while, we got up and got our coats and stuff, and while heading towards the door, the same person asked me again what I wanted to do. That should have been a clear warning, but I didn’t realize at that time. So I said “I told you, I’ll join to another bar”. This really confused him, I think. Anyway, when we got outside, I got ready to start walking. But nobody started walking. They started talking about where they were going. And they kept talking. And they kept checking whether everyone was okay with everyone else’s choice. Can you imagine, people asking you up to four or five times what you want to do and whether you’re sure? After the fifth time being asked what I wanted to do by the same person, I knocked him on the head and said “Helloooooo, long term memory? I told you four times, I’m going to another bar”. (Please recall my remark about “Japanese people don’t touch” and being polite, and you can imagine the look on his face)

Nono, wait, there’s more.

A second time we went to dinner, it was for Pierre-Marie’s farewell party, he was going to *thinks* Nagoya? Well, anyway, we had the farewell dinner and during the dinner I talked to HΓ©lΓ¨ne and Etienne and we decided we would go to karaoke. So, after the dinner, the same conversation as last time ensued and I declared to want to go to karaoke. However, I didn’t know any karaoke places at the time. So, at some point, someone said let’s start walking, and said he would point us in the right direction. I should have known what was about to happen.. Of course, we walked with the entire group for a while and it slowly became clear that we weren’t going to karaoke and that nobody would point us in the right direction. Everyone decided to stick together and I was told by someone who didn’t want to go to karaoke in the first place that today we wouldn’t go to karaoke. WTF. I didn’t really object at the time, but I was very disappointed.

The reason I’m telling those two stories, is because a third occurrence of this happened yesterday. Before I tell you what happened, let me explain the title of this post. ‘Minna’ is Japanese for ‘everyone’. ‘Minna de’ means so much as ‘with everyone’ or ‘all of us’. The phrase was not uttered on the previous occasions, neither was it yesterday, I guess because we were talking in English, but Hai Minh told me it is a common phrase that really nicely summarizes Japanese group behavior. He himself told me a story that I’ve heard before and you’ll probably hear it more often: People will stay in their office, even when they have nothing to do, as long as there is still one person working. If one person is doing overtime, everyone stays in their cubicles playing solitaire or reversi until that person is done. Hai Minh had a similar experience, after finally having met a deadline, he wanted to go to dinner because he was very hungry. But all his coworkers wanted to stay and wait for the last three persons, because one was telling the other two some information about the work they’d been doing. So eventually, Hai Minh left alone and went for dinner.

So, let’s just tell you what happened yesterday. I’ll confuse you by first talking about Thursday πŸ˜› On Thursday, someone wanted to play Kings (I’ve heard it in Dutch as “Kingzen” and played it once or twice). Now, if you’ve played drinking games before, you’ll know that these are best played with up to four (five, tops) people. It’s logical, right, it’s a drinking game, so you don’t want to spend most of your time waiting, you want to play and – preferably – get drunk, or, depending on your sense of humour, get someone else drunk, ASAP. However, Thursday, they played with fourteen people. At that time, it was fine, I didn’t realize, again, that this urge to form a group is so strong. The game was really slow, but it was okay. Later I said I know another drinking game, Mex. All you need is two dice and a cup or container you can’t see through.

If you search online, you find many different rules. The way of counting your roll can differ, for example, but the basic question of the game – is the person who passes you the dice telling the truth or lying – is always the same. (Mia kind of resembles what I was taught, except I was taught to count
21, 66, 55, 44, 33, 22, 11, 65, 64, 63, 62, 61, 54, 53, 52, 51, 43, 42, 41, 32, 31 )

I started looking for dice, but couldn’t find them until yesterday. I invited two people to play with me and it was a lot of fun, especially because it took a while before the others understood the rules. After a while, I asked a fourth person (with three, the dice will quickly return to the person who threw the dice and thus knows the answer, four is better) to join. He did, and we played again. Then, a fifth person joined and that’s when the chaos ensued. I said that five is about the limit, otherwise it would slow down. Just like the game of Kings yesterday, I explained. Meanwhile, one of the players walked away to pick up his phone and that’s when our game paused and the two persons who had joined last started talking about a different game that “everyone can play”. By everyone, they meant us and the five or six people that had joined to watch us play. Minna de.

I told them that I thought it was more fun to play with at most five people, otherwise the game would slow down too much. But they insisted they knew a game that was better suited to play with more than five persons. And I said, okay, then go sit over there and play your game.

But they didn’t listen and tried to force their game onto me. At that moment, I got quite annoyed and I said no, I’m not going to play a different game, I’m playing this game. They insisted I should try theirs and I said no again. And then, they just started playing their game, at our table. The only remaining player of our original group said “let’s compromise” and agreed to play the new game. That’s when I kind of snapped and I started saying in my usual I’m-talking-so-fast-that-there’s-no-way-you-can-interrupt-me tone of voice: “Okay, I don’t get it, why… wait. Waitwaitwait.” And I stopped myself. I feel so proud πŸ˜‰ I changed my mind and said “I’m not going to fight about this, that’s going to ruin it for everyone”.

I had wanted to ask them why they wanted to make me play a different game, but I realized that that wasn’t going to make a difference. They wanted everyone to play. Minna de. So I got up and left. I felt so good about that, about getting up and leaving I mean. They tried to stop me but I just walked away and repeated myself “I’m not going to discuss this, that’ll ruin it for everybody”. I mean, I’m in Japan, so there’s no point in questioning the way they want to do things and getting into an argument is not worth anyone’s energy.

But I wasn’t going to sit around and have people force a different game down my throat.

So I left, cooled down, talked about it with Hai Minh and returned to the lobby just when the soccer match had started. People asked me if I was okay, and I said yes and joked that I didn’t want to spend the last half hour before the match discussing what game to play only to find that there’s no time left to play it. People laughed and it was okay. But next time, I’ll be sure to have more dice and a printout of the game’s rules. If more people want to play, I can give them a set of dice of their own so that I don’t have to stop playing the game I like πŸ˜›

2 Replies to “Minna de”

  1. 1
    Hai Minh

    This morning someone asked me why you disappeared at the middle of the match (they didn’t ask why I left, although three of us left at the same time, ha ha). Maybe they’re worried if they had bothered you. Well, people here are nice, try to be nice, pretend to be nice (whichever you think). They wanted to keep you with them and felt guilty when you left the group. On the other hand, they did not want to play your game because it limits the number of players. Oh God, what a dilemma!

  2. 2

    Oh, they asked you? So, what did you tell them? πŸ˜›

    I’m sure they’ll figure it out next time: You can’t force people to do something, just because you think it’s the right thing to do. It would have been perfectly fine if they had gotten up, moved to a different table and invited everyone who wanted to to play their game.

    Consider this: You’re at a park, and you see an ice cream truck. You decide that you want ice cream, so you get ice cream for everyone. Then, it turns out that three persons don’t want ice cream because they’re eating a cookie. So of course, you force them to throw their cookies in the trash and eat an ice cream, because you feel everyone should do the same.

    I was perfectly happy with my cookie, I didn’t want ice cream…

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