Creation of new self
University life involved a lot of drinking alcohol. Welcome parties were held at the izakaya, where students drank cheap beer that came in 1-liter pitchers or bottles.
There was an art to the beer pouring. You were never supposed to fill your glass by yourself. At the welcome party, older students picked up the pitcher or the bottle and gestured to the new students, who then picked up their glass with one hand on the side of the glass, the other on the bottom, tilted it slightly so the foam would be minimum, and received the courtesy of the elder. The younger then sipped from the glass before they reciprocated the action. Once the new students joined the circle, it was mostly the job of the younger students to initiate the beer pouring to the older students. They had to hold the pitcher/bottle with both hands to show their humility. Younger students also needed to watch older students’ glasses so that they were never empty below one-third of the glass.
I watched others with awe as they smoothly exchanged beer-pouring rituals while continuing conversations. I had never been to the izakayas before moving to Tokyo or drunk alcohol with high school friends. I tried not to show my naivete and acted at ease about what I was witnessing and experiencing.
People tended to assume I liked alcohol. I looked older and mature with long black hair, red lipstick, an ironed shirt, and heels. The smoking habit I had picked up at the peak of entrance exam stress had become a full-on addiction. I’d sit at the table with a cigarette between fingers, like a know-it-all grown woman. It was NOT my intention to deceive others, but people started to comment on how “mature” and “urbane” I looked. The problem was I wanted to become that person because the real me was an insecure and anxious 19-year-old who was thrown into an adult world without enough support or advice and was at a loss on how to achieve the academic goal while surviving in a city like Tokyo by myself. At least, I forgot about my anxiety and depression while I was out drinking with friends. After the stressful years back home, I couldn’t help but indulge myself in the newly acquired freedom called “responsibility.”
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