Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Mushroom P.A.R.T.Y.

Yesterday the seasonal staff and I went on a very important mission that was both culturally educational and critically important to the night's festivities. We went hunting for mushrooms! Scouring the Norikura mountainsides with only a plastic bag, our will for adventure and resident mountain man and mushroom sensai, Reicho-san. Reicho-san greeted us with the ever-so popular head bow but there was something different about this one. If there is love at first site, then maybe there is BFF at first bow, (foreshadowing) and after Reicho-san's first glance at my skinny jeans he exclaimed in a rather frantically humorous tone "your underwear is going to get wet!" This was translated of course because Reicho-san, being Japan's Father Time as well as Father Nature, does not speak any English except for ok (said alongside the appropriate sign language learned from Buckwheat of the Little Rascals)

So off we went; following this relative stranger into the wild with the hope of mushroom magic outweighing the fear of wet under-roos. If slow and steady wins the race, then Reicho-san must be undefeated. Our patience did payoff however as mushrooms the size of rabbit heads began to fill the plastic bags like Tad Hamilton at Piggly Wiggly. The search went as follows;
 discovery of a mushroom...
a question like "Reicho-san what about this one?...
the response sounding an awful a alot like "damn it" followed by a disgusted head shake...
or an enthusiastic "ok"...
This went on for three glorious hours. In the rain.

Fast forward two hours and move locations from the mountains to Reicho-san's lodge and the party really begins. A traditional Japanese dinner, including mountainous veggies, saki, donut sticks, peanuts, salad, dried fish, mushroom stew, beer, karaoke remote, wine, oranges, hot dogs, apples, asian pears and grapes of all colors, all displayed on a table no taller than a wiener dog, was prepared. The table is strategically and brilliantly designed to decrease comfort and increase groin soreness.  All of Northstar staff gathered for the seasonal feast and after a blessing, the revelry and singing began.

It started with the invention of karaoke in 1910 by Alexander Karok in Belgium and ended last night with the local strays howling along as many American classics were covered, butchered and screeched. In the lot were Elton John's "Tiny Dancer", Coolio's "Gangsta's Paradise" and the always infamous "Sexy Back" by JT.  Duets Seiya Harada and yours truly stole the show and hearts with a Japanese'ie rendition of Armageddon's love song "I Dont Wanna Miss a Thing!"

As the staff headed home for much needed slumber, Pappa Reicho and I bonded as "gang bei" (aka cheers) was turned to 11 and on repeat; lost in translation took on a whole new meaning. His Japanese and my English were no match for true friendship. After more drinks, more off key singing and more antics, Reicho-san called me a bear, stole my beanie and danced with me to "Sexy Back" sealing our fate as "brothers from different mothers."

Confusion only happened when I tried to leave and he insistently said "NO" along with 150 other Japanese words.  David Bowie's labyrinth of languages was made straight after Michai, fellow staff, informed me that Reicho-san was inviting me over to stay the night. We have video of this whole interaction. It is an emphatic yelling of "slumber party" followed by an overly friendly embrace of a village elder, who has probably forgotten more about life than I will ever know, and a American mountain man who allegedly looks like a bear.

Here's to new experiences, new traditions and new friendships... Gang Bei!!!

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