Friday, August 22, 2014

Tai-chan's 13th Birthday -- Unexpectedly Celebrated By a Whole Restaurant

I wasn't quite sure what the folks at Mellow Café -- a pizza restaurant/café in downtown Nara -- meant when they said to please come on Friday night, August the 8th, 2014 -- one day after my son Tai-chan's 13th birthday.

At first I mulled just not going. The Japanese as a race are not renowned for holding charitable birthday parties for people they barely know -- especially an entire restaurant and its staff.

But I have been faithfully going there for two weeks every summer since 2012, which would make this the third. Only a couple of workers are still there who were there when I first started going, but Tai-chan and I, for at least those two weeks every summer, are fixtures there -- we went at least once a day.

So I guess, in one form or another, we're treasured customers. I don't know. The Japanese collective mind works in very mysterious ways, and I would never even in my wildest hallucinations have predicted that the staff of a fairly successful restaurant would all come out to celebrate some foreign guy's son's 13th birthday.

But that is exactly what they did.

For Japanese, this is an extraordinarily unusual thing to do. Trained by rote, no typical Japanese is ever -- ever -- allowed to improvise on their given set of themes. Which means that someone at this restaurant pulled some unusual strings to organize this -- and you will notice that they even programmed the music to play some old disco tune called "Happy Birthday."

Not only is this whole thing unprecedented, it gives me back some faith in the Japanese, a group whom I normally regard with suspicion, and even contempt from time to time.

But I hope that the real gainer from this experience is Tai-chan, who has seen that his own lock-step rote-taught compatriots would go out of their way to celebrate a near-stranger's birthday with an unseen, unheard-of group confluence that I myself would have laughed out of existence as a possibility until I saw it for my own eyes.

So, here is the video -- you can hear from my lack of comment that I am completely at a loss for words.

Thanks, guys at Mellow Café, although you will never see this nor be aware of its existence.

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