When Eurovision strikes, here in the land of the rising pun, it can only mean one thing. Robbie's birthday - a time of beer and emotion.
Robbie turns 29 (2015): Taking it easy on what was possibly a weekday night, Zara, Vince and Robbie are watching TV at Robbie's apartment in Mito, Ibaraki (would anything worthwhile mentioning really take place anywhere else?).
Midnight is dawning - at this point in T minus 10 minutes. A rush of excitement struck and we decided his turning of age would be recognized and appreciated damn it! We ran out the house - and to the dodgy darts bar at the bottom of the building. We quickly tried to negotiate with the staff a last-minute birthday shots and celebration arrangement. The cold bastards refused to let us enter without high entrance fees for measly scraps- essentially a disappointing result.
With wild desperation for celebration and only a few minutes till crunch time we refused to give up! There's a shisha bar across the highway, but could we make it in time? - we ran, now with only 5 minutes to go.
To say we had a pleasant surprise upon arrival is an understatement. We were welcomed with open arms, as though they had sensed we were coming. They treated us to shots - and even a birthday cake on the house - all in time for the strike of midnight - an awesome birthday and a polaroid that captured the feel of the night:
Robbie turns 30 (2016): A big party at the Drunken Duck (Mito, Ibaraki) - everyone was there and fun times were had all round! We put together a photo album with pictures and messages from different friends from over the years - lovely stuff - extra points for making the birthday boy cry.
The night was very messy and as things went on - well, I don't think I can write about what went on. It was memorable. Balls were dropped.
The great thing about Ibaraki gaijins is that just when you think you've seen someone at their messiest, most incapacitated or chaotic, they are always able to pleasently - or quite shockingly- surprise you.
Unfortunately the disposable cameras filled up way too early in the night:
In context, I had been dumped the weekend before - so wasn't in the best place. I took the train up from Tokyo on the Friday night after work. As Sunday morning rolled round, following the party, I woke up in sorry-looking hungover state on a futon on Robbie's apartment floor, alongside many others who had needed a place to crash. We were in bits and piece from the night before. I knew I would have to return to my sad Tokyo reality, but instead of heading off early and being responsible, I decided to stay to watch Eurovision in my PJ's as we opened some of the bottles of birthday bubbly.
As evening drew, I accompanied Robbie back to the Duck to recover lost items and we got sucked into a live music event taking place. We also enjoyed more birthday champagne courtesty of the wonderful pub owner.
Eventually... after drowning enough of my misery in good old memories-ville Ibrarocky - I took the worst train journey of my life back - I will not describe it here - but let's just say that this train ride defined my overall state at that point in time. I was the epitome of a heartbroken fool.
Robbie turns 31 (2017): We made it thusfar. Robbie and Josh had a joint birthday blow out at a swanky-as-hell restaurant in Roppongi. Swanky in the most gaijin sense of the word. We all dressed in our swanky outfits and smoked swanky cigars with swanky cocktails (and by cocktails I mean beer, and by cigars I mean no cigars because seriously, who actually smokes cigars?).
What a wonderful start to an (of course) messy following few days:
Swanky aaaand charming humans
Unfortunately, Robbie was the one who had just been dumped this time round. Yes, I will admit that in my now domesticated state I left early to snooze in the arms of my beautiful man-man. The others enjoyed a wild one courtesy of whoever's wallet was found in the middle of the street in Shibuya (YES it was finders fee - obviously the wallet with all the important cards were handed responsibly into the police geeez). I met with the boys the next day in Yoyogi park at a Thai food festival. WOW what a state they were all in.
Robbie, wearing a hat he found on the floor, poking people with an umbrella he may or may not have stolen from a small child and drinking beer from the empty vessel of a coconut shell, naturally, was on top form. Depending on what your idea of that may be.
Robbie, Juan and South African Chris joined me in my game of dodgeball that evening. Robbie instantly threw his arm out. Chris was exhausted and Juan got blisters on his feet. All in all they had a good time. We went for some drinks and okonomiyaki afterwards. I had to leave, but was able to celebrate robbies birthday in my own "zescobar" way at home. Juan and Robbie, with no work on Monday, decided to stay in Tokyo for a second night out.
On Monday, messaging from my desk, sober and tired, I inquired about their evening.
I received this response from Juan: "I woke at a bus station at 7 am and lost my shoes" Good to know.
One thing's for sure, I'm looking forward to next year.
Oh, here's all the Eurovision winners:
2016 - Ukraine:
2017 - Portugal:
Thursday, 11 May 2017
On Monday morning, after having spent Golden Week cycling an old rusty mamachari bicycle up and down the green hills of Niijima island, I found myself quickly developing an appreciation for the light and fully-functional road bike that I use for my daily commute.
Despite the insane weather last year, we risked spending another golden week camping on this infamous Izu island. It paid off. Not a single drop of rain, and only one windy night- which I managed to sleep through in its entirety (nice work ear plugs!). Thankfully, others with great cameras and the ability to use them were present, and so, quite selfishly (and of course without permission) I have shared some of them here.
Sleeping on the overnight ferry from Tokyo to the island:
Ibaraki crew 2017:
The iskand of Niijima:
Niijima is covered with beautiful statues:
With my ukelele sensei Taku:
Bonfire on the beach on the last night:
The campsite at night:
Josh illegally selling coronas on the ferry back:
Till next year Niijima x