You must be wondering what exactly the title of this blog means. Well, I made it up. I took two Japanese words and combined them in an effort to be quirky and, if we’re being honest, to amuse myself. This word is amusing because it is a sort of pun, which requires some backstory in order to understand.

I just returned from a year abroad in rural Akita, Japan. There wasn’t a whole lot to do there, given that the campus was located amongst rice farms and forests home to man-eating bears.

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Rice paddy on the road between the school and the mall.

These rice farms are Akita’s claim to fame, and locals claim they grow the best rice in all of Japan. From this rice comes another Japanese staple: sake. Since sake is made from rice, and Akita has the best rice, it goes without saying that people from Akita love their alcohol. Not to mention the fact that you need a good swig of stuff to keep you warm in the frigid winter. The school I attended, Akita International University, even collaborated with a local brewery to produce their own label.

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Bike shelter buried in snow.

Alcohol is already a huge part of Japanese culture as it is, so it should come as no surprise when I tell you that there are many restaurants in Akita that have specials called ‘Nomikai’ wherein after paying a flat fee, for the next hour you can order as many drinks as you can handle. (It is at this point in the blog that I would like to point out that the legal drinking age in Japan is 20, and that I was that age when I arrived, so any participation in this on my part was totally by the book.) In any case, I had never heard of such a thing before. Given that you had to travel to the city to find an ‘Izakaya’, or bar/restaurant, there was always a sense of excitement that went along with the decision to do a nomikai. I only partook a few times, but I felt like the spirit of the nomikai really encapsulated the spirit of studying abroad. It has the potential to get sloppy now and again, but more often than not it’s a good time and is alway an adventure. Additionally, it means a lot to me because prior to my time in Akita, I did not drink alcohol, mostly because that often involved being in social settings that I was not comfortable being in. Thus, nomikai also represents a great deal of personal growth for me as it taught me to be comfortable with myself first and foremost. For those reasons, I chose to combine ‘Nomikai’ with ‘Yomu’, the verb ‘to read’ in Japanese, to get “Yomikai” in the hopes that through this blog I can recreate that sense of adventure as I reflect on my experiences and share my stories with the world. So here’s to the start of a new adventure!

Kanpai! (Cheers!)

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Photo Credit: Gaby Av, Flickr. “Cheers.”

 

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