It was like an expat 'Shin-nen kai' (New Year party). It seems like every little 'association' around is having these Shin-nen kai's. As a ryokan owner, I'm grateful as many of them are held at ryokans like ours. But most of them seem to be just another excuse to drink. Especially as they are coming off the tail of all those 'Bo-nen kai' (Forget-the-Year parties) at the end of last year. If people want to get together for a beer, why don't they just get together for a beer and not have to use an excuse of 'New Year Party'?
End of tirade and back to the story at hand.
A woodworker from Austria, a ceramic artist from Hungary, a consultant from the States, and yours truly, the blue-eyed ryokan proprietor, hooked up for a cold beer (call it a Shin-nen kai if you must) over piping hot oyaki buns at Shichifuku. We all live an work in the vicinity of Togura Kamiyamada Onsen, and have a common bond of moving here from overseas. We were joined by 3 Aussies that are staying at Kamesei for an extended time as they work on a research paper, as well as Fumio-san, the husband of ceramic artist Agnes-san.
Fumio-san, who has lived abroad himself, shared a wise tidbit of info: foreigners living in Japan have a lot of stress; stress that a Japanese person can't understand. It's important for them to get together with people who face similar stress and blow off steam every once in a while. It should be spontaneous, not a formal get-together, as everyone has enough other regular obligations in their lives.
By the way, Fumio-san's newest prints will be on display at Gallery Koma in Ueda City from Wednesday 23-Feb through Monday 28-Feb. Agnes's ceramic pieces are on permanent display there as well. Check out the gallery's website for details.