Monday was Sea Day and most people had the day off. We had a mini UK reunion at a pub in Yurakucho, which is near Ginza. The Rose and Crown, on the surface, is quite authentic. As shabby as much of England is, the pubs are always meticulously cared for. And the Rose and Crown follows this practice, with its busy baroque patterns, dark woods, and dour bartenders.
Though they serve the beer in imperial pint glasses (which are larger than American pints) there is a bit of foam on top unlike in England. Real British pints are filled up to the very top. No foam. Still, it’s far better than other Tokyo bars where the beer is about 25-33% foam. Their signature beer, the Rose Ale, has a bit of bite, but it’s suited to Japanese tastes. It’s better in the half-and-half.
We all ordered fish and chips but it wasn’t anything like real fish and chips. First of all, it wasn’t greasy enough. It was served in four small pieces, accompanied by pretty potato wedges. Fish and chips should be big, in one piece, liberally breaded, wrapped in newspaper, soaking up the oil. The fish and chips at the Rose and Crown was disappointingly healthy and palatable.
Nevertheless, whenever I’m in the neighborhood, I like to pop in for a pint. It felt like “home” the first time I wandered in, fresh from England. And by “home”, I mean like an ex-con pining for the prison mess hall. There’s a happy hour until 7pm. I recommend going there then because otherwise the beer costs nearly 1,000 yen. There’s also a fine scotch list if that’s your fancy.
But pining for “home” was really about missing the great community of friends I had in England. Of the 100 or so who were in my MA program, about 80 were non-British. We were a close-knit multinational group of fun-loving people. Our department, Peace Studies, was referred to by others as Party Studies since we were always organizing events with each other.
So it’s always great to see my old friends from England. On Monday, though they were all Japanese, they still spoke English with each other. Probably out of respect for my terrible Japanese, and maybe because that was the language they spoke when they lived among each other in England. It’s also typical of Japanese hospitality. I’ve found that most Japanese don’t mind that foreigners have lived in their country for years and still can’t speak the language. I think it’s embarrassingly arrogant that so many of us can’t. I’ve got to write more about this later.
Disturbing the Peace in Hibiya Park
We had a good time at the pub, but afterwards we opted to buy liquor at the convenience store and continue our party at Hibiya Park, which used to be owned by feudal lords. There were lots of couples taking in the breezy evening air, and a small homeless encampment made of blue tarps and cardboard boxes in one corner of the park.
Unlike in the US, it’s perfectly legal to drink in public. We sat outside in the warm breezy summer night and chatted and laughed. Continuing the British theme, the gardens at Hibiya Park were landscaped to look like something out of Kensington Gardens. The lawns are cordoned off with decorate wrought iron chains.
I suggested that we step over the low chain and sit on the grass, but my fellow merrymakers felt this was forbidden, which it probably was. So public drinking and homeless squatters are acceptable but the lawn was off-limits? After hanging out on the benches and looking at the inviting grass, the American in me said, hey who’s it hurting if we sit down on the grass? So that’s what we did. After all, in this globalized world, we should be blending the best of all traditions. In this case, public drinking and sitting on the lawn were an excellent cross-cultural match.