Company Trips in JapanbyOoshnafloot©
I live and work in Japan. Every year the business I work for has a company trip. It's a chance for the Osaka and Tokyo offices to meet at some famous destination in the countryside, the only time the whole company gets together. I'm the only foreigner among 30 people in the Osaka office. Tokyo has two other 'gaijin', both Canadians, but they never go on the annual trip – which is a typical foreigner mistake. Participation is a pillar of company-culture in Japan. Personally I don't mind those guys skip, it makes me look good.
The trip is never at the same time of the year - we follow the best season of the destination. Once we went to Kyoto for Hanami, the Cherry Blossom Viewing. We also went down to Kyushu one fall and soaked in volcanic mud. Once we were up in the mountains of Nagano in the spring which was spectacular. This year, however, it was decided to get cold. We'd never done a ski trip before; Hokkaido was booked for February. It was the earliest in the year we'd ever had our get-together.
It was also the closest I got to bailing. I don't ski. I never have. I ruined both ankles playing football and there is no way I would do any sport that required vigorous rotation of those joints. Even boarding terrified me. But...I was assured that there were plenty of people in the Tokyo office that didn't ski either and there were other things to do – I wouldn't be short of company. Suspiciously I agreed. As much as I love the locals, sometimes they tell you what you need to hear to get you agree to something.
Timing for the trip meant that I actually flew out from Hiroshima, I had a pre-scheduled visit to one of our licensees over the weekend for training. My office flew out of Osaka early Monday evening, getting to the hotel around midnight. For me in Hiroshima and for our staff in Tokyo, we couldn't get a flight until first thing Tuesday morning. Tokyo is much closer to Hokkaido so they arrived 90 minutes before me. I wasn't going to make the whole Tokyo office – about 25 people – wait for me so I let them go first; I traveled from Chitose Airport to our hotel by myself. There are different options but the easiest was bus. Three-and-a-half hours of it. I bought some beer at the Lawson at the airport expecting a long trip like that must have a bus with a toilet. No such luck. So I kept the beers tucked away in my bag, I wasn't going to inflict toilet torture on myself for hours on an unstoppable bus. As it turned out there was a break at a roadside rest for twenty minutes at what I guessed was the halfway mark, but I still wasn't game to run the risk of getting on the beers and busting for a pee.
At the highway stop it was snowing and cold. I had new boots and gloves so I walked around outside to test them out. All good. I wasn't used to this white weather and it was gorgeous scenery, even here on the side of a highway. I didn't really have a sense of the final destination so back on the bus I opened the map on my phone to check out where I was. The place we were staying was a resort in the south west of Hokkaido, the opposite direction to what I thought we had been heading. I always thought Niseko was in the middle of Hokkaido, not down the bottom. Obviously not. The hotel itself was near Hirafu village. The Airport Bus first dropped people off in the middle of the village at a car-park at the base of a ski run, then kept moving further into snow clad hills dropping people off at various resorts and chalets along the way. My hotel was the last stop, and I was the last person on the bus. It was hard to tell where I was with all the snow and the hills, but I had the sense this was the middle of nowhere.
Inside the hotel the lobby was vast. I didn't see any of our people. I checked in and took my room. Thankfully there were no porters, I hate giving tips to people to carry a bag I don't need them to carry. This hotel seemed more like a big serviced apartment center. The room itself was huge and had a full kitchen. It was only one room but had four sections to it. Inside on the right was the kitchen with its own dining table. To the left was a proper 6-tatami mat space. Past that was a massive double bed and in the far corner on the right a lounge suite with a huge flat-screen TV. A balcony ran the width of the room outside. Most Japanese apartments aren't as big. It must have been 5 times larger than the average Tokyo hotel room, the advantage of being in the middle of nowhere.
After unpacking and shoving my bags in the closet I went downstairs to investigate the hotel and find out where everyone was. To give some background there were two ladies from the Tokyo office that I'd come close to being with over the years. One was a bit younger, maybe mid-late twenties, I could never tell ages. The other was closer to my age. Both were gorgeous and flirted with me all the time but never to the extent I'd been able to close the deal. I'd kissed both of them at some stage but never in a place where I could continue through to end-game. The older one and I once trailed at the back of the group after a last-evening farewell dinner and spent a drunken minute in an alley in Kyoto kissing and feeling up her tits, though we knew we would be soon missed. After that we all went back to our (shared) rooms and that was the end of it. Since that trip I demanded a room to myself.
The following year in Kyushu the younger one who was married wouldn't go back to my room, but I did manage to get her onto a quiet mezzanine floor of our hotel late one night after karaoke. There were sofa-type seats in front of dark meeting rooms. With her I was able to take longer, not just kissing. I got a mouthful of bare tit and a wet middle finger. I'm not sure if I would have been able to fuck her there or not, hotel security making its round shooed us away and that was the end of it. She came to her senses and ran off to her room. Weirdly, she was as nice and as flirty as ever to me the next day and the rest of the trip but I couldn't drag her away from the group again. So as I poked about the Hokkaido hotel and searched for any of my team, in the back of my mind I wondered if one of those two were hoping to see me.
I found all of the Tokyo people in a back room on the ground floor surrounded by ski gear. We had a huge round of bowing and hisashiburis and the occasional hug from the more outgoing younger lads. They were being fitted for equipment by a company who had a truck full of gear, even jackets and pants and goggles. The Osaka office had been fitted in the morning and were somewhere out on the slopes. We would all get together for onsen and dinner that night and from there spend all our time together.
I scanned the room to see if anyone wasn't getting fitted. I'd been told there were people in Tokyo who didn't ski, that I'd have company. I shook my head, it didn't look that way. Rotten lying sods.
There was a coffee-shop/bar type place on one side of the foyer. I waited together with those who had finished their fitting for the Osaka group to come back. They are a drinking culture in Japan and the opportunity was taken full-steam. Someone produced some packs of cards and we had a number of raucous tables playing all sorts of games. I found myself in a group of five - which did not include my two potential women, who were both being nice but stand-offish. (Of course, they had to I told myself...they couldn't show their affection for me in public.)
In Japan there is a card game called Hanafuda and I used that concept to teach my table Gin Rummy with two packs of western decks mixed in given there were five of us. Those guys picked it up pretty quickly and it was the grandstand table; the game is fast-paced and we had the loudest and biggest drinkers. By the time the first person from my Osaka office wandered in to check out the noise we had lost all sense of time and schedule. Once the Shacho walked in, though, (the company President), the noise stopped in an instant. He wasn't displeased, he loved the staff getting crazy together like this, but he was Shacho and all the staff naturally gave deference.
After pushing all the Osaka staff into the café, most still shaking snow off their gloves and hats, he gave a hearty welcome and called for the welcome Banzai. Okada the Operations Head then read out the schedule, we were all to be in the lobby at 6pm for a walk down to a nearby onsen then back for an 8pm bus to take us to dinner. He told us the onsen was famous in the area and had a number of separate men's and women's baths, but the one right out the back was mixed, so to take care – followed by a number of cautious giggles. I raised my eyebrows. I'd heard of mixed baths but never seen one. I looked over at both of my targets, neither caught my eye. Anyway, there was no way they would do anything in front of anyone else. I told myself to be patient, see what happens after dinner.
I won't talk too much about the onsen. It's still weird for me to get undressed and have a bath with 30 male colleagues and call it fun. The only interesting bit was the outside baths. We were surrounded by snow, you literally had to walk through it to get to the hot water. It was snowing on us in the bath, amazing. And my hair froze. If you wet it and shaped it, it would freeze like that. Hilarious. And needless to say none of us ventured down the path around the hill to the back bath, if it really even existed.
Back to the hotel there was enough time for 20 minutes more of cards in the cafe, then off to dinner. With 50-odd people it's easy to get lost in the crowd, even as a foreigner, and I milled through the lobby and onto the bus as one of them. It was a good 30 minutes through the snow to get to the main village. As luck would have it, at dinner I was sat next to the young married woman, the one I had fingered. We got on well, as we did before. We both drank plenty, as we did before. Having felt the inside of her vagina in the past there was a sense for me this was heading in the right direction. We even joked with people that in this cold weather any snuggling in the group would need to be somewhere warm and not, say, in the public areas of the hotel. Once, very slyly, she picked up my hand and smelled the finger I had put in her that trip, grinning at me. Surely that was a sign? The difference between this time and that trip though was the bus ride home. Those 30 minutes back through the darkness was far too sobering.
Offloaded at 10:45pm in the foyer Okada the ops head called it good-night, said the bus for the slopes would be leaving at 8:30am, so all be fed and ready by then. And that was it. I lingered in the lobby after they all left, hoping against hope that my young married thing would come back but she didn't. Eventually I had no choice but to spend another night in a hotel room alone. Drats.
The next morning I went to breakfast at 8. Given I was on my own program for the day there was no point in getting up too early, I just needed to be seen before they caught their bus. Breakfast was in the same café we were playing cards the day before and some of the guys who were finished eating were playing again. I had two decks in my jacket pocket still and started up another table. I could eat after they left, which would be soon. Most people wanted to be part of my Gin Rummy game so I needed both decks again.
At 8:25 Okada called out 'move' and like wildebeest they silently rolled as one toward the lobby. All except for me. And one other. One of the girls that was on my table playing cards stayed put. I looked at her quizzically.
She shook her head.
"Why?" I asked.
"I tried. Many times. I give up."
"Really," I grinned. "Then why...why did you come?"
"On this trip? I wasn't given the impression I had a choice," she said dryly.
"No, I guess not. (Not unless you're a gaijin, I thought) You're new? Graduate program?"
She nodded. I hadn't noticed her before. She wasn't plain as such, I guess she was just so young there didn't seem much chance of a meaningful connection.
"You're English is pretty good," I continued.
Again, she just nodded. That in itself was a bit strange, most Japanese vehemently deny being good at anything.
"Can you watch all this?" I asked, pointing at the cards and my gloves and coat. "I just want to..."
I didn't finish my sentence, but I indicated to the foyer. She nodded okay. I walked calmly with a degree of haste over to Okada, the one who had promised me I would have company not-skiing.
"Umm, Mr. Okada. Can I check something? You said there were non-skiers?"
"Oh, I'm not sure," he said evasively.
"That girl in there, she said she doesn't ski."
"Oh, Brett-san, you are in luck. Good news," he smiled. I was sure he had no idea if there would be anyone.
"Is she the only one? Is there no one else?" I tried to clarify.
Okada called out to one of the Tokyo managers and asked the same question. "Just Fukuda."
"What's her name?"
"Fukuda Mika," Okada told me. And that was that. They shuffled out, all piled into the bus. I ran out into the cold and stood on the bus steps.
"What time will you be back?" I asked. The bus driver said he was booked to leave Hirafu at 5:20pm, arrive back at our hotel before 6pm.
Okay, I thought, getting back off the bus and running into the warmth flicking snow off myself. What the fuck happens til then? Is there anything at all to do at this place? I was expecting we'd at least be staying in a town, not out in the middle of nowhere. I went back to the café. Fukuda Mika looked bored already.
"Have you eaten?" I asked. She nodded. Okay. "I'm Brett, by the way."
"I know," she grinned.
"And you're Mika?"
She seemed surprised. "You know who I am?"
I couldn't tell her I'd just found out. "Of course," was all I said. "Do you mind, I've not eaten..."
"Dozo," she said, nodding. I got my food and came back to the table. She was sorting out the big mess of cards back to two separate sets.
"You were playing Gin Rummy with me just now. Did you work out how to play?"
"I played yesterday already," she scolded me.
"You did?" I couldn't help but say. "With who?"
"Baka! With you! I was on the table with you yesterday when you showed us," she yelled incredulously.
Whoops. I went bright red. "I'm sorry. I was..." I couldn't complete the sentence, what could I say? There were so many people and you didn't stand out? Hardly.
"Baka!" she said again, but in a playful way.
"So...," I said trying to think of something to move the conversation away from this spot, to anywhere I could. "...are you any good?"
"This game is too easy," she said.
"Oh really?" I grinned. "You think so? You think you can beat me?"
"Two people is no fun," she dismissed the idea.
"No way. This game is better for two people, it's how it's normally played."
"Serious. Come on, I'll show you."
I took a sorted deck, dealt, played and whipped her butt within a couple of minutes.
"Easy, huh?" I teased her.
"Again," she insisted quickly.
I wiped her out again.
"No way," she complained as I lay Gin on the table. "Again!"
We did this for 30 minutes, the games moving fast and getting closer. It was fun and Mika looked happy and less bored than she'd expected to be with this guy old enough to be her uncle.
"I feel like drinking when I play cards," she lamented.
"You want a drink? A coffee?"
"No," she laughed at me. "I mean some whisky or vodka or something! What a fuddy-duddy you are!"
"Fuddy-duddy?" I exclaimed. "Fuddy-duddy? How do you even know that term? You'd have to be a grandma yourself to use words like that!"
"It's not right?" she looked at me. "You don't say that?"
"Not if you were born after 1950..." I laughed at her. Mika went red.
"I'm sorry," she tried to say.
"Oh, come on, I'm just teasing you. Here, let's get some. Sumimasen, sumimasen!" I yelled out. The waitress came over and I asked for whisky. She looked at us like we were mad, it was only a little after 9am. Who drinks whisky that early? She took a long and confused moment before rushing off to ask someone. After what seemed like a painful time with her manager she came back to say the bar doesn't open until 1pm.
"1pm! Gee," I said, looking at my watch. "Okay, thank you."
Mika shrugged her shoulders.
"That's the end of that," she said, turning up the corner of her mouth.
"Come on," I told her, packing up. "Let's go."
"Where?" she asked, puzzled.
"I have whisky. "
"My room. I brought 2 bottles in my suitcase." I didn't give her time to argue. "Come on."
I took my stuff and Mika followed. It turned out we were on the same floor but on opposite sides. "I'm sharing with two others," she told me as I unlocked the door.
"Two others. Wow."
"You're by yourself?"
I wasn't sure whether that scared her a little.
"Come on, we can use the tatami table," I said dumping my coat and stuff on the floor next to it. Mika took off her own coat and wandered over to the window. There was a thick covering of snow on the balcony.
"Wow, your view is much better this side."
I looked over her way, for the first time as someone I might be able to get intimate with. She had fine shape. She was a good looking young woman. How could I not have noticed her sitting around my table? Was I so obsessed with my other two targets? I turned the thermo up from 23 to 27 celcius, making it more comfortable to sit without heavy clothing.
I took the beer I bought from the Lawson at the airport and one bottle of whisky I brought from home and put it on the low table. I took two big glasses and two short glasses from the kitchen.
"Let's do it," I told her, opening the whisky and the beer, handing her a glass of each.
"Wow," she grinned. "What time is it?"
"9:22am," I smiled back.
We clinked our glasses and drank both the beer and the whisky in one hit. This was some girl.
"How old are you?" I couldn't help but ask.
"Me? What about you?" she retorted.
"35," I admitted freely.
"22," she said in return. Wow. Okay. 13 years, not too bad...was it?
I filled our glasses again and we downed both the beer and whisky. It was like some sort of challenge, she was a competitive soul.
"Sit. Let's play," I said, directing her to the floor. We sat on cushions on the matting, on opposite sides of a low table. I dealt the cards. "Okay, you wanna play for bets?"
"Strip," I simply said.
"What do you mean strip?"
"Whoever loses takes off clothes."
Mika looked at me. She didn't say no.
"I don't know about that..."
"Why not? It will be fun. What else have you got to do today?"
"I've never done it before..." she protested.
"Even more reason. Are you going to live your life never having played a game of strip poker?"
"I don't even know you," she said, holding back that she had a boyfriend at home too. He would be more than disappointed if she did this. Female faithfulness is a big thing for most Japanese guys.
"All the better, believe me. Nothing to feel embarrassed about later. Come on, have another drink," I suggested.
Mika held out her glass. If she wasn't going to say yes, she wouldn't have done that.
"So," I said chinking glasses, "We keep playing Gin Rummy. Whoever loses lets the other one take one piece of clothes off them."
"Huh, we take off each other's?"
"Sure, we've got to do it properly."
"No way. You'll take off my pants straight away."
"No, no, no. You choose which piece, then I take it off."
Mika looked at me. She drank her whisky and held her glass on the table next to the bottle as if to say 'more'.
"You can't tell anyone," she started to say. "If we do this, no one can know. No one."
"Of course," I said with my most serious look. My spine was tingling. Was this really going to happen? I'd had so many disappointments on these company trips, I'd got so close and it had slip through my fingers. It would be my luck at that moment to have a fire drill or something. "Come on, you deal first."