Earlier this week I attended my company’s annual employee party. The party was held at the Hello Kitty Land Amusement Park and about 500 people attended. Due to some transportation issues I was about half an hour late and by the time I arrived the party was in full swing.
Several men from the accounting department, bedecked in sequin-covered jackets were dancing the samba on a platform overlooking the banquet room. Naturally, being Hello Kitty Land, the décor was primarily pink and several life-sized characters from the Hello Kitty pantheon were cavorting with various company members. Several male employees were dressed in drag including one who was wearing a nurse’s uniform and carrying a pair of handcuffs.
At this point let me remind you of something. These people are NOT party animal types. They come to the office every day wearing perfectly pressed suits and they never never smile. If you smile at them, they turn red and crawl under their desks. I quickly began to deduce however, that the Hello Kitty party was obviously a place where it was acceptable to let your hair down and get loose.
As the night progressed, a lively game of bingo was started. Unfortunately I couldn’t understand what all the prizes were but I did find out that one person won rice, another lucky employee walked away with a box of crabs from the North of Japan and perhaps the most surprised bingo player of all won some milk. My friend Matt won a vacuum cleaner. It was very exciting as you can imagine.
At one point I found myself sitting next to one of the company heads. He was slumped forward in his chair, completely passed out and snoring loudly. According to my friend DD, he had been smoking under the table prior to passing out. Of course in Japanese companies, this sort of behavior in drinking settings is considered to be completely normal and therefore, no one gave him a second glance. I really wanted to take a picture but I was afraid that due to his precarious position, the flash might wake him up and perhaps cause him tfall off his chair.
For the evening’s finale, “Shatcho” (which in Japanese means “The Big Boss”) played Rock Paper Scissors with the entire company and the winner got a trip to Singapore! This isn’t as strange as it might seem. Rock Paper Scissors is an extremely popular game here in Japan amongst both children and adults. One time I even saw an entire field of people who looked as though they were having some sort of Rock Paper Scissors tournament. That was really something! Still, as I stood amongst 500 other people with our fists raised in the air in preparation for Rock Paper Scissor, (all facing our leader who was positioned on a dais underneath a giant Hello Kitty symbol), I couldn’t help but reflect that this really did look disturbingly like some sort of Hitler youth rally. People had tears streaming down their faces from the excitement and I really do think that at that point, had Shatcho ordered us all to ransack the entire Hello Kitty Palace, leaving no survivors, we would have all complied without a second thought.