And that's what we have here in Matsumoto. The rooftop of a Chinese restaurant that gets red and white lanterns strung up (you know you're having a good time when you look up and see lanterns), some wobbly picnic tables and a makeshift bar for a couple of months each summer.
But never mind the concrete caravan park in a rundown holiday resort past it's prime atmosphere- you're drinking beer on the roof! And you are staring at Matsumoto Castle close enough to reach out and touch (well it feels that way as the night wears on, probably why there's a huge makeshift chainlink fence between you and said castle...)
But you only know all this about the beer garden once you get there.
And sometimes getting there is half the battle.
And sometimes it's more- way more- than half the battle.
It was a pretty ordinary Saturday. K was off at a taichi do up in Nagano city but he'd be finished by 3:30, getting home in plenty of time for me to head out at 5:30.
Friend and neighbour A calls to say the tomato jam is taking longer than predicted and she won't be ready until 5:45.
Bosses wife mails to say that the beer garden is closing tonight and therefore having a special closing day all you can eat/ drink deal that starts at 6. Is that ok?
It takes at least 30 minutes to get there from here.
Fly off some emails here and there including to neighbour Y who is also coming and whose husband will be driving us in and we reschedule for a 5:45 departure and 6:30 start.
Not the engine.
Not the battery.
Not the transmission or the brakes or even the windscreen wipers.
Nope. He is stuck on the top of a freaking mountain in a state of taichi induced calm and he has locked the keys in the car. JAF is on way but will take at least 30 minutes.
I calculate that if he really belts it down the highway he can be here by 6. I will have my fabulous local High School girl babysitter come over and eat tea with the girls, slip her 1000 yen and I'll be on my way while she teaches them something it will take months to unteach (last time it was putting mayonnaise on your curry rice... euchhhhhh!)
Fabulous HS girl babysitter is already out on the town. Of course she is. It's Saturday night.
Tell girls to put their sandals on and we're going down to see incredibly responsible JHS 3rd year girl and see if she wants to eat tea with them. They're not thrilled. The HS girl wears two pairs of false lashes, has multiple piercings, speaks shocking Japanese, lets them listen to music on her phone and is all around mayonnaise-on-your-curry cool. The JHS girl is serious, studious, quiet and comes here to be tutored. They know who they want to eat dinner with!
It's a moot point as her family is not home. Darn, darn, darn.
K calls. Yeah! He's on his way and I will only be 15 minutes late?
Nope. JAF has still not arrived, they just called to say they will be another 30 minutes at least and could I not take the girls with me and he'll pick them up from the beer garden?
I'm dumbstruck. There are just so many things wrong with this idea- their ages? the purpose of my outing? the fun factor for me minding two kids at a beer garden? Nix that idea honey.
Out of babysitting options- well, there is the local national welfare officer. Part of her job is providing relief for families in crisis. I am pretty sure not being able to get to the beer garden is a looming crisis in my future but I am just not so sure it will translate so well when she writes up her incident report you know? So I head dejectedly across the road to neighbour Y's to say I'm going to be late and please go ahead and I will catch a lift with K when he finally gets back here.
She can't understand how you can lock your keys in the car (she has fancy auto locks on her cars and we have old fashioned insert key in lock and turn types...) after a bit of explanation she says don't be silly it wouldn't be any fun without me (ohh isn't that sweet!) and her husband offers to look after all four kids- her 9 and 5 yos and our 7 and 4 yos) including packing us all in the car to drive in to the city.
What a guy.
So now that the beer garden is back on again I have 25 minutes to get ready, get the girls ready for a stay of indeterminate length at the neighbour's place, pack their dinner and get out the door.
I get Meg in the shower, chase Amy down and rugby hold her into the house, Meg is out of the shower and is still grubby. Both girls back in the shower, Meg out, Meg dripping everywhere while continuing conversation with Amy who is holding the handheld shower facing the door. Shower off, half washed Amy out, two kids told to get their PJs on or they are going over naked, start filling tupperwares with curry and rice, make a box of cucumber sticks and cherry tomatoes, another of fruit salad, throw in some mini yoghurts for everyone and sacrifice the 6 pack of dirt cheap near beer I bought for my Dad as a thank you gift to the husband. Feeling like it is a rather rude gift- as it's literally the cheapest beer related product in the supermarket but there is literally nothing else in the house even remotely gift worthy. Decide it is still alcoholic and leave it in the basket. Meg walks in with a blood nose that is dripping all down her PJs. Tissues and instructions to get new PJs. Amy walks in wanting to know which way is the front on her long sleeved corduroy dress. Explain it is 32 degrees outside and she is going to boil. Please choose a t-shirt or some PJs. Meg has dripped blood on a second PJ shirt and wants it cleaned off now as she wants to wear them anyway. Amy is still insisting she will wear her seasonally inappropriate dress. The doorbell rings. Can random old man have the key for the lights at the baseball diamond at the top of the mountain? Geez.... Sure he can. I'll just call K and find out where on earth we keep this key I had no idea we were custodian of.
K is not answering. Either a) because he is still stranded up a mountain and is scared of my reaction (smart man) or b) because he is hurtling down the highway (very smart man)
Rummage through K's cupboard and find a whole box of keys and thrust them at random man. He looks them all over carefully chooses one and is on his way. I lock door, tell girls to ignore door bell and jump in shower.
Get out way too soon later as doorbell is ringing insistently. Grab jeans, hide round corner and ask Meg to open door as I get dressed.
She can't, she might still be bleeding and has to use both hands to hold her tissue on her nose. No she can't take it off to just check if it's stopped...
Amy runs at the chance. Unfortunately she's more butt naked than I am by this stage but fortunately it's neighbour A ten minutes early and thinking I'm late. Grrr.
Throw some clothes on, get Amy into a frilly black lacy top and red cargo pant baggy shorts- better than a bare butt- grab keys, phone, wallet, kids, food basket, sandals and key for the lights at the baseball ground that is being returned as I'm trying to lock up and am herding everyone across the road as a car pulls up and someone else comes in search of keys. This time it's the one we keep outside for ease of access and I just throw out a 'good evening' and don't even stop.
Load all eight of us in the peoplemover and we're off with the 5yo boy telling all and sundry about his mum curling her lashes and Meg asking in a very loud voice why I'm pinning my (gorgeous but made for a bigger, bustier Aussie chick) shirt to my bra. Embarrassing conversations aside we arrive in one piece and all disembark and wave goodbye to the kids before the evening finally gets underway.
After that the rest of the night was a bit of an anticlimax really. I had a great night, lots of fun and laughter and conversation but it was just so uneventful compared to the first half of the evening!