Forgive me if there is a somewhat fuzzy quality to my writing today, but I have just spent a most agreeable morning and early afternoon attending a sake festival. It was lovely. We sat outside, in the shadow of Mount Fuji, drinking various kinds of sake, as kobushi trees, plum blossoms, yellow rape flowers and a few early cherry blossoms added splashes of color to the surroundings. This would be enjoyable enough, but the bonus came with the fact that it was free. Completely free. You could choose to buy beer, or food, or souvenir bottles of sake, but there was certainly no obligation to. There was no entrance fee either, and yet you could drink as much free sake as you desired. What more can you want of a Sunday afternoon?
At a guess, I would say there were a couple of thousand attendees. It was packed. And yet – and this to me is the truly wonderful thing – not one of those people appeared to be an on-duty police officer. Here we had thousands of people getting quite thoroughly pissed in close proximity for free and police were not deemed necessary. That is fantastic. In the next month or so, similar scenes will occur throughout the land as people celebrate the arrival of the cherry blossoms in the traditional manner of getting drunk in the open air. And again, the police will not generally be required.
The worst harassment I received today was from the odd middle-aged man who, with flushed face and unsteady stance, dispensed with the formalities of introduction and demanded to know where I was from. But nobody wanted to fight me. Nobody asked what I was looking at or if I spilled their pint. And I wondered why I couldn’t imagine these scenes to unfold in my home country. The idea of thousands of people engaging in a money-free day of public drunkenness in the UK without the need for a police presence is almost unthinkable. Perhaps I am being pessimistic, but I can’t help but feel that vomit and punches would be a mandatory accompaniment.
I curse this country on occasion, but often they get it right.