One of the things I think a lot of people don’t get about government goodies is that although something doesn’t have a price, it always has a cost. You only think you’re getting it for free. This is also true of free beer.
One of the advantages of being a foreigner in Japan is that, even in this area, people will invite you to their blue tarps during Hanami and offer you a beer. If you’re lucky the only cost is 20 questions and a chance to practice your Japanese while they practice their English. Then, if you’re smart, you run to a beer machine or a convenience store and replace the beer you just drank after a short “oh, you didn’t have to do that” ritual.
If you’re not lucky, or an introvert not good at making long term conversation in another language and/or not good at making graceful exits, you may pay a higher cost when you end up trapped. On two occasions, I’ve been trapped. Both actually happened in the same day.
First, when I was still in Nou-machi, the town festival (more on that in another post) fell on a Saturday which meant a lot of people were suddenly able to attend. As soon as I arrived, I ran into my former boss who had secured a prime location. He immediately ordered me to sit down and drink. I stayed a while and every time I was about to try to leave I was handed another beer. Eventually, other friends arrived from other towns and I was able to exit.
(For the record: I probably out-stayed my welcome by quite a long time but I’ve never been good at reading “your time is up, get the hell out” signals in any language.)
After that I pointed my friends in the right direction for beer and refreshments and then got ordered to sit by a group of people I knew. They also started handing me beer. I ended up stuck there for a while until I managed to escape.
Keep in mind, part of the reason I liked attending the festival was it gave me a chance to play with camera gear and take lots of pictures. Being trapped, even with free beer means I’m stuck in one location and can’t just break out a tripod and camera when I’m supposed to be being sociable. It also means I can’t enjoy the food you have to pay for. Most of the free beer entrapments provide free snacks, but I’d rather head to the food stands.
The stuff there has a price but little cost.