Toast Of The Town

I think because I write in such a public forum, people assume that I am a good public speaker. I do all right, I guess, but truth be told, I’m kind of a shy, quiet type of guy. My wife is probably somewhere rolling her eyes as I write this, but I am seriously uncomfortable when having to speak in front of a group of people.

I have the same fear that most people do, and that is I don’t want to sound stupid. I admit even in a normal conversation I may sound stupid, but the feeling is compounded a thousand times when standing in front of an audience greater than two people. The worst is to lose your train of thought and your mind goes blank — like those pageant contestants, only I’m ugly.

So the other week when a friend asked if I would do one of the “Banzai” toasts for her wedding reception, I was honored but hesitant.

In case you don’t know, the Banzai toast is a local tradition. The first toast is made by a representative of the guests to the bride and groom. The second toast is by a family representative of the bride and groom and made to thank the guests. The gist of both toasts is to hail “Banzai!” three times and then hoist a drink in celebration. Banzai represents 10,000 years (not to be confused with bonsai) and is a long-life wish of happiness for the bride and groom. You also have to make sure everyone has a glass of some kind of beverage — after all, this is to celebrate one of the happiest of life’s occasions. And the “Banzais” must be shouted out robustly and with feeling. The drink usually helps.

I was asked to do the first toast. There is a Japanese phrase that proceeds the “Banzai,” so I researched it online to make sure I got it right. I also consulted experienced friends of my parents, as you can’t always believe what you read online.

Once I secured the phrase, I practiced it at home nearly every waking moment, all the way up to the day of the reception. On my final practice run, I called my wife to watch. I performed it perfectly and looked to her for a comment of praise. She said, “Ron, I’ve been watching you practice these past weeks. You do know that you don’t need to have an alcoholic drink every time you do it, right?”