IT IS 6pm on Saturday and it's Japan Hour meets Under One Roof in a spacious flat in this Lakeside private apartment.
J-pop blares from an iMac in the living room as people chatter in a mix of Japanese and Singlish in the kitchen.
Petite Tomoko Furuya, 37, puts prawns on skewers while listening to assistant sales manager Masaru Kashihara, 32, who gossips and jokes in Japanese.
When Alan Then, a visibly hungover Singaporean friend walks in, Kashihara cries in a disconcertingly strong local accent: 'Wah lao eh, finally here!'
The friendly group of about five Singaporeans and four Japanese expatriates are a mix of yuppies in their late 20s or 30s and a young Japanese couple with a toddler.
The friends are preparing a barbecue feast to be held in the void deck. They gather once a week for a meal and drinks, though not necessarily at Furuya's flat.
In the 1,500 sq ft flat, aiyohs, lahs and alamaks pepper the comfortable chatter in Japanese.
When asked about possible communication problems, Kashihara says: 'When I talk to everybody, I use English. When it's just to Japanese people, it's Japanese time.'
Jocular Kashihara moved here five years ago following three years of university in the United States.
He spent his teens in Malaysia, where his family has an electronics trading business. But now he has a Singaporean accent so authentic that people mistake him for a Singaporean who happens to speak fluent Japanese.
Most of his friends are Singaporean. He says: 'For me, staying overseas is no problem. I can adapt to each culture.'
At 7.30pm, the group moves to the barbecue pit, where the cooking and the makan session begin.
Furuya wields her tongs expertly over a multicultural feast.
Roasting over the coals are triangular rice balls seasoned with shoyu (Japanese soy sauce), which sit next to tin foil-wrapped sambal stingray. On the table are chicken wings, corn cobs, and inari (sushi in beancurd skin) and morokyu - cucumber sticks with a homemade bean paste dip.
In the ice box is Tiger Beer and ice cubes for Martell Cordon Bleu and shochu (Japanese wine).
Later, the gathering enjoys some singalongs, mainly to Japanese and Chinese songs playing from a mobile phone.
Kashihara, a karaoke fan, notes that his bi-cultural group is not typical. Most Japanese people here, he says, prefer to socialise with their own community.
'But sooner or later, the Japanese have to go back to Japan and mix with other Japanese. So why come to Singapore to do that?' he points out.
While he gets along well with most Japanese expats here, he notes: 'Some of the old Japanese uncles don't want to try other cultures and mix around. I don't really know why. Maybe they're just proud.'
But there's no such tension in this group, brought together by Kashihara's outgoing, larger-than-life personality.
As for Furuya, the outspoken woman with an infectious laugh misses little about Japan but its hot baths, which she tried to recreate in Singapore without success. Hot baths are a staple of the Japanese lifestyle.
She tells stories of Japanese friends here despairing of finding a heater that could heat large amounts of water to the right temperature, which is as high as 43 deg C.
Born in Yokohama, she moved to Singapore 12 years ago with a Japanese boyfriend who was posted here, but who eventually left for London without her.
She now works in a Japanese manufacturing firm and stayed on in Singapore because she appreciated the greater freedom here.
'No one asks me why I'm not married at 37,' she laughs. She became a Singapore permanent resident in 2005 and will stay here until her renewed work contract expires in three years. Her plans are uncertain.
She misses Singapore when she visits Japan, saying in a Singaporean accent: 'I can't take the winters there. I'm so used to the weather here and the independence. When I come back here, I feel like I've come home.'
Singaporean contractor Chong Ee Ping, 30, says there is no cultural gap in the group: 'Everyone's very easy-going.'
Other than the weekend gatherings, he also hangs out with the Japanese lads during fishing trips to Malaysia and Thailand.
By 11.30pm, the party moves upstairs. A new bottle of tequila is opened. They toast a great dinner: 'Until the next time.'
And the next.
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