Danielle Ausems went to her first FIFO party with the simple goal of making new friends and maybe finding a new private student or two. Having enjoyed herself, she went a second time but arrived too early and was mistaken for an event hostess by the previous organizer. Since she had worked with similar events through high school and college, she decided to forget the misunderstanding and lend a hand.
“The person in charge was impressed that I worked hard that night, especially when he figured out that I originally wasn’t hired to be a hostess at all,” Ausems said in an e-mail interview. After that night, she was put in touch with the event’s manager, and in her words, “the rest is history.”
FIFO stands for “Furtherment of International Friendship Organization.” It all began in Fukuoka in 2010, but today there is an Osaka chapter as well as the nearly 1-year-old Sapporo chapter. “It started as a fun and high quality place to meet and mingle with new people from many different cultures,” said Ausems, who has become the organization’s Sapporo manager.
The primary purpose of the event is to encourage international friendships. “Everything from finding a new drinking buddy to people interested in teaching private lessons happens here,” Ausems said. Ausems also hopes to make the event a place to showcase local entertainers and artists.
The Sapporo FIFO party now takes place at SUP Bar in Susukino, a location they decided on after some trial and error with other venues that were either too large or too small. A question-and-answer style bingo game encourages early interaction, and people tend to loosen up as the night rolls on. At the February event, a magician offered entertainment. The event does cost some cash, coming in at ¥3000 at the door or ¥2500 with advance registration online (the cost includes two drink tickets).
Ausems, 25, has lived in Japan since August 2011, following some past experience studying abroad in Japan and studying Japanese at her university in the United States. She works a day job as an assistant language teacher at a junior high school, teaches private lessons in the evenings, and finds time to do all the planning for each party on weekends.
More work goes into it than you might imagine. “I select the staff, create new questions for the games we do, buy prizes, promote the party, make arrangements with any special extra entertainment we host, handle the financial paperwork, and a dozen other smaller tasks,” Ausems said. One such task? Sharpening pencils for the question and answer game. “Things like sharpening pencils can seem really small, but can affect the overall quality of the night in surprising ways,” Ausems said.
Overall, Ausems just wants people to have a good time. “People always have a great time and at each party you can witness new friendships taking root,” she said. “I’m told that a few people even ended up finding a date.”
The next FIFO party takes place on Saturday, March 23, from 7-10 p.m. at SUP Bar. For details, follow this link to the organization’s official website.