Monday, July 12, 2010

School's Out

It's Wednesday, August 22, 1990. I wake up get dressed and leave a flower on the pillow for the still sleeping Ashley.
As I'm about to leave, the phone rings. It's the weird Japanese woman who keeps phoning me to say "Good morning." It wakes up Ashley, makes me late and ticks me off a bit.
I've left Ashley a new toothbrush and a towel and since she's awake to let herself out when she's ready. At the OBOE I try to call her at 11:30AM, but the phone's busy, so I guess she's calling someone - probably home. It's expensive to call the US and Canada - I never asked for any money, and never rec'd any... but I'd never begrudge anyone wanting to do so from my place. Girlfriend, right? Don't want to screw things up.
Hanazaki-san tells me we'll be visiting three schools today: Ohtawara Chu Gakko (Ohtawara Junior High School) is the closest maybe two kilometres to the west and the biggest in the city; Nozaki Chu Gakko, an old school that's out to the western edge of the city; and Wakakusa Chu Gakko, a new-looking school that is slightly south and east of my residence.
Mr. Mimori is the principal at Ohtawara (aka Dai Chu). He's a nice man, always smiling. He has a flat face, yellow teeth, gold rim glasses and slicked back hair streaked with grey. He's very short at 5'-3". Innoue-sensei, a 40-ish, well-dressed and very funny English teacher takes me out to the nearby soccer field in his wife's car - a Suzuki Alto. It's not white! Designed for the women of Japan, this tiny vehicle is only available in a host of pastel colours (this one is a RED), and while Innoue-sensei apologizes for us being in a "woman's car" (aka he meant it was a 'chick' car), I laugh to myself thinking that while the colour is fantastic, it is indeed embarrassingly small.
As we sit in the car watching the players, many of them turn around smile, wave and bow at us. Some even shout a "hello" to us. Awesome! According to Innoue-sensei, all of the fields used by the schools belong to the City, and each school is given permission to use it without any monies exchanging hands.
Hanzaki-san and I then travel to Nozaki (which for reasons to be explained much later) is one of my favourite schools). While there aren't a lot of students, they are super nice. Mr. Shibata - the father of the young, cool English teacher at Dai Chu - is the principal at this school. At No Chu (its nickname), we sit in Shibata's office and sip orange juice. I listen to Hanzaki and Shibata chat away in Japanese. While I am occasionally allowed in to answer a simple question or two, it's refreshing to not have to be the centre of attention.
We check out a kendo class (I'm assuming it's a gym class), and am invited to participate. Kendo is Japanese fencing - a way for the old samurai warrior class to keep in practice using a bamboo stick.
The students are smashing each other with the kendo stick - all over the head, the upper arms and body - it looks like fun, especially if you are into S & M.
I do try to whack the kendo sensei a few times (he's in full protective gear while I'm in a suit) and I can see the allure. I promise to check it out again when I visit the school for real in a few weeks.
We then drive to Wakakusa (Waka Chu). The principal, Mr. Usui was just on his way out, but drives back to chat with us. This is Tomura-sensei-'s school. He's the Christian fellow who acted as my translator a few days earlier. He shows me around - specifically they school's baseball team (boy's play baseball and girl's play softball) who just won the prefecture (provincial) pennant for the first time.
Oh crap - I might have to play baseball with these kids, but if do play with these awesome guys, despite being able to hit anything near the plate, I am going to be embarrassed.
Hanazaki-san tells me I will have to ride my bicycle to Dai Chu and Waka Chu, but Tomoura-sensei says no, he doesn't mind driving me. Have I mentioned before that Tomoura-sensei is heck of a nice guy?
We get back to the OBOE in time for lunch (which is when I called Ashley)... and after slowly getting the hang of using hashi (chopsticks) we head to an auditorium in our building to watch Dai Chu and Waka Chu put on a music and singing performance.
Let me tell ya - these kids all sang beautifully. The musicians? They would put many a Canadian high school to shame. The girls who played the piano - let's just say I feel embarrassed now to tell anyone I can play the piano - let alone teach it. Their skill pretty much killed in me the desire to ever want to call myself a piano player ever again.
At 5PM I head home - Ashley arrives at 5:15PM (so she did leave), and just as we're enjoying our hello, Kanemaru-san arrives to take the two of us to our kyudo lesson. Little did I know, but this was the first Wednesday for the next three years where I'd go for an archery lesson.
Takeo Sano, the teacher at the Ohtawara Kyudo School gives Ashley and myself a special glove to aid us in pulling the bowstring, while she also gets a chest protector, for obvious reasons.
I'm a quick learner with kyudo, as I'm able to slow my breathing down when I'm ready to release... they try to give me a bow with a lighter pull - but for some stupid reason (machismo), I decline.
After being dropped at my place, Ashley and I head to the PizzaPie near the Mosburger fastfood restaurant. We each order a pizza and Coke. I order the pepperoni and cheese, while she orders a shrimp pizza. She doesn't care for that, so she eats mine while I eat hers. The shrimp pizza is horrible--maybe it's because Ohtawara isn't near an ocean or a sea. Both pizzas came with what looked like half a can of corn dumped unceremoniously in the middle of the pie. Why corn? Who knows. It's a Japanese thing, I guess.
She spends the night again, and I'm wondering how this life can get any better.

Somewhere just realizing that Japan has school in August!
Andrew Joseph
Today's title is by Alice Cooper - KACHINA (that's the name of his first snake).
PS - My friend Rob asked me recently if I ever had a good time with Ashley because every time I write about women I seem to be looking for a way out of our relationship. I do try and play things up a bit in this blog - so I figured let's set the record straight. I was indeed in love with Ashley - but she always seemed confused in our relationship, which led to arguments often, which had me all over the place in my moods. I was immature, and I suppose she was too - or maybe she wasn't and knew early on that our relationship was doomed and tried to soften the blow. Whatever the reason, you should know that at the beginning, our relationship was great. Twenty years later, I wish her nothing but the best and a big thank-you for helping alleviate my loneliness and/or homesickness.
See... told you I'd grown up. A bit. Now if I can just convince my wife of that.
PPS - The photo at the top is of a kendo mask left to air out on a tree stump. I suppose the entire blog is about masks and covering up one's weaknesses. I didn't mean to write it that way, but when I write things have a habit of finding a link all on its own.
PPPS - So... I did 128 blogs in a year's time. Just over one every three days. I need to learn how to write less more often, rather than more all the time.

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