Wednesday, July 14, 2010


You may have noticed specifically in the past two blogs that I have made a few innocuous comments regarding women and their place in Japan - like the chick car comment or the men not knowing how to cook thing. It's not MY opinion... it's the way things are in Japan. Very chauvinistic. And while I do indeed play along at first so the men know I'm one of them, eventually I'm so well liked and respected in country that when I begin attempting to correct such piggish behaviour I actually get a few men to listen. 'Nuff said.

So... it's Tuesday, August 28th, 1990. I have yet to begin teaching and spend my weekdays at the OBOE (Ohtawara Board of Education) offices writing letters and studying Japanese - alphabets and conversation. I suck at both, but I'm going to give it a shot.
At 9:30AM, Hanazaki-san says to me: "C'mon Andrew. Let's go to Samurai World." What? Ah, a joke. Samurai World is his pet name for a museum.
I'm not sure why but we stop off first at the International Centre near the bicycle shop and bicycle path. Then we go to see Hashimoto-san - the owner of Hashimoto Tile Co. and the Tochigi Marble Co. His wife runs the International Centre.
At the Tile Co. we sit and look at a marble tray and ashtray and at a Chinese painting created out of marble bathroom tile. It's about six feet wide and three feet high and it looks like it weighs a ton... but it is mesmerizing.
Next we drive over to a tiny polize station (about the size of a TARDIS - exterior, of course) - it's about 50 feet to the left of the Yoichi Nasu statue (Yoichi Nasu is THE hero of Ohtawara who favoured kyudo (archery), which is why it was important for me to learn kyudo - I knew I'd never learn enough Japanese language, but I figured I should learn as much of the history and culture as possible) which is three minutes south west from my apartment. In the Tardis, I mean police station I give the lone officer there my name, address, country born ni , Toronto address and telephone number in Ohtawara and am told that should I ever find myself in trouble to make my way here.
From here we travel one street further west to the Tochigi Board of Education (Ohtawara Branch) where Jeanne Mance Blanc from Sherbrooke, Quebec works. She is an AET on the JET Programme too, and while she lives in an apartment above Ashley, we haven't spoken too much to each other. Still, I give her a big wink and am introduced to her office. While Hanazaki-san picks up the OBOE mail, Jeanne says she'll talk to me later. She was correct. It was later (much) and I do believe we did talk. We never talk. But that's okay. I'm too immature for her, I'm sure.
We then travel to Samurai World - aka Basho-no Sato Museum. I thought it was close by to Ohtawara - well, it IS in Ohtawara but it's not in the city.  I think. Just so you get an idea of how spread out Ohtawara is, we drove for 30 minutes along windy (not wind-dee, but whine-dee) roads up hills and down valleys and tree-lined roads the size of a bike path. Crossing a bridge and turning right we head up a steep hill  where the trees are all spruce and pine.
Okay, we're actually in Kurubane Village (which joined Ohtawara City on October 1, 2005). Under the bridge we passed is the Nake Gawa (Nake River), where I spy the bamboo method for catching AYU (Japanese sweetfish) by fishermen using 6-foot long poles. I'm told the bamboo is called yana.
As we walk up a small incline (40 metres) from where we parked, I see a tour bus parked on the right and the bus driver on the left three feet from the road. It's 11AM and broad daylight and he has his left hand on his hip and his right hand holding himself while he takes a leak. No shame.
Yes, I'm being judgmental - but remember - this is still my first month here. I will learn to urinate in public.
This whole area is a compound where samurai warriors ate, slept, practiced and gardened. I'm guessing because there are no samurai anymore. As we enter the facility, I get a booklet in English describing the museum. Apparently its a place to honour the great Japanese poet Basho who traveled all over Japan writing haiku (a three-lined poem where the first and third line have a total of five syllables and the second line has seven - it's economy at its best).
I like haiku and became quite proficient at it. I'm not saying they're great - just that I was proficient. I did write one a few years later that helped me get a Japanese girlfriend - but you're gonna have to wait before I reveal all of that. I'll include THAT poem later, as I'm actually quite proud of it.  
Here's a couple of examples of haiku (and titles) that I wrote when I got home from today's trip:

"wooden stick flashes
replaced by enduring pain
kendo can be fun"

Meji jidai
"Government watching
Ronin wander alleyways
Edo age over"

The Single Guy
"The green milk from hell
Looks lumpy and cancerous
but it tastes just fine"

Trying To Drink Alone
"Smoke blows in my face
Whiskey Sour ice cubes swirl
They practice English"

"Fire engines roar
Bowels begin to constrict
Wasabi is hot"

I'll continue with more of this day's adventure next time.

Somewhere time-tripping,

Andrew Joseph

Title sung by The Association - BEWARE, this song is addictive!
PS - The photo above shows a statue of Basho on horse with his poor retainer who had to walk. This photo was taken by myself six months later, as I did NOT have a camera with me today as it was all a surprise trip by Hanazaki-san. Great guy, but I wish I had my camera!

No comments:

Post a Comment

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...