Sunday, August 14, 2011

Tank! Cowboy Bebop

Today's the day I have to give a speech to the people of Ohtawara. It just keeps getting bigger and bigger.

At first, I thought I only had to give a speech to the Ohtawara International Friendship Association. Then I thought it was them plus or just the Ohtawara Board of Education (OBOE)... and now I find out it's for the people of Ohtawara. They are apparently interested in the views of foreigners of Japan.

I should just let them read a couple of my Japan - It's A Wonderful Rife columns I put into the JET (Japan Exchange & Teaching) Programme Tochigi-ken (Tochigi Prefecture) newsletter I'm in charge of putting out (The Tatami Times)... but I'm afraid they won't understand my humour... that I am too cynical.

It's Friday, October 4, 1991 and I am an assistant English teacher who visits one of seven schools each week to 'team-teach' the junior high school students there. It's an easy job, to be perfectly frank... or am I being earnest? No, wait... I'm just usually simple old complex An-do-ryu sensei who enjoys telling people all about how different are two countries are (I'm from Toronto, Canada), while at the same time showing them just how similar we are.

I think that throws the Japanese people a little bit, as they are fiercely proud of their individuality. Sorry Japan. There may be a lot of things that are wildly different from Canadian or US or Australian or English or take your pick of a country culture... but while I like to note the differences, there are so many similarities that I often forget I'm in a so-called foreign (gaijin) country.

Really. I suppose I have acclimatized well enough even though I can't speak, read or write the language.

Still... do I be insulting, or boring by praising everything... should I talk about everything, or just one thing?

While I enjoy taking the mickey out of everything... I might as well use this forum as an opportunity to make a difference, without being nasty.

My topic of choice was the Japanese choice of not wearing seatbelts in the cars. I use an old story about a friend of mine dying in a car crash who would have lived if he had been wearing a seatbelt.

I give the speech in English, with a Japanese translation done by Tokunori Suzuki, a local farmer who is the leader of the Ohtawara International Friendship Association.

It goes over well, I think, as I shock enough people, judging by their comments to me afterward. I chat with a lot of people - all of them speak decent English. A Mrs. Ito who lives in Yaita-shi (Yaita City) to the south says she wants me to meet her daughter, a 21-year-old studying at the university in Tochigi's capital city of Utsunomiya. Hah! I wish!

Hey! I wonder if she knows Junko - my sexually crazy stalker babe who dropped out of that university to follow me. We had great chemistry in the bedroom - and probably had great chemistry everywhere else if we had left the bedroom, but I sure as hell don't want anyone giving up their schooling for me. I might be an idiot, but I'm not an uncaring ass.

I go home, and then with Matthew and some other gaijin (foreigners) and nihonjin (Japanese), we head to the local watering hole, the 4C. There are many, many other bars within staggering distance of my apartment in downtown Ohtawara, but this is our chosen base of operations.

I have seven beers - Kirin Lager beer, a very tasty Japanese brand) - within the space of 90 minutes, but only have to pay for four of them, as people kept offering me drinks. Whatever. You only live once, right? I hope.

I head home at 2AM. I think Matthew left at the same time. We have to get up early to do some international dancing tomorrow in Utsunomiya. Hey... maybe Junko will be there!

Somewere hammered,

Andrew Joseph

Today's blog is by: The Seatbelts! Yeah man! The Seatbelts (シートベルツ are actually a Japanese funky jazz/blues group known as Shītoberutsu (which is how the Japanese might say 'seatbelt' via katakana English). They are led by composer and instrumentalist Yoko Kanno. Listen: COWBOYBEBOP. Here's more on the GROUP.

PS: As of June 2008, all backseat passengers in Japan have to wear seatbelts in all cars. Even in 1990-1993, while I was there, all frontseated passengers were required by law to wear a seatbelt.

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