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Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Eat It

After the physically tiring and liver-sapping day of yesterday at the Sakuyama Obon Matsuri (Sakuyama festival of the dead), I figured I owed myself a relaxing day off.

It's Wednesday, August 28, 1991 and I'm here in Ohtawara-shi, Tochigi-ken, Japan. My mom, Lynda, has flown in from Toronto to visit me, as I am currently in my 13th month of living, loving, screwing, drinking and simply enjoying myself here in Japan. I arrived here an incompetent virgin and along with hitting double digits and simultaneous double female partners, I have learned how to cook, clean, shop, do laundry and iron. I even was taught by a Home Economics teacher at Ohtawara Chu Gakko (one of the seven junior high schools I teach at) how to sew. I'm only so-so at that, however. Sorry for that crappy joke. I usually do better.

So... even though I am on vacation still, I get up early and drag my mom  into work at the Ohtawara Board of Education (which I have dubbed the OBOE... I have no idea why I only did that back in 2009, and not back in 1990-1993!).

I take the Superintendent a large bottle of Canadian whiskey as a present - to thank him for allowing me the honour of working for him these past 13 months, and for another 11 future months, as well as to thank him for looking after my general well-being. To be honest, he had nothing to do with that, though he may have appointed the two men —Kanemaru-san and Hanazaki-san—that job... but, that's Japan. The boss gets the glory and the booze. Not to worry... I'll take in something for those guys later - when I don't have to embarrass the rest of the office when I don't provide presents for everyone.

I really wish I could... but I'm not a rich man—only in the things that count, and I'm pretty pissed off about that—I can only afford a few presents for those that really looked after me... though, to a person, each one in that office played a major role in my survival this past year.
As expected (okay, I didn't really expect it), but the whole OBOE goes ga-ga over my mom!

As a special treat (and thanks for the booze), my mom, Hanazaki-san (who speaks much more English than Kanemaru-san) and I are chauffeured around in the Superintendent's air-conditioned limousine. The Superintendent joins us, as we first visit his family home that actually belongs to his older brother now.

Located in Yuzukami-mura (Yuzukami Village), the place is over 200-years-old, is larger than any home I have ever been in here except a castle, is made of solid spruce wood and looks like it was built last week.

His sister-in-law serves us kuri (cucumber) and nasu (egg plant) salted overnight in a brine. It's fantastic, and I can't believe how much I eat considering neither vegetable is amongst my favourites. It's just that tasty!

We next head over to the Tengu Jinja  (Tengu Shrine)... I have no idea where I am... but Tengu is a large-nosed spirit  who can be better described by seeing rather than me writing about it... click on Tengu above for a lookie-loo. Unfortunately the shrine is closed up for repairs, but we can still see through a window.

We then drive out to the small town of Bato! Great! This is the third place I've never been to today - and guess who doesn't have his camera? Yup. Me.

At Bato, to thank him for his even greater generosity, I buy the Superintendent a lovely piece of Bato pottery - a vase. He was going to buy it himself, but I snatched it from his hands and paid for it myself. He seemed completely shocked, but I think he loved the fact that anyone would dare do something so strange and generous.

I don't know if that's what he was thinking, but the strange grin on his face showed ME that I was probably the first person in this country to ever do something like that to and for a boss. I think he originally thought I was going to buy it for myself and wanted it badly enough to rip it from his hands! Fooled you!

In retaliation, he buys my mother a pair of "His & Hers" coffee cups and saucers. I still have those cups - no photo though, as my wife took the camera with her to the cottage just this morning... me? I have to work!) My mom buys herself a large plate to put into her collection back in Toronto.

Next we head over to Ungonji Komekami (Unganji Temple) in Kurobane-machi (Kurobane Town - where Kanemaru-san happens to live). I have been here before, but nestled up against the Nasu mountain range's Higashi Yama (Eastern Mountain), I finally have perfect picture taking weather. mom as is her fashion in Japan, runs out of film... again.

At around 1PM, we stop off at Naka Gawa (Middle River) for an ayu (Japanese sweetfish) and to see the yana (bamboo ramp used to catch the fish).

They drop us off at home at 2PM, but I head out to go shopping while my mom relaxes a bit. My mom is making a tuna casserole.

She had me invite Matthew and Ashley over for dinner, curious to see why I was hung up on this girl. However, since I have kyudo (Japanese archery) tonight, the dinner is at 5PM.

Today I do go to kyudo with Kanemaru-san (my sensei/tecaher). Ashley who does archery with me decides not to go because she is sleepy. If there is one thing that really bothers me about Ashley, it's her inability to stay awake.

She was quiet during dinner, and acted like she didn't want to be there... but she and Matthew are my two best friends here in Japan, and I really wanted them to meet my mom. Screw Ashley - my ex-girlfriend and perhaps still friend-with-benefits... at least Matthew was the life of the party. I couldn't even look at her during dinner.

At kyudo, I hit one target out of four - alright! It's my first successful hit from the proper distance, and my form is perfect! because of that, they make me sign up for a kyudo tournament on September 8. Aaaaarrrggghhh! I have no idea how to say no, I'm a stinking coward in Japanese!

On the plus side, with my hair in a pony-tail, I feel like Robin Hood... if he had a ponytail and was a real person.

However... during archery, my stomach begins to churn and hurt. Everyone thinks its that Thailand dysentery problem I just got over. Me? I think it's either my mom's cooking or nerves hitting about the tournament.

As such, I need to leave early. Kanemaru-san who drove me there says it's okay to leave, and then sits around talking for a while. All I know is that the gurgling in my stomach is a forerunner to my gut exploding all over a toilet... and I've not seen one at the kyudo club!  Someone's going to be sorry!

When he finally does deign to take me home, I rush up to my apartment and barely make it up to my third-floor apartment. Kanemaru-san follows close behind and waits to see if I am alright.

My mom gives him some take-home tuna casserole. I told you someone was going to be sorry.

Matthew was still there when I got home, though Ashley was long gone. My mom was showing him some of my baby pictures.

I survive.

Somewhere wondering why my mom has my baby pictures with her on a trip to Japan,  
Andrew Joseph
Today's blog title is by Weird Al Yankovic. BURP
PS: No offense to Ashley in 2011, but my mom did not like her that much. It's probably because she wasn't as effervescent as Karen - the woman who wants to be my girlfriend, and who started sewing stuff for my apartment with my mom. I think Ashley had her baggage, but it still wasn't as heavy as Karen's. I think Ashley was just more shy, and I really did nothing to nurture her breaking out of that - expect to hope that my new-found brashness would rub off on her. I always figured that since I am the life of the party nowadays, that if she hung out with me she would be part of that party life, too. She may not have cared for that. I thought I did, because I had never been popular before thanks to a killer shyness. Regardless, Ashley preferred her own friends, most all of whom I found bitchy and bossy. She could be with her stand-offish crowd, and I could stand with my non-stand-offish crowd. At this time, I am unsure if I need to be with her or not. Same with Karen. Maybe I need someone new. Maybe I need to just freaking relax. I can't do anything with my mom around anyway... and besides... I haven't heard from Karen in a while... I wonder if she is expecting me to call her.  I don't. 
PPS: Okay... I just listened to the words to this parody song Eat It (イート・イット... this reads: ee-to it-to) (it's a parody of Beat It by Michael Jackson)... it mentions starving children in Japan!; and it mentions tuna casserole! Trust me! I had no idea those words were in this song, as I haven't listened to it in maybe 25 years! I love it when a plan comes together!

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