One of my friends in Japan was a dude named Kevin Blackburn, who was part of the JET (Japan Exchange & Teaching) Programme as a CIR (Coordinator for International Relations).
Kevin looked like a brainy nerd with his short curly brown hair and glasses with a thin frame, but dammit, appearances were indeed deceiving with Kevin.
Maybe he was a nerd. Hell. I’m a nerd, despite my love of sports and sudden (as of Japan) ability to talk to women… but Kevin… as a CIR he had a very high Japanese-language ability… speaking, writing and reading.
In the photo above singing Country Roads karaoke, from left are: Kevin, myself, Jeff Seaman, Matthew Hall, and Tim Mould. In my defense, while I have great legs, I had never sung karaoke before. For a reason. I am pretty sure we were all advocates of singing after drinking a lot of beer. I am also sure I—as a suburban punk—had only ever heard Country Roads once before in my life when my bosses at the board of education began singing it one night at an after-party office party.
Kevin: he was also very charming, polite, intelligent, witty and extremely funny. He would not shy away from having a beer with you… in short, I don’t have a problem on saying (ego aside) that he was a lot like me, except he was better at all things Japanese.
Or was he?
Kevin lived in Tochigi-ken, like myself… and while I was in a small city called Ohtawara-shi (Big Rice-field Field City) that had everyone joke about how do inaka (rural) the place must be, Kevin lived in Batō (馬頭町, Batō-machi).
While Batō had some 13,195 people there as of 2003, by 2005, it merged (with to create the town of Nakagawa, but I assume that the Batō district still exists within that area. While Kevin was there, Batō had just begun a sister-city relationship with Horseheads, New York, U.S. - perhaps because Batō could be translated to mean “horsehead”. Not to worry, Nakagawa still keeps up appearances with its sister city.
Nakagawa as an entity, as of 2015, is hardly much larger than Batō was 10 years previous, with a town population of 16,956, that I suspect will decrease or dwindle as its population ages, with the youth moving away for work.
From what I recall, Batō back in 1990 wasn’t really a town… or even a village… I recall (still) Kevin calling it a ‘hamlet’. He also said there was very, very little of significance in Batō… though I may be incorrectly putting words in his mouth 26-years later. I had thought there was some sort of pottery scene there, but a perusal of the Internet turns up nothing there.
Anyhow… Kevin. Being a friend and friendly, Kevin sent me some humorous stories about himself and his situation in Batō for inclusion in the Tochigi-ken AJET newsletter (The Tatami Times), edited by yours truly.
Kevin’s work is entitled: The Lighter Side.
Here’s one of them from the September 1991:
Murphy’s Law # 43J says:
If Kevin hangs his laundry out to dry, it will rain.
At first, I was discouraged by this discovery.
Now I’ve applied the scientific method to the problem, and through experimentation have found a foolproof way to change the weather in Batō.
If Batō’s gone too long without rain, I can generally end the drought by hanging out a full load of laundry.
A couple of pairs of underwear (my own, mind you!) and a pillowcase guarantee a light sprinkle.
One pair apparently does nothing (although the high school girls walking by stop and giggle).
If I put my futon (Japanese bedding) on the veranda to air out, a thunderstorm is guaranteed, and generally starts when I am in a meeting I can’t sneak out of.
Short and to the point.
In Japan, I was known as the Ame Otoko (rain man). Yeah, it sure seemed to rain a heck of a lot in the Ohtawara/northern Tochigi-ken area, but even when I traveled to… hells, anywhere, you could be sure that I would bring along the rain clouds to make sure I destroyed everyone’s chance at a good day.
For three years in Japan, I have so very few photographs that depict a blue sky. There’s always a grey cloud somewhere, and truthfully, those blue skies would clear up and the usual grey, rain clouds would roll in after me.
I’m the King of Japan - and when I reign, it pours!
Kevin, in his neat little write-up, seems to have forgotten a major contributor to his scientific theory: he forgot to include the proximity of the Ame Otoko!
Or, perhaps Kevin had a little bit of the Japanese rain god inside him as well!
Maybe it’s a good thing we didn’t get together all that often. We would have swamped our local area in rainwater.
I have one more Kevin story for tomorrow.