I lived in Ohtawara-shi, Tochigi-ken Japan between 1990-1993.
My clothes—even if they were still in style (they aren’t)—don’t fit me thanks to me bulking up a bit by adding 12 inches (30 centimeters) to my chest a few years after I returned to Toronto, to the ensuing non-fitness I achieved almost immediately after becoming super fit…. thanks to finding a girlfriend, and then subsequent marriage.
She fattened me up with her excellent cooking so no woman would ever find me attractive again, and I glutton that I am, fell into that trap.
My hair? I cut that long stuff off 11 years ago to get the current magazine writing gig I have during the day. I should note that at that time I had developed a very long streak of grey going right down the middle rear of my hair… and with the length I had, I looked like Pepe LePew.
I miss the hair, grey and all, as I have recently discovered that my hair is thinning back there. Aaaaarggh. I have long admitted that the one vanity I have is my hair.
Aside from the souvenirs from Japan, of which I have plenty, the last two vestiges of my time in Japan were my Seiko watch and my backpack.
The Seiko watch was something I bought from my winnings after slot machine gambling at the Cable Beach casino in the Bahamas. I took it with me to Japan.
I had cracked the watch face - perhaps during one of my two bicycle spills after being hit by cars in the Ohtawara area… and thanks to the stupid humidity that Japan has (or maybe it was just Ohtawara?), my watch face would be all fogged up in the evening, with water vapor lasting all through the night.
To remove it, I used to microwave it.
Now… I was very much aware then, and now, that metal in a microwave is a recipe for disaster, but during my time in Japan I freely admit that nothing was too stupid to try, and did indeed nuke the watch for 10 seconds or so… watching for the microwave and watch to spark electrical spikes… to shut it off quickly to avoid what I can only assume would be an explosion.
I did this every day for a few weeks until I thought better of my actions and went and got a new watch face. Maybe it’s because it was me—the friendly neighborhood gaijin—but the new watch face only cost me ¥250 (US $2.50).
Anyhow… I was wearing this watch every single day right up until last February when the battery died… and for whatever reason I was too lazy or forgetful to go out and get a new watch batter until about one month ago, at which time I was told they couldn’t open it up, because it had seized.
It was 32 years-old… I think… maybe older.
As for the second item… that’s my backpack… one I purchased during my second year of university - also 32 years ago… I took me through university, college, Japan and then… pretty much nothing until I decided to use it for work last year.
In Japan, I wore it every time I rode my bicycle, which was every day—but only for the first year in 1990. Then it got humid, and I would end up with sweat stains on the back of my shirt much wetter and much larger than they would have been if I didn’t have the backpack on.
That doesn’t man I stopped using it—rather, I would fill it with necessities and simply stuff it into the basket on my 18-speed bicycle. Yeah… a basket. It sounds stupid, but male machismo aside, it was very practical.
When I arrived home, I didn’t use my backpack at all for maybe 20 years.
It had already started to fall apart in my basement - I think less from use, and more from the age of the fabric… but it slowly splintered apart, causing me to finally go out and by a new backpack.
It’s a kid’s backpack… I just need it to carry my lunch and meds (holy crap, I’m getting old), as it’s obvious I’m not going on any other epic journey except to the great unknown.
Thing is… I hate giving up.
I might see if I can find a real watchmaker who can at least open up the back of my watch to change the batter. I’ll keep you informed at some later date and time.
The backpack? That has indeed seen better days.
Watch, backpack and long hair… Kanpai!