Who: Andrew Joseph
What: Assistant English teacher on the JET (Japan Exchange & Teaching) Programme
Where: Ohtawara City, Tochigi Prefecture, Japan
When: December 10, 199
Why: Because we like you.
I'm going to do something stupid today:
I'm at Ohtawara Junior High School this week.
I'm impressed with myself that I can, if I want to, walk up to anyone here in this school or this city, and just talk to them. It may be broken Japanese or broken English, but pretty much anyone can understand just what it is I am saying, even if they are unable to be understood by myself - but I'm trying! Words, gestures, a dictionary if we are desperate.
People are able to communicate! It's bloody amazing what happens when one tries. I'm finally trying!
I only have one class today, as a second class in period 4 is canceled. Again, classes are short, and no one is telling me why. It's okay... sometimes it's best not to know everything even though that goes against every fiber in my being. As such, I get to leave early, though the Japanese teachers are still there until 5PM or 6PM or later depending if they are married and simply don't wish to be home around their nagging wife.
At 1:30PM, I leave school and go find a place to get my house key cut - surprisingly, for a guy with limited Japanese language skills and an innate ability to get lost simply by exiting his apartment, I had no problem in finding a small shop. The large key handing outside the shop was a good clue, I suppose. And communicating my needs to the ancient store owner whose shop doubled as the front living room of his place - well, it was a key shop. I smiled, bowed, received a bow in return, smiled and said onagai shimasu ('please go ahead' or 'please do this for me') handed him the key and waited three minutes as he searched for the right base key and then two minutes to make the key.
When he held up two fingers, I figured he meant ¥200 (~US/Cdn $2.50) and not ¥2,000 (~US/Cdn $25), but handed him a ¥1,000 yen bill, and then pretended to muck about my wallet - just in case I was wrong about the amount.
When he didn't wait for more money and began rummaging about for change, I knew it really was ¥200 and quickly said: "chotto matte, kudasai (Just a moment, please)" and dug out a couple of one hundred yen coins.
More reckless bowing ensued where we cracked our heads against each other - we stood, looked at each other and burst out laughing while rubbing our noggin's.
Calling loudly to his wife she came racing out with a large bottle of Asahi Super Dry beer and two small glasses, and the two of us (wife went back into the kitchen to dig up some snacks!) then had a jolly time drinking and talking in my broken Japlish and his Japanese.
By the time we were done an hour and three beers and a couple of Japanese apples later, I bowed, put my arm around him and gave him a tipsy hug - which was returned - and left.
I love the hospitality of the simple Japanese business folk doing business in small-town Japan. Yeah, he sale - probably his first of the day, made ¥200 and then spend ¥1,000 (~US/Cdn $12.50)feeding and drinking with me. That's a loss of ¥800 (~US/Cdn $10) - hardly a king's ransom, but maybe it was a lot of money to them.
Despite me being aware of the generosity right away, I've been here long enough to know you don't just give someone extra money to cover the expenses (unless you are out with good friends!). No TIPS (To Insure Prompt Service), either.
While I hope I did not eat them out of house and home, Japanese pride is fierce! No one would ever know if they were hungry. They suffer in silence.
But I don't think these two were suffering or going to suffer - except from a mild hangover headache - the man was maybe 90 years old and was maybe 5-feet tall and 100 pounds.
I don't know his name, and I never saw him again, but he knew me.
I did take his meishi (business card - written in Japanese) to give to Hanazaki-san (one of two fantastic bosses) at the OBOE (Ohtawara Board of Education) office, my employers.
I want to make sure these people get a deep bow from me and the bosses for being so kind to me...
As an added bonus, the shop keeper will have a funny story to tell about the day he smashed open the head of the local gaijin (foreigner) and then got drunk with him.
I stagger onto my bicycle and ride over to Nakamura's hair salon and give the key to Munaio, as he'll be looking after my apartment - aquarium and plants - while I am away in Singapore over the Christmas break.
Afterwards, I go shopping at Iseya, stop by the Books Time video store and rent a couple of movies before stopping off at a small hanko (specialty shop that manufactures plastic and stone stamps that the Japanese use for official signature purposes)... I want something special... I'll show you what happened here in another blog.
I then go home.
(No... there isn't anything remotely stupid about my actions today. I promised you that, didn't I?
Tomorrow... I admit I am delaying writing it out again... it's not that I am afraid of it... I just don't know how to present it to you considering I originally used a slew of colorful language, and removal of it may make understanding the story a tad less understandable or worse in my opinion, less interesting.)
Somewhere going local,
Today's blog title is by Teenage Head, Canada's premiere punk band. I love these guys and have seen them rock out a few small clubs back in the days before going to Japan. Enjoy the music!