This is Tuesday, July 20, 1993 and I have two days left in Japan. One and a bit really. Just today and a small bit of tomorrow in Ohtawara-shi, Tochigi-ken actually.
My flight is at 6PM tomorrow - back to Toronto, so we can leave Ohtawara-shi in the morning, travel by train to Narita Airport and then...
So... what to do today... in my last day in my home here?
I can hear Noboko shuffling around cooking something in our kitchen.
I walk out naked and wrap my arms around her small frame and tell her we should just spend the day unclothed here in the apartment.
She pushes me away lightly and tells me to get dressed. It's that time of the month.
What again? She just had that weeks ago?!
Figures. Everything's conspiring against me, it seems.
I know I'm coming back here in a month or so to provide that final push with her to convince her we should get married... if that works, then I have to figure out if we both stay in Japan, or both go back to Toronto.
It doesn't matter to me.
I just want us to be together... something her father is against, as her marrying a gaijin (dumbass foreigner) would stymie his work career, which I have come to know, appreciate and detest, is something the people of Japan respect more than their own family, it seems.
And yet, here I am... trying to start my own family in Japan without knowing what my work career would be. I am, indeed, the very image of the anti-Japanese concept.
Noboko wants to marry me - of that I am certain... but there's this whole familial bullcrap of 'not disappointing the family'.
It's confusing to me.
On one hand I understand that whole 'family is important' crap. I'm going to Toronto to see what's wrong with my mother who has been in the hospital for a month with something so serious that no one will actually discuss it with me... to protect me from some dark truth. So I understand 'family'.
But Noboko is willing to forgo her chance for happiness with me as a family, in order to maintain harmony with her father, whose chief family is his 'work family'. Going against Noboko is the fact that she is 27 going on 28 and is considered to be an old-maid in merry old Japan. Plus... she previously reneged on a marriage proposal from some other Japanese dude, embarrassing him, her father and her boyfriend's family - not necessarily in that order.
When Noboko has her period, it hits her like a mule-kick to the gut. The pains double her over, and it pains ME to see her suffer so.
I know she is suffering from this whole Noboko and Andrew mess... not wanting it to be over, but glad it will pass when I leave... which of course will then bring up a different conundrum for her martial future.
We stay inside, clothed, all day... chatting about nothing important (us), and about all of the adventures I have had here in Japan...
- Ashley and Matthew... I think she hates Ashley for the way I was treated, even though they never met. She calmly notes my mentioning (again) that Matthew is marrying Takako a week or so after I leave Japan - sorry buddy... I wish it wasn't that way - I mean, I wish I was going to be there;
- Breaking into a museum (with Ashley and a Japanese couple... the place we were going to visit, a pottery museum, was closing in an hour and didn't want anymore visitors - so I went around the back and snuck in and got the others in, too... walking out past the surprised ticket taker at the end of the real closing time;
- Getting hammered at an AET (assistant English teacher) conference in Kobe and winning a sake drinking contest downing some 47 (yes, for real - that number) glasses of the clear liquid and then going out dancing and getting kicked out for being annoying (Moi?) before breaking into a room-sized glass exhibit at the conference hotel, and falling asleep under a taxidermied deer. I have no knowledge of being kicked out of the dance club or of breaking in to the exhibit, suffice to say I awoke with a stuffed deer peering over my prostrate form in the fake forest—the only time my memory failed me owing to drink;
- Never seeing Mt. Fuji and relating how I don't think it exists - otherwise I would have been able to see it when the Shinkansen train I traveled on many a time passed by it, or the times I visited Tokyo, or the few times I climbed Mt. Nasu and looked through the telescopes... weather? Right. Sure. Imaginary;
- Being hit by a car twice in one week in Ohtawara, owing to poor Japanese driving skills or knowledge of the concept 'right-of-way';
- Visits to Japan (and me) by John K., Juanita B., John (from the Toronto Star) and my mother;
- The giant spiders on my balcony and how none could ever be the reincarnated form of the Buddha (Why would the Buddha reappear on the balcony of a non-believer);
- My story of how I almost died during an earthquake while I was on the toilet (okay, not even close to dying, but it was my first ever rumbler and I thought I was going to go in the most undignified way possible - made Noboko laugh;
- Getting lost whenever I traveled by myself in Japan;
- Being the Ame-otoko, the Rain Man (It rained whenever I traveled in Japan, with or without company. People would plan their trips around me being known to stay in Ohtawara). Noboko was well aware of this reputation of mine, but she was like my guardian angel and the weather was never as bad as it was when she was with me on our travels. It still rained, however...
It doesn't sound like such a big thing, but for the Japanese - and especially for Noboko - the events in the last paragraph were big things.. big deals...
It's a big deal for me - not only because it shows that she's more western (sometimes) than Japanese, but because of who I am.
For the few of you who have read damn near everything I have ever written about my personal journey here in Japan and even before I arrived in Japan, you know that I was shy... I didn't date much... I was a virgin at the age of 25+ when I landed in Japan... hell... I didn't even want to go to Japan... I was soooo afraid to leave home for the first time - especially not knowing how to do anything remotely domestic to feed myself.
Right there... to where I am now... looking to get married... and not just to the first woman who smiled at me (Noboko sure as hell wasn't smiling when we first met)... where I have survived and thrived these past three years in Japan... learning how to shop, cook, do laundry, iron, sew... even communicate on some guttural level...
Japan helped me grow up.
I tell Noboko that... and she sighs and smiles... knowing full well that I am well ahead of the real man curve here in Japan, as few Japanese men have ever mastered half of what I have done since arriving in Ohtawara...
For lunch, she orders us a pizza from some place - the first time I have ever had pizza delivered in Japan... and again, despite it not being part of the ingredient list, there's corn niblets dumped in the middle of the pizza.
I doubt things are like that in 2015, but in 1993 this was something that happened every time, regardless of what type of pizza I ordered in shop.
- Pepperoni and cheese (and corn);
- Hawaiian (and corn);
- Seafood medley including squid, octopus, tuna and scallops (and corn).
More talking, a short trip downstairs to pick up that last two-liter bottle of Coca-Cola - a chance to say good bye to the shop-owner, his wife and his 30+ year-old son (who also live in the apartment directly below me on the second floor)... a knock on the door at 4PM...
I do have a doorbell, but whatever.
It's Noboko's mom... replete with groceries for our supper.
I invite her in, but she says she should go (probably has to feed her husband)... but before she does, I surprise her by grabbing her with a big hug and say thank-you very much in Japanese, before pushing myself away and proffering her with the more appropriate Japanese bow.
She says something in Japanese to me - we both turn to Noboko when she's done:
"She says you are very nice man and are good for me (I assume her daughter), and hopes your mother is healthy."
More Japanese from mom.
"She says she is fighting for you."
Good-byes again, and without missing a beat Noboko begins to pull the food from the bags and wash the veggies.
I do the untypical Japanese man thing and say - "Let me cut that up" and we cook our last meal together as one.
Maybe it's because I helped, or maybe because she's getting better, but her meal was delicious, and I tell her so, not because I have to, but because I want to since it was true.
She smiles before she is mule-kicked in the gut again... and we settle in to watch some Japanese movie on a VCR tape with English translations she brought with her.
At 11PM, the dishes are washed and put away, and we retire to our bedroom for the night.
Noboko's light breath tells me she's done for the night.
I don't sleep.