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Thursday, June 9, 2016

Lost Letter From Japan - I

While looking about for a photo of myself signed on the back by Muhammad Ali, I came across a couple of letters (and the original envelope) that I had sent my mother back in 1993.

Here’s one from Wednesday, April 7, 1993 - just a few months before I was scheduled to leave Japan after my third one-year contract was to expire . I wrote the letter while at one of the junior high schools I taught at in Ohtawara-shi, Tochigi-ken. Typed it, in fact. That's a portion of it in the image above or to the left... I haven't decided how it will sit.

Dear Mom,
Well, I just finished typing out a one-page letter to you and then decided it was just not “right”. I went on about writers and the “need” to conform. Bah. I wonder when I became a rebel against the system? I am, you know. Non-conformists of the world unite!
It’s slogans like that which, more than anything, show why the conformists rule.
Of course, if the non-conformists were the majority, then the conformists would be the non-conformists. I guess we win then.
Included herein is a little story (69 pages) about reincarnation. Let’s just say that I was inspired by a dead and decomposing mouse I saw near the apartment parking lot, a squashed frog near the liquor store below my place, and a bird that was hit and run over also in the building’s parking lot. It beats the hell outta me how I got 69 pages out of it.
(Ed. Note: You can read that story - which I later expanded again - that I began writing back in 1991 HERE.)
Well. It appears as though I may have a girlfriend. Boy, oh boy, does my timing suck donkeys. Nineteen-year-old Shinobu Nakamichi (the first name means ‘ninja’ and the last means ‘’middle road’) seems to like me, and I like her.  Things are quite slow, as we, as is per my norm, live quite a distance apart.
I water-painted her a picture of the sun breaking free of some storm clouds above a tree. I wrote on it: her name, mine, and the cryptic message “Hi!”. 
She called me up yesterday (our first phone call) and asked me what “hee” meant.
Japanese pronunciation of “Hi”, dontcha know. Her lack of English and my lack of Japanese will make for a slow and interesting relationship. That and the fact that she lives an hour away (in Saitama-ken), works in Tokyo (two hours away), and has Friday’s and Tuesday as her holiday.
Number one, it beats me how the hell we “talked” for 20 minutes last night.
I really have no clue.
Number two, she’s going to ask her boss for an exchange of holidays so that she can have Sunday’s off.
I just got a copy of coffee from one of the office ladies. Y’know, after three years, I still haven’t received a decent cup of coffee from this place. Rob has sent some flavored coffee that he has “made”. That’s good stuff.
Of course, I have just started up jogging again. Last night, in fact. 3.2km (2 miles). I feel surprisingly good. Anyhow, I guess I can’t drink the coffee as I know the caffeine isn’t that good for me. I’ve even given up the Coke again. I guess if I’m going to run, I might as well go all out and try to have a reasonably good diet.
I’m currently at 87kgs. I think I might try and bring it down to 75kgs or so. I think that’s the low 160s in poundage. Yeesh. No, I’m not doing this for the girl. It’s for myself.
The weather has finally warmed enough to pick up from where I left off last October when I was running 10 kilometers a night.
I did put on 1.5kgs in the interim, but that really came about during the last three weeks when there was a plethora of end of the school year office parties.
It’s April, so that means there was a change in office personnel.
Mr. Kanemaru (my boss) is gone. I think they shipped him to City Hall.
Except for two older office ladies, whom I think were born at the same time as the building was constructed, I am the only original at the Ohtawara Board of Education from when I arrived three years ago. This is just too weird.
Oh yeah… Mr. Hanazaki (my other boss) is now a junior high school principal. He’s apparently five-years ahead of the plan.
Usually when you are 50 years old, you become a vice-principal, and then if you pass the exam at 55, can become a principal. Retirement is at 60. Personally, I think they are grooming Hanazaki-san to be a Board of Education superintendent. 
With the new school year just about to start, I also have a bunch of new teachers, but I have no idea who they all are yet. I suppose I’ll find out once school starts again. Everything in Japan runs on the fiscal year.
April is also the time for hanami. Hana means “flower”, but also “nose”, and mi means “eye”. Therefore, it’s flower watching time.
Now it is cherry blossom viewing time. The beautiful themes that once existed during this season 100-plus years ago, have degenerated into a farcical attempt to imbibe as much alcohol as humanly possible while trying to feel up some of your fellow co-workers. Hopefully of the opposite sex. It’s also the windy season.
Y’know, I suppose a bit of time off for me, when I get back, will be nice. I can do a little bit of light reading. Some Goethe, Camus, and perhaps some books on mythology. I also want to learn about Dadaism. I wonder if I can take some Japanese language classes? One must keep busy, huh? Can you look into the language classes for me? Really, I’m serious. I hate learning new languages because I suck at learning them, but i suppose it really will be an interesting challenge.
Speaking of which, I’m not sure about Shinobu and me. She knows I’m going home and when. I might as well be honest, eh. I did say i would return if there was nothing going on in Canada. I think I mean that. I also mean the above paragraph, too. It’s nice to have a few options.
Back to the writing. I have to finish off another story line that I began back in October, and in a completely different style from what I usually write… although another story I am sending (my brother) Ben—The Game—is kindda gritty.
(Ed. Note: I've not published it here, I don't think.)
Anyhow, I’m writing about the King of Dreams, the Sandman.  It’s a DC comic book character that I’m using. Maybe I’ll try and sell that. I think it’s quite good. Hmmm, give me a little bit, and I’ll send what I have over.
(Ed. Note: You can read that Sandman story HERE, beginning with the Prologue.)
I have to go. I’ve been writing for close to two hours. I feel a dream clouding my ocular sight.
I kiss your hand a thousand times.
Your son,

- 30 -

Who knew that 16 months later my mother would be dead? What’s interesting, is that I had, prior to re-reading this, zero recollection of what was going on at this time of my life in Japan.

Of particular interest to myself, as that a few days later I went to Nozaki Junior High School for the start of the school year and laid eyes on a young (very) female Japanese English teacher named Noboko (I actually purposely misspell her name in this blog) and fell immediately in love with her and, when I got home on that Monday evening, dumped Shinobu over the telephone. A 19-year-old girl? What the fug was I thinking. yeah, she was stacked and hot and all that … but Noboko… when I saw her, I fell immediately in love with her, and she… she thought I was a douchebag.

But, as you could read from my letter, I apparently needed to be challenged. Noboko… getting her to change her mind about me… that was a challenge met and won.

So… this letter… this letter takes place in that ONE single week I knew Shinobu.

Losing Kanemaru-san as my boss was depressing for me… though the new guy whose name I can’t recall was very nice. He didn’t speak much English at all, but we got along because we both were open to try and communicate in the other’s language. Why can’t I recall his name?

Hanazaki-san… he could speak wicked English… and losing him was a huge blow to my comfort level in Japan. Or at least in the Ohtawara Board of Education office.

It’s strange to read and again realize that by April of 1993 I had the third-longest tenure of Ohtawara Board of Education employees. Not to be sexist, but I will be to follow the Japanese line of thinking: but as a man, I would have seniority over those two office ladies. Of course, being a gaijin, I would have zero superiority over anyone.

Because I would meet Noboko the very next week… I never really followed through on the jogging again. I did get shin splints, but really… I sat at home and watched movies and dreamed about how I was going to get Noboko to be my girlfriend and later my wife.

Yes… it’s April… and I was going home by the end of July.

That is how long my romance with Noboko lasted. When I re-read the blogs about us, it seems like I spent an entire lifetime with her… a short one, but a lifetime, nonetheless. A guy could feel worse. Trust me, I know. We burned bright.

As for my slight dissertation on hanami/flower watching… it was my contention that in the old days, flower watching was done more civilly, with romantic notions about the changing from winter to spring… rebirth… and now… it’s just all about getting hammered and sexually assaulting the female co-workers or telling off the boss. The cool thing about telling off the boss, is that whatever was said during an office party, stayed at the office party and was never mentioned again. While the same was true about trying to grab a bit of boob or butt of the female staff, there’s nothing cool about that. It probably should have been brought up again - immediately, if not the next day. But… women have long been the plaything of men, regardless of the culture… and like the current rape case at Stamford, Connecticut (US) men have been trying to brush of such crimes with the excuse that they were drunk themselves… as if that makes it all right.

I have never read Goethe or Camus and know very little about Dadaism, but I have read plenty about global mythology.

I did take a couple of Japanese language classes, but admittedly after it became obvious after one year apart… and my mother dying suddenly… I lost all interest in learning Japanese or anything at all about Japan as of 1994.

In fact… it wasn’t until I began this blog back in 2009, that I felt comfortable enough to even think about Japan. Losing people you care about really played a number on me.

Lastly... I was pretty sure then, and now, that I wasn't a douchebag... but apparently she (Noboko) had been misinformed about my true character... and had assumed that I had got some Japanese woman pregnant and had ignored her. That's not type of person I was or am. Of course, I'm pretty sure Noboko had to eventually get confirmation about that from other Japanese women. Turns out, it was some other foreigner who lived in my city who did the hit and run. Sad.

Windy season, indeed.

Andrew Joseph

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