Week #5 (Naked Men and Perverts)
Wednesday - 12 Feb 2003
The Lone Naked Man Walks Away
Day 29 (Wednesday)
Today I slept in and then went out in search of an adventure and a computer. Internet cafe.s...how I love them. I found one near Nanzan U. that looked promising. After asking what I was supposed to do (in Japanese) I understood the answer (given in Japanese) and replied (in Japanese. Go me. I was feeling pretty proud of myself. So, I blew a few hours and started the trek home. The Naked Man Festival is tomorrow. I need my rest.
The big guy on the right gave me sake (rice wine)
Day 30 (Thursday)...Part 1
My first festival! I met my friends at Nagoya Station again. This time our group had expanded to five members. We headed off together to Konomiya (about 20 minutes away by train) to stare at grown men wearing diapers. Well, thery.re not really diapers, but they.re big white pieces of cloth folded around the stomach (above the belly-button) and into a thong. We stepped off the crowded train and were rewarded with quite a sight. Butts. Many, many butts.
We made our way through the crowd and went to find food. It wasn.t very difficult with hundreds of vendors crowding the streets. They sold squid-on-a-stick, chocolate covered bananas (also on a stick), and yakitori...meat--yup, you guessed it--on a stick. Eating and walking is okay at festivals. Like some magnetic force all of the ryuu-gakusee (exchange students) from Nanzan gravitated towards each other. Everyone was there. We shared tips about the day.s schedule and moved on.
The five of us made our way to a street where everyone was looking at something, but we couldn.t see. Not a problem. We quickly made friends with a group of old men nearby and they pushed (and I mean PUSHED) us in front of them, shouting "Can you see? Can you see?!" Nice guys. We cahtted in Japanese until they left. What we were watching was a parade of thonged men carrying 30 foot long poles of mochi (rice powder stuff) to the temple, shouting "wasshoi" which means...happy? I think that.s what one guy told me.
Another old guy came up and started talking to my friends and I. At first he concentrated on my one friend, but he soon turned his focus to all of us. We followed him to a shrine were he explained things, pausing to compliment my friends' Japanese. She hadn.t said anything. This tends to happen a lot (people complimenting foreigners on their Japanese when they.ve only said hello). We weren.t worried because lots of people were there, but this guy was not exactly grampa-like. More like the scary old guy who lives across the street and ogles you when you go out to your mailbox to pick up your mail. He had one tooth, only one, and it was huge.
He included some other random people (Japanese adults) in our little group and starts shaking our hands, telling us how he hated America as a little boy, but he.s trying to like it. Okay, we were ready to go at this point. Then he starts hugging us all and the random people, too. Okay, we think, so we start hugging people, too. When in Rome, do as the Romans, right? Uhhh, yeah. We.re backing away, smiling so no one will get suspicious when he tries to kiss my friend Allison on the lips. She ducks and we sprint away from the shrine and into the crowd. Pausing to rest on a side-street, we make a rule:
NO MORE FOLLOWING SCARY, OLD MEN. NOT EVEN TO PUBLIC CROWDED PLACES. Now cute, young men on the other hand...
Theyre fighting over something. GO, Naked Men, GO!
Day 30, cont.d ...Part 2
Everyone kept stopping us to explain the festival in English. That was nice. Lots of thonged men would stop us just to flash the peace sign and say "Harro!" We stopped to watch as another parade went by. The guys were trying to lift the 30-foot stick into a vertical position. Some of them were perusing the crowds with cartons of sake (strong rice wine), pouring it into open mouths. I got sake-ed...I was the first one to use that particular container (yea!) so you know I was happy. Guys kept coming by and pulling strips of colored cloth off their sashes to give to members of the crowd. Kind of like Marti Gras beads but with less flashing.
These drunk guys came up and took pictures with us. As we walked through the crowd we found out that scary, kissing man was with us so we bolted. All of the diapered men kept trying to talk to us in English and I met this really cute one. He told me I could join the parade with him. I said I had no diaper. He said I could wear a swimsuit and winked. I said I.d left it in the US. He said "really?" and winked again. I ran into him again later and asked "sawatte mo ii?" (can I touch it?) and pointed to his very nice rear. He smiled bent over and "doozo"ed me (go for it). I love Japan. We left as the one truly naked man was going to the shrine. Things were starting to get rowdy and we couldn.t see anyway. Great time.
The face I made while being chikan-ed (reinacted)
Day 30, cont.d ...Part 3
What a day for weirdos. On the way back from the festival I picked up my bike at Kachigawa Station. I got on and rode to the end of the street, pausing for traffic to pass. It was about 5:30pm and twilight was beginning. All of a sudden I felt and hand where it shouldn.t have been. I turn to look and found some guy trying to get his hands on my chest. It was like I was a tomato at the farmer.s market. I beat him in the chest a couple of times and took off on my bike. All I wanted to do was throw down my bike and beat him to death, but two things stopped me.
1) It was my host mom.s bike. She would have understood if I.d had to buy her a new one, but I would have felt guilty.
2) I figured I wouldn.t be representing my university very well if I killed someone during my study abroad. And trust me, if I.d have really started hitting him, I wouldn.t have been able to stop.
Yes, these are the things that go through your mind when you.re fondled on a side-street. So, I promised myself that I would kill him if there were ever a next time, and I went home.
What made me the angriest is that I can verbally reduce a man to tears in English, but not in Japanese...well, not YET. I.m starting up with a language partner next week, so we.ll see what I learn.
Day 31 (Friday)
I went to my little brother.s elementary school for Parents.s Day. I walked onto the campus and noticed all these little eyes on me. Hearing whispers of "gaikokujin!" (foreigner!), I just smiled and followed my mom to the classroom. My bro kept answering all of the teacher.s questions ad I was so proud. Then my mother told me that he was just trying to impress the two of us. Cute.
I noticed a lot of extra unused space in the school and asked about it. It turns out that because of the declining number of children, most schools have a lot of extra space. When my mother went there, there were 5 classes in each grade. Now, there are only 2.
I also witnessed the PTA choosing mothers as members (it was done lottery-style). The mother.s are presented beforehand with a paper to sign which says "I will join the PTA if my name is picked." My host mother said it.s voluntary to join, but everyone has to sign the paper. So much for voluntary. A few mother.s tried to tactfully back out of the obligation. It was interesting.
I.ve been trying to do my homework since last Saturday, but things keep getting in the way. Boo hiss.
Day 32 (Saturday)
I had a tennis date with my family and the Sato family. Tennis is definately not my strong point, but I thought I.d give it a go. Last week Mr. Sato was on a business trip to the US and brought me back a pack of my favorite gun in the whole world (which, alas, is not sold in Japan). I thanked him when we met for tennis and my host mother told that he was quite impressed that I had used keigo (honorific language). Thank you WashU sensei.s!
After tennis we all watched my brother.s soccer practice. This child has got to be the least enthusiastic soccer-player that I.ve ever seen. I asked his mom if he even liked soccer and she said he was the one who wanted to play it. Seeing as how his dad is a Gym coach, I.m not so sure who.s decision it was.
This evening I went to Sakae for dinner and karaoke. It.s funny, I.ve never even seen a Sizzler in the US, but they seem to be everywhere in Nagoya. At karaoke, I had 1.5 drinks, thank you very much, and left with full control of my faculties. I had to run to make curfew.
Day 33 (Sunday)
I went to my little sister.s happyookai (that.s a musical-play-recital-event-thing) at her pre-school. I got up at 7.30am on a vacation day to sit for 3 and 1/2 hours straight. That.s love. It was really cute and the back row was lined with fathers holding camcorders. It turns out that there is a kind of lottery to decided who gets to stand where. It was really funny. The show itself was very cute and had singing, dancing, plays, and the like. We all went out to lunch afterwards. Obaa-chan was even there.
Not a good day. Things are being made worse by the fact that my host mother is speaking almost nothing but English today. I.m so frustrated. I thik she.s trying to make me feel better by using English, but it just makes me feel useless. Let.s blow off some steam. What I want to say and what I really mean:
*I hate the world (I.m really frustrated by my inability to express myself in Japanese. I want to say so many things, but even simple things are too hard sometimes.)
*My host family is really getting on my nerves (I want to speak Japanese, but I.m having a hard time talking to them. No one except the mother is very patient with me...but I think this is because they are embarassed about their ability to speak English and don.t realize I want to speak Japanese.)
*I am ready to leave (I love Japan, but I cannot do simple tasks easily--i.e. ask questions, buy tickets, read advertisements. I want to stay in Japan as long as possible because I.m having a great time. Today is just not my best day.)
Don.t know why I.m in this mood, but I.ll be better tomorrow.