This month’s Japan Blog Matsuri, hosted on The Ghost Letters, is all about Fast Times in Japan, so here are some of my wilder experiences, at least the ones I don’t mind my mum reading!
The Surprise Visit
I first came to Japan for a three-month holiday. A Japanese friend had earlier invited me to stay with his family, but I hadn’t heard from him in the month before I arrived, so wasn’t sure whether he would be expecting me. Without even calling first, I got trains and even hitchhiked from Narita airport to his very doorstep in Aichi prefecture, and surprised the heck out of his mum who found me standing on her porch at the crack of dawn.
When I officially moved to Japan the following year, my suitcase got left in Rome. Alitalia Airways gave me 3,000 yen in department store vouchers which I used to by some fancy brand-name underwear… which I wore until my suitcase showed up four days later.
The Youth Hostel
In 1998, I got a job at ECC. During my first few weeks on the job, I was living in youth hostels until I got a place of my own. I was eventually kicked out of one, probably because I was leaving for work with a suit and tie on each day.
The Long Walk
When a girlfriend broke up with me, I won her back by walking through the night from my apartment at one end of Nagoya to her place at the other. I couldn’t afford a taxi and couldn’t wait till morning to see her. I think it took me about 6 hours to get there, which she thought was very romantic.
The Gomi Hunter
In the late ’90s, there weren’t any strict rubbish rules at all. In fact, once a month, people would throw out perfectly good household appliances so they could upgrade to the latest models. My friend Kazu and I would drive around Nagoya looking for the best freebies. I picked up a TV, video recorder, and even a washing machine from the street during our midnight gomi-hunting trips.
One of Nagoya’s most infamous nightclubs is the ID Cafe. My friends and I knew it was a nightclub, but wondered why it was called “Cafe”. One day, on a sunny afternoon, we saw that it was “open” (“open” was painted on the wall inside the entrance) and figured it must double as a coffee shop in the day. We walked in, took the lift up to the third floor and found ourselves locked in! It’s hard to explain so I won’t try, other than to say it was not a cafe, it was not open, and it was two hours before one of us squeezed a finger under the metal cover that was bolted over the elevator button so we could get out.
The Car Chase
I knew a wealthy family man called Mr. Watanabe who had an amazingly sporty Nissan Skyline GT-R (which looked a bit like this). He had a police detector on the dashboard and I remember one day when we were on the highway it started beeping. Moments later, a rather dangerous driver flew past us in the outside lane, and I was suddenly thrown back in my chair as Mr. Watanabe slammed his foot on the accelerator and chased down the speedster, flashing his lights and honking his horn at him! Within seconds, the guy in front had slowed right down and both cars drove calmly by the police who had gathered at the roadside with speed detectors. Fast times in Japan indeed!
The Cat Killer
I unintentionally killed a cat by emptying aerosol cans in the air when throwing out the rubbish. The cat, who was circling around my feet, started running in circles, high on deodorant maybe, when suddenly a car came round the corner and flattened him. I waved at the driver to stop and together we lifted the cat from the street and placed him alongside the rubbish for the morning’s collection. Yes, I feel guilty about that!
The Pain in the Rear
I once had a really nasty cyst in my… erm… bum, that was so sore I couldn’t walk or sit down. Instead, I had to hop from foot to foot constantly which was quite a sight for my students. After three weeks of enduring the pain, I plucked up the courage to see a bum doctor. The young, attractive nurse read me the following instructions in English:
Pull down your pants and show me your anus.
to which I responded in shock,
I’m not showing you my anus! I’ll show the doctor, but not you!
Minutes later I was on my back with my knees against my shoulders, exposed bum in the air and wooden stick clenched between my teeth, while the doctor entered the problem area with a sharp knife. That was one of the most frightening experiences of my life, but I was all mended within a day and incredibly grateful for their help since I didn’t have any insurance and they didn’t charge me a single yen!
Those are just a few tales, and I’m bet you’re glad I shared them, especially the last one!