Wednesday, February 04, 2004
Trains and beaning demons
Probably one of the most egalitarian things about Japan is trains. Everybody rides the trains because they're fast, reasonably priced, and they pretty much go anywhere you want to go. The fact that everybody rides them means you sometimes meet some interesting characters... (end story intro)
So I'm chilling at the train station Monday night, about to hit up a hip-hop jam at my usual spot PIZ, when a man wanders up to me and starts talking. I use the term "walk" very liberally, because the guy was obviously smashed AKA wasted, and half-stumbled towards me. Plus, he reeked of whiskey... normally, it's a good smell when it's coming from the glass that's been handed to me by a pretty bartender girl. But the smell coming off a guy... ummm, no.
Note, this entire conversation is Japanese. Or my wacky approximation of it.
Man: "Ummm, excuse me... where does this train go?"
Gar: "It goes to Amagasaki, on the Tozai line."
Man: "And where else?"
Gar: "Ummm... I don't know."
Man: "Really?!" (curses and then asks another question in Japanese I can't catch)
Gar: "I don't understand... sorry, my Japanese is not good. I'm an American."
Man: "What?! I don't believe it... a foreigner?! But... but you look really Japanese!"
Gar: "Haha. Yes, really... I'm actually Chinese American."
Man: "Ehhh... you must be lying..."
So drunk man and I ended up striking up a conversation as I helped him onto the train... he had some problems telling the difference between the door and the window, haha. His name is Shin, he's 28, works as an electrical repairman, has a wife and kid. He asked me if I was student and I told him I'm an English teacher.
He got off two stops later... hope he made home alright. Trains... funny.
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Yesterday was Setsubun, a folk holiday here in Japan, but not a national holiday AKA no vacation / day off. Some information about the holiday can be read here.
Basically, it involves chucking beans at oni (demons to get rid of bad luck and get good fortune to come. You also eat the number of beans equivalent to your age; no more and no less.
Other local traditions from where I live, the Kansai area: eating a roll of uncut maki-zushi (a sushi roll) at once, pointing in the direction of north-east (the unlucky direction), and eating the roll without speaking... the superstition is that if you speak while eating the roll, your good luck escapes outta your mouth.
Here's a picture of one of the rolls in its nifty package:
My one thought: them demons must be serious pansies if they get scared off by getting hit by some beans. You'd think people would throw something more lethal like rocks, nails, or knives.
But given the drunken-ness involved in most Japanese holidays, throwing dangerous objects would probably not be a good idea.
"Here comes Uncle Yoshi's turn to throw the knives!"
Did I mention sometimes parents wear a demon mask and the kids chuck the beans at them? Yeah, rocks, nails, knives... not a great idea for some family fun...
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Random news borrow from SJ:
Third Korean Female Student attacked in Vancouver BC; Possible Racial Motivation
Asianphile white boys... plenty of those here in Nippon. More on that at another date...
From the NY Times:
Does Japan want to compete?
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To the homies:
Cora: Thanks for the birthday / Xmas presents, kid. Music, book, magazines, candy... what more can a man want? =)
Reg: Thanks for the book, dawg... hilarious stuff. Some therapeutic laughter...
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