Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Very Strange Things, Indeed

Last Tuesday, I went to Zushi to teach my class of retirees like I always do. Things progressed fairly normally--we talked about the Japanese elections, completed a vocabulary drill on strange jobs (it's really difficult for the Japanese to say "hypnotherapist") and took a small break. Afterwards, the students usually each take 5 minutes to tell about their week. Topics usually cover mundane and safe events like grandchildren visiting and places people have just toured.

But this week's discussion went into uncharted territory:
  • One woman's deceased mother-in-law visited her during Obon (the Japanese holiday honoring dead anscestors, so that makes sense). In the middle of the night, she heard her MIL approach her bedroom door and then felt her "eyebeams" staring at her through the wood. As she is accenting her vocabulary choice by making motions with her fingers from her eyes to across the room, I felt perplexed. "Eyebeams" didn't seem like the best word but I couldn't figure out a superior one, so "eyebeams" rested as is. However, now I have a vision of a laser-eyed decrepid Japanese grandma taking out my friend in her sleep. She swears she "felt no fear" but I really can't say the same.

  • Her husband, the ghost's son, slept through the whole thing.

  • Another woman, quite delicate and soft-spoken as well, launched into a story about an accidental run-in with her next door neighbor's son while walking her dog in the wee hours of the morning. After 29 years, he apparently has suddenly decided to start wearing women's clothes in public. She reported that he was wearing a "nice skirt" and "carrying a high quality handbag". People stopped examining their fingernails and started peppering her with questions. Although there are few American sexual/puritanical hangups in Japan, they love to hear about people behaving strangely.

  • Yet another lady exclaimed that she had nothing to offer that week but then described the juicy gossip surrounding Mr. Hatoyama, the new Prime Minister, and his wife. Not only was Miyuki Hatoyama married to a lowly sushi bar owner in the states many years ago, but horror of horrors, she divorced him to marry the prime minister. Divorce is a big no-no in Japanese politics.

  • ...and so is reporting extraterrestrial sightings. Mrs. Hatoyama, Japan's new First Lady, wrote a book twenty years ago called Very Strange Things I've Encountered, in which she swears her soul was transported to Venus via a "triangular-shaped UFO". This woman is Japanese and was raised in Japan. Did she miss the ubiquitous memo stating "the nail that sticks up is the first to get hammered down"?

Well, it's probably only a matter of time before it's revealed that the new Prime Minister is a cross-dresser and the collective cultural "eyebeams" zero in on his wife. When this story breaks in the main news outlets...please remember: You read it here first.

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