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Kashikomarimashita! (Certainly!)

July 22, 2009

(Originally Published 03/09/2007)

KOTOKO is great power-walking music!

Last night I went to the river to study.  I climbed over the fence from the bike path and sat down on the concrete abutment where the water spills over in a controlled waterfall.  I was sitting there studying my Genki book and enjoying the sunset when a little old man hobbled up to me.

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“Shitsurei n desu ga, chotto shitsumon ga arimasu.  Ii n desu ka.”  (Excuse me, I know it’s a little rude, but can I ask you a few questions?)  We talked about so many cool things!  In Japanese only!  Wheee!  First he asked me where I had come from: “I might be rude making this presumption but are you from America?”  When I told him I was from Oregon he said, “Ah, John Wayne!”  I told him it was a little different than that.  After we talked about the differences between Oregon and Osaka, he mentioned the World Athletic Championships that are happening in Osaka right now.  He said America was amazing but I told him Japan was amazing too.  “Hmm, I wonder, Japan has only one medal and America has so many.”  I told him that it didn’t matter how many medals Japan had because it was good to see the athletes from every country giving their best efforts.  After that we talked about the Grand Canyon and about how beautiful and large America is.  Then we talked about the Alamo and what an interesting historical place it was.  He wanted to see both of those places but he didn’t want to go see New York.  We talked about how the subways in Japan are so much cleaner and more reliable than the ones in America.  Then we talked about Hillary Clinton and Bush!  First he said that it was really interesting that America might have a female president and that he hoped she won.  Then he said that it was interesting that she was going from former first lady to prospective presidential candidate.  After that he talked about how the previous Bush was alright but the current Bush was bad.  It was so cool to be able to talk about all these things with him!  There were a few points were I struggled to understand what he was saying but he was very good about repeating it many times and making appropriate hand gestures until I got it figured out.  I really liked it how he never once said how good I was at Japanese.  Most people will say “Oh, your Japanese is great!” if you can say one sentence to them.  I really appreciated how he just wanted to talk to me and discuss a few things about America.  He said he really likes American movies but he can’t understand any of them without subtitles.  We introduced each other but I can’t remember his name for the life of me.  I really wanted to remember his name because I think I’ll see him again.  Before he left he told me that he walks along the river at exactly the same time every night (about 6PM) and that he hoped to see me there again so that we could “play together again.”  He was so cool!  I felt so good after talking with him.  I’d like to bring some topics to talk to him about next time.  He asked me how old I was and what year of school I was in and he said that it’s interesting that America and Japan start the school year at different times.  Japan starts in the spring (in April) and America starts the year in August.  I asked him which one he thought was better and he said he didn’t know but that it was interesting.  He asked me how old I was and I told him I was 21.  He said he’s 75 years old!  He’s pretty strong (genki)!  He said he is becoming dumber (atama ga waruku narimasu) as he gets older (toshi ni tottara).  I told him that he seemed really strong and healthy and he sort of smiled and shuffled his feet a bit while saying, “Hmm, I wonder…”  Anyway, I was so happy he was brave enough to come down and talk to me.  I walked back along the river in the dark and the city looked really beautiful with all the flashing lights and then the lovely dark corridor on both sides of the river.  Later, Willy and I sat in the park and worked our way through the dictionary together.  We watched three young boys training for long distance running and their father was timing them and shouting encouragement every time they completed another lap.  Then they all went out on the grass and did spring-jumps and body twists together.  It was really incredible how fast these little kids are!  Everyone in Japan is so fit.  So many people power walk around the park at night.  I’m thinking I need to start some sort of exercise regime too.  I do seem to get plenty of exercise walking around and exploring though!  Some people refuse to walk to campus from the seminar house and spend 220 yen each way.  That seems crazy to me because it’s only a 20-25 minute walk and it’s really fun to be out in the world.  I get to walk by a really crazy factory for Komatsu where they are busy building heavy equipment like trackhoes and forklifts.  As the forklifts drive around they play music!  It’s so much nicer than annoying beeping.  Speaking of which, sometimes when a large truck is about to negotiate a turn it will turn on a speaker and you can hear the truck saying, “Migi ni magirimasu.  Gochuui kudasai ne!” (Executing a right-hand turn, please be careful!)

Cool news of the day: Last night when Willy and I were exploring Makino (the small town on the other side of the river) we found an old bath house (or sauna)!  I had seen the really tall chimney (smokestack, maybe?) from the river and I’d wondered if it was a bathhouse.  I was so glad to find out I was right.  Maybe I’ll go someday and re-experience public bathing.  But not right now.  It’s way too hot to take a bath.  I’ve been taking only cold showers since I got here and they feel so good.  Speaking of smokestacks, in the warehouse next to Seminar House 4 there is a really tall smokestack and last night there was black smoke belching from it.  It was pretty cool.  I wonder what they do there.

Power moment of the day: Japan is a land of policemen and security guards.  But these aren’t your normal policemen.  They usually guard the entrances to buildings and parking lots.  When I say guard, I mean they are usually there to welcome you in or tell you that the lot is full and you can’t park here.  They’re so friendly and are always wishing me a good morning or afternoon when I pass.  I’ve started experimenting with my responses to them.  Usually I just greet them with a traditional “Ohayou gozaimasu!” (Good morning!) or “Konnichiwa!” (Good afternoon!) but sometimes I say “Kyou wa atsui deshou!” (It looks hot today, don’t you think?) or “Otsukaresama de!” (Good work, gentlemen!).  Both of these new responses have met with good results (either a smile or a double-take).

Cool Japanese of the day: When asked the traditional opening question of “Ogenki desu ka?” (Are you well?) you can respond with “Okage sama de!” (Thanks to you!).

I’m off to ceramics this morning after a quick shower and then I start my lecture classes this afternoon!  Whee!  Ganbaranakucha ikenai yo!

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