How time flies: tomorrow it’s Jessy’s 6th birthday, and what a good girl she has been! As a reward I will be taking her to Saizeriya, the restaurant for which she commands the most disparate affection to justification ratio of any eatery we have come to know. Liking (nay, desiring) Saizeriya is somewhat akin to being fond of reruns of The King of Queens: once you’re there there isn’t really anything wrong with it, and Leah Remini is pretty attractive, but do you realize what else is on? Jessy’s love of Saizeriya is like looking up these reruns in TV Guide and setting her VCR to tape them off TV as she watches them, being quick-draw-McGraw on the remote so she can pause out the commercials. Presumably while Mega Shark Versus Giant Octopus plays concurrently on another network (I am just assuming that this movie is awesome). But it is her birthday, and so we shall go buy plates upon plates of mildly flavored and inoffensive Japitalianese, and consume them with frenzied teeth gnashing. Afterwards I will buy a glass jar of sake from a vending machine, drink it, and then ride the escalators in Joshin up and down until they close the store and disable the escalators, stranding me between the refrigerator floor and the one where they yell at you about lightbulbs.
I am now the proud owner of a “nook” eBook reading device, which has offered me, finally, the chance to use a battery-powered portable gadget to perform the function of something that absolutely did not need replacing (dead trees with ink on them). The most convenient reasoning behind it is simply enough that dead tree with ink on it (for the sake of this conversation, a “book”) takes up physical space, while a collection of electronic data representing the same information takes up no physical space whatsoever. In such a way, one need not pay any manner of courier to transport said “books” from their country of origin (the United States) to my country of residence (Japan), which is a powerful argument for the existence of the electronic book and what seems at first blush like a luxury device. The truth is that it is a luxury device only in so much as one considers reading a luxury as opposed to a necessity, which I must admit I do not. In fact, the arrival of this toy has brought exciting new life to tales most certainly un-new, most prominently that modern and relevant tale of The Hobbit, which just came out recently in 1937, and which I never could bring myself to get through in its dead tree form. Have you heard of this fellow named “Bilbo?” This story is going to be big, real big! Seventy-five years from now we might even see a movie about it.
The other recent arrival is that of a friend I am never too far from: Mr. Throat Itch. He showed up recently to ruin my life, and is doing a pretty decent job of it on a daily basis. He did such good work a few days ago that I actually called in sick to the office for the first time ever so I could stay home and party with him. In an unexpected twist, I actually felt Japaneseily guilty for shirking my workplace duties by staying home, a development I quickly dealt with by ceasing to care whatsoever. He was even kind enough to offer me some interesting situations during my first Japanese language class, where at least I was able to use the excuse “I guess I’m allergic to Japanese,” but only in my mind.
What do I have left to say? It has been nine months since I came to Japan and I simultaneously remember the day I arrived like it was yesterday and a decade ago. I am at home and a stranger, an outsider and a citizen. I dry my clothing on the porch, take my shoes off when I get home, and have a closet full of Kraft Dinner. I have a photograph of the first vending machine I ever saw in Japan, and now it’s just a photograph of a vending machine.
MOST QUAINT STUFF OF THE LAST TIME UNIT
– Today’s bento, which, at a paltry 709kcal, is barely worthy of mention, but consists of a huge bowl of rice atop which sits a hamburger slathered in mysterious red sauce and a fried egg
– Cough drops here are useless, cost 220 yen for a ten-pack, and taste like what would happen if you crossed those Ludens cherry throat lozenges with the full dosage of a 100-man study on the effectiveness of a new medication on causing fatigue, only the pill is a placebo
– When I got to Japan there was a song they used to play on TV with three “girls” singing about how it’s okay to fart all over the place because farting is natural, and it is still being played regularly, and in this country it is rude to blow your nose in public
– Parsing the convenience store clerk’s question of if I would like my bento heated, answering appropriately in comfortable Japanese, and then being looked at hesistantly as I am asked, with comically wild gesture, if chopsticks are okay, finding myself disappointed I lack the skills to say that no, they are not okay, because I eat only with my fingers, and am allergic to sticks
IS THAT ENOUGH YET I AM PRETTY EXHAUSTED
Tonight there are no classes, because the kids are learning about how to drive in Japan. I do not envy them because I am sure driving down these meter-wide streets is fucking impossible, but last time I had class my lesson was that we would go to the downstairs classroom and watch Speed Racer on Blu-ray. I think I have done my part to prepare them for the imminent and very real world of futuristic automobile racing.