Another day of boredom at my desk at the Ghetto School drove me outside to take a walk. I eventually ended up in the gym, where I found the then ichinensei playing dodgeball. In Japan, they play the organized dodgeball, with two teams and a divided court– the dodgeball you see in the Ben Stiller movie. This is quite different from the dodgeball I played when I was a kid, which was just half of us standing in a circle, with half standing within. The people on the outside would lob balls at the people on the inside. Should one of the insiders get pegged, he’d become an outsider. This continued until there was only one kid left. Believe it or not, I was actually a really small kid, so I was an ace at dodgeball.
In the absence of enough people to make a circle, we played against a wall. The only problem was that the particular wall we choose to play against was really old and wooden. It was cracking and splintering, and even had nails sticking out of it. No less than two boys (because only us boys were stupid enough to play dodgeball against a wall with nails sticking out of it) would go down every recess period, a point that drove our school nurse absolutely fucking nuts.
Us: Nurse! Nurse! You gotta help Bobby, he cut up his back against the wall!
Nurse: The fuck? Again? Wouldn’t you think by now NOT to play dodgeball against an old wooden wall with splinters and nails and shit sticking out of it?
Us: I don’t understand. What are you getting at?
The ichinensei’s dodgeball game looked interesting enough, so I decided to stay and watch. Ms. Americanized was there helping to supervise, so I joined her. Much as you might expect, the boys were going crazy at the sanctioned opportunity to beat each other senseless with dodgeballs. With the bad boys in particular, it was like they’d found their second calling. They were jumping up, spinning around, doing backflip throws… OK, maybe they weren’t doing backflip throws, but they were going all out with the Wachowski Bros Matrix-Dodgeball shit.
The girls on the other hand, well, what might you expect from 12-year-old Japanese girls? A girl would catch the ball, timidly run up to the line, and give the ball a pathetic little toss. If the ball came close to hitting someone, she’d gasp, apologize profusely, and then shuffle back to her side of the court. A girl on the other team would repeat the process. *stepstepstep* *pitiful toss* “Oooh! Sorry!” *stepstepstep*
You probably have some idea of the insanity that is the Japanese workforce. They work from 8-9AM until 8-9PM, oftentimes even later than that. And they work on Saturdays. It’s all pretty suicidal, and I can’t think of one Japanese person who actually enjoys working that much. They do it though because the Japanese love suffering. Well, everyone loves suffering to an extent (we all stay glued to our TVs when some tragic event occurs on the news), but the Japanese fuckin’ LOVE suffering. You are not Japanese if you are not suffering in some way. With everyone else at the same time.
It’s especially rough for teachers. Leave school around 8-9PM, go home, eat, bathe, probably do some more work at home, then go to sleep to wake up and do it all over again the next day. Teachers don’t even get Saturday off, as that’s the day for sports clubs. Sundays too can be occupied with sport club competitions, or they may have to come in just to get stuff done.
I was doing a lesson with Ms. Americanized. We were teaching the ninensei the “I went to (somewhere) to do (something)” form. We do a little skit at the beginning of the lesson to demonstrate how it works. She asks me what I did over the weekend. I said something like, “I went to Nara to buy a study book. And I went to Kyoto to watch a movie.” I then asked her what she did over the weekend.
At the School of Peace, near the end of the school year the ichinensei do skits based on random sentences from the textbook. They take something like “How many comic books do you have?” and then write a skit out for it. This is kind of an event, as other teachers from around the area come to take a look at the students’ English abilities.
I gotta say, skits are quite possibly my favorite aspect of the job. For a country that redefines thinking inside of the box, the kids sure are creative. I’d wonder what happens to make them into the Borg-like drones they’ll eventually become, but being a part of the assimilation process myself I can see it clearly.
Anyway, here’s some of what the kids came up with. Roughly one zillion times better than Japanese TV.
* * *
This one started off with a King commissioning a knight called… Meatball. Yes, a Knight named Meatball. Meatball went out into the countryside, doing the things that Knights named Meatball are prone to do. However, somewhere in the process he became drunk off his own power and had to be stopped. So then the King commissioned another Knight (this one did not have a name, although I was kind of hoping for Pastrami or something else along the sandwich meat theme) to stop Meatball. They had a fight… which at first consisted of the Second Knight throwing old dirty socks at Meatball, who dodged them in Matrix Bullet Time by leaning backwards and flailing his arms a bit. Meatball then picked up one of those music recorders, and used it as a baseball bat to knock the dirty socks back to the Second Knight, defeating him. The Second Knight retreated back to the King.
Meatball learned of the King’s treachery, and went after the King. There was another brief fight with the Second Knight, and Meatball absolutely walloped him. Meatball then prepared to assassinate the King by throwing more dirty socks at him, but then a Third Knight jumped in front, taking a dirty sock to the chest and dying. This was literally this boy’s only role in the skit, to take a dirty sock for the King. Man, now that’s devotion. If I ever become King of some country, I hope to find subjects loyal enough to take a dirty sock to the chest for me.
So then Meatball and the King got into a fist fight, and the King eventually beat Meatball, which just goes to show… well… I don’t know what really. If it weren’t for the intense action, I’d have no idea what the hell went on in this skit, despite it being in English.
Oh, and the textbook sentence this performance was based on? “This is Ben. He’s an old friend.” I have no idea.
And the boy who played Meatball, yup… that’s his new nickname. I know his real name, knew it before, but now I look at him and “Meatball” is the first thing that comes to mind. I’m not the only one, as sometimes some of the other kids call him Meatball as well. I’ve decided that ignorance is bliss on this one.
Incidentally, Meatball is Snuzzlebunny’s younger brother.
Being a teacher can be tough, because you can really get attached to some of your kids sometimes. But they graduate and move on with their lives, as it should be. Despite how many new and different faces pass through the classroom, we don’t forget. And occasionally, we get to have a chance encounter with someone from the past, which I always enjoy.
I randomly ran into Velma. It’d been over a year since I’d seen her, so it was a pleasant surprise. The day I saw her, she wasn’t in her school uniform, but rather normal clothes. She’d changed her hairstyle as well, and I guess switched from glasses to contacts. So, you think the Velma vibe’s went away, right? Nope, not only is it still there, it’s stronger than ever. No longer is she “Japanese Velma,” she’s just Velma now, straight to life right out of the cartoon. She’s Velma wearing Japanese fashion, with a different hairstyle and contacts instead of glasses. It was just amazing.
Despite the whole Velma thing, she’s actually going to be quite cute when she gets older. What? Don’t look at me like that! You can say that a young girl is cute without that having some sinister sexual meaning, can’t you? This country actually does make one paranoid about that. I was with a friend at a community event, and we ran into one of my ichinensei students. She stopped to talk for a bit, and after she left we both remarked about how cute she was. There was this weird 4-second silence, and we both said in unison, “But not in that way!” as if we had to clarify that we’re not pedos. In Japan you almost sort of do. Later that day, I was sitting down and this little 8-year old girl climbed up onto my lap. My first impulse was to throw her off and scream, “Bitch get off! Homey don’t play that R.Kelly shit!” before I had to remind myself she just wanted to play with me. What is this country doing to me?
After TGI Friday’s, my friends and I hit the strip and started looking for a good place. We checked out the place I’d gone to the night before, but my friends (and I) weren’t feeling it, so we wandered around some more. We found a place with a lot of people in front of it called Club 911, and it looked bumping, so when the Africans came to usher us in we let them.
The place was crowded. Really, really crowded. You couldn’t really dance without stepping on toes or elbowing someone in the face, so we just kinda swayed back and forth. People were pushing and shoving all over the place. At one point, I was grinding on this girl for 10 minutes… completely accidentally. She was getting pushed from one direction, me from another, and there was absolutely no where else to go. Hey, sure, a little accidental freak never hurt.
However, my feet were still wrecked, and I was getting pretty tired. It was somewhere around 1AM on the second day I woke up at 5AM after not really getting any sleep.
Az’s Travel Tip #19 – Any travel day where you wake up at 5AM will involve you taking a lot of afternoon naps, and ultimately going to bed early.
I decided to take a break, and went outside.
Az’s Legs: Hi. Remember us?
Az: Yeah, I haven’t forgotten you guys.
Legs: You sure? We mean, we thought the blisters and constant pain signals we’ve been sending you the past day were getting through, but instead of resting us now you’re dancing?!
Az’s Penis: Hey! I’ve lost all readings on my Girl Radar… are we outside?!
Az: Take it up with the downstairs crew.
Az’s Penis: What the fuck? We’re not gonna get any out here! Get back in that club!
Az’s Legs: Even if we did, it’s not like the big guy is gonna come through.
Az: Hey, what’s that supposed to mean?
Az’s Penis: It means, you’re a big black guy in Japan and not getting laid on a regular basis. How lame are you?
Az: …Ouch. That was below the belt.
Az’s Penis: It had to be said.
Az’s Heart: C’mon guys, let’s not bicker like this. I know everyone’s hurting and tired.
Az’s Penis: I’m not, I’m ready and raring…
Az’s Heart: Yeah… like I said, everyone’s tired, but we came all the way out here, let’s go back in and give it our best shot, ok?
Az’s Legs: Well, I guess we can hold out a little bit longer…
Az’s Heart: That’s the spirit! Now c’mon everyone, let’s go!
Az’s Eyes: Waitasec though, something’s up…
Having struck out at the club, I now slept at the base of Tokyo Tower. Outside. There were some young people hanging out in the area, but I didn’t think much of them. I slept lightly, drifting in and out. At one point, I thought they came over to mess with me… but I don’t know if this happened or if I dreamt it.
At some point, a black van drove up and parked just a few meters behind me. At about 3:30, I was awoken by a loud noise. I turned to see that some of the kids had slashed one of the tires on the van. Literally seconds later, a police car came by. The kids tried to run away, but the police eventually caught them. Another police car pulled up and parked directly behind me. I didn’t know if it was ok to be sleeping on the bench like that, so I just sat up. A male police officer came my way. He said good evening to me and I returned it. But I made it look like I was just another random tourist who didn’t speak Japanese. He got that vibe, and with his natural Japanese fear of English kicking in, he walked away… but didn’t leave the area yet.
Meanwhile, yet another police car pulled up. This time a policewoman got out and started talking to me. She told me that it’s ok for me to sleep on the bench, but that I should be careful because there was a murder in Roppongi that night and the murderer was still on the loose. I did not know that. She then started asking me questions like where I was from, what I was doing in Tokyo, where was my ID, etc. She was really nice, so it took me awhile before I realized I was actually being questioned. I think I finally caught on when she asked if I was carrying any sharp knives in my bag. Only in Japan will the police ask you if you happen to have the murder weapon on you.
I had no work one Thursday and Friday while the kids took their midterm exams. So I headed up to Tokyo. A friend was there for a work conference, and I kind of wanted to get away. Otherwise, I made no arrangements– simply packed some essentials in a bag, scribbled down the names of places I’d like to see on a piece of paper, and took off.
I took an overnight bus which put me at Tokyo Station on Thursday at 5AM. I spent the next hour looking for a bathroom. Despite being the largest train station in Japan, it is disturbingly devoid of bathrooms. When I finally found one, it was CLOSED UNTIL 7:30. “Fuck you!” I said aloud. Once I finally gave up and just decided to go on with my trip, I immediately found one open.
My first stop was Tokyo Tower, where I napped on the benches outside until it opened. Once inside I silently prayed to myself that Godzilla wouldn’t attack that day. I kind of think Japanese people secretly hate the Tokyo Tower, because it’s always the first thing to get taken out if Godzilla/aliens from the Dark Kingdom/invading forces come to Japan. At one point, I was in an elevator full of little old Japanese ladies who were literally half my height. Seriously, their heads came up to about my belt. It was then that I realized that I was Godzilla, and since I had no plans of attacking I had nothing to worry about.
I also visited a temple in the area, went to see the Yokohama port, took a nice afternoon nap in a park, and toured to a Ramen Museum. When I met up with my friend and his Japanese friend, they were partied out from the night before and planned to just take it easy. This was my first night, so I wanted to go out. I stayed while they had dinner (I was stuffed from the ramen), and played around in an arcade for a bit, then I went to Roppongi to go clubbing.
For those of you who have never been to Roppongi…God does not exist in Roppongi. There is no God out there, that nigga gone fishing. There are African guys lined up all down the street, trying to usher you into some club or sex shop. Just look at them and they’ll start walking with you trying to get you into their club. Add to that a plethora of sleazy foreigners and dirty Japanese tricks, and you have the God-less Roppongi.
Well, at least the club/party section, I hear the residential parts are quite nice.