So as many of you know, I spent a week doing Obon Dancing with the elderly at the welfare center at my town. While this seemed normal enough, part of the program included me at one point coming out in a shiny gold Matsuken Samba kimono. Because my life is just that special. And it wasn’t just one day of shiny glamorous torture, it was a whole week. Since the elderly could come and go as they pleased, the staff had to make sure they put on the exact same program every day of the week so that no one missed out.
However, my friend and I noticed that at least 50-60% of the audience had already been to the program. There were quite a few who went all five days. Sometime around Friday, my friend points this out to me.
Friend: Hey, that guy is here again.
Me: Yeah, I’m seeing a lot of people who were here yesterday. And the day before. And the day before that.
Friend: Man, they must be so bored of seeing the same thing over and over again.
Staff: (overhearing our conversation) Not really. Most of them probably don’t remember that they saw this before.
Me: (hopeful) So, you mean there’s a chance they’re not gonna remember me in the Matsuken outfit?
Staff: Oh no. They’re definitely going to remember that.
Me: That’s just wonderful.
Friend: I was going to say “if it makes you feel any better, they’ll be dead in the next few years”…but then I remembered that Japan has one of the highest life-expectancies on Earth. So sorry bud, you’re screwed.
Me: …Remind me to shorten yours later.
Matsuken aside, it was a pretty interesting week. Speaking of people who came everyday, there was one guy who was pretty lively. He got up and danced everyday, sometimes with the aid of a walker. But hell – according to the staff, this guy was in his late 80’s/early 90’s, so I was impressed at any kind of movement, really. We also came to find out that he had been a soldier in WWII. He was really outgoing and friendly, and seemed genuinely happy to be able to come do the dancing with us.
Even more than that though, everyday he came…he came with a date. And everyday…it was with a different woman. My friend asked one of the male staff members about it, who after giving his response a little careful thought, said, “Yeah, he’s still got a lot of kick left in him at this age. He’s the…how do I put it…he’s the playboy of the facility. We think he’s got about 10 girlfriends.”
Holy fucking snap, crackle, AND pop. This guy is doing at 90 what many guys can’t do…ever.
Friend: So you mean to tell me that this guy is almost 90 years old..
Me: Fought in a war and lived to talk about it…
Friend: And isn’t holding it against you Yanks (my friend is Aussie)…
Me: And is macking on not one, not two, but TEN different women. That’s it – this man is my new hero. Call Chuck Norris, he’s been replaced. This old guy is the new avatar upon which we will measure manhood.
Friend: I’m amazed. I mean, how can he do it?
Me: He spits mad game?
Friend: No, I mean literally, how can he do it?
Me: …Viagra’s a hell of a drug?
Friend: No, even more than that – he can barely dance here for more than 5 minutes without getting all tired out. How in the world is he sexing up ten different women?
Staff: (again, overhearing) Yeah, we try not to think too deeply about that.
Me: Man, I hope I can sex up 10 women when I’m 90 years old.
Friend: When you’re 90? Dude, seriously, you did live in America for the first 22 years of your life.
Me: Okay, fine, when I’m 70.
Friend: (just gives me one of those looks)
Me: Allright, fine! I hope I’m not fat, balding, and impotent by the time I’m 45.
Me: And divorced.
Friend: Much better.
My new hero aside, I learned a lot during my week at the welfare center. I learned that Japanese children and the elderly are a lot more alike than one would think. Both will freely speak their minds – children have yet to be properly broken by The System, and the elderly are too old to give a shit anymore. They figure they’re almost dead, why step on eggshells now? I think this is why Japanese obasan are so damned strong – essentially, they’re Klingons. “Yes, today would be a good day to die. Now get the fuck outta my way.”
That’s not to say all obasan are warriors. There’s a lot of really nice ones too. When the dance program comes to a conclusion for the day, my friend and I would circle around the group, and shake hands with everyone individually and thank them for coming. As I came around on one day, one old lady took my hand with both of hers and asked me when I was going back to America. I explained that I wasn’t sure, but as my JET contract was due to end in August, at the very least I was going to have to leave that town. “I don’t want you to go,” she says. “Stay here.”
Now, this would have been the perfect Hallmark moment. It would have been.
The old lady continues. “You should marry a nice girl here in town and just stay forever. I’d offer you one of my granddaughters but they’re all ugly and I can’t in good faith give you one.” If there’s a Hallmark card for this, I certainly have never seen it. “I’d give you a granddaughter to marry but they’re all ugly”? “I’d have a husband for you if you didn’t turn out so hideously”? “My Dearest Daughter – are you sure you didn’t fuck Joe Pesci, or Carrot Top or something?” Furthermore, what am I supposed to say to that? In my confusion I think I said “Ah, okay, well, thank you. Maybe next time.” …Next time what? Here’s hoping the next generation turns out all right?
Girl: (Answers the door), Um, yes?
50-yr old Az: Hi. You don’t know me, but your great-grandmother promised me a wifey, and as your mom wasn’t pretty enough I had to wait for awhile, but…yeah, you’ll do.
Anyhow, moving along…during the program, the MC would stop the dancing every now and then to give the old folks a break. During the intervals, he’d ask us random questions. One day, he asked us if we did any other types of dancing. My friend says that he likes going to clubs and dancing there. Naturally, the MC asks if he could demonstrate a little club dancing for everyone. Naturally, this is a bit of an odd request – to try and dance as if you were at a club, but with no music, the lights actually on, and all eyes focused on you. He looked towards me, as if for some sort of buzzer-beating salvation, but I only mouthed the words “they’ll be dead soon” back in English to him, and he knew he was fucked.
So he spits out a beat and does a little club dancing. It’s actually not too bad, and for what its worth, the old folks are getting a big kick out of it. One obasan *really* got worked up. We’d noticed this woman before trying to commandeer the program away from the MC. She got up out of her seat, and swear to God I shit you not, gave my friend a healthy slap on the ass. My friend literally just stops then and there, as his brain shuts down trying to process what had just happened. The obasan, with what seems to be a brand-new spring her in step, says, “now THAT’S a healthy young lad!” before going back to her seat. I also return to my seat, trying to find a way to hide the tears that are now streaming down my face.
My friend is spared any further dancing/embarrasement/ass-slapping by the MC, who I think is also trying to choke back a chuckle or two. Friend takes a seat next to me, and it’s clear that the events that have transpired still have not quite registered.
Friend: Did I…just…get slapped on the ass by an 80-year old Japanese woman?
Me: Hey, look at the bright side. At least she wasn’t pregnant.
On yet another day, I noticed I had acquired a pair of Japanese obasan fangirls. I didn’t notice them immediately because they are like half my height and I was looking over the tops of their heads for awhile. I eventually did notice them down there, marvelling at the size of my feet.
Obasan 1: Wow, his feet are huge!
Me: Size 32. Impossible to find in Japan.
Obasan 2: (taking my hand) Look, his hands are huge too!
Me: Well, I guess if you say so.
Obasan 1: You are just one huge fella.
Obasan 2: And, you know, if his feet and hands are this big, THAT has got to be pretty big as well!
Me: Oh dear God…
Obasan 1: Hey, you shouldn’t say stuff like that!
Obasan 2: Oh, it’s okay, he doesn’t understand Japanese.
Note that I had been talking in Japanese to everyone all afternoon long.
Obasan 2: (back to me) Why weren’t you in Japan 50 years ago?
Me: (thinking) Because my parents were still playing with Lincoln Logs and Lego’s?
Later, my friend and I have a profound conversation on the whole thing.
Me: Why did that happen? Why?
Friend: What are you so upset about? I thought you liked older women.
Me: Yeah. I like Mrs. Robinsons, not Blanche Devereaux’s.
Friend: At any rate, it’s been a hell of a week. I’m glad to have gotten out of the office for a change.
Me: And I was glad to have escaped school. …Although this wasn’t so dissimilar.
Me: Yeah. You know what though, riddle me this. Why is it that in Japan, the only girls who brazenly and shamelessly throw themselves at me are either 10 years too young, or 50 years too old?
Friend: …Huh. God really does hate you.
Me: DID YOU THINK I’VE BEEN JOKING FOR THE PAST FEW YEARS?
Well, I guess if I’m ever lonely and wanting when I’m old and feeble, at least I’ll know a good place to go.