Thursday, August 25, 2005

Gaijin and wife: Return to Kazama(ura)

News flash: Yesterday, workers of the Kazamaura municipal office aprehended a rude and criminal monkey which, in accordance with Japan’s over-lenient monkey criminal code, was released unharmed into the village’s mountains. The monkey was discovered in a private residence in the hamlet of Shimofuro stealing bunches of grapes. This monkey had, on the previous day, stolen a squash from the same house. When confronted, the monkey fled up a telephone pole and proceeded to defecate in the presence of villagers and village officials. This was taken as a grave insult and provoked the village officials to set the live animal trap in which the monkey was finally captured. Today the social education section of the village board of education has been swamped in paper work demanded by higher levels of bureaucracy less in tune with local attitudes towards simian invasions. Dag-nab it, I missed all the action AGAIN! If only it had taken place today I could have participated in the affair as a board of education employee.

Yuko and Me Happy to Be Home in Kazama Making Okonomiyaki for Lunch: Please Note the Extremely Messy Background—that is NOT what Our House Looks Like

I cannot begin to describe what the past three and a half weeks of travel in Canada and the U.S. have meant to us. In fact, practically speaking, it would be impractical even to attempt to catalogue our activities since we covered so much territory, visited so many people, and did so many things.

Instead, here are some meditations upon my embarking on my second year as Kazamaura Village’s Assistant Language Teacher:

Meditation I: On My Hyper-Gaijin-Sensitivity

I repent of my petty complaining over real and/or perceived injustices and slights inflicted on me as a foreigner in Japan. People can call me Ruku-sensei all they want now—it doesn’t matter anymore. I henceforth refuse to be offended when clerks and random citizens insist on maintaining eye-contact with my Asian companions even though their business is with me and I am speaking perfectly reasonable Japanese to them—it doesn’t matter anymore. I will no longer bare my teeth at every comment I hear propagating stereotypes of foreigners—it doesn’t matter anymore. In the last three weeks I have seen variations on all of the sins mentioned above being practiced with equal fervour in the reverse direction.

Meditation II:
I’ve decided not to bother with Meditation II. I will instead formulate this year’s motto for Kazamaura’s ALT: “Lighten up and Relax, Dude”

Meditation III:
Air travel isn’t fun anymore. Why do people need to be so uptight about being blown up? We’re all going to die anyway—we might as well create a world in which we can fly towards our deaths without worrying about being strip searched by haughty immigration officials invested with way too much arbitrary power over other human beings. On 11 September 2001 I thought that a new era was dawning in which wealthy societies would comprehend the need to stop ripping off poor countries, de-urbanize, spread out low to the ground, and work towards developing a more organic economic infrastructure. Instead we (yes, “WE”—the most avid anti-Bush Americans and the most avid anti-American non-Americans are just as complicit in the current social order as people who voted Republican) are going to build an even taller building in Manhattan, continue buying cheap stuff made by poor people in hot countries, and worry ourselves sick about security.

So end the rambling meditations of a second year JET.

Oh yeah, Kazamaura's hamlet of Shimofuro was featured in a one hour special on Fuji Television this morning. That's one hour on national television devoted to our village!