Rhetorical Question, My Ask!


I read the little boy’s t-shirt as we passed near Oimachi Station: “Get Off My Smile” it said, and without the benefit of punctuation, or, you know, syntax, I was stumped.  

“GANJA” was written on this older man’s… and he was at the sacred statue, so it can’t mean “burn one”, right?

The third grader’s this morning was more forthcoming:  “I demand stimulation.”

And this last guy- he was silvery, slouching, and probably pushing retirement- wore a tight top curiously reading “HANGOVER. Bring balance to your life.”

I can’t figure out if these are precisely translated nuggets of ancient wisdom, or just some jackass’s recognition of the masses liking anything reeking of English.  I hope it’s the former.  Note to self, though: don’t buy anything with Japanese characters just to have something exotic.  Far be it from me to come all the way back from Asia and accidentally promote the hairy-palmed mafia or some other such travesty of travels. I mean… ouch.

On a more “US Weekly” note, though, I signed autographs all morning!  Who has two thumbs and can’t get enough of this girl?  Everyone under the age of eleven in the entire prefecture, methinks.  We got the kindergarden and elementary tour today, and at the risk of hinting at my fragile emotional status yet again, I have to report that it was really pretty special.  

The kindergarten was first, and it was the kind of experience that makes me think about “oh, how apt a word!”  Because really, it was a garden of blooming children and I wanted to lovingly water them and watch them grow and protect them from pollution and  pesticides, which is what I consider things like McDonald’s and Call of Duty.  

The kids welcomed us with a couple of heartwarming trips up and down the chromatic scale, and I took a video which I’ll share in a separate post because I can’t figure out how to embed it.

How ‘bout that, right?  (You’ll say, after watching.) And then they asked us, in unison, our favorite color.  It had clearly been carefully rehearsed for days (see video #2.)

I wish I could take more video at my own school, but (side note: Allow me to regress about twenty years for a sec, because it amuses me.  Okay, I just said “gesundheit” to the sexy, sneezing gym teacher who asked but has not yet taken me out for whiskey. He totally ignored me… as he has since the asking, now that I think about it. In his defense, this is the first time we’ve seen each other in the two school days since, but still.  Hmmm… Too soon for a Germany reference?  Have I committed a feminine faux pas by speaking before spoken to?  Did he honestly have no idea I was talking to him since I’m probably just so much gibberish?  I imagine it likely means that his asking was simply, “yeah, I was just being polite,” but as history has repeatedly proven, I like to naively believe in words while I simultaneously deep six actions.

Dang, I just want to snap at him, “hey!  See here, my legs look good today; pay attention to me!” but they’re primly tucked under my desk right now and there’s really no classy way for that to fly.  This is the kind of superfun anxiety that I like much better than, for example, “I wonder if that’s alive and/or food.”  End side note.)

Wait, now I want to side note again: there hasn’t been a seamless way to mention this yet, but I am continually delighted by the fact that everyone carries a towel here.  See, the school is completely without napkins or other paper wipeys, and I can appreciate that on a number of different levels.  

1) Earth.  Earth is fun, and she hates all this needless litterbuggery.

2) Who needs a hand dryer when you have pants?

3) All kids do with napkins is shred them anyway, and

42) Hooray for the Hitchhiker’s Guide!  Most people probably can’t match my approximately baker’s dozen times of reading it, but I love that damned Guide to the Galaxy.  And if you’ve read it you’ll know that a towel is a non-negotiable travel companion.  It is absolutely beguiling to me that these kids carry personal ones on which to deposit their daily living.  Copying that.

Where was I?  Oh, right: media permission.  I don’t have that at Shinagawa Gakuen, so I can’t show you video of the giddy tots at my home school.  The kindergarten gave us the rights, though, so all signs point to ‘yes’ on that note.  You even get to see a part of  the dance! In, as it turns out, another post.

Kinda puts you in the general mood of the Grinchmas Reformation, yes?  Triple-sized heart and whatnot?  I thought so.  

Oh, plus they gave me this official school jacket to wear so I did the thing where you- I believe the kids are calling them “selfies”- take an down-angle picture of yourself for the express purpose of showing off to all of your social mediamigos.  

A half an hour of giblet playtime was next, so I parked myself in front of a bunch of four-year-olds and let them dress me up as a manga superhero, feed me with paper ice cream cones, and playfully throw little balls at me.  Through the universal language of pretending the balls hurt because of the strength of the toddlers throwing them, I made friends.  Lots of grabby high-fiving ensued upon departure.  

At the elementary school, our next stop, a few of the third grade classes had performances prepared for us.  I know they were third graders because all the students have special shoes here, on which their grades and classes are written, and I knew about the shoes because all the performances have been in Japanese and when I don’t have the slightest idea what’s happening, I look at people’s t-shirts and feet.  

Then it was lunch, time to communicate in my other universal language: the one where people make the dumbest, most contortionist faces possible at each other while laughing uproariously.  I’m lucky in that I can do the wave with my tongue and wiggle my eyebrows independently, plus I have this party trick (provided the party is filled with non-alcoholic 10-year-olds) where I twist my elbows around and stick my head through them.  Honestly, if I taught social skills, I would probably just recommend acting like an idiot because before I knew it, kids were grabbing their friends, requesting specific grotesqueries, and generally using me like a set of animated and personable monkey bars.  And I’m cool with that.

It’s time for another side note, live from the front desk: I’ve just successfully engaged the gym teacher without resorting to said ridiculous face-making.  Progress and emotional maturity are both at hard at work here, friends.  Now back to our regularly scheduled program…

Plenty of autographs and a humerus stroke-fest later- and yes, I mean that in the literal sense of the arm, though there was screaming laughter, too- it was time to go.  I’m a walking germ factory for sure, but I’m feeling good about bridging the gap-toothed gap.  If these kids remember nothing else except a warm sense of some fun they had with an American, I feel like I’ve done my job.  And I will definitely remember my fawning fans with fondness.

Stimulate you, little third grader?  If we’re talkin’ humor, well then, pshhhhh, kid- I can do that with my eyes crossed.  Somebody else can teach you how to translate, though.

Ha! Final and triumphant side note: after a stilted and awkward exchange at the five o’clock bell, I’m certain he loves me again.  Winning! 

Winning at today.


One thought on “Rhetorical Question, My Ask!

  1. Colleen Foster says:

    Another fine read! I liked your observation about “kindergarten”. I’m also thinking I’d like to come visit (don’t worry, I won’t) because I’d love to feel like a movie star for a day. Can’t you move your ears too?


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