Looking Back on ’08
ARTICLES ATTRACTING MY ATTENTION IN JAPANESE NEWSPAPERS
From the readers’ column: ‘I am busy’ is narcissistic?’
Some people always say ‘I am busy’. I feel that they look down upon the people who do not seem to be busy for them, by firing the trademark phrase in rapid succession. I am sure that they do not choose the phrase for those who are sure to be busier than them. In fact, who is not busy in this world? It is just a difference between people who find a convenient excuse in their busyness and those others who do not. I am very uncomfortable if the other party says ‘I am busy’. So I never mouth the phrase. If someone uses the phrase to me. I ask him/her in my mind ‘WHAT MAKES YOU SO BUSY?’
An old actress’s comment
Watching TV, I was surprised that an 80-year old actress still shows us her raison d’être as a bit player. Her comment: ‘I have continued working for 60 years because I have never been satisfied with my performance. In our age, actors/actresses could win the excellent new star prize after 10 years’ experience. I am sorry that today’s people cannot stand waiting a whole decade. In the first 10 years, you manage to learn the ABCs of any job. Even if the world speeds up, humans do not grow at the same pace.’
Certainly, most ‘actors/actresses’ in Japan in their 20s are just good-looking, so they disappear like our prime ministers, before we remember their names. Brad Pitt is one year younger than I am, but has distinguished himself in the world in these 10 years: he was not so young then.
Private taxi drivers install a fridge in their cars and wait for high government officials going home from work in Kasumigaseki (=Whitehall in London or Manhattan in NY). The drivers serve them beer, snacks and sometimes give out shopping coupons. We had never heard the name ‘tavern taxi’ before, but one driver said ‘Why do you criticise us now? We have offered this service for as many as 20 years. We love to pick up long-distance fares who have taxi coupons supplied by public agencies with coupons surmounted by an aureole.’
‘I would like to go back to prison.’
Released convicts have a hard time finding food, beds and jobs in a recession. Some of them do wrong intentionally, in order to get back to ‘a heaven in the wall’. Three meals and a bed are guaranteed there. One took a taxi and had a long-distance drive without money. But the generous driver forgave him, saying ‘I cannot ask money from a pennyless man. Never again.’ His effort fell short of his expectations.
Next, he broke the windows of a police station. A policeman also said ‘Never again!’ Unfortunately, the road to prison was too winding for him. Thirdly, he committed burglary at a convenience store. After that, he sat on the floor and waited for the police to come. A clerk said ‘he was a strange burglar’. The article did not say if he could get back into prison finally, but I hope he succeeded after trying his best.
Japanese are VERY sensitive to ‘best-before’ dates. I enjoyed opinions in readers’ columns about a catch phrase to protect the environment: ‘Clever housewives buy milk packs from the front of a display shelf’ (I hate this ‘pushy’ phrase) as I always extend my arm as far back as possible when buying the apple juice I drink in 3 days. Supermarkets put the packs with earlier best-before dates at the front and those with later dates at the back. Only the milk packs at the very front strangely remain on sale there.
A famous restaurant changed the dates on dry food and sold older ones under new dates last year. AFTER this incident, we became EVEN MORE EXCESSIVELY SENSITIVE to sell-by dates.
When I bought a Chinese bun at a convenience store, I later found the best-before date on even a tiny mustard tube (1 x 2 cm.=0.4 x 0.8 inches) accompanying it—a VERY JAP. way of thinking.
In this connection, I have a question for MEN IN THE WORLD. Why are you extremely sensitive about the best-before date of women? I do not remember when mine expired.
SENRYÛ (Satirical Poem)/CATCH PHRASE CONTESTS
I happened to find works I wrote for a copy-writing correspondence course I enjoyed 20 years ago. The judge’s general comment through the two years’ course, was ‘I like your light touch. But you sip the surface, not the meat inside. In addition, your hand-writing is very difficult for me to read. Write more neatly.’ I thought then ‘DO YOU MEAN I AM A FOOL? I AM NOT A WOMAN?’ But when I reread my works recently, he was right. It is impossible for a girl in her 20’s to appreciate the taste of Jap. saké.
My catch-phrase for Sumitomo Bank was ‘We are a big piggy bank!’ He said ‘Your taste is not so bad, but a copy-writer has to take away the goods’ clothing and express in words the only thing left over. In this case, you have to differentiate Sumitomo from other city banks.’ It is the difference between Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley. He asked too much of me.
The next theme was destitute children. They are not my neighbours, so thinking about them was not easy. Seeing a poster about them, my phrase was ‘Though hungry, their bellies are swollen.’ His comment was ‘I understand what you would like to say, but the phrase is weak.’
I saw an ad for them in a quality magazine the other day. It said ‘Give me clean water’ with a kid’s image. My comment was DITTO.
As many as 20 years have passed since then. When my old cat Nyanchee got ill (I did want money to treat him), I enjoyed again thinking up catch phrases, and senryû (a new field for me). Two of mine were chosen as fine work (not gold, silver or bronze) up to Oct. Though the present I got was a white elephant, I was relieved because I had applied for 100 ! (so my batting average is 2% SO FAR). I will continue the relationship between Nyanchee in heaven and me through the contests. Nyanchee! Mum wants to get prize money (1st to 3rd) and keep a cat that is just like you (a modest boy tiger) in future! Keeping a pet is expensive now, unlike when I was a kid.
A HATED FIGURE
Misugi Takatoshi—SELF-APPOINTED pottery ‘RESEARCHER’. Even I noticed it when I received his article for Daruma 9 years ago. The above-mentioned judge would have said to him nonchalantly if he read his article ‘Your IQ is lower than THE BOTTOM OF A VALLEY’. After his wife’s death, he started calling me regularly. (He is 80ish now and lives alone).
I felt sorry for him and bent an ear to his bragging (in which I did not feel ‘wit’ or ‘intelligence’). He was so stupid that he talked without restraint. Finally he gave Daruma uninvited advice last year. I thought he was too rude. It took 3 months for me to recover from his ‘heart-less’ advice. I do hate people who interfere in other people’s affairs without being asked: very arrogant and childish. I googled him. The first entry was ‘Shall we go to COURT?’ from a serious collector. Misugi gave him groundless advice as usual. The person was so angry that he recorded what Misugi said on the phone and publicised it on the Internet. The collector said at the end of his website ‘According to Wikipedia, he is THE MASTER, in terms of blue and white porcelain. Show me THE EVIDENCE!’ I absolutely agree with him.
The next entry was a book by the ‘RESEARCHER’: ‘Real-Fake Story’: ‘Put the article in the tokonoma alcove. If it looks bigger than the actual one, it is real. If not, it is fake. This is THE SECRET OF SECRETS!’ I call it ‘the famous tokonoma story’.
He tried to cause a copyright problem for Daruma through his friend, a publisher this year in order JUST to bully me. It is the worst memory for me of this year and I still have not recovered from the shock. Of course he failed, as I am innocent. Why did he do it? He called and woke me up at 11:30 AT NIGHT 2 months before the incident. He asked me ‘How’s Seton san?’ (He lives near my obedient editor’s house). ‘He is in hospital. When he leaves there, please ask him directly, not me. By the way, do you know where the ??? hall is?’ ‘I do not know. By the way, what time is it now? Never call me again!’ The copyright issue was his WOMANLY REVENGE for my cold attitude on getting the phone call.
I can EASILY take off his clothes: If I displayed him in the tokonoma alcove, he would look smaller than he actually is.
BEING CALLED A LEGENDARY SALESMAN
This is a book title. The author is a collector, too. I do not like to handle salesmen/women, but Daruma wanted an article on his collection. I asked his address from the publisher of his book, and sent him a letter and some Daruma copies. IN THE MEANTIME (he said he had not received them), he e-mailed me his self-introduction and an explanation of his collection in ‘so-so’ English (He is Jap.).
‘Dear Miss Takeguchi,
I’ve heard from the publisher that you have paid attention to my collection. (…) If you are STILL interested and MORE in it after reading this e-mail, please do not hesitate to contact me.’
I liked ‘MISS’ (he used it intentionally), and his rhetoric of ‘still’ and ‘more’.
‘Miss’ in Japan means ‘a woman less than 30 years old’, so I am an ‘Old Miss’ (never-married though over 40: our crooked disposition is not favoured by other people. We do not know the ‘love’ or ‘patience’ people have found through marriage!).
I replied to him ‘MISS!? Shall I show you my waistLESS body? If you saw me, you would have added “Old” before “Miss”. I have done an Internet search. The title of your business book is too much for me!’
He answered ‘I understand that it is a quite ordinary courtesy to use ‘Miss’ toward a lady I contact for the first time. The publisher chose the name of the book in order to sell it. I did not choose the word ‘legendary’.
After calling him, he sent me images of his collection immediately and did not complain about the Daruma text I recapped from his collection (saying ‘I have left it up to you.’)
Unlike Misugi, the legendary salesman-cum-collector taught me something: ‘Speed is the most important if you want something. He still sends me e-mail sometimes and encourages me: ‘Daruma falls seven times and rebounds eight!’
Japan POST Bank sends leaflets to POST offices all over the country through a private company mailing system, NOT through the POST. Yes! Using the former, it costs only 80 yen (80 cents) for 3 copies of Daruma sent in Japan. When giving a 100 yen coin to the lady, EVEN I sometimes forget to receive the change (=20 yen/cents). The post office wants 340 yen for 3 copies. I remember a memorial to the founder of the company, saying ‘He was A MAN’, as he fought and won against red tape.
A clerk at the post office said to me ‘These envelopes weigh 501 grams, so give me another 340 yen each.’ I peeled off a customs declaration seal (about 2 grams) on each envelope and put them in the garbage box IN FRONT OF her, saying ‘Pasting the seal on these envelopes is meaningless.’ She is an ‘Old Miss’, too. She ‘smells’ the same as me.
The game at Euro 2008 I liked most was Holland vs Russia. It was worth getting up at 3:30 am. to watch. The national team Guus Hiddink has built up, showed me the charm of football as usual. (Russia vs Spain was boring, because the winning team was too strong). I do not like Marco van Basten (the then Dutch coach), because I am a fan of Nistelrooij (they are cat and dog). He showed us his ‘pride’ as a forward, opened the box and tied the score just before extra time. But van Basten completely disregarded his achievement, just saying ‘I am very sorry for van der Sar (the goal-keeper). He contributed to the national team for a long time but I could not leave him with the title in his last service for the team.’ I like van der Sar, too. But van Basten did not have the ability to be in the Dutch national team where a storm in a teacup is a daily experience.
About the financial panic in the US, an American woman said on TV “With the advice of a credit card company, we bought a SECOND house with a CARD. (…….) As a result, we went bankrupt.” I could not understand what she was trying to say.
While watching the SAME programme on TV separately in the kitchen and living room (That’s probably why their 3 children have NOT married.), Mum and Dad shout to each other ‘I know the actress, but cannot remember her name. Do you remember’ ‘Yes! I know her, but can’t remember her name, either.’ Their conclusion: ‘ask Momoko’. I read that Margaret Thatcher has dementia at the age of 82. It will not be strange for me if they follow her example soon.
‘What is death?’ an undertaker answered ‘The ultimate equality.’
I am so BUSY that I really should stop writing this absurd letter.
Thank you very much for your continual support for Daruma and I wish you an auspicious and happy 2009!