Monday, October 24, 2005

A Weekend In Autumn

Saturday night I went to the local Budokan for Aikido practice. At the front of the large hall was a banner announcing the "Moto-ha Yoshin-ryu Jujutsu Taikai." Beneath it were the flags of a dozen countries, most of them Scandanavian or former Soviet States. After playing guess that flag awhile, I pondered why an international event like this was being held in the 'Nog, of all places. Sunday, I went to watch and soon had my answer. It turns out this group is an offshoot of the Nishinomiya-based Hontai Yoshin-ryu, whose current head is originally from the 'Nog. It was strange to see a group of foreigners in my small city, in MY martial arts hall (and it is mine, since I'm the only foreign budoka to train with any consistancy). Their numbers were far greater than this city's non-Asian gaijin population of around thirty. Stranger still was to hear languages other than the current lingua franca of Eigo.

Beside the fights in the dojo, I also saw two out on the streets. In front of Tsutaya, a young guy was aggressively standing inches away from some teenager, in the face-to-face way that Japanese guys get, which always builds tension in me as I wonder whether they'll kiss or kill. Later, at Buchschule, a blue kei car weaved erratically through the parking lot. I thought he was cutting off others in an attempt for the "rock star parking" space I'd just pulled out from, but instead he passed it and purposely stopped in front of another kei car. The maniac then leapt out and began hollering at the driver of the other car, madly gesturing like a marionette and pointing up the street. I wanted to see how it would play out, but the signal changed and I had to go. Strange things are afoot in the 'Nog, especially outside places which sell overpriced books.

Maybe it was the full moon. To better bathe in its perfect light, I drove up to Daisen. Coming down through a quiet stretch of forest, I startled a group of wild boars, which began to run in different directions, bumping into one another in a textbook definition of the expression, "utter confusion." Their erratic stupidity, and the obvious pig-police reference brought to mind the Keystone Cops, or maybe the more local variety. The boars ran down the hill awhile but never darted into the obvious safety of the trees. Like the jackrabbits of New Mexico, they ran out ahead of my truck, but were more frightened of running into the uncertain darkness outside the headlights. So, I slowly pulled alongside the boars and watched them awhile. My only prior experience with inoshishi had been to fish pieces out of a stew with my chopsticks. Alive, they were much more exciting. They run a little and stop, run a little and stop. The biggest one actually walked up to my door, then ran back. Then another car pulled up, coming from the other direction. Imagine the confusion! It was an agonizing few minutes. Then, as if getting some silent cue, they all ran past my car and up the hill. The other car followed, which caused them to stop again. This stalemate quickly became, well, stale, so I headed home.

The whole thing reminded me of yet another fight I saw a few years ago. While driving the mountainous roads which weave back and forth across the Tottori-Okayama line, I saw strange goings on up ahead. In the middle of the road was a huge coiled viper, under full attack from a weasel which kept running from the brush, coming at the snake in large leaps. The snake would strike, but the weasel kept jumping back to a safe range. Here too, I was able to roll up on the scene, to where the viper was just under my window. After taking a few more hits, the snake quickly moved off the road into the brush, the weasel hot on its flank. Rikki Tikki Tavi lives!

(By the way, this is my hundredth post! Fighto!)

On the turntable: Serge Gainsbourg, "Gainsbourg... Forever"
On the nightable: "The O'Henry Awards: Prize Stories 2000"

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