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Sunday, Sept. 12, 1999
Three cheers for Respect for the Aged Day
By AMY CHAVEZ
There's a naked lady in my "genkan." I was upstairs in my office just now, when I heard someone calling my name. I went downstairs and there was 88-year-old Yamakawa-san, standing there naked.
"Is your husband home?" she asked.
When I told her he wasn't, she said, "Well then, you don't mind if I change my clothes here, do you?"
"Of course not," I said, "What are genkans for?"
When she was finished changing, she put her other clothes into a bag, thanked me and went out the door. But at the last minute, she remembered something and came back.
"Take this," she said, and shoved an empty oil can into the genkan.
I must have looked perplexed.
"You can have it," she assured me.
I still haven't figured out what to do with the empty oil can, but I'll keep it just in case I ever need one.
The first time I met Yamakawa-san, whose name translates into English as Mrs. Mountain River, she said, "Easy to remember. Yama," and pointed to the mountain, then "kawa," and pointed to the, uh, sea.
Yamakawa-san has a little cart. I'm sure you've seen lots of Japanese grandmas pushing these, but have you ever wondered what's inside them? Whenever I pass Yamakawa-san on the street, she accosts me with something from her magic cart.
One time she said, "I'm on my way back from my garden. Here, take some potatoes." After I had an armful of potatoes, she rummaged around inside her cart a little more and brought out a bag of popsicles. She stacked them on top of the potatoes.
"You sure do grow some strange things in your garden, Yamakawa-san," I said.
"Oh yes," she agreed. Then she came to her favorite subject. "Haven't you had any babies yet, Amy? You've got to have babies," she insists.
"Yes, yes, someday," I always tell her.
One day I was jogging along the beach and Yamakawa-san called to me.
"Not now, Yamakawa-san. I'm jogging."
"No matter, no matter. You get over here right now!"
Of course, I obeyed, as everyone does with Yamakawa-san. She opened her magic cart and brought out two fresh chicken eggs. She said, "Repeat after me," and we sang "enka" to the sea.
When we were finished, she noticed something on the ground and said, "Hey, look at that." She picked up a snakeskin from the grass. She looked at me and said, "Do you need this?"
"No, thanks," I said.
Then she put the snakeskin into her cart. I continued my jog with an egg in each fist.
One time, Yamakawa-san produced an unusually large gourd from her cart.
"This will help you get babies," she told me. Then she jiggled her hips and said, "This is the fruity-fruity. Come on, do the fruity-fruity."
So we stood there and danced the fruity-fruity. "It's very good for sex," she advised me. Sometimes Yamakawa-san comes over to my house late at night. If the door is locked, she bangs on the window until I answer. One night she came over and announced, "I'm going to teach you the Shiraishi Bon dance." She took two fans out of her cart as props, and we danced in my living room until midnight.
As she left that night she said, "Haven't you had any babies yet, Amy? You've got to have babies. I had seven, you know."
"Yes, yes, someday I'll have babies," I told her.
Just the other day I saw Yamakawa-san outside my house so I went out to talk to her. She was trying to say something, but I couldn't understand her because her mouth was full. She was chewing on something, but I couldn't tell what. Finally, she put her hand up to her mouth, emptied the contents out into her palm and said, "Repeat after me." We sang enka to the sea. Then she said, "Haven't you had any babies yet Amy? You've got to have babies."
"Someday I'll have babies," I told her.
She reached into her magic cart and gave me a dozen eggs and some dried squid. Then she put the contents from her palm back into her mouth and walked away.
On Sept. 15, we celebrate Respect for the Aged Day. I'd like to dedicate 1999 Respect for the Aged Day to Yamakawa-san, my favorite "obaachan." And I'd like to thank all of the aged people in Japan for giving us another national holiday.
Visit the Japan Lite home page at www.amychavez.com or e-mail comments to: firstname.lastname@example.org