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Saturday, Sept. 14, 2002

JAPAN LITE

Rip Van Twinkle: awake for 100 years


You all know the story of Rip Van Winkle, who slept for 20 years. But how many of you know the story of Rip Van Twinkle, who stayed awake for 100 years?

Rip Van Twinkle was a "salaryman." He worked very hard every day. But sometimes, he had a hankering to work harder. In fact, he often sneaked out of his house at midnight to go to his company and put in a few extra hours. One night, when Rip was working in the wee hours, he felt drowsy, so he laid his head down on the desk and took a nap. He had a dream about Mount Fuji. When he awoke, he was as cold as snow, but he soon forgot about his dream and went back to work.

But ever since the dream, Rip couldn't sleep. He lay in bed every night, tossing and turning, but couldn't sleep a wink. Days went by and Rip didn't feel the slightest bit tired. He sat through company meetings that reached no consensus, he went out drinking and he sat for hours in hot springs, but still he couldn't sleep. He watched a noh play. Still he couldn't sleep.

He rode the "kodama," listened to English-language lessons on his Walkman and watched kung fu movies, all hoping he would either fall asleep or at the very least, die of boredom. But it was not to be. Not a wink of sleep, not even a nodding off. This is when Rip Van Twinkle began to suspect that he was not Japanese. Not even a "nissei"!

Rip lived months, which turned into years, with no sleep. At first, he enjoyed the nightlife to the fullest: hostess bars, karaoke, hanky-panky. But even this grew tiring. Rip longed for the peace that sleep brings.

Eventually, Rip found an old "futon" and took up residence under a cherry tree. Sometimes he would go into McDonald's to watch the high-school students with their heads on the table for a group snooze. Rip had long given up eating breakfast at McDonald's because the hotcakes didn't have the same taste if they weren't eaten in the morning after you had just woken up. And he didn't dare drink coffee for fear of being awake another few years.

But Rip was not lonely. In the springtime, people would come to his tree and drink sake and sing karaoke under the cherry blossoms. From his tree, every morning Rip could smell incense burning from a nearby house. Occasionally, he would sneak into the house and steal some green tea or fruit. He always escaped without being seen. Rip's best friends were animals: a dog, a monkey, a pheasant, a crane and many others. His favorite thing to do was go to the sea to visit his friend the sea turtle.

After 60 years of being awake, Rip Van Twinkle had a revelation: Kanreki! At 61, according to the Japanese zodiac, he would be reborn. Maybe this time he would be born a Japanese. He could nod off on the train when ever he liked, shut his eyes to "help him think" and pass out after drinking. He had a grand birthday celebration for his 61st birthday and invited all his animal friends. They brought boxes and boxes of gifts. The sea turtle gave him a box and told him to open it as soon as possible. But Rip had so many gifts, he forgot about the sea turtle's box completely.

Finally, when Rip had been awake for 100 years, he came across a box under a bush near his tree. It was the box from the sea turtle. When he opened it, smoke billowed out. In the smoke Rip could see an image of himself 100 years earlier, on the day he dreamed of Mount Fuji. It was morning and his colleagues were crowded around staring at his dead body slumped over his desk.

Rip looked at his hands and noticed that they suddenly seemed much younger. When he looked at the rest of his body, he was astonished to see that he was now a young boy. His name was Urashima Taro. From that day on, he could sleep anywhere, anytime, and never ever wanted to get out of bed in the mornings.

Contact Amy at amychavez2000@yahoo.com or visit the "Japan Lite" home page at www.amychavez.com


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