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Saturday, Dec. 28, 2002

JAPAN LITE

Three baas for the year of the sheep!


Baa-aa! Yes, you herd me right -- it's almost the year of the sheep. It's going to be a long year of itchy sweaters and mothballs. So put on your woolies and finish writing those New Year's cards.

There are plenty of cards to choose from, and most of them will give you a little insight into the secret world of sheep. I have already learned a lot from surveying the 2003 New Year's cards available:

Sheep come from China. In one of the typical New Year's cards this year, the picture on the front shows a sheep coming over on a boat from China with the Seven Gods of Good Luck. You've heard of boat people? Now we have boat sheep. In search of greener pastures, sheep are hitching a ride over to Japan on boats. It makes sense that, like everything else, sheep would be made in China. After all, you've never seen a sheep in Japan, have you?

Sheep affect the weather. Beware of the climatic implications of sheep. From the amount of New Year's card depicting sheep as clouds, it appears to be common knowledge that sheep can fly. This is because sheep are made up of vapor. If sheep think their bodies are clouds, we had better lookout for thunderstorms inside our sweaters. And expect the forecast for the new year to be partly sheepy with showers and thunderstorms. A whole herd could bring on a typhoon.

Sheep are a source of air pollution. Another little-known fact about sheep is that, according to one New Year's card, the steam clouds coming out of factory chimneys in front of Mount Fuji are actually sheep.

Sheep can jump over Mount Fuji. It is said in Japan that if you dream of Mount Fuji on New Year's Eve, it will bring you good luck. I wonder what will happen if you dream of sheep jumping over Mount Fuji? Perhaps it will bring you baa-aa-ad luck.

Sheep sit "seiza." Yes, one card shows sheep sitting on a "zabuton" pillow in the seiza style. He's also shaking, from pins and needles I presume. A whole herd of sheep with pins and needles could mean a whole field of legless sheep.

Disco sheep exist. More than a few New Year's cards have cool sheep wearing sunglasses, with their horns slicked back and curled behind their ears. Some are singing karaoke and dancing. What type of music do you think these sheep listen to? Not baa-aa-llads.

There's a "pink sheep" of the family. There seems to be no black sheep of the family in Japan. I have seen, however, a few cards with a little pink sheep. Best not ask about that.

Some sheep wear tutus. This is for sheep who participate in the baa-aa-llet.

Humans are born from the butts of sheep. Really! One New Year's card shows a human head and torso being emitted from the behind of a sheep. Best not ask about that either.

Sheep shower and scrub in the bathtub. I guess they're trying to scrub off that baa-aa-acteria. If you find a sheep in your bathtub this New Year's, I suggest you get out of there quick!

Sheep shave their armpits. But what worries me most about this New Year's card is that the female sheep is wearing a bikini. Now, anyone who knows their sheep anatomy should know that a sheep bikini should not be made the same as a human bikini. It just won't biki in the right places.

Sheep are available in halves: You can actually send a New Year's card with just half a sheep on it. Maybe this means "Have a happy half-year." On the other hand, maybe it means "Have a happy half-sheep, with mint sauce on the side."

Check out Amy Chavez's new column, "Parents Do the Strangest Things," at www.amychavez.com


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