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Saturday, Sept. 6, 2003

WHEN EAST MARRIES WEST

Twenty-five years in Japan makes this old hand a 'half'


Late this past summer, I officially became a "half."

No, not a "half" in the sense the Japanese use the word, that being for children of international marriages. (In other words, those kids who are half Japanese.) Rather, I have become a "half" time-wise. For more than 50 percent of my life has now been spent in Japan.

I have never been too keen on the first usage of "half," as from certain perspectives it implies something less than whole.

Yet, this second meaning leaves me with a natto-eating grin of pride. Somehow I have plowed out two and a half decades in Japan. For sure, my trail is strewn with bungled chances, mangled language, misconstrued circumstances and plate after pretty plate of leftover raw fish. Still, I feel a prideful glow of accomplishment.

And -- instead of reflecting on cockeyed memories of Japan-life past -- I wonder what my next fraction will be. Will I become a "two-thirds"? A "three-fourths"? Or some other mathematical oddity?

Whatever, there is still much in this land I have yet to see. In fact, here is a short list of the sights and sounds I hope to experience in -- should I be so lucky -- my second 25 years in Japan.

I hope one day to see a Japanese politician shoulder his way in front of blinking cameras to announce: "No, no, the media have it wrong. My secretary did not negotiate any bribes. It was me all along. I set things up and then personally pocketed every single yen. My secretary is just a yes-man for a slithering crook. Beyond that, he is innocent."

I hope to see those two erstwhile outdoorsmen in the Ripopitan D vitamin drink commercials get caught beneath a falling redwood. One reaches out his hand for help and screams, "Fighto!" while the other looks up and yells, "Oh, shit!" Why are those two guys always out alone in the woods, anyway? Ever wondered?

I hope to see a cooking program where the host selects some slice of crackling meat straight from the grill per usual, places it gingerly in his mouth and then -- rather than make an orgasmic yummy face and express, "Oh, how delightful!" -- spits at the monitor and roars, "I just burned my tongue off!"

Or, in the same vein, I'd like to see any cooking program in which the host samples the recipe du jour, pauses dramatically as they all do, and then confesses . . . "Frankly, this tastes like it should be flushed, not eaten."

I hope to hear a full Japanese news report of some overseas tragedy in which the number of Japanese harmed or unharmed is not emphasized nor even mentioned. And then to have not a person in the land think the omission strange. That's when Japan becomes truly international.

I hope to see the calendar get speckled with more holidays and for the government to let me pick the names. After "Drive Around a Politician's House and Bellow with a Loudspeaker Day," we will have "No Respect for the Aged Day," "Flour Viewing Day" and the could-be-wild "Cross-Dress Day." All of these, of course, would come during "Golden Month."

I hope to see the Japanese economy get better. Yet with a mere 25-year ceiling that may be asking too much.

I hope to see the TV networks cover every single game of the Chiba Lotte Marines, while not televising the Tokyo Giants even once. And I'd like there to be a zany new game show where the winner can pick one Giants player to be chased by velociraptors.

I hope to see Japanese TV dramas where the performers do not deliver their lines staring into space like some lost cross between zombies and marionettes.

I hope to see members of the Imperial family dye their hair, pierce their ears, boogie to funky music or otherwise decompress. Plus I'd like to interview the Emperor. My first question would be: "And so, your highness . . . Which Giants player would you like to see chased by raptors?"

I hope to pass through 25 years without having a single U.S. serviceman rape a Japanese girl. To be honest, I'd settle for one year. Or perhaps six months. Or to have the American bases be converted to something Japan could use better, like acting schools, white-collar prisons or raptor ranches.

I hope to be able to beam myself, Star Trek-like, across Tokyo, rather than ride the cursed trains. I think half of my "half" experience has been spent hanging from a commuter strap.

I hope to see better equality of the sexes. This would begin by permitting male cleaners to bustle freely about ladies' rooms while women relieve themselves, the way female cleaners are allowed to scrub men's rooms now.

I hope to see Tama-chan -- the "now you see me, now you don't" seal that haunts the Tama River -- be granted honorary citizenship, as some people have proposed. This would open the door for thousands of hardworking foreign residents who have struggled to attain such citizenship. All they need do would be to hang out at the Tama River and wiggle fake flippers. Then they might be embraced the way the Japan has embraced Tama-chan.

I would like to see Tama-chan chased by raptors. Along with the Ripopitan D guys.

And -- while I'm on the topic -- I'd like to see a sumo wrestler pair up against a raptor. Yet, to make this fair, the raptor would have to wear some sort of thong and then slick its hair back in a topknot.

My secretary wrote all this, of course. Not me. I don't give a hoot about raptors.

But I do find it cool to have lived here half my life. I sense the term "half" -- or perhaps "half-wit" -- suits me well.

To contact Thomas Dillon, send e-mail to marriedtojapan@yahoo.com


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