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Saturday, Nov. 1, 2003

JAPAN LITE

Human slingshot flings herself overseas


Today I'll tell you my own experience with The Beckham Phenomenon, when Japanese women turn themselves into human slingshots and launch themselves at a man to get his attention. When a young Japanese woman wants a particular guy, get out of her way. Especially if that guy is a foreigner.

My experience with the Beckham Phenomenon was a few days ago when I served as interpreter for a Native American group called Wallulapum, who were touring Japan for one week to teach traditional dances of three Indian tribes in Oregon: the Walla Walla, Nez Perce and Yakama. They came to our small island in the Seto Inland Sea to give a performance.

The group includes the Walla Walla tribe's chief, his son (42), his granddaughter Ashley (17), his grandson (17) and William (17), the chief's nephew, who, according to the chief, was quite familiar with the Beckham Phenomenon, having already had several hundred Japanese women launch themselves at him.

On stage in the gymnasium of the elementary school, the tribal members performed various dances in full costume with feathered headdresses and tomahawks. It was a spectacular performance.

Three hours after they left the island, one of the young girls from the island arrived at my door accompanied by her mother. They had an urgent matter to talk to me about.

"I want to go to Oregon," said the girl.

"Oh, to see William?" I said.

The girl was stunned. "Was it that obvious?"

Her mother started, "Here on the island, she can't date anyone because her grandparents are so gossipy. There is no privacy."

"I see," I said, aware of the Japanese custom that who you date is often kept secret up until the wedding date. This means couples often have go to the next town, where no one knows them, just to have dinner together. This is probably the result of arranged marriages, still prevalent here, where people presume marriage is imminent when they see a couple together.

The mother continued. "We think Native American culture and Japanese culture are very similar."

"I see," I said, not sure which she was referring to, the tomahawks or the headdresses.

"It's fine with me and my husband if she marries William and lives in America."

Ureka! They were asking me to be the "nakodo!" I cleared my throat and straightened my back, attempting to make the transition from foreigner and friend to that of matchmaker.

"Are you going home this Christmas?" continued the mother, in logical Japanese fashion. "We are hoping you can drop her off in Oregon."

"Well," I said, considering the 24-hour drive to Oregon from Ohio, "I suppose I could, but I'm not planning on going home for Christmas."

"Did you talk to William during his 22 hours on the island?" I asked the daughter, who was wearing her long hair in a double braid, Indian style.

"Oh no," she said. "But I told Ashley my intentions." Poor Ashley is probably already kept busy opening all William's fan mail for him. "As they were leaving the island today, Ashley told me, 'He you likes! He you likes!' " I doubted the authenticity of the English, but the meaning was clear.

The clincher had come during the dance performance. When demonstrating the "Owl Dance," a courting dance, William had chosen her from the audience to the dance with. Heck, they were betrothed!

"In preparation for her trip to America," continued the mother, "we'd also like you to teach her English." My obligations were getting deeper. I suggested they first let me contact the chief of the tribe and talk about the possibility of the daughter going to Oregon. Or at least to warn William that a human slingshot from the East would soon be launched over the Pacific.

Will our girl get her man? Or will he tell her to take a number? Stay tuned.

E-mail: amychavez2000@yahoo.com Web site: www.amychavez.com


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