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Saturday, July 17, 2004

JAPAN LITE

Sea Day -- For good or bad, a holiday


Happy Sea Day! Monday, July 19, is Sea Day, a national holiday when we are supposed to go out and enjoy the sea. But for me, this has not been a good year with the sea. First, on a yachting trip from Japan to Guam, the boat turned over in the Pacific Ocean and we had to be rescued. More recently, I sprained my ankle on my own boat while it was still sitting in the port. And I'm supposed to look forward to Sea Day? I'd rather book a flight to the desert, thank you.

So if you're like me and Sea Day doesn't happen to be a particularly happy day for you, then let's not say "Happy Sea Day!" to each other, just "Sea Day!" And, while we're on the subject, since I just entered my 40s last year, please don't tell me, "Happy birthday!" anymore. From now on, just "Birthday!" will do.

While a sprained ankle is not life-threatening, it is terribly inconvenient, especially when one lives on a small island. Apparently island people never sprain their ankles. I know this because when I went to the island doctor and explained my "sprained" ankle ("sprain" being a word only used for ankles, wrists and fingers, prompting me to believe that sprain is really a secret past tense of "spring," in which case we should be saying a "sprung ankle" or perhaps even a "spranged ankle," both of which sound closer to the truth), he said he couldn't X-ray it for me, as he no longer had an X-ray machine (wouldn't that make it an ex-ray machine?). When I asked him if I could borrow a set of "pine leaf sticks" ("matsu-ba-tsue," or crutches), he said he didn't have any. Now I know why they call them pine leaf sticks: in case you have to go out and make a pair yourself. Luckily we have lots of pine trees on the island.

At any rate, this is definitely not my year for boats. And I'm trying to prove, through some means, that these accidents have not been my fault -- that there is some higher being controlling my fate. And rightly so. With the advent of Sea Day, I'm scared: a big national holiday, a specially reserved day for another marine accident. After all, dates of national holidays appear in red on the Japanese calendar, a sure sign of warning.

So I went to the Buddhist priest to find out if he could forecast my luck on Sea Day. He looked on the Chinese "koyomi" calendar, which has all the good-luck days and bad-luck days of the year written on it. This is the calendar the Japanese use to plan weddings and funerals. Sea Day falls on a "tomobiki" day, when the morning and evening are good times and only noontime is potentially unlucky. So I will not even look at a boat at noon on Sea Day.

Then I asked him to look up the day I was rescued at sea, to see if there had been any bad luck forecast for that day. "Nothing," he said. When I asked him about the day I spranged my ankle, he said, "Oh, a very bad day!" It turns out that June 16 of this year was "sanrinbo," when you should not start building a house. If you do, the house will catch on fire and burn down three neighboring houses as well.

(This idea of planning house fires is unsettling. If your neighbor started to build a house on June 16, report him to the police, as he's surely a pyromaniac).

"Oh," I said, disappointed. "Nothing about spranged ankles?

"Nothing," he said, and suggested perhaps my bad luck had something to do with the number six, since it figured in the dates of both the accidents. And since Sea Day is on the 19th, and has no six in it, I shouldn't have to worry about any bad luck on that day. Then again, a 9 is just an upside-down 6, right?

Just yesterday, I could finally walk on my ankle enough to get to a doctor on the mainland. That's when I found out I hadn't spranged my ankle. Not even sprung it. I had fractured it.

Hmm. "Sea Day!"

Get Amy's "Guidebook to Japan: What the other guidebooks won't tell you" at the Dollar Book Store, www.mooooshop.com/MooooBooks/order/index.htm


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