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Saturday, Nov. 13, 2004


Ants go marching one by one, hurrah!

For years entomologists have been trying to figure out why ants work in the ways they do. Through years of my own research, and as an experienced "antomologist," I've discovered the answer: Ants have been copying the Japanese. It's ant "wa." The wa system has been in place by the Japanese since the beginning of Japanese civilization.

You may point out that ants have been around longer than the Japanese, but I think it is not impossible to say that the ants could have changed their ways after first contact with the Japanese during the Jomon Period (10,000 to 300 B.C.).

Now, I don't know what time most ants wake up in the morning, but I have noticed that the ants on my island wake up at 6 a.m. with the morning chime. Shiraishi ants have adapted to the system. By 6:45, the Tidy Island regime is in full force.

All islanders are part of the Tidy Island regime, and schedules circulate the neighborhoods so everyone knows when they'll be summoned to produce that all-encompassing communal oozing of island wa in the form of "kusatori" (weeding), "o-soji" temple cleaning or taking part in the "garbage police" force. There are calling lists, and chains of command all the way down to the last "gaijin" ant, still snuggled in her bed long after the chime has rung.

But no worries. In the spirit of the Tidy Island regime, there will be plenty more opportunities to wake up at 6 a.m. and go cleaning, a rather novel way to get the body moving in the morning. The Japanese are so tidy, I'm sure they'd use vacuum cleaners outside if the cords would reach.

Technically, the cleaning starts at 7 a.m. but, based on what must be the feng shui of time, these cleaning events always start 15 minutes earlier than the scheduled time. God forbid we should start anything at the top of the hour!

You would think that on an island like this, time would be slower, but it's almost as if we have to get up earlier and get things done faster so that we have more time during the day to take it easy. Or maybe the islanders want to get all the hard work done while no one is looking.

It's not unusual for me to wake up to the sound of the Tidy Island regime raking and sweeping outside my window while I soak up my last 15 minutes of sleep, waiting for the top of the hour. If I look out my bedroom window, I can see the ant chain gang with their rakes and brooms hoisted over their shoulders, marching off in the direction of the next untidy place.

"The ants go marching one by one, hurrah, hurrah! The ants go marching one by one, hurrah, hurrah! The ants go marching one by one, the gaijin ant goes back to sleep, and they all go marching, down to the temple, to clean and weed."

And all of this is done in uniform: the fishermen in "nagagutsu" white rubber boots, work pants and shirts, gloves and straw hats, and the women in nagagutsu with pants, long-sleeved blouses under aprons, gloved hands and Little Bo Peep bonnets. I fully expect to step into the Gap next season and see the "Granny Gap Country Garden" clothing line and the "Grandpa Gap Fishing Collection."

As I got out of bed just before the hour, I changed from my cow pajamas into jeans, sneakers, a plaid shirt and my Little Bo Peep bonnet, all from the Gaijin Gap Ant Collection. Soon I was out the door with the others, marching one by one, hurrah, hurrah!

Have you mooed yet today? www.mooooshop.com

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