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Saturday, Aug. 4, 2007

JAPAN LITE

Nuptial hopeful livens up the island


Man-chan and Kio-chan are my favorite Funky Old People who come to the Moooo! Bar on the beach. Local historians and the island's unofficial welcome party for tourists, they come to the bar hoping to meet some interesting gaijin. And gaijin come to the Moooo! Bar in hopes of meeting Man-chan and Kio-chan.

News photo
ISLAND LOCAL CELEBRITY Man-chan, dressed as Urashima Taro, poses upon Turtle Rock. AMY CHAVEZ PHOTO

When both groups meet, it is sure to be a raucous time.

At the beginning of every summer, they come to my shop next to the bar to buy new outfits that they will don all summer long. Hawaiian shirts are their preference and they buy shorts too. The important thing is that the shirt and pants clash as much as possible. With their new outfits, they were dressed for success.

I knew they must be up to something when at mid-day, they bellied up to the Moooo! Bar. "What are you two up to today?" I ask. "You usually come around in the evening."

"We have come to the Moooo! Bar for some dessert," said Kio-chan.

For Kio-chan, that means a glass of wine. For Man-chan, who doesn't drink, it means a fruit parfait.

I think of Kio-chan and Man-chan as a cocktail. Kio-chan the shot of alcohol, and Man-chan the fruit punch and the umbrella. They are always together, shaken not stirred.

"Man-chan's looking for a girl," says Kio-chan. Man-chan, the quieter of the two, nods his head in agreement. Man-chan is 81 years old. His wife died several years ago and he still misses her and still wears his wedding band.

Kio-chan is Man-chan's agent in life and arranges everything for him from a visit to the Moooo! Bar to a trip to Shikoku. I am beginning to wonder if Man-chan needs a wife, since Kio-chan takes such good care of him.

"Any age is fine," says Man-chan. "I just want someone who is fun and loving and who will come to the Moooo! Bar with me and eat fruit parfaits. I'll buy her as many fruit parfaits as she wants."

"Man-chan needs someone to help him clean up around the house," says Man-chan's agent.

"You mean a woman with a forklift?" I've seen Man-chan's house, and if you had, you'd never forget it for all the junk lying around.

"Well, it might take her a year, but if she just did a small patch every day, I think she'd get through it," said Kio-chan.

"Well, let me see," I say, not really being able to come up with someone offhand who has a forklift license. "How about an o-miai?" I suggest, referring to the Japanese version of arranged marriage.

"Oh yes, an o-miai! We can have the first date right here at the Moooo! Bar," says Man-chan.

"So you know someone?" asks the agent.

"Uh, not yet," I admit, "but I'll look around."

This spurs us into action as I start taking o-miai pictures: Man-chan eating fruit parfait, Man-chan swinging in the hammock, Man-chan doing the Shiraishi dance (with his famous butt-wiggle, of course).

"I have an idea," says the agent.

"We want to get a photo of Man-chan as Urashima Taro riding the turtle," he says, referring to Turtle Rock on the other side of the island. But we have to take the photo at low tide. It will be low tide shortly — let's go!"

Suddenly I have left the bar and we are on the other side of the island in a boat, rowing out to Turtle Rock. Man-chan has changed into his Urashima Taro outfit: grass skirt and bamboo fishing rod. As soon as we get out to the rock, Man-chan nimbly climbs up onto the turtle while I slip and slide behind with the camera and Kio-chan waits in the boat.

When we get back to the bar, Man-chan and his agent are laughing about their exciting afternoon. "Surely Man-chan will be able to find a wife now," says Kio-chan.

"We must now be off to the Well Maru boat," they announce. The Well Maru boat is sponsored by the hospital on the mainland and comes to the island twice a month for the islanders to enjoy a hot bath and lunch on the boat.

"Are you going to the Well Maru dressed like that?" I ask, referring to their outrageous clashing outfits they're wearing. "Oh yes," they said smiling. "Everyone is happy when we come!"

I have no doubts about this. "You'll have to come with us next time," Kio-chan says, and I feel another adventure coming on.



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