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Saturday, Sept. 15, 2007

JAPAN LITE

All the dirt on life's ins and outs


This summer has been hotter and longer than most. But rather than fight it and hide indoors in the air conditioning, I just put on my bikini.

Westerners of all ages seem to embrace the summer with a certain zest: tank tops, shorts, sandals, wrinkles, skin cancer. The Japanese, on the other hand, do not seem to be suited for the heat.

I remember as a child in the summertime in the United States running in and out of the house all day long in bare feet. Not in Japan. Children are not allowed to go outside without changing from indoor slippers to outdoor footwear. You cannot reverse the process either, and simply run into the house from outside, even if you are running from lions. They'd surely catch up with you and swallow you once you reached the genkan shoe change.

So, why is it that Japanese people change out of their shoes when going inside and Westerners don't? Obviously, Japan is a very dirty country.

Furthermore, just in case you didn't know, dirt is evil. Scientifically speaking, in much the way heat rises, evil accumulates on the ground. And when you consider that heaven is above, and hell is below, you're really just treading on the surface of hell. So take off those shoes before you walk into the house.

And when you leave the house, you'll want to take with you a hat, a parasol (preferably a UV ray blocking one), white gloves, and forearm covers. Yes, forearm covers! I've seen so many women wearing these on the beach this summer. My guess is that instead of wearing long sleeve shirts to protect your arms from the sun (another evil element), the forearm covers are cooler because they leave room for the armpits to breathe. Armpits do have rights. Unfortunately, the right to bear arms is not one of them.

If it's an entire family going outside, say to the beach, this will require an uchiawase meeting to prepare a list of all the things they'll need: a cooler full of drinks, head towels, face cloths, a vinyl sheet, a beach parasol or tent, and a fan just in case they can't find an air-conditioned umi no ie to sit in while at the beach.

If you're driving to the outdoors, you'll have to brave the elements in your car such as dust and the evil dirt on your shoes. Driving shoes are recommended so you have clean shoes for driving. If you must wear your street shoes, put a newspaper down on the floor of the car to keep the floor clean from the dirty dirt. There is a lot of dirty dust in the air as well, so protect the stick shift with a frilly cloth cover. You might want to seriously consider white driving gloves. Protect, protect, protect! As a nation, the Japanese spend a lot more money on self-defense than the media lets on.

I think about the Native Americans hundreds of years ago sitting around the campfire in those southern desert states in the U.S. If the Indians were Japanese, they'd have perished while sending smoke signals. Pocahontas would have had to close her parasol every time she needed a riding crop.

In such a hot country as Japan, you wonder how the women could wear kimonos. Maybe women wore kimonos to protect their entire bodies from the evil dust, wind and sun. You'll swelter, and grow some moldy things that thrive in moist, dark places, but other than that, you'll feel perfectly hot. And why, after all that effort, did they neglect the back of the neck?

The solution to the heat in Japan is simple: Just switch to Greenwich Mean Time. Right now, at 10 a.m. in Japan it is 9 p.m. in New York. If we switched to U.S. time right now, we could all go back to bed! Everyone as a nation, could catch up on some badly needed sleep. Beautiful Japan could have a beautiful sleep: a national ne-ne. When we wake up, it will be night time and very cool. Then we can enjoy a 12-hour work day without heat. Nocturnal animals figured this out a long time ago.

Then, when the winter comes around, we can switch back over to Japan Standard Time. But I don't like to talk about winter. I just don't seem suited for it.



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