Tuesday, December 23, 2008

The Island of Yoshi

About two weeks ago, I pulled up to one of my favored bike lock up post things and locked up my bike. Not remarkable in itself.
But I saw a guy that was dressed well enough to be Japanese, yet dark in complexion enough to be south east asian. He was pottering back and fourth making those unmistakable, 'I'm a confused Japanese man' neck jerks. They really are that distinct when you've seen it. Body language isn't always universal.
Anyway as I peeled off my gloves I walked closer and spied katakana on his travel guide. Now any fucking tool can have katakana on their shirt these days, but if its on the cover of a book they are either yet another uncreative graphic designer or a genuine Japanese person.
So I said 'Suimasen' then again louder to actually get the guys attention. Which happened, I asked him if he was from Japan which was a redundant question really and as he was saying 'hai' I just rattled on with 'where are you looking for' he showed me an address in Sydney, which was actually my error, I retook a look and noticed it was a chain of mobile phone shops and there was one in little bourke st.
A valuable insight, 'lt.' does not mean much to foreigners, and as Iconic as lt. bourke, lt. collins and of course flinders lane are it really is a problem that must happen often.
Nevertheless the guy was standing on lt. collins and swanston st so he was past the mark anyway.
I took him to the store and the address he was looking for and made some small talk.
Then because of that omnipresent book title that rings in my ears 'Never eat alone' which I'm not sure I can accept, sometimes I like to eat alone so I can catch up on reading, or just take a break from people I see the whole rest of the day.
Anyway I invited him to lunch.
The inevitable dilemma of anyone who invites a tourist to lunch in Australia, and particularly in the Melbourne CBD is what the fuck do you feed them? On the cheap side there is Chinese food, and Japanese people think lamb smells like sheep, or some other incomprehensible objection, so with the kebab gone you've wiped out the whole other cheap eat alternative.
So we had chinese. We talked, mostly me in Japanese and then I gave him my number figuring that a guy trusting enough to have lunch with me on my turf was bound to get in trouble sooner or later. Just like in Europe when I used to ask hobo's to hold my money belt while I unlocked my bike in the early days.
Then the next day I got another lunch invite and took him to Degraves st, then to kanga kanga magazine store where I was lucky enough to remember vaguely where it was from the one time Harvard took me there.
Then I showed him where he could buy manga in english if he wanted to practice.

Then silence for about a week, then another lunch invite. This resulted in my Japanese multiplying into both Yoshi from Kobe famous for its beef and the namesake of Kobe Bean Bryant of NBA fame and Koji from Saitama, apparantly not famous for anything though I know I've heard of it a fair few times before.
It also resulted in a more comprehensive tour of Melbourne, where I thought I'd fast track what had taken me about 5 years to discover all the places you can buy Japanese merchandise into one afternoon.
Then I waved goodbye and dissapeared.

The next invite was to a party and the number of Japanese people jumped from 2 to 8. This means that within 3 weeks I have actually broken into a Japanese social circle comparably at IH it took 1.5 years or so to get into the Nippon Club as a Juniour member on a trial membership basis, so that's pretty amazing.
It's also pretty dissapointing that within 3 weeks Yoshi could have so many new Japanese friends in Melbourne, at least his first new friend was Australian by virtue of getting lost.

But its great, and Joe's advice for needy tohm finally became fruitful after 2 years, when he said spring is a great time to help people because there's always tourists toting maps in the city. Also one of the girls at the party was wearing bigpants, I haven't seen a girl in bigpants since Chantelle was in first year, so it had some nostalgia.
I also joked about originally intending to lead Yoshi to a dark alley and stab him to death and take his wallet. The Japanese have no sense of humour. They all sort of stood around shocked and appalled until I explained that this was a joke.

check out my socks

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