Monday, 19 November 2012

Senior moments: JAPAN ELECTION 2012 DIARY: DAY 4

Click here to go to Day 1 of the Japan Election 2012 Diary.

2:05 Where the hell am I? It's hot and dry, I'm burning up. Arizona?

8:10 Is there no window in this room? There was yesterday. Why is it still dark? Where is the sun? Oh, blackout curtains. They are good quality. If I hurry, I could sit in the hot bath one more time before they stop serving breakfast.

8:23 Figure out which way to correctly fold my yukata and ram my feet into the dainty slippers, that I know without looking won't fit. The rest of my heel drags out the back, scraping along the ground as I walk. Who let that knuckle-walking monkey wander through the hotel lobby? Oh. It's a mirror.

8:25 Change out of dainty indoor slippers into dainty outdoor slippers, that are also several sizes too small. Open airlock and walk down the path covered with flimsy bamboo shades. Wind whistling through. Must be minus 10 with the wind-chill factor.

8:26 Open sliding door to bath house. Take off outdoor slippers. Supposed to change into indoor slippers but the sentry post is empty so I'm not in danger of offending anyone. I just wander through the noren curtains barefoot. Bloody cold though. It's as cold in the changing room as it is outside despite the paraffin floor heater on full blast. There's a wall of two dozen baskets, only one other has clothes in. I strip off and slide open the door to the bath. I clasp a skimpy hand towel over my privates. I sit on a little plastic stool and try to warm as much as clean myself in the shower jet. The bath behind me fills two thirds of the floorspace. I step through the mist and wade into the water. It is the consistency and temperature of a green tea cappuccino. I ease myself down until only my head is in the freezing air. I can feel the warmth seeping into my bones. In front of me is Lake Chuzenji. Above me the steam from the bath rises through the Meiji era wooden rafters, condensing on the window panes that rattle in the wind that foretells of the barren winter to come... Beside me is a little old naked man.

8:28 He is wiry, in his 70s and sitting on a step above water level, splashing a steel handrail. Scoot myself away from him and stare out of the window, even though without my glasses I wouldn't know if I was beholding the beauty of a mountain lake or a used-car showroom. But when I glance back at the man I can see he is doing press-ups in the bath.

8:56 Am not the only foreigner in the dining room for breakfast. I count three out of 18 guests. There are two breakfast bars, a western and a Japanese. My wife and mother-in-law tuck in to the rice, miso soup and natto fermented beans, I tuck in to toast, bacon, sausage and eggs. My kids have a mixture. The old man from the bath walks past my table. I don't acknowledge him, he doesn't acknowledge me. I've seen his arse, he's seen my beer belly.

This blog series
 is now a great
 book. Honest.
Cleaned up and
 all presentable,
Guts Pose: Diary of a
 Japanese election
 gone bad
features a previously
unpublished afterword
 by me and foreword
by Michael Cucek.
You can buy it here.
9:16 Receive an email from a reader. The signs in Nikko of two candidates I wrote about yesterday were for the  Tochigi Prefecture gubernatorial race. The silver-hared chap was the LDP/New Komeito sponsored incumbent. The buck-toothed lady was the Communist challenger. He won by a margin of 6 to 1, not entirely unexpected in a rural constituency, or as my contact put it, "Who would have thought that a Communist would not have a snowcone's chance in hell in Tochigi?" He reminds me that the candidate signboards don't go up for the House of Representatives elections until December 4th.

10:02 Wife and daughter are watching a TV English lesson. A man teaches kids to clap to 10; two 20-something women practice today's expression: "I'm going to Hong Kong for my sister," whatever that means. Then a middle-aged man behind a desk says: "Every journey of a thousand miles begins with a few steps." I take a few steps, turn off the TV, and take the bilingual book of Buddha that was on my bedside table and stash it in my backpack for future use. I leave the Giddeons Bible.

10:10 Notice that Yuri Kageyama, AP business writer, is tweeting about the elections. She says: "No vote cast yet and if any election is confusing and uncertain it's this one. Anyone's game."

11:32 Arrive at the old Italian Embassy retreat by the lake. But it's closed on Mondays. Think of Italian retreat joke from childhood -- how many gears does an Italian tank have? Seven - one forward and six reverse. A Japanese monkey watches us from the slopes above our heads, unamused.

13:58 On three-hour drive home to Abiko have a chance to think. I'm aware that I'm only skirting the surface of the election, but feel that most other folk are too. They are doing it with more facts and figures, but most are just as clueless as I am. Writing 1,000 words a day about something I have only a passing knowledge of is OK as long as I can keep the jokes coming. What I'm lacking (apart from knowledge, time, ability and good jokes) is some kind of framework to view the election. But I don't have the luxury of figuring one out after the event. If this book is to have any worth at all it has to be as a record of how things appeared at the time, not washed clean of its truth through extensive editing in which the reader is denied the joy of discovery that I went through writing it. Wouldn't want the prose hammered into consistency, conformity and good taste. Mush, in other words. If the price of freedom is a few typos and the odd chapter which doesn't quite work, I don't mind, as long as the writer has something worthwhile to say and says it as soon as possible. Is this writing in the Reality TV age? Is technology fundamentally changing the relationship between reader and writer? Dunno, just no more Italian jokes, please.

22:24 Finally have a chance to sit down and throw these words at the screen. Too pooped to figure out the loose strands tonight, but have an idea for what I'll write tomorrow.



Go to DAY 5

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