This is one of the most unusual travel books I’ve ever come across, written by a Canadian teacher of English as a second language, who decides to follow the appearance of the cherry blossom by hitchhiking from one end of Japan to the other. I haven’t yet finished, but can’t resist sharing a couple of hilarious excerpts from the book.
‘Another combination that gives me trouble is “human” (ningen) and “carrot” (ninjin) which once caused a lot of puzzled looks during a speech I gave in Tokyo on the merits of internationalization, when I passionately declared that “I am a carrot. You are a carrot. We are all carrots. As long as we always remember our common carrotness, we will be fine.”
On another occasion I scared a little girl by telling her that my favorite nighttime snack was raw humans and dip.’
You can probably imagine the fit of runny-nosed giggles I experienced when reading that on a plane recently. Another snorter is this:
‘Here I was, folding and refolding my maps, trying to figure out my next move, and this nattering gnat of a man was trying to engage me in a dialogue about my income. He spoke what I call Random English, dictated more by the abrupt firing of synapses than by anything approximating a plan.
“Foreigners can’t eat pickled plums,” he said. “And you are very racist. In America, you treat the blacks bad just because they aren’t as intelligent as other people.” (How do you respond to something like that?) “And you killed all of the Indians.”
I sighed. “There are still Indians in North America.”
“No there isn’t. I saw a show on NHK. You killed them all.”
At this point I decided to simply ignore him in the hope he would just shut up and go away. Or burst into flames and run screaming from the building. Either would have been fine.’
The rest of that particular page has me in stitches. Will update this post once I’ve finished this side-splitting appraisal of the life of an outsider in Japan, on the most un-Japanese of journeys to follow the very Japanese cherry blossom as it bursts into flower all over the country.