84: My Name Is Bu Cha

Hearing loud pumping music in Tajimi is somewhat of an anomaly. I head out and realise that Takiro town is having its own local Sakura party today. At the top of the hill I can see kids playing baseball. What a nice place to train!

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At the base of the hill, kids are calling out with their kawaii voices for people to come and support their stalls.

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Yoshi and Yuri have a clay experience booth and so I head over to visit them. “Come and try!” Yuri smiles and ushers me to a seat and handing me a small ball of clay. I am midway through making my hand-formed bowl when I hear someone say “Eigosomething something“. Eigo means english so I look up and see 2 foreign ladies standing in front of the booth. Enthusiastically, I volunteer myself and say “I speak english!” It turns out that their Japanese is waaaaay advanced and there is no need at all for my meagre translation skills. One of them is from Malaysia and another from Iraq. They are doing their engineering masters and PhD in nearby Nagoya. In JAPANESE!!! Amazing proficiency. Happy to connect with someone so close to home, the girl from Malaysia and I talk about all the food we miss from back home.. Sambal chilli

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And if you notice, all 3 of us have flowers, except Yoshi who is grinning away at his bowl. The enthusiastic Takiro gentleman in charge of surveys at a booth nearby has also decided that neither language nor residency status is a barrier to filling out a survey on local responses to the recent tax hike. For our troubles we even received a free gift each! So this is how survey results are collected on the ground…

Soon my bowl is finished!

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I spot a cute toddler playing with her clay and decide to join her in making a dango art sculpture. She is so artistic!

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After lunch, I cycle to Tajimi Monastery, which holds two English services in a month. The service is filled with 99% Filipinos and we all praise the Lord together as one congregation. I really admire their beautiful voices!

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One of the best parts of my Tajimi experience are my new friends who are not only fun to be with but who also have kind hearts. Like Yuri and Yoshi! After our last Sakura picnic, I had wished we could hang out more. And so I am really happy that on my second last day here, we can have dinner together again!

We head to a traditional Japanese eatery with 2 other elderly Japanese inside watching the Japanese news as they tuck in to their sushi. When they learnt that I am from Singapore, one of them exclaims,

“Ahh the airplane!”

“Um, not Singapore…that is Malaysia.”

“Merlion!” Another exclaims.

“Yes, yes…” And I wonder in my heart yet again why STB has to always promote this strange creature to Japan. It is indelibly etched into the collective Japanese consciousness as the main icon of our country.

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Despite (or perhaps because of) this strange mascot, My Singaporean pedigree is apparently enough for this gentleman sitting at the counter to send me a big bottle of free beer! Kanpai! It is the first time in my life that a stranger has bought me a drink!

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The owner of the lovely little establishment joins in the fun, even throwing in some free snacks. Ahh, how I love the warm people of Tajimi. And age is not a barrier to doing a kawaii victory pose.

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With “safety no. 1” as our constant exhortation for Yoshi’s driving, he makes a gracious sacrifice and drinks only tea for the entire night. Adding “memory no. 1” to our endless list of what is important in life, we continue our night of conversation to a cafe downtown.

And this is how my Japanese nickname, Boon chan, is renamed into Bu Cha (無茶). 無茶 has a whole lot of meanings. In Chinese, I would translate it to “having no tea”, but in Japanese, the meaning ranges from being unreasonable to being absurd. Yoshi assures me that it is a good name as it also means unusual and unique. Well, I will just have to take his word for it!

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