Part profile of Gotemba, part day-in-the-life-of, this gives you an idea of my Japan experience.

You tell people that you live on Fuji-san (Mount Fuji). But today is not one of those days.

You ride to school through a two-day old fog. Fuji is usually right there, but today she is fixing her kimono behind the clouds. Come the change of seasons you’ll have to re-assign gender. Throughout winter she powders her nose and looks pretty, cut into a clear blue sky. But come summer he is ominous and ugly, his volcanic ash complexion exposed. Every evening, however, amidst the swirls of pinks and oranges, he charms photographers, climbers, and fools alike. They say only a fool climbs Fuji twice. You are an everyday fool.

You’re running late for school.

You bow to the cavalcade of Japanese soldiers in their military-issue vehicles. You forgot to make your bed this morning.

Your name used to be David. From the apartment block to your left you hear one of your students crow your new name: DE-BI-DO-! Even in near zero visibility you’re not invisible. You yell “HELLO” back.

A kilometre from school and you can hear the music for morning exercise: We Will Rock You (Queen) Beat It (Michael Jackson) and Hashiru! Hashiru!(“Run! Run!).

You arrive just in time for the 200m race against all 124 students. You come 4th overall, behind identical twins, and a 4 foot, 19kg, 3rd grader named Motoki.

You retreat to the teacher’s room and look for your pride in the top draw of your desk.

You hear what sounds like the rush of a shinkansen (bullet train) passing outside the office window, followed by a loud boom. The window frames rattle. Your desk moves three inches to the left. Nobody notices.

The first time this happened you were under the desk, under the doorframe, wherever—emergency earthquake procedure. Fuji-san: big, angry volcano. Lava flow. Run to the bathroom. You saw it in a documentary once: a man survived by tying himself to a toilet seat with his shoelaces.

It’s only the daily military artillery practice. You suspect it’s a secret plan to blast a tunnel through Fuji-san and build a new shinkansen line.

You don’t have lessons, you have shows. You’re an entertainer, not a teacher. You do impersonations, have a graduate degree in janken (rock, paper, scissors) and on Thursday, appearing for a short time only, you’re a ninja.

You sit down for lunch with the 1st graders. You can’t spill on yourself because your knees are up around your ears. The student next to you turns his bowl of bolognaise sauce into a hat. Chaos ensue.

The kids are tired. They don’t want to play dodgeball. They want to line up against a wall, and have you throw the dodgeball at them – as hard as you can. You practice your curve, your sinker – you hope your breaking ball doesn’t break anyone. You throw a knuckleball and feel a pop in your shoulder. You’re saved by the lunch bell.

Your students ask: “What you do weekend?” They think you are a drunk because you’ve been to Kogen Brewery five times. “I drank German beer. I ate Aussie Beef. I saw the Christmas Illumination display (in late March).” It was a very Japanese experience.

You want to go to the Premium Outlets Mall this weekend but it is too dangerous. The only thing higher than the prices are the stilettos in the fashion stakes. The pets (poodles in Prada, Cockadoodles in Dolce & Gabbana, Sausage dogs in Zegna) make you feel like a fashion disaster. Your students love your Spongebob Squarepants T-shirt.

The kid’s affection for you grows. First it was high fives, then hugs and kisses on the hand, now they try to braid your leg hairs while you read them a picture book.

All the kids have gone home and the school is once more just a building.

Your whole body aches in a good, satisfied way.

After school you visit your local onsen (hot springs) and admire the miracle combination of beer and gohan (rice): the Japanese potbelly. The essentials for a perfect potbelly are 1) chicken legs, 2) a wrinkled little bottom, and, 3) a strong beltline to hold up the hairless pot. The Japanese will always be the lookers in the sumo ring.

You ride home. The fog has gone. It’s a full moon. A snow-capped Fuji-san is reflected in a flooded rice-field. A farmer tends the newly planted crop. Helicopters fly overhead. Somewhere out of sight a student calls your name: “DE-BI-DO!” You recognise the voice and yell over your left shoulder: “BYE, A-KI-RA!”

Fuji-san watches over Gotemba. Catching her gaze, you smile back at him.

This story was written for the Interac website.

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