Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Cutting off Heads

"Instant decapitation"

When you're in the right state of mind, any part of life can be an adventure. Just ask Nakagawa-san, recent acquaintance of mine who happens to spend his time teaching others how to people's heads off.

The cherry blossom trees were spreading their wings and raining a flurry of pink and white atop the suspecting heads of hanami party goers. The smell of BBQ chicken and beef not quite reaching my sensitive sunburned nose, I decided to hose off some calories by exploring a little-known route from Yoshino Town (吉野町) to Ryugamizu Station (竜ヶ水駅).

The trail itself was rather sparse, with few opportunities to view the blue water of Kinko Bay, adjacent to both Yoshino and the friendly neighborhood volcano Sakurajima. Having reached the train station and discovered transportation was not set to arrive for another two hours, I decided a combination of hitchhiking and walking would be a better choice. After all, with fewer than 12 km into Kagoshima City and a highway filled with vehicles all headed the same direction, it seemed like a good opportunity to walk along the coast and soak in the sun.

No sooner had I crossed the street to move in the direction of traffic than a white truck slowed down and a 60-something man with patched weathered skin gestured for me to hop in.

"Where go?"


"Kagoshima? Ok, come."

After formal introductions and a series of seated bows, Nakagawa-san and I fell into a comfortable pattern of conversation, discussing our travels outside of Japan, regional dialects, and each of our jobs. His English was better than most Japanese, having a grasp of the sentence structure and vocabulary, but his native tongue, assuming he wasn't dumbing it down for me, was very clear and simple to understand.

Unfortunately, when the time came for him to explain his profession, I was at a disadvantage. He was clearly a martial arts instructor of some sort, but was going into great detail about an aspect of weaponry I couldn't quite catch. We both had our share of injuries - me with a broken wrist, him sporting an old scar from where he had failed to deflect a razor-sharp sword - and appreciated the importance of achieving a physical peak. Although Nakagawa-san was just over sixty, I could have easily mistaken him for a man in his forties, his arm veins very prominent and his hands brimming with strength.

An hour later, after guiding him through the city towards the central train station, I bid Nakagawa-san farewell and proceeded to head home. Later that night while I was browsing the internet, I discovered what he had been trying to tell me from the website address he had passed along:

This particular Japanese man enjoys teaching people how to cut off heads. Did I mention how glad I am the samurai class has been abolished?

No comments: