Sunday, August 22, 2010

bfg on book-shopping and dieting

On the first Shizuoka-City-JETs-get-together at a horrible "Italian" Resto, the sempai, J, categorically said female JETs gain weight. I am not sure how the conversation came up, but all the women at the table perked up ready to fire questions: Was it because they drank too much? Did they only eat Western food? Did they never leave the house?

I think deep down inside, with the exception of some who are already as slim as the Japanese women, we came here with some hope that the Japanese Effect would take hold and we would loose some weight. It is hard to hear that because my genes aren't used to it the excessive rice, love of fried food and, MOST ANNOYING, the obsession these people have with MAYO ten pounds won't magically peel off.

But I don't think any of those female JETs went book-shopping.

This weekend while most of The Others were in Hamamatsu partying, I decided to stay home, clean, look for scooters (I was unsuccessful) and start intense research on thesis. My advisor, Mr P, sent me a lovely list of Japanese sources. Originally it sent me into a minor heart attack mode thinking of translating all that Japanese kanji by kanji (since most of it is a bit more sophisticated than what I know) but then I realized he was indirectly narrowing my topic and therefore kinda shifting out other works I would have looked at. Though he wrote I could access them at the library, I was all too happy to go book-shopping, especially since I had not hit any of the used bookstores yet.

So off on Glinda I road with the wind at my back and a list all ready in katakana so the shopkeeper could read it if my accent was incomprehensible and some ISBNs (some of them were manga series so there would be many). I decided to go to Book-Off not just because the yellow and blue bright paint appeals to my personal aesthetics, it is just plain huge. A huge bookstore filled with books at a discounted price. Heaven.

BOOK-OFF; Night Shot!
In I go and immediately I felt so out of place. The shopkeepers sang their song "Irashyaimaseeeeeeeeeee." The long eeeeeeeee part an intonation that calls for the other workers in the store to acknowledge my grand entrance. Only a few customers looked up but I felt very self-consious and because of it my ability to read katakana flew out the window. I decided to not ask the shopkeeper, afraid he would begin to sing at me again and browse the shelves. It was mostly manga but it was heavenly. The books were so clean, so perfect... and most were at they were 105 YEN. Truly, paradise for the bibliophile.

I did find Slamdunk, a popular manga not ten years old that kids today still know and read (and watch since of course if the manga is popular, there has to be an anime). Intoxicated by the joy of having discovered one of my list-items, I purchased the first five volumes. The price of course was just a cherry on top.

Again, I set out on my adventure caressing the books at times with my fingertips just happy to be there the sensation of being an Outsider slowly dissipating as I touched something so familiar to me. I always loved bookstores because it is both humbling and exhilarating; you realize how little you know but its so exciting that you have all this knowledge ready to be devoured. As I neared the end, with no more successful finds, a spine caught my eye the bright green and pink colours demanding I give it a look. I pull the book off the shelf.



I read the katakana again, sure I have gone crazy. Then I realize there is also roman letters. Yup, Bastards was the title. I shook my head thinking to myself "Bad Translation" until I noticed the man next to me.

Now I don't know how these bookstores make money since it seems that all the customers just stand in front of the shelf reading the book. So at first this man's actions did not get me but my eyes caught the mega boobs in his comic and then I realized... oh! I returned to Bastards and sure enough, from the images I saw, was pretty intense erotica if drawings of nudity get you off. I almost bought the book as an relic of this memory and experience but then in a panic realized the whole "You are a sensei. People are watching you." bit we were told at every single one of the gazillion Orientations I attended. I quickly replaced the book leaving my curiosity for another time (in another city) and went my merry way to the front counter.

"Sumimasen. Bushido SIX-U-TEEN ga arrimasuka."

"Chioto kudasai." If sumimasen (excuse me) is 70% of Japanese, Chioto Kudasai is the other 29% leaving 1% for everything else (in case you are bad at math). Ask someone their name and they will probably tell you "wait a minute". At Shizuoka Orientation a JTE was speaking and he actually said half way, "Please wait a minute" and then put his head down and thought for a minute and then just started talking again. The thing that surprises me is when they use it and I have to wait like all of 2.576847 seconds. Still, chioto kudasai comes out.

I waited and then realized that two clerks were staring waiting to help. I felt guilty... I just need one of you. I repeated my request and they nearly fell over themselves. The man won out in the end because...

... he broke out into a run.

I kid you not. He ran. Now, when I walk into a conbini and if by some odd chance I catch a clerk who is not behind the counter sure enough the sound of running feet as they quickly remedy the error are sure to follow. This was something I always thought a little cute, though it shames me to write that since it sounds somewhat condesending but it is true - that is how I feel, and guilty. I mean what if the teller would fall down and crack their head open because they were running to their counter? The guilt!

But this... running to get my book? And the thing is, I wanted to know where it was so when I purchased other ones in the series I would know where to go. So after about 5 seconds of shock I quickly walked after him. I searched the rows until finally I found him and walked towards him, smiling. "Sumimasen. Bushiso Six-u-teen nai" he crossed his fingers to emphasize the point.

I was disappointed but then noticed we were in a book section. In my limited Japanese I said, "Korewa hon desu," This is a book. "Bushido Six-u-teen no manga o kaitaidesu," I want to buy the manga of Bushido Sixteen.

"Ohhhhh!" And off he dashed, running back to the counter yelling what I assume was "Do you know where B16 is... the manga" or something equivalent. Unfortunatly, as he ran and yelled, a little obachan got in my way and I could not follow him up the aisle. I turned back and made a right, thinking to run parallel. It worked until I couldn't see him anymore and I backtracked an aisle or two. He was conversing with two other clerks who then both started to run around. Not sure who to follow I went with Clerk #1. Back to the counter. Off to an aisle, down a section... And then finally...


I turn and another clerk is bowing to me. He hands me the first volume of B16 manga saying something like, "This had just arrived today. So sorry it took us so long."

This all took place in about less than four minutes. I took the book and asked, "2 ban?"

"Sumimasen. 2 ban nai." He bowed. I bowed.

BOOK-OFF Purchases
I bought 6 books for 1200 YEN. Heaven, I tell you.

It was not the entire list... So I then went to Toda books, basically the Indigo of Shizuoka; three carpeted floors of glorious, wonderful new books. I had gone the night before to look at books for studying for the JLPT exam and decided to return to see if I could get the other texts.

List in hand, I went to a clerk. "Kore ga arimasu ka?"

The clerk bowed and took the paper with two hands, then quickly typed the ISBN number. "Hai!" And off he ran but I was ready.

He made a right. I made a right. Mother comes in with two kids I take an extra right- left and run faster down a parallel line just to meet him at the end before catching him running down the stairs. Unfortunately, I was too big to doge the older couple but I was able to keep my eye on the clerk and when I caught up to him he handed me Volume 2 of B16.

TODA Bookstore Purchases... The SAMURAI magazine was
not required reading BUT I could not help myself.
The soccer team is called "Samurai Blue"
A thesis Moment!!
I had two more request and both times the dude ran. I got pretty good at following him though the fact that I am taller than the shelves and most of the customers helps a bundle.

It was a workout to be sure! I was SORE later that night and in Book-Off I was out of breath. No wonder these people are able to eat a jar of Mayo a day!

So, though I may be eating more rice in a week than I have in a year in Canada I think weekend book-shopping workouts may balance things out.


  1. It seems that book-shopping is a real work-out! I really wanna try, so I'm coming with empty suitcase! Haha! Let me know if you need anything from here... stupid question. what would you need.. :P