ugga bugga blah blah
I was a giant lumbering through the streets of Tokyo knocking over buildings made of finely stacked decorum. I didn’t know at the time I was causing such a scene. I ate my burgers on the go while taking in the sights. My mouth chewed in rhythm with my feet. On the hottest summer days, I liked to carry a bottle of frozen water and drink the cold nectar as it dripped from the ice. I navigated the city with my head turned upward to catch the drops as they fell. I didn’t know it was taboo to eat and drink while walking.
I was a barbarian on the trains when I laughed out loud with my giant friends. We drank beer from kiosk cans and shouted at each other from across the aisle. Someone said a joke or shared a funny moment and the whole rabble of us burst into obnoxious laughter. Sometimes we went to restaurants and caused all kinds of mischief by leaving our chopsticks standing in a bowl of rice or ordering things that were not on the menu.
I once caused a crazy uproar in a ramen shop by asking for miso chashu. Chashu is a delicious, round slice of roasted pork. I could see on the menu they had chashu ramen and they had miso negi (scallion), but they didn’t have miso chashu. I assumed that the shop could make what I wanted since it was obvious from the menu they had all the ingredients. “Daddy what are you doing?” My daughter and son were mortified. They pleaded with me to just get whatever was written. Of course, I ignored them. I wanted to use the opportunity to teach them the lesson of always asking for what you want. If it’s not possible then the person will just say no, but I wanted them to understand that you can never really know what’s possible until you ask. That was giant logic. My kids didn’t get it. They sunk low in their chairs with embarrassment as I asked the waitress why they couldn’t make miso ramen. The cook was not pleased with my question. The burly woman came from the kitchen with a clever in her hand. S She looked as if she wanted to turn me into chasu but I wasn’t afraid. In the end, I found out that the negi miso was premade. They wouldn't even let me order negi miso with chashu. I think that was their last act of defiance. I never went back to the shop after that. Who wants to eat at a place where the cook waves a clever at you because you asked for something that was not on the menu. I told everyone I knew in the neighborhood about my experience. I am sure it’s not related, but the shop went out of business a year later.
It is not easy being a giant. People here have an irrational fear of them. If I am standing by the door on a crowded train, they often run to another car instead of stepping through the space where I am. If I stand away from the door, the placard ads that hang from the ceiling hit me in the head and cover my view. There is usually nothing to see anyway except an ocean of heads that wave and swirl as the rail bends. If I am lucky enough to sit, the space next to me often remains open. Despite the fact that Giants seldom grope women on trains or cause any mayhem beyond being loud, everyone seems to be afraid of them.
I have seen regular folks fighting on the train. The pressure of living the regimented life of being stuffed inside a rolling tin can for early morning commutes, the endlessly grueling office labor, and only being able to order what’s on the menu sometimes causes one of them to explode. The police get called to break up the brawl but no one seems to get arrested. After the fighters have calmed down they are usually free to go.
They rarely let us giants go, even if we were defending ourselves from attack. Just outside of NHK a fellow giant almost got mowed down by a speeding cyclist who had come barreling down the sidewalk. My friend shouted, “Hey! Watch it!” This caused the cyclist to abruptly stop, lean his bike against a building, and stomp back to where my giant friend was standing. Although the cyclist was a regular person and much shorter than my friend, he decided to grab his shirt and pummel him for his verbal assault. My giant friend struggled to stop the angry cyclist. He punched back until he could push him to the ground and run away. A crowd had come to witness the altercation. They had not seen how it started. When the giant tried to run, they pounced on him as a group and held him there till the police arrived. The angry man had shouted to them some nonsense about being attacked. My friend, who speaks fluent Japanese, tried to explain to the crowd that he was the one who had been attacked and was trying to flee to safety. All the crowd could hear was “ugga bugga blah blah”.
The angry cyclist was sneaky. When he noticed a crowd had formed he suddenly started to yell for help. “Someone call the police,” He said. The crowd followed his command and held the giant there until the police arrived. When the giant’s colleague (he was not alone) explained what happened all the cops heard was “ugga bugga blah blah”. They took the giant away. At the police station the giant told the cops his story. He explained how the man had attacked him because he yelled. Under normal circumstances, the person who throws the first punch is the one at legal fault. When giants are involved, the circumstances are seldom normal. My friend was told that HE was at fault for defending himself. According to the police, he should have just taken the punches and not done anything. That was the excuse they used to let the angry cyclist go and fine my giant friend an obscene amount of money for a shop sign that got broken while he was fighting to flee.
My friend and I are tall, even in our own countries. Being six foot three inches is enough to get noticed. On more than one occasion people have looked over their shoulder at me and gasped. A couple of them even screamed before they suddenly started running away at full speed. The first time it happened, I thought something must be chasing us, so I ran too. That made the poor girl scream even louder. When I looked over my shoulder to see what monstrous thing might be trying to gobble us whole, I saw that nothing was there. That’s when I realized I was running from myself. The second, third, and fourth times it happened I watched as the frightened person ran and I sent them off with big belly fulls of laughter. Of all the giants in the entire world, I was the one who posed the least amount of risk, which made their run seem all the more ridiculous to me.
Once I went to a local prep school to see about enrolling my son. Entrance exams into high school and college are brutal here. Every year, students are subjected to them like unwilling gladiators on the floor of a colosseum. I didn’t want my son to be defeated in battle so I decided to check the school out. I entered the office and had to bend my knees a bit to avoid hitting the top of my head on the archway. I have lots of scars on my head from all of the doorways I have hit. The reception clerk was a short thin man who trembled at the sight of me. Although my Japanese was perfectly understandable, all he could hear was “ugga bugga blah blah!” His shaking got so bad I wondered if he would shatter. He tried to communicated with me in very broken English that was distorted by katakana. My imperfect Japanese should have been infinitely more understandable than his mimicking giant speak to me.
Somehow, despite it all, I managed to get the information I needed to enroll my son. Most giant parents would have refused to give such a place their business after being treated so rudely. Unfortunately, it was the only cram school in my neighborhood. Although my presence almost caused one of their staff to die of fright, the school managed to help my son get into a descent high school and a descent medical school. Having a student successfully make it into medical school was considered a great achievement for the school even though it was actually my son who did most of the work. They didn’t care anymore that he was the son of a giant. They put him on a poster anyway.