SECTION 6


Mrs. Sato prepared a fine breakfast which I did my best to demolish in a respectfully greedy American way. I began to appreciate the considerable luxury of nibbling on many, many different things at a meal instead of the poor way I eat at home: one big serving of one or two or three things. And I discovered something on the Sato's table that I am still craving: sour plum jelly. It is sour. I have no idea at all whether it is actually plum or not. I know for certain it is sour. It is the best jelly, actually a jam, I think, I have ever tasted. Perfect. Mr. Sato informed me that the bird I had been listening to was actually a cicada. The Japanese islands have almost as many different kinds of cicada as America has songbirds, and they are all distinguished by their different cries. Mr. Sato was surprised to hear about the 17-year cicada.

Monday morning-
finding the cicada
before getting in the car

Mr. Sato dropped me off in town. The plan was for me to take advantage of a special opportunity: live kabuki theater. I attended a short class with a few other foreigners, just something to acquaint us with what kabuki is. My best guess is it's about like opera, wherein the performance of spectacle and spectacle of performance supersede its incomprehensibility. I sat next to a tall Californian in the balcony but moved to a nearby section at the first opportunity in order to gain a little space. At intermission, this Californian thanked me for moving, and distracted me while I ordered a bottle of what I though might be grapefruit juice. It turned out to be something called Calpis, which this Californian informed me only after I had slugged down about half the bottle, "tastes just like it sounds." What it tasted like was the sugary milk left when the Fruit Loops have been plucked from the bowl.

I have no idea what it was I saw when I saw kabuki. There were three sections or parts, but I don't know if they were all of a single work. The first section had something to do with a young lord being seduced by a woman with an ample supply of sake. He eventually got angry about what I guess was the element of deception and/or the exposure of his own weakness. He chased somebody up a steep mountain path and pushed that person off a cliff. The second part was recitation of some sort by half a dozen actors all kneeling and bowing low and sitting up in turn to speak. The third part had somebody looking for something which necessitated many mincing steps down a long hallway and back. I don't know how it turned out, and I suspect few members of the audience did either. As I say, the effect was one of witnessing the spectacle of grand production.

In order to get back to Mr. Sato's house, I gave a taxi driver a card with the address on it. He called his dispatcher and chatted for five or ten minutes, referring back to the card several times. The only words I understood were Satosan and gaijin. I asked if everything was okay. He flashed an okay sign backward and said, "OK" five or six times and vigorously shook his head in an effort, I think, to convince himself. Before we got to where we were going, he called his dispatcher again and stopped twice to ask pedestrians for directions. I eventually recognized the house and got him to stop. I don't know why Japanese cabbies wear a white gloves only on their left hands.

Mr. Sato was watching sumo on television. Before I left Japan, I developed some appreciation and a new respect for the sport and those who practice it. Tuesday, sad to say, I slept all day. I got up for breakfast, so I wouldn't miss the opportunity for some more sour plum jelly, but I practically collapsed for the rest of the day. At night, Mr. and Mrs. Sato treated me to a Japanese style barbecue. They used something very much like an electric skillet to fry a hundred different things, pieces of pork and fish, and different vegetables. After dinner, we talked about many things: haiku, Shiki, Basho's frog haiku, American national politics, Intel stock, Weirton Steel stock, putting money away for the children and grandchildren, the Satos' travels throughout the world, to the United States and to Germany, from which they had recently returned.

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