Sunday, 20 January 2013

Brush with a jukujo


There's a small Chinese restaurant less than five minutes' walk from the dorm. It's small in that wonderfully Japanese way, frequented mostly by neighbourhood locals and less spacious than most public bathrooms, with about ten seats and even fewer menu items. I can only assume that it survives on the patronage of its regulars, because I don't think I've ever seen more than two or three people in there at the same time before.

Tonight, though, the place is comparatively bouncing. Cologne and I take our seats at the bar, squeezed between a couple of lonely twenty-somethings, who sit silently, as if contemplating all their life's mistakes. I wave to a group of guys from our university, sitting at the corner table.

My reading's gotten better since I was here last. I order the tonkatsu teishoku. Cologne just picks something at random. “If I try something new, then I'll know what it is for next time!” he reasons happily. It turns out to be gyouza nabe. We watch TV while we wait. The water tastes off. There's a twenty-year-old photo of the owner pasted to the back wall.

I hear a woman come in with two small children in tow. I steal a glance over my shoulder, and – oh my god. Now, I catch a lot of flack for my taste in women, but this is a MILF if there ever was one. Normally I don't do the whole jukujo thing...in fact I usually say that 28 is probably my upper limit...but I think, in that moment, all you guys who rave about them may well have gained a convert. This is the kind of woman I want in my bed. This is the kind of woman I want raising my children, and I don't even want children.

For a moment, I can't take my eyes off her. Then her husband comes in with their oldest daughter and I quickly avert may attention. The stragglers sit at the bar, a few seats down from myself.

Our food arrives and, shortly after, so does Philosophy, come to grab some takeout. A group of young guys come in after him, see that every seat is taken, and wait just inside the door. Philosophy and I chat about what a tasty and convenient little restaurant this is, and then I point out the siren seated immediately beside us. From where he's standing, he has a perfect angle to drink her all in. I watch him look her up and down. He cracks a smile. He doesn't often go for what I go for. But she's won him over. The chair on Cologne's other side opens up and he takes a load off. The two of them chat in German.

A voice jostles the atmosphere: “Hey, what the fuck are you looking at?”

It's the father – the jukujo's man. He looks about ready to stab one of the young guys standing by the door.

“I'm...not looking.”

This has the opposite of the desired effect. In a few swift strides he's right up in the young guy's grill, spewing a stream of obscenities in his most castigating old man growl. He's by no means large, but he's 90% muscle. I start to watch, but then I catch myself. I have no desire to convince him that I'm the next problem he needs to solve.

“What university do you go to?” he demands. The lady behind the counter's gone to take out the garbage or something. The boys don't answer, which is just as well, because it's not like he was going to do anything useful with the information. That's the thing about testosterone-fuelled bullshit that's always gotten to me the most: Pointless questions. What's your name? Where you from? You think you're tough? I picture my strategy if he does zero in on me. I'll just stare him in the face, pretend not to understand Japanese, and not back down. As long as I don't move he won't do anything.

Now he's going on in that way of speaking where Japanese men lose the ability to use vowels and tack korrrrra onto the end of every sentence, which they think is extremely intimidating but really just makes them sound like they never graduated junior high school. I can't understand a goddamn word he's saying. Eventually his target talks him down and he stalks back to his chair, where he resumes his verbal assault.

At this point the old lady bustles back in and immediately tries to defuse the situation.

Ara, is something the matter?” she asks.
“It's those punks waiting over there!” the crazy guy yells.
“Ah, I'm so terribly sorry, do you think I could have you wait outside?” she asks, to which they're happy to comply.
“Fucking cocky bastards!”
“I'll have you not talk like that, yes, thank you.”

The source of his ire has been removed but he just can't contain himself. In under a minute he's stormed out to continue the argument, slurring idle threats. I lean over to confer with Philosophy, whose listening is better than mine.

“He thought they were staring at him?”
“Yeah, he was like 'my daughter can't eat with you looking at her like that!' Which, you know.”
“Right, she must feel very reassured now that her father is trying to pick a fistfight with a bunch of strangers.”

I wonder if we should do something, but I also know nothing's going to come of it. The whole time, nobody in the entire store has so much as shifted in their chairs, or, really, given any indication that Mr Yakuza Wannabe has disturbed their meals or, in fact, done anything even slightly out of the ordinary. We pay up and leave.

They're having it out in the middle of the road as we jaywalk home. His wife comes out and I get my first glimpse of her full-on. She really is heavenly. She's wearing a pleasant smile that says, “I really don't want to deal with this shit, but let's see if I can't act all coquettishly innocent and Yamato Nadeshiko our way out of this.” Although to me, it says, “Get over here, Rude Boy, and bend me over the table right inside the store, because I need a real man who can satisfy me.”

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