Page 18                                             Spring 1987

Otaydama in Japan

by Barry Rosenberg


June 29 / June 30: I'm on board a TWA jet bound for Tokyo. Although the flight is a non-stop 14 hours, I'm too excited and anxious to sleep. Tomorrow (or is it tomorrow already?) I will begin three­week's employment as a juggler in a Japanese theme park.


My partner (Kalonymus Briskin) got a call from an agency a few months ago asking if we wanted to perform in Japan. It sounded too good to be true, and I told friends that I wouldn't believe it until I was on the plane. I'm on the plane. I still didn't believe it.


July 1: I arrive at Nagasaki Airport following an overnight rest stop in Tokyo. I'm supposed to meet an interpreter there, so I put on my big black top-hat to make me easier to spot. I needn't have bothered. At 6 feet, I'm definitely the tallest person in the airport. I'm also the only westerner.


My interpreter finds me. "I am Kayoko," she says. Kayoko leads me to an air-conditioned speed boat which zooms across Omura Bay past little lush green villages and fisherman in traditional Japanese hats. This is Asia with a capital "A."


After 30 minutes of riding, my interpreter announces "There it is." Ahead of the boat, rising out of tropical Asia, is a peninsula of windmills and western brick buildings. "Barry, this is Holland Village," Kayoko states in her measured delicate English.

July 4: I'm beginning to get over jet lag. I slept until 5:00 a.m. this morning, and then lasted until 4:00 p.m. before dropping into a catatonic two-hour nap. Kalonymus yells at me to wake up or miss dinner. I slip on my traditional Japanese yakata (robe) and pad on over to dinner in hotel slippers that are three sizes too small.


I take my place on the mats next to seven fellow performers, Kayoko, and our boss.  We are treated like special guests and receive a nine-course meal. Kalonymus describes it as raw fish, barbequed fish, breaded fish, candied fish, baked fish, dried fish, and rice. Dinner comes, and comes, and never seems to stop.


Our boss is an avid pachinko player and has won handily the night before. He shares his luck by making a present to us, and what a present it is: raw fish heads, raw snails, raw eels, and raw squid... all beautifully displayed of course. I have eaten very little these first few days.

Barry Rosenberg discovered outrageous behavior and clothing was the best way to overcome the language barrier.

Barry Rosenberg discovered outrageous behavior and clothing was the best way to overcome the language barrier.

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