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Mistaken for a Ninja (Again)

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By bingocards
August 29, 2008

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So I totally don't have a line item in my budget for "Need to stay in a hotel because central Japan is under water" but that doesn't mean it can't happen!

Yeah, things are a bit wet over here. I stupidly decided to eat dinner before getting on the train last night -- "stupidly" because my coworker, who boarded the train 15 minutes before me, made it home (30 minute train ride) before the clouds burst.

I did not.

We got stopped at a town in the middle at about 9:30 PM because, well, the train is not a submarine. Whoopsie. After waiting until 1:30 AM, I decided to take my chances with finding accomodation in town, since there was no way for me to get back to my hometown and no way to get back to Nagoya (where my office is).

The first hotel is, hmm, 150 feet from the train station. They were full with people who were less patient than I was, and I arrived soaked to my bones (no umbrella). I then stopped at a convenience store to ask where another hotel was and buy an umbrella -- purely for form's sake, because when the water is up to your hips the umbrella really doesn't do all that good, but Japanese people always look at me and go "What is that foreigner doing without an umbrella!?" and I have to keep up appearances.

So I get to the second hotel. No good their either. They let me use their Internet and I get a list of hotels (go go Google skills), and after some calling around I found one with a room open. Why did they still have a room open? Well, funny thing -- four feet of water tends to keep guests away! Hah, but that never stopped me before.

The desk clerk tries to discourage me ("Sir, I can't tell you not to come, but you do understand we have four feet of water out here?" "Got you, ma'am, but I would rather prefer having a roof over my head than not.") but finally takes my reservation. Something quite common happens -- Bingocards is really hard for Japanese people to say, even if I preface it with "OK, get ready, its a foreign name: ", so I often end up with a particular Japanese name instead by accident.

Now, as it turns out, Bingou Kazu is actually the name of a famous fictional ninja. And also a professor from Osaka. But people mostly know about the ninja.

So I do the walking thing, passing about 10 police officers directing traffic and 25 cars who did not follow the officers advise and got stuck. Then I arrived at the hotel, where about three kids and their mother were crashed on a couch in the lobby (I think they were locals who got stuck at the hotel when dinner plans got canceled on account of "Uh oh, the river just went over its banks").

And, so help me, as soon as I walked in the door, with my business suit soaked up to about chest level and my $6.50 brand new umbrella, I got silhouetted by a flash of lightning. And kid #1 practically jumped out of his skin.

So I closed the umbrella, wiped off my feet (because despite the fact that I'm dripping all over and smell like a mix of sewage and gasoline from the leaking station next door I'm not totally uncivilized -- check the umbrella!), and sauntered up to the front desk.

"Good evening. I beg your pardon, I called earlier."

"YOU'RE Bingou Kazu?"

Ah, OK, weren't expecting a foreigner, gotcha. Happens all the time. What typically doesn't happen is that kid #1 jumps out of his skin again. Ahh, I think I know who here attended ninja camp this summer.

So after getting checked in kid #1 goes away from mom (sleeping on couch) for a moment and asks me "Umm... how did you... get here?"

Me: "Oh, I walked."

He looks outside at the street, which more resembles a river than a street.

Him: "ON the water?" (Nota bene for people who have not grown up with ninja fiction: they walk on water, stick to walls, and are generally magic.)

Me: "Well..."

Him: "I *knew* it! But why the disguise?"

Oh, right, I'm still a white guy. I probably don't look like Bingou Kazu from the comics.

Me: "I have enemies. Everywhere."

Him: "I think your Ninja Transformation: White Guy could be better."

Me: "Oh, what do you suggest?"

Him: "Make him taller. My teacher is taller."

Me: "You know I've been told that I look 3 meters tall before."

Him: "Get out of here. Two, tops."

Me: "Well, in the speaker's defense, he was drowning when he saw me."

Him: "Cool! You drowned someone?! With Ninja Technique: Water Dragon?!"

Me: "Oh, no, I pulled him out."

Him: "That doesn't sound very ninja-like, unless he, like, saved your life before and you owed him ninja honor, or maybe he was your master, or..."

Me: "The water *was* boiling."

Him: "Oh, that's much better."

Me: "You should probably go back to your mother."

Him: "But but but"

Me: "That was me asking. Nicely."

Him: "Gotcha ninja sir!"

I love kids. (That's actually the SECOND time I have been mistaken for a ninja. Its a nice gig, because the more outlandish it is the more true it must be -- what could look less like a ninja than a tall white computer programmer? Nothing. Which is why the ninja would, naturally, look like a tall white computer programmer.)


So on the less happy note, I hear my town took it pretty hard. My second story apartment probably got spared the brunt of it, but it may now be the first story apartment. If any of you guys are praying types, lots of folks live in a flood plain, so if you could spare a prayer or three I'm sure they'd appreciate it.

Now if you'll excuse me, I've got to sneak to a business meeting in my suit which still smells strongly of fuel oil and try to pretend I'm really not there. (Where else would a Japanese salaryman be the day after a disaster but work? Besides, last I checked the train line home is still out.) But I have it on pretty good authority that I'm supposed to be good at this "sneaking" thing...