Thursday, October 25, 2007

My Wife Flees Japan to Seek Political Asylum in China

My Wife Flees Japan to Seek Political Asylum in China

Wednesday 24, my wife threw a few designer labels into a suitcase then headed off for the train station. Her plan was thus: fly to Shanghai, take the train to Lhasa, go by train from Lhasa to Beijing and there apply for (and obtain) political asylum.

I thought this was a hare-brained plan, and told her so to her face. I warned her that, quite possibly, the Chinese authorities might choose to:

1. laugh in her face;
2. outsource her case to a North Korean labor camp where the most nourishing thing on the menu will be refried cockroach shadows;
3. sell her as a slave to a brick kiln in Central China.

However, my wife stood to her guns, arguing thus:

1. The pensions mess in Japan is of political manufacture. ("Sorry, sir, you say you paid into the national pension plan for fifty years? I'm sorry, but we have no record that you ever even existed.")

2. As a bureaucrat who is at the sharp end of the pension screwup crisis, my wife is a victim of political oppression, suffering under the yoke of the All-Time Idiots Who Really Screwed Up This Time.

3. As a victim of Japanese political oppression, the oppression of the competent by the incompetent, my wife can legitimately apply for (an expect to be granted) political asylum in China.

I have pointed out to her that there is no point in going to China. That magical Chinese toothpaste with the amazingly unexpected additives? You can buy that stuff right here in Japan, if you shop around for it. Those chemically potent Chinese vegetables with the hyperloads of insecicides? They have clearly labeled "Chinese garlic" at the veggie shop down the sidestreet by the station.

Plus, I don't buy into my wife's concept of how political asylum works. She chose to specialize, after all, in early childhood education, not in international law.

However, I must concede that, in some cases, my wife turns out to know more than I do.

She knew, for example, that I have a hospital appointment tomorrow, Friday, something which had completely slipped my mind.

She was able to lay her hands on the family photographs, intended for my parents (daughter Cornucopia in a kimono, husband and wife team togged out in formal gear) which I had gone and lost (somewhere) in the cluttered chaos atop the old kitchen table in my personal room.

She, too, turned out to be right when she asserted that there is now a train which goes all the way to Lhasa in far-off Tibet. I was inclined to doubt this, but, when I went and checked, this outlandish theory turns out to be true.

Tuesday, the day before departure, my wife showed me two tubs of curry defrosting on the sink bench. Dinner for me and daughter Cornucopia for Wednesday. The small one being "amai," ie "sweet," and intended for Corny. The bigger one (much hotter) for me.

Wednesday morning, after my wife's departure, I was planning my day and went to look for the curry. It had vanished, and was nowhere to be seen. I said some words about my wife which she, fortunately, was not there to hear.

Much later, toward the end of the day, I finally found the curry, hidden in plain sight in the fridge.

Good. We would have curry plus some of the rice from the rice cooker, my wife having promised that there would be a four-day supply of rice in the cooker, enough rice to feed the entire population of North Korea for the rest of the year.

The rice cooker was suspiciously inert, no friendly electronic light showing. On inspection, it turned out not to have been plugged in. I opened it up. Nothing. Nada. Either some sly crook had burglarized our rice or my wife had forgotten to put it on to cook. I said some more words about my wife. Pretty shocking words. (Fortunately, because of the limitations of the damaged brain I work with, immediatley forgot precisely what I had gone and said).

The phone rang.

I do remember what I said then:

"Now who can that be?"

In my mind, she, the regal Murasaki Nishikawa, was promenading through the streets of Shanghai wowing the local yokels with her stunning Italian fashionhouse getup. What had she been wearing when she left on Wednesday? Pada? Fendi? Versace? So many labels, so many brands! Can't keep track...
"Welcome to China," I said.
"I'm still at Narita," she said. "I forgot -"
"To put on the rice. I know. I just found out."
"You know where the rice is, don't you?" said my wife.
"No," I said.
Ignoring this assertion, my wife told me to take four cups of rice and put them into the rice cooker. Then fill the cooker to the "4" level. Then press the TORIKESHI button. Then press the button on the right.

This sounded horribly technical, and I had grave doubts as to whether I would be able to either (a) remember or (b) carry out such a complicated instruction set.

However, by happy accident the rice was sitting out on the kitchen floor in plain sight, and I succeeded in doing what I had been bidden to do. One small problem: none of the buttons is labeled in English. Japanese only for this rice cooker. But, for once, my Japanese was equal to the task.

All set to go, I pushed the button on the right. Much to my amazement, the rice cooked.

We have the ultimate high-tech rice cooker. No rice washing and no soaking time required. Just load it up then hit START. And the rice, once cooked, will keep warm for three days, easily.


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