Dining with the Shingle Weavers


Thursday night brought a few surprises, many delays, and a lot of fun. After work I met some ladies at a community center and made beeswax candles. My plan was to sprint from that meeting to the train station and return to Ise quickly; however, upon seeing my bike in the parking lot, several questions came up and a little time vanished. I got to the station just after the train I wanted.

Checking the schedule, it looked like enough time to duck into my favorite ramen shop for hiyashi chuuka (冷し中華) and maybe a beer. Two rough-looking but friendly gentlemen, who I met before, were there enjoying themselves immensely. When I met them the first time, they seemed especially touched that I treated them as I would anyone else; so, they started buying me drinks as soon as I sat down. We talked a lot and at some point the topic of prison came up. One of them has been in four times.

Anyhow, my first impression of them was that they were some kind of carpenters because they were missing several finger joints. After we had the prison conversation and they left, another patron helped me realize the truth. When a member of the Yakuza – Japanese mafia – fails their boss in some way, they have to cut a section off their little finger to prove their loyalty. So, not only are these guys Yakuza, they’ve probably screwed up a lot. I think they were touched by my openness because most normal people shy away from them.

When I finally caught a train back to Ise, I noticed a small shop near the station was open. I have passed by several times and wondered when they did business. I poked my head in to try their Guiness and discovered a few interesting folks. One of them is some sort of high-priest at the shrine. He was quite outgoing. Another is a helicopter mechanic for the Self Defense Force with aspirations to become a Major. One young lady happened to attend my university on a summer study program. The world is getting smaller. I think the priest may actually be a friend of a friend.


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3 Responses to “Dining with the Shingle Weavers”

  1. Arukiyomi Says:

    this is cool… this is where real Japan lies… go for it in getting to know these kind of people. One day, I’ll be back in Japan doing exactly this kind of thing…

  2. Keven Says:

    I wonder if the world shrinks or you just get bigger with age. (And I’m not talking about your waistline!)

  3. びっくり Says:

    Arukiyomi – I love meeting people in casual situations and chatting away.

    Kev – As we make more contacts in our region, we will inevitably encounter the small world syndrome. I’m connected to several groups here, so I often run into people who know someone I know. In Japanese we say “your face is wide” (顔が広い) for people who are well-known. Yesterday I met someone I hadn’t seen in a long time and he said he saw me the previous week. Asked why he didn’t call out, he replied that I was with a girl. How often does this happen, I wonder.

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