Lost in Japan

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Don’t you just hate it when you have a really great idea and then, a little while later, someone steals it from you and makes a bundle of money? Man! Do I hate it when that happens! This has happened to me so many times now, I’ve lost count.

My wife says it’s always my fault. She says I shouldn’t be blabbing around to all my friends what a great idea I have. She says that, instead of going to the bar and drawing diagrams of products or writing scripts on napkins, I should get my lazy butt in front of the computer and actually put my ideas on paper.

She says instead of complaining all the time, I should be getting outdoors or doing something. I reply:

"So what’s your point?"

I should have been a millionaire by now.

But this newest one really burns me up. I think you all know me well enough to know what I am talking about. That’s right. That Academy Award winning movie recently with Bill Murray in it.

The Bill Murray movie whose real title was "Lost In Japan." That’s correct. I wrote that movie way back in 1979 or was it ’80? I don’t remember exactly… Anyhow, that’s my script. I wrote it. I want my money!

Somehow my original screenplay made it’s way back to Hollywood and has won a bunch of awards — sans my name!

Want proof? Okay. Well first off, I’m from Los Angeles. I know lots of people there. Ask around.

Yuji Wada. He really did the lighting for "Lost in Translation." Really.

Secondly, the guy who did the lighting for said movie, Yuji Wada, is my next-door neighbor and we often get drunk together.

You’d think that these rich Hollywood-types would be happy ripping off old Hans Christen Andersen stories and calling them Disney films. Or stabbing each other in the back and re-writing old Captain America comics into crappy Bruce Willis movies.

But no! They got to go and steal one of my original ideas just because I’m in Japan and they know that Japan has no small claims court.

Of course they changed the script slightly in order to hide the facts. But let me tell you how the original script went (and it was a lot more action packed and funnier too!):

I was a down and out young actor from Los Angeles. I came to Japan to visit my wild Japanese friends who I had met in college. Of course we drank whiskey every night.

One of my friends was this guy named "Koichi." Koichi’s dad was a Yakuza. He had gold teeth. He even had a gold toothbrush (I’m not making this up!)

Anyhow, of course I couldn’t speak the language at all. One night, Koichi and his friends took me to one of these, what they called a, "special Japanese place."

They dropped me off and told me that they’d come back for me in an hour or so and then went somewhere.

I sat in a very gaudy pink color theme room on this fur sofa that looked like something out of one of those Hip-Hop videos and began to get suspicious.

Then, three Japanese girls in bathing suits walked into the room and started smiling and posing in front of me.

"Uh, oh…. I think I know what this is!" I got real nervous. Then this other Yakuza guy walked in and smiled, showing me his golden teeth, and he said:

"Which girl? You like?"

That was it. I’m not that kind of a guy. I was terrified and ran out of that place in a hurry. Heck, I was only 22 or so at the time and still unacquainted in the ways of "professional" women of the world — Still am, thank you.

My rendition of a vending machine in Japan from my original movie script entitled, "Lost in Japan"

It was good that I got out of there, right? Well, yes and no. Getting out of there was good. But, once out on the street, I was completely lost.

I had one of those silly Berlitz English to Japanese dictionaries with me. But I didn’t know at the time that, if you are not careful, "I’m lost" in Japanese is easily mistranslated into "I lost." As in, "I lost (at gambling.)"

So here I was walking around completely lost in the "pink" section of town and I’m walking around telling all these Yakuza guys in front of their dens of iniquity that I, "Lost my money gambling."

"No problem!" They all said, "Come on in!"

I finally found my way back to my friend’s house when I remembered that there was this restaurant by his house that had a giant crab climbing up the side of it. I drew a picture of the giant crab for some cops and they pointed me in the right direction.

Whew! That was a close one! Thank God for giant crabs crawling up the sides of buildings in Tokyo!

"Lost in Japan." You read it here first….It was my story. It happened to me. I was like a fish out of water.

And speaking about being a fish out of water, today starts "Golden Week" here in Japan. And I have absolutely nothing to do for the next few days.

What is Golden Week? Well, from what I understand, it’s a one-week vacation period that was created by the Japanese government — Under pressure from the U.S. government to get the locals to chill out and take time off from work — So they would spend more money.

It’s a great idea in theory. The only problem is now-a-days the economy is so bad, no one has any money to spend.

Since this is Japan, Golden Week is not 7 days long, actually. It’s anywhere from 3 to 5 days long — depending on the year. This year it’s 4 days, I think (no one really knows.)

During Golden Week, all Tokyoites leave Tokyo and go someplace. That’s why Tokyo is the place to be during this time. The roads are empty and the trains un-crowded.

But if everyone leaves Tokyo, then what’s to do in Tokyo during Golden Week? Good question.

Taro Furukawa funny TV guy.

It’s gotta be cheap and it’s gotta be fun.

When I lived in California, I used to go fishing off the rocks at the ocean at least 3 days a week. I love fishing. When I first came to Japan, at night I would often dream of fishing.

There is one problem with fishing in Japan, though. In Japan, the ocean is farmed. So all prime coastal areas are marked off for the local fishing collective. If they catch you fishing in their farm they might just perform some Soccer "penalty kick" practice on your rear end.

So I called up with my pal Taro Furukawa who is a famous TV comedian guy and he showed me some of the exciting places to go fishing right here in the middle of Tokyo! That’s right. Great fishing places in the middle of the most crowded city on earth.

Think about it, my friends, what could be more exciting — and relaxing (this is, after all, a vacation time) than big game fishing?


A Japanese “fishing hole”

First Taro took me to what’s called "Tsuri-bori" in Japan. Tsuri-bori literally translates into "fishing hole." I don’t know if I’d call them fishing holes or not. More like fishing in an aquarium or kids swimming pool.

You pay your $5 dollars to get in and sit around this pool and try to catch fish. The pool isn’t knee-deep and there are millions of fish in it. But darned if I didn’t have trouble even getting a bite!

Now, when I say that there are millions of fish in this knee deep pool, you folks in America think I’m exaggerating. Well, I’m not. There are millions of them because they are all little goldfish and the biggest one of the bunch ain’t an inch and a half long.

That’s also why I figure I wasn’t getting any bites. The hook was too big for their mouths.

To make things more interesting, Taro and I both brought adult refreshments into the Tsuri-bori and made a wager on who would catch the most fish.

As the great Jimmy Cannon once said, "Fishing, with me, has always been an excuse to drink in the daytime."

So we didn’t bother betting on who could drink the most. Time went by and we got drunker and drunker, but still no fish.

I was pretty drunk and getting sleepy due to the lack of action. Then a poem about fishing by the great Henry David Thoreau popped into my mind:

"Time is but the stream I go a-fishing in. I drink at it; but while I drink, I see the sandy bottom and detect how shallow it is. Its thin current slides away, but eternity remains. I would drink deeper; fish fill the sky, whose bottom is pebbly with stars. I cannot count one. I know not the first letter of the alphabet. I have always been regretting that I was not as wise as the day I was born."

A Japanese style "bobber"

Well who knows what the hell this guy was talking about. But it kind of makes sense when you are drunk and fishing and you haven’t even gotten a single bite.

Time went by. The old lady running the Tsuri-bori came by and slapped us around a few times because we weren’t catching any fish. Everyone else was, though. The guy sitting across from us must of caught a hundred fish! That guy was hooking them everytime his line hit the water.

Well, our allowed one hour went by and Taro beat me in the fishing derby. He had two fish. I only had one.

But he cheated. One of the fish he caught, he hooked by the belly.

"This Tsuri-bori stuff is lame." I protested, "And besides, at Tsuri-bori when you catch the fish, you just throw them back. So what’s the use? I only like real fishing, like we have in America."

"Okay, tough American guy! We’ll see about that!" Taro replied. Then he took me to the next fishing spot: The local park.

There we got more beer and a bag of peanuts and prepared for the craze that’s sweeping the nation: "Risu no tsuri." Risu no tsuri translates into: Squirrel fishing. Yep, you read right.

Squirrel fishing got popular in Japan about 1997 and has captured the imagination of all the Japanese children who love cute squirrels; as well as the imaginations of the very bored or twisted people living in Japan, like Taro and myself.

What you do is, see, you get some peanuts and tie them to a long string. Then you throw the peanuts on the ground near an area where the squirrels are running around. Then you just wait.

The waiting in the park is the hard part. Because after all that beer, it’s at least a 200-meter walk to the outhouse.

When Mr. Squirrel comes near the peanut, you start pulling the peanut towards yourself. Squirrels are not too smart and they will usually run after the peanut and grab hold. Once they grab it, you just reel them in!

What a fighter!

The only problem with squirrel fishing is that they have sharp teeth and if you were to try to grab one, they could bite you and then you’d get rabies. Then you’d have to go to the hospital and have shots in your stomach.

That’s not really a big problem, it’s just that they’d probably ask you how it was that a squirrel bit you. And you’d have to tell them:

One that got away

"I was squirrel fishing."

After several that we almost "had" Taro and I dropped that sport. For it had the same basic fundamental problem with it that Tsuri-bori had: Even if you were to somehow catch one…. You certainly weren’t going to take it home and eat it. A park squirrel!? Yuck!

And as the sun began to set in the sky, we said, "Good bye," to another night of rough and tumble outdoorsman-type sports stuff in Japan.

We washed up and cleaned off our gear and headed to the local bar. There we talked about the ones that got away. I began writing down on a napkin, my next Hollywood blockbuster movie script. I’m going to call it: "Fishing in Translation."

I know someone will probably rip off my original idea, but the latest Hollywood movies are all trash.

That’s the problem with American pop culture today…. No originality.

Mike (in Tokyo) Rogers [send him mail] was born and raised in the USA and moved to Japan in 1984. He has worked as an independent writer, producer, and personality in the mass media for nearly 30 years.

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