Friday, June 1, 2012

HAI to the Victors

Dear Friends,

Did you know that my family is part of a citizen diplomacy network that creates and strengthens partnerships between international communities? Yeah, that's us, because we live in Ann Arbor, so we've got this:

This month, let us lay a wreath of delicately arranged respect at the feet of one of our beloved sister cities: Hikone, Japan.

People of Hikone, I looked at your municipal website and it is BREATHTAKING. I'm so so so sorry that you got stuck with Ann Arbor as your Sister City. There's a chance that you'll dig the Naked Mile and the Hash Bash, but if you're expecting us to go toe-to-toe with you on lakes and castles, our cultural exchange is sure to disappoint.

I only hope that I can mitigate that disappointment by contributing something to our inter-metropolitan communion.  People of Hikone, I offer you this month's Hard Taco song, "Sushi Fun Song," and dedicate it to your rich history and rich natural surroundings that I keep reading about on your website. "Sushi Fun Song" is essentially indistinguishable from your own traditional music, except that it is many times better, because it is not gong-based. On behalf of my mayor (who is indistinguishable from your own), we hope that this familiar sonic landscape will prime you for more adventurous cultural intercourse in the years to come.

People of Ann Arbor, when you're done sprinting through the Diag, I invite you to put some clothes on for God's sake, or at least cover up with a towel or something, and meet your Sister City.

Hikone, Japan
Population: 110,132
Emblem: A majestic volcano slurping noodles
Flower: Raw horse meat arranged beautifully
Tree: The bonsai version of the Michigan state tree, whatever that is.
Nickname: The Fugitive Whaler-Harboring City
Motto: "Shave your head and apologize more."
Exports: Valves, kendo sticks, blush saké, carp-shaped wind socks
Pokemon of choice: Woobat
Traditional Sodoku series, horizontal: 346 791 528
Traditional Soduku series, veritcal: 378 124 569 
Current Mayor: Hiko Nyan, defender of Castle Hikone

Hikone, an historical city in the prefecture of Shiga, is where ancient tradition meets early 20th century tradition. The same kimono-clad, umbrella-bearing women that shuffle around the city by day may later be found at a singles bar, sporting English language T-shirts with provocative messages such as, "Do not small parts in mouth avoid eating" or, "Measurable which designated prudently alive please."

The people of Hikone take pride in being among the most apologetic in Japan. Often, the greeting yee watashia moto ko wishinay is repeated twice by each party upon meeting. It means, “No, I repent more. No, I repent more.” A popular bunraku puppet theater production features dozens of elaborately crafted puppets trying to shout this sentence over each other for four and a half hours.

Useful Phrases, by setting:
At a restaurant:
  • We pray for the lasting prosperity of the poisonous blowfish.
  • A nation weeps for the dealer who sold you this soy sauce.
  • With rice, please bring me something that was scraped from beneath the sumo wrestler's colorful belly band. 
  • My miso has natto, my natto has no miso. (Apparently, this is a pun that can mean two things depending on your inflection. One meaning is high political satire and the other is crude joke about earthquake-induced radiation damage. Be sure to use the former inflection, because it is too soon for the latter.) 

At a business meeting:

  • My benefactor derives his supremacy from the will of the people with whom resides sovereign power.
  • Silence! Respect-for-the-Aged-Day is celebrated on the 3rd Monday in September. That is months from now.
  • It is said that a man with so many roofs on his pagoda must be compensating for something.
  • I will remove my shoes and put on slippers before stepping onto your ritual elliptical trainer.

At a nightclub:

  • Forgive me if I'm too forward, but would you enjoy hanging this carp-shaped windsock from a pole?

  • Nice to meet you, too. Please cut your sash and bind us together so we will look beautiful in death.
  • There are no tigers in Japan, so I will call my autobiography, “Battle Hymn of the Snow Macaque Mother.” 
  • Pardon my wheelbarrow. There are 1,945 Japanese characters and I really wanted a full keyboard on my smartphone.

At a tourist center:

  • I wish to defile an enemy shrine. Is there one nearby?
  • Where can I find dumplings that have survived from the peaceful Edo period (1603-1868)?
  • Ikebana is the art of Japanese flower arrangement. I should not have to tell you this, because you work at a tourist center.

With warmest regards,