A recent Japanese scandal has sent thousands of Japanese bureaucrats scouring the countryside searching for missing centenarians for whom Japan is famous. If these “Salary Men,” as they are referred to here, would look out the passenger window they would see all the missing centenarians passing their traffic entrenched government issued Toyotas whizzing past on bikes. These missing centenarians are ubiquitous and not at home in bed where the salary men are currently searching.
If one rides a bus it’s impossible to land a seat for the firmly established ancients have commandeered all the seats from the younger passengers. Firmly followed etiquette demands that younger riders yield seats to older riders or pregnant women and it is followed to the letter. I derive much pleasure watching young rebels get scolded then ejected if they defy custom. It’s the closest to literal hen pecking that exists. As most buses are stepless, these elderly wanderers prefer this to all other forms of mass transportation.
I wrote “mass” transportation. The preferred form of transportation seems to be the bike.
Offspring #2 “I hate how these old people drive so fast. They cut too close when they go by.” The scolding stuck in my throat as I dodged 3 more over 80’s whizzing by, rain coats flapping in the tailwind, Gilligan hats firmly strapped down, peddling fast, and dodging puddles as if this was level 5 on a Nintendo DS game. Don’t they know what a fall could do at their age? How about wearing a helmet at least? Do they mentally regress towards the twenties where one has no understanding of mortality or do they have no regard for their impending demise?
Thus far my humiliations in Japan have all been at the hands of these relics. Every morning I limp over to the park for a mind clearing run only to be passed by the shuffling herd of fossils. Those not doing the shuffle participate in a “Tai Chi” clutch about 400 strong. Tokyo during the summer is like living in New Orleans on a hot summer day plus 15 degrees, however these old folks apparently more disturbed by skin cancer than slow roasting are usually covered from head to toe in clothing. I’d be running nude if it allowed me a comfortable place to carry my alien registration card which must be on my person at all times.
Imagine my surprise when not once, but twice, elderly movers appeared on my doorstep. Not centenarians but certainly not a day under 65. When was the last time your moving crew was over the age of 30? I felt that I should be carrying boxes until I observed these men in action- strong, fast, and hardworking.
Smell. They don’t smell. I can stop there.
I’m fascinated by the following fact. According to my Japanese friends, the definition of “old” in Japan is 85. One of my friends said his Dad is still young. He’s 80. Think about this. Tradition in Asian countries dictates that family’s care for the elderly who typically either live together or on the same block.In theory the 100 yr old centenarian is cared for by her 80-year-old daughter who is cared for by her 60-year-old daughter all in one house. It’s no wonder the average age for marriage among women in Japan is 30. Who wants all those hormones under one roof!
I’ve become embarrassingly fixated on these geriatrics. How do they get to be so old and healthy? I watch them carefully. I try to take their pictures but end up likened to a bad Inspector Clouseau. These wily, crafty oldies turn away or tell me “Iie.” I hide in the bushes. They see me. They cluck their tongues. Foiled again. They have more experience than me. So- sorry- no pictures, blurry or otherwise.
I’m determined to age in a healthy way too. I’m drinking gallons of green tea and having to use the squat toilets as a result. No more red meat- for anyone in the family. I’m dragging them down with me. Only fruits and vegetables in season- the old way. Rice, tofu and miso at every meal. I’m cooking Japanese meals- well, if I’m honest with myself, I was never a good American cook and I’m too lazy to go to the International grocery store but it fits with the healthier aging new more Japanese me.
I’m not doing Tai Chi. I draw the line at that.