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Rusuban: The family oni is left holding the fort

by Michael Hoffman

“Daddy, when I grow up I wanna be a kyabajō (キャバ嬢, nightclub hostess)!”

“A what?” I must be hearing things. Is this my brilliant 10-year-old daughter talking? Last week she wanted to be a genshibutsurigakusha (原子物理学者, nuclear physicist); the week before that, a Shakespearean joyū (女優, actress); two weeks ago, having scored kurasu ichii (クラス一位, top in her class) in a math test, a sūgakusha (数学者, mathematician).

“Look.” The newspaper is open on the kitchen table in front of her. “Aren’t these kamigata (髪型, hairstyles) kakkō ii (格好いい, cool)? They’re called morigami (盛り髪).”

The photo shows three young women in kimono (着物), their hair curled, dyed rust-colored and too thick to be entirely real. “Are they kyabajō?” I ask.

“Not really. They’re just kyabajo no kasō wo shita (仮装をした, dressed up like kyabajo) for their daigaku no sotsugyōshiki (卒業式, university graduation).”

“Why?” Stupid question. Life has become kosupure (コスプレ, costume play), as I know very well without asking.

Kimika reads from the caption: “‘Morigami wa san-nen hodo mae kara yoru no machi de hataraku josei no aida de hirogarihajimeta to iu’ (「 盛り髪は三年ほど前から夜の街で働く女性の間で広がり始めたという 」, “About three years ago the morigami hairstyle began to catch on among women working in the night life sector”). Can I wear my hair morigami?”

“No, you cannot wear your hair morigami! And you can’t wear kuchibeni (口紅, lipstick), and you’re too young to wear keshō (化粧, makeup), and if you ask why, the answer is because I said so!”

Whew! Lately the Koosei Roodosho (厚生労働省, Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry) is after people to take more ikuji kyūka (育児休暇, child care leave). I’m beginning to see why there’s such teikō (抵抗, resistance) to the idea. Not that I’m on ikuji kyūka. For that, you need a job, and I’m shitsugyō shite iru (失業している, unemployed). My wife is serving as a saibanin (裁判員, lay judge) in a satsujinzai no saiban (殺人罪の裁判, murder trial), so I’m rusuban shite iru (留守番している, holding the fort), so to speak. . . . Ah, what’s this now? My dear giri no okāsan (義理のお母さん, mother-in-law) has awakened from her hirune (昼寝, nap) and now joins the company, somewhat nebokete iru (寝ぼけている, dazed with sleep) and, in fact, bokete iru (ぼけている, senile). “Ohayō gozaimasu, okāsan!” (「おはようございます、お母さん 」, “Good morning, mother”) Stuart Keyes is my name, in case you’ve forgotten.”

“Father, please, don’t . . . ” Kimika is uncommonly aichaku wo motte iru (愛着を持っている, attached to) the old lady; personally, I taerarenai (耐えられない, can’t stand her), but that’s an old story. She can’t stand me, either, truth to tell.

“I know very well who you are,” says the old lady, and suddenly she doesn’t look so dazed. In fact, she looks pretty damned surudoi (鋭い, sharp). I occasionally have that effect on her. Such is the power of nikushimi (憎しみ, hatred).

“I know who you are. You’re a mijuku (未熟, half-baked) scholar of nihonshi (日本史, Japanese history) who got a university teaching job because you happen to speak pera-pera nihongo (ぺらぺら日本語, fluent Japanese), and when that wasn’t enough, you kubi ni natta (首になった, got fired)!”

She’d kill me if she had a buki (武器, weapon). I know she would! And she’d muzai ni sareru (無罪にされる, be found innocent) on the grounds that she’s ぼけている!

Sono tōri da” (「その通りだ」, “You’re right”), I say. “Well, wadai wo kaemashō (話題を変えましょう, Let’s change the subject). What’s that you have in your hands? A shashin no arubamu (写真のアルバム, photo album)!”

“Oh, let’s see!” says Kimika.

The two of them are suddenly muchū de (夢中で, absorbed in) looking at ancient photographs, and I, the family oni (鬼, ogre), the bull in the china shop, am forgotten. Good. I slip out to the little room I call my shosai (書斎, study), close the door behind me, and sink into my favorite chair in the world, the best chair I have ever sat in. Sometime within the next hour or so there will be a phone call from my former university, where a shūshokuguchi (就職口, vacancy) has opened up. I am to be offered my old job back. Dr. Yamabe, my good friend and colleague, assen shite kureta (斡旋してくれた, arranged it).

It’s up to me to say yes or no. What should I do? For every reason to say yes, there’s a reason to say no. I wish I could kesshin suru, (決心する, make up my mind)!