It has officially been 6 months in Japan.
I was dropped off at the apartment after practice this afternoon, and my one pair of practice shorts seemed to have busted a few holes in them. I’d like to think it was a result of my hustle, diving for loose basketballs throughout practice everyday; but in reality, the shorts were probably just a little tired after 6 months of training. The fabric must have strategically mapped out their hole locations as the trio fabricated the perfect face. I had two small holes making artistic eyes, and a big mouth that looked like it was singing “O holy night…” in the choir.
It was exactly at that point, when I started making conversation to my short’s “face” friend, that I knew I needed to get outside. (I don’t know why I just shared that story)
I slip on my shoes and head out to hop on Momma Cherry, my Japanese teammate’s name for my cute red bicycle. She ended up taking me down to the rocky part of the beach, which in my opinion has the best views in Beppu. I often make this trek when I need a little “pick-me up” or encouragement – but today was a little different.
The sky looked as if were about to sneeze. The ocean was taking a nap. The backdrop of the mountains seemed to be a little hung over, and the commotion of the air was a little childish. Yet, there was an old man decked out in teal and yellow galoshes that was pacing back and forth, up and down throughout the rocks that caught my attention. If staring was a crime, I would have been sent straight to jail – no trial needed. I could not figure out, for the life of me, what he was doing.
Ten minutes later I had it narrowed down to three things: He was doing this new Japanese exercising called “toss rock.” He was hunting for ocean spiders on the black rocks. or … He was heavily medicated and had lost his mind. Whatever the case may be, Detective Da-rue was going to solve it.
I park Momma Cherry and begin my crab walk – itching my way towards his direction. His concentration level was unparalleled. His work ethic at “toss rock” (or passion for ocean spiders) was at a high Division 1 level. His teal and yellow stripe boots were… well, Kate Spadeish. His eyesight of me slowly approaching… was non-existent.
Before you know it, I’m deftly hopping from rock to rock, with each stone passed getting me a step closer to solving my puzzle. In the case where he has lost his mind, he might have had some kind of “GoGo Gadget” vision watching me do this. And the thought crosses by mind that he may not appreciate the only other person on the beach, me, staring at him for the last 20 minutes. Therefore, every couple of feet I pull out a new detective move in order to not blow my cover.
I’m working to get a better angle for this picture – hop. Oh! This rock is blacker than the other rock I just saw ten yards back – hop. Stumble a couple of steps, ties shoes – hop. Drop the lent from my pocket in the wind. Dash forward to catch again – hop. Repeat. Hop.
All the while my suspect glides back and forth, eyes peeled to the ground and hand stretched out. When he sees his target, he freezes like a center in football and starts snapping rocks between his legs like he is throwing to Tony Romo. After Tony has had enough rocks thrown at him, the old man begins frantically raking the dark sandy mush and sticking his hands in his pockets.
I’m currently standing inches away from my suspect. He has not given any attention that I am currently 3 feet taller than him and standing directly beside him. No head nod. No smile. No spider.
A couple minutes go by, and I figure I best break the ice and ask, “Hello sir. What are you collecting?”
Hearing my booming voice, he whips his head around and lets out a gawk like he hadn’t noticed me standing inches from him the previous two minutes. My detective “pocket lent dropping” skills must have worked magically.
Anyway, after the gawk I lost him in translations, as he soon became “Chatty Cathy” in full Japanese. Not knowing a drop of English, his smile gave away that I was allowed to stay and observe his work.
We communicated through hand motions. He paced back and forth to find the wettest sand underneath the rocks. He snapped the rocks through his legs to clear space for his rake. His rake jerked quirky to avoid the boatload of tiny crabs he just aggravated. He reached into the sand to gather up his ______. (no, not spiders L) Clams! And lastly, he reached in his pocket to drop off his newly found clam dinner.
I was hooked! For the next hour, I gave up my “shellfish” ways and became his go-to partner in crime hunting clams. We had a blast spiking rocks and dodging crabs together. We would fill up “HIS” pocket and dump them in a plastic bucket down by the ocean. He was a pro. If he was Michael Jordan at collecting clams, I was a 6th grader that hadn’t touched a basketball before. He could hunt down 10 clams before I could find one!
The sun was beginning to set, and his bucket was full. We washed out our treasure one last time and threw the bad ones overboard. As we said our goodbyes, my buddy tried to offer me half of his loot, but I quickly declined not knowing what to do with them or how to cook them. He insisted I take a handful to try and that I did. I hope to see the partner again someday – until then, it is time to learn how to cook some clams.
I’m peddling back through the streets when my clinched handful begins to get a little clammy. Following the coaching of the Clam Master, I toss the handful in my pocket and continue homeward, full of anticipation over dinner.
Before long, my whole dinner is laid out across the counter. I have my 15+ clams, a baked potato, broccoli, a carrot, and a googled recipe on how to cook a clam. My ecstatic excitement over dinner and getting to eat the fresh catch quickly ends when I open my first clam and realize it looks and is the size of a small “snot rocket.” This isn’t enough food to even be an appetizer for me – now I know why the suspect collected about 300 hundred of them. What a calamity!