Alive and well, and living in Tokyo ...

Reports from Essien Leroy, Our Man in Tokyo ...
July / August 2000

Day One in Tokyo

Alive and well
and living in Tokyo


Climbing Mount Fuji
or How to kill a weekend

Of crime and Punishment

Tales of Two Cities

Japanese Inventions

Keeping up with the Jones

Essien's Reaction to the Web Site

Out of Body Experience

It all depends

The Girls of Summer

An old Chinese saying

Out of Body Experience
September 10, 2000 11:00 PM Ishegi, Japan Sunday I had an out of body experience, I floated above my body a la Shirley MacLaine, minus the Jacuzzi. So there we were Rohan, his friend Janaka and I, altogether one Haitian and two Sri Lankans driving a 75' Super Beetle with no brakes, borrowed Plates through the rice fields in a small Japanese town trying to find our way to a warehouse. We had made a right or was it a left, as rice fields go they all look the same, and had gotten lost. We finally arrived at the warehouse and there I had my out of body. Anyway that is the gist of the whole story, but I'll fill in the middle for you. First lets start with the cast of characters:

Essien: Your host, world traveler and all around Bon Vivant.

Rohan: Sri Lankan restaurant manager in Tokyo, who after working as a import/export agent for Victoria Secrets in Sri Lanka, ended up doing moves and changes for their newly installed NT network and was well on his way to being the admin when, as he states, "Bombing came to be of fashion in Colombo". He found himself out of a job when his bosses, much to his disappointment, decided they'd rather be alive then rich. So, they all packed up and left shore for home. A few day after, a restaurant owner and friend that he had at one time worked with called him and begged him to quit his job and join him in creating a restaurant chain in Tokyo. Since he had no job to quit, he excepted and came to Tokyo four years ago. He now lives in a crappy apartment in the posh part of town. He says, "I can at least impress with my address if not with my apartment". I came to know him because he is a vegan and in a worst state then I in Tokyo. I can be sure whatever he order in a restaurant is OK for me to eat. Since he both reads and speaks fluent Japanese he is good at threatening the waiters about those piece of pork that seems to work there way into my vegetable Noodles order. In the month that I've known him we have done nothing but talk about his vintage VW Beetle in Colombo that he is trying desperately to restore, much to his wife's horror. All this talk has gotten him pinning for a car in Tokyo, a place that has less parking then NY. So a week ago a friend in Ishige told him that he had found a 75' for sale. The only problem is that it had not been moved for four years. He secretly puchased the car without his wife's knowledge and was going to go and place a new battery in it and move it to the friends warehouse.

Janaka (Sri Lankan, number two): A Computer student studying at Tokyo university and Rohan's adapted ward. His past time is chasing after Korean woman.

That morning I woke and was at Ebisu Station by 7:30 AM by 10:00 AM after two and a half hours of travel by subway, express railway, and then diesel trolley we arrived in Ishegi, where we had to be picked up by car and driven tothe site. I had volunteered to go after hearing about the trip to see the VW. Rohan told me this town had nothing but rice fields and after a month in Tokyo I was ready for the Japanese countryside. In Ishegi road cuts East and West and every now and then an elevation no bigger then the car will allow you to cross the rice fields and go from one major road to another, otherwise you can drive till you see a cross road which exist every few miles. We arrived at the station and waited till Rohan friends, Sri Lankan #3 whose name I forgot two seconds after hearing it, came to pick us up. While waiting we met another Sri Lankan at the station going elsewhere, he doesn't have a number since he was on his way out of town. Anyway, SL #3 arrived and we drove to his warehouse, out in the middle of a rice paddy, to pick up the battery and we were off to see the car. There it was sitting under a carport near the owners restaurant. We placed in the new battery, located under the back seat. Opened the engine and stood around looking at the car. At this time another Sri Lankan (SL #4) showed up with a large truck. Having heard about the Beetle project he came to lend a hand. And on a side road near an intersection in Japan, four Sri Lankans and a Haitian were pushing and pulling on a 75' VW, this seem to provide an enormous amount of entertainment for the passing farmers all done up in there Kimonos going to their Sunday afternoon function. One family missed the light and the driver was honked by his fellow drivers, who were also watching but not so intensely that they could not see the light change. After 30 minutes we pushed the car across the road on the the parking lot that SL #4's truck was parked. There SL #4 took a long cable out of his truck and hooked it to the VW bumper and proceeded to tow it to a gas station. The others hopped into the bed and Janaka and I got into SL #3's car and drove after them.

At the gas station we managed to start the car with little intervention other then a full tank of gas, but the brake had a leak and did not work. We asked the station attendant if he had any equipment to fix the leak he cringed and said no and pointed us toward a garrage. I ask Rohan about his reaction and he explained that in Japan people are not do-it-yourselfers. There is an expert at a certified shop for everything in Japan and everyone goes there. You need air in your tires, the gas station does it for you. You would never think of doing it yourself. This explains the many pieces of tossed electronics that are seen at the trash everyday. Rohan says that the Japanese do not bother to send electronics for repair, if a knob is broken and the dealer does not have a replacement, they toss the set. Glue in not very popular here as a consumer good. Sri Lankans on the other hand are all expert at everything. Any Sri Lankan Lawyers will offer to pull out your wisdom teeth and build you a new deck if you let him.

But once moving the car could be stopped using the hand brakes, they discovered during the tow. After 10 minutes of trying to explain how to drive a automatic transmission and the absence of a clutch, I finally gave up, got in, and moved the car. With that done SL #3 and 4 went back to work. Between the three remaining I was elected to operate the strange transmission vehicle, thus leading to the beginging of the story. Where Sri Lankan #1 and 2 and a Haitian in a 75' Beetle with malfunctioning brakes, a borrowed plate are driving between rice fields, trying to find our way to a location we've been once. So I continue. After a few miles and Janaka in the front seat constantly reminding me not to speed because we do not want to be stopped, we stopped at a crossing. We looked to the right and left and at once came to the conclusion that rice fields are as nondescript as they come and we were lost. I was driving suspiciously slow and decided to turn on my emergency lights. It took me about 30 seconds to analyze how 2 Sri Lankans and a Haitian in a 75' VW driving through a farm town would be aided in being less conspicuous by flashing emergency signals. So I reach over and turn it off. It was at that time that I commented that if we were stopped and by the police, that officer would probably be commended by the governor and held up as heroes for putting away the bad men. As I am sure this is probably the only seemingly illegal thing that was ever done in this town. They would have to hull out all their COP equipment never before used and take pictures of the crime scene. So there I'd be Essien D. Leroy featured in 24 8x10 color photographs with circles and arrows and a paragraph in the back of each one, explaining what each one was, to be used as evidence in a court of law (does anyone, beside Dan, know this reference). But to my surprise Janaka recognize a sign, we made a left turn and found the warehouse.

And this is where I had my out-of -body. I'll explain. We drive up to the warehouse and SL #3 came out followed by yet another Sri Lankan that happen to be passing through and stopped to see the VW and talk business. He runs off 30 seconds later after saying something to Rohan about his fine car, so he doesn't get a number. Seconds after he leaves another Sri Lankan (#5) in a large Americanesque 4x4 drives up and joins us. SL #3 is now talking to SL #5 and laughing it up. All the sudden 3 more, number them as you like, Sri Lankans comes out of the office to look at the car. Now Ladies and Gents, Japan has a total non-Japanese population of 1% most of which are concentrated in the major cities. In the last 3 hours I have seen more Sri Lankans in this Little town then should exist in all of Japan according to formal records. I commented this to the group, and everyone smiled, looked at each other then proceeded to act like no one invited me to their party. That'll teach me to be a wise as*. From what I could gather, they were all taking about the bad brake line and wanted to have a look, experts as they are. All at once SL #3 and #5 had an idea, they ran in the back and retrieved the fork lift, bought it outside, and preceded to lift the car about shoulder height. Everyone, but I who had not been invited, got under the car to take a look That is when I had my out of body experience. I looked across the rice field and there they were a field of farmers who had stopped their activities and stood to look at us. I looked at them looking at us. I thought would anyone believe that right now in the middle of a rice field some where north east of Tokyo there are five Sri Lankans standing under a VW Beetle on a fork lift with a Haitian looking on disapprovingly, and in the distance Japanese farmers look on as if to ask, what the hell are they doing. At that moment I seem to float above the scene and was able to see it as if I was watching a Monty Python movie. I knew this moment need to be captured on film but I had forgotten my camera at home, so I will have no proof . But who needs proof, after all what kind of demented mind could sit in a room and come up with this. The absurdity of the situation, is proof enough that it could not have been made up. This is real life Lampooning it self and I was looking on from a height

So after it was all over Rohan, Janaka and I went back to Tokyo and I went to have a drink and think about my day.