Ganso Dai Yojohan Dai Monogari Ch. 8: Tatami War
The chapter is titled 4½ Tatami Century and its political, sociological and even racial ramifications are interesting enough to warrant us looking at it in detail.
Adachi is alone in his room eating sukiyaki.
(Sukiyaki has existed for hundreds of years, but it became especially popular when the Japanese added beef to their menu due to foreign influence in the 1860s. So sukiyaki as it exists today in Japan is in some sense half-foreign.)
An American barges into the room (long-haired, mustached), spots the sukiyaki, says he’s very hungry (in English), grabs some and leaves. Adachi is shocked and says: “What’s with that ketou just now? Are they going to start invading my food now?”
(Ketou 「毛唐」 is a new word for me. The characters for it are literally “hair” and “Tang”. Tang refers to the Chinese Tang Dynasty (618-907). This was a glorious time in Chinese history and it’s easy (and logical) to find many words in Japanese that use this “Tang” character (pronounced “Tou” in Japanese) to refer to China and matters Chinese. However, in more recent times the norm has become to call a country by the name they use themselves. To refuse to do so is a sign of contempt. For example, during the last dynasty in China (the Qing, 1644-1912) the most politically correct name for China in Japanese would have been “Shin” (the Japanese pronunciation of Qing) and not Tang/Tou, even though arguably the Tang Dynasty was much superior in cultural terms to the Qing. The point is that the Chinese call themselves a certain way and Japan should follow suit. In any case, this word “ketou” is a bit of a mystery, because the Chinese don’t tend to be much hairier than the Japanese. One of the theories as to the origin of the word is that it’s a compound: “hair” stands for Westerners (with peculiarities such as: blond hair, red hair, arm hair) and “Tang” stands for Chinese. So the word is essentially a catchall racial slur: “Westerners and Chinese”. Apparently it is extremely rude and it’s mostly used today against Westerners. As I said before, I’d never heard of the word…)
A fellow with long-haired comes in and apologizes for the American. He says he’s just moved in next door. He’s named Masami and speaks feminine Japanese. Masami says that the American is a deserter hiding from the Army. Adachi tries to get back to eating even though the new neighbors are being incredibly noisy. At one point a group of Masami’s friends barge into Adachi’s room by accident and knock him into the sukiyaki. Then they leave.
Adachi is angry. He yells “Hey, you shemale ketou” and goes inside the neighbor’s room.
(By “shemale ketou” I imagine Adachi means to include everyone in the group: the foreigner as well as Masami and his (presumably gay friends). Then again he might simply be referring to the American, whose long hair Adachi might associate with femininity.)
When Adachi opens the door he runs into an orgy. Both the American and Masami are having sex with women. Adachi gets an erection and makes as if to leave. The American grabs him and says “everyone is my friend”. Adachi screams that he’s normal and not gay. Then the landlord comes into the room.
The landlord sports a Japanese headband with the rising sun (no characters) and an bayonet blade attacked to a broomstick. He yells to everyone to stop and then gives the following speech:
“All these years since we lost the War I have devoted myself to running this hostel thinking that this too is my way of following the will of the Emperor. Ah, I think back of all the toiling and patient enduring I’ve done ever since the day I lost my only son at Guadalcanal. And now in broad daylight I find this orgy…you have stripped our traditional Japanese beauties naked and disgraced them in the worst possible way!! You asamara.. I mean you kisamara, I don’t remember ever letting out a room to stateless people like you!”
(The old man makes a mistake and says asamara instead of kisamara. Leiji is punning here. Asamara breaks down into asa + mara (morning + penis) and refers to morning erections. Since the orgy is occurring in the daytime this was probably on the landlord’s mind. Kisamara is kisama + ra (bastard + [plural]). The mention of stateless people is interesting. Maybe the landlord knows that the American is a deserter, and in his mind that means he’s given up on his country and he’s thus stateless. Or it could be that for him the Japanese in the room aren’t Japanese anymore because of their sexual deviancy. All of these people do seem to get lumped together in the landlord’s eyes as well as Adachi’s.)
The landlord tells the American to get out or he’s tab him with his son’s bayonet. He then tries to stab him screaming revenge for his son but falls down and misses (barely). When the dust settles the landlord has passed out and Masami is irked at the landlord’s actions. Adachi gets angry because Masami seems to be downplaying the old man’s feelings for his dead son. He tells Masami to step out and fight it out. As can be expected, Masami punches Adachi and knocks him out.
Adachi is broken, as in his mind he has lost to a woman. He says he’ll show everyone how a Kyushu man dies, barges into his yakuza neighbor’s room, steals a knife and goes back to Masami’s room. The American gets another scare and his Japanese friends tell Adachi to stop. The American has lost control of his bowels. He says goodbye to Adachi and walks nervously out of the room. A policeman comes and arrests the landlord for illegal possession of a weapon. He also informs Masami that the American isn’t a soldier at all, but a vagrant who suffers from 3rd stage syphillis. Masami is shocked and he immediately takes a bath…
(It’s possible that Adachi intended to kill himself in Masami’s room for everyone to see..to show that he was disgusted by what was going on and apologetic to the gods that he was too weak to do anything about it. It’s also possible that he simply wanted to kill the American and Masami and be done with it. It’s really hard to tell.)
That night Adachi is trying to sleep (on newspaper) and is sneezing lots. Masami feels bad for him, sneaks into his room and puts a blanket over him. The yakuza’s girlfriend feels the same way and she forces her boyfriend to put a blanket over him too. Adachi ends up sleeping with both blankets, unaware of the kindness of strangers.