59. Brazilians ‘n My Pajamas

“There’s a Brazilian man staring at me in my pajamas.”

“How did he get in your pajamas?”


“Is he going to return them?”

“Return what?”

“Your pajamas.”


“This South American garment thief, this jammie gonif, this pan-Iberian sleepwear bandido.”

“What the hell are you talking about?”

“And how’d he get them off you in the first place?”

“He didn’t?”

“Must be a tight fit, then.”

“Tight . . . what?”

“With the two of you crammed in like that.”

“We are not crammed in.”

“Thin fellow, then?”

“No. Let me try this again.”

“Say what you mean, and mean what you say.”

“Your grandfather?”

“Yup. He always said . . .”

“. . . say what you mean, and mean what you say.”


“Which is funny, because I never knew what he was saying. Even when he was just repeating those sayings the soldiers taught him, or singing the words to an obscene song he overheard from their barracks.”

“He had an accent, if that’s what you mean.”

“He didn’t really speak English. That’s what I mean.”

“If he had been captured earlier, or Japan had surrendered a bit later, his English would have been much better.”

“Well, he was captured the very day he arrived in The Philippines . . .”


“. . . so his English immersion program at the American POW camp could hardly have started earlier.”

“Uncanny, how quickly they got him.”

“And if his education there had lasted any longer, the Americans would have dropped a third . . .”

“It’s like they were on the beach waiting for him.”

“Are you even listening to me?”

“Yes. There’s a Brazilian man who’s somehow got ahold of your pajamas.”

“No. I am in my pajamas. The Brazilian man is sitting at my kotatsu1, staring at me.”


“Yeah. Third time this week.”

“You have got to talk to your neighbors.”


“Did you explain the situation to him?”

“He doesn’t seem to speak English. I tried, but he shook his head and said something in Spanish.”

“They speak Portuguese in Brazil, not Spanish.”

“Or that. Portuguese. I don’t know.”

“He could be from Peru or something.”

“Yeah. Maybe. But he’s here now, that’s the problem.”

“Or Chile.”

“Peru. Chile. Whatever.”

“Tell you what, go ahead and make a circle with your forefinger and thumb, and then hold that up, like an ‘okay’ sign.”


“What happened?”

“He threw a book of Japanese verbs at my head.”

“You’re lucky it wasn’t a book of Portuguese verbs.”

“Why’s that?”

“Lot more irregular verbs in Portuguese. Would’ve been much heavier.”

“I think I’m bleeding.”

“That seals it.”


“He’s definitely Brazilian.”

“Why? Are they more violent than Peruvians?”

“No. But that gesture you just made, the ‘okay’ thing, is considered extremely rude in Brazil. Frankly, given the level of cultural insensitivity you just displayed, you’re lucky to get off with just a gash in your head.”

“Thank you for helping me clear that up.”

“You’re welcome.”

“I was being sarcastic.”


“Don’t start.”




“You really don’t have to do this.”


“More what?”

“I’m a Japanese English teacher. I have to know twice as many words as you.”

“That’s ridiculous.”




“Uh . . . absurd.”

“I already . . .”

“Very absurd!”

“If you weren’t white, you’d starve to death.”

“Thank you.”

“Was that your doorbell?”

“Yeah, they just dropped off another one.”

“You really must talk to your neighbors.”

“I will. This is getting ridiculous.”


I hung up.

“Am I under arrest,” the new one said.


“I was just walking down the street . . .”

“I know, I know.”

“. . . and people started coming up and grabbing my arm.”

“Sorry about this.”

“I couldn’t fight them off.”

“They just assumed . . .”

“They dragged me nearly two miles.”

“See, there aren’t a lot of foreigners around here.”

“I cried out for help when we passed a koban2.”

“And . . . ?”

“Two cops came out, but they just helped peel my fingers off a utility pole, then waved as I was dragged away.”

“Oh, dear.”

“What have I done? I have my gaijiin card.3

“They just assumed . . .”

“Assumed what?! I’ve done nothing wrong!”

“No, you have not. They just assumed you were looking for my apartment.”

“I don’t know you.”

“No, you do not.”

“So, why . . .”

“Again, you see, there aren’t many foreigners around here and . . .”

The Brazilian fellow came over to the genkan.


“Who’s he?”

“I don’t know, but I suggest you both get comfortable. It’ll be dark in about 10 hours. I may be able to sneak you out of the neighborhood then.

1 kotatsu: a heated table, at which Japanese traditionally sit, eat mikan oranges, and wait for winter to end or central heating to be installed in their apartment buildings. The kotatsu is also sometimes used to put wet laundry under or to inadvertently set apartments on fire, which is probably the closest some of the older buildings will ever get to central heating.

2koban: A place where policeman hang out, do paperwork, and beat confessions out of their neighbors.

3 gaijin card: A photo ID the Japanese government requires all foreigners to carry. The card used to include a fingerprint, but after much opposition to this from those who claimed it was an invasion of privacy and an affront to international law, the fingerprint was removed. It has since been replaced by an electronic chip on which is recorded only essential information, such as name, address, phone number, religion, DNA mapping, public school files, sexual proclivities and voting record.

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2 Responses to 59. Brazilians ‘n My Pajamas

  1. Mark Renusch says:

    Too funny and too long between posts. Don, we’ve got a Japanese exchange student coming in a few weeks. From Chiba-gun. Best always Renusch

    Liked by 1 person

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