I was recently watching sumo with my Canadian friend, Nancy, and her Japanese cop husband, Endi, at their place. They’re in their sixties and have just built their retirement home on Endi’s family property to replace the house that was bust up in the big earthquake.
Nancy’s from Nova Scotia and is one of those lapsed church ladies that can be incredibly hilarious and crass without ever saying a bad word. She was my original teaching superior at my first job in eikaiwa in Japan (English conversations school). Since then she’s become something of a surrogate mom for me.
Her husband, Endi, is an odd duck. For example, Nancy was complaining that while she was on her last solo trip to Canada, he rearranged the living room furniture so that all the chairs and sofa were facing a blank wall.
“He likes to sit and stare at the wall,” Nancy said. “He’s says it’s ‘berry nice.’”
He also collects rocks, which for some reason drives Nancy crazy. Not crystals or geodes, mind you. Rocks.
Endi used to handle the dead body inspection wherever he was stationed. He’d be the cop that would decide whether to have an autopsy or start a murder investigation when a corpse was found. With us being in basically rural Japan, it was generally a lot of suicides and solitary oldster decomps. He was also busy after the Great Tohoku Earthquake dealing with all the tsunami bodies. That got rough, he said. Not just the ocean water victims with the crabs and everything (although he said that was causing the military boys a lot of psychological trouble), but also dealing with families fighting over remains in the hopes of having something to have a funeral with.
Endi has all kinds of interesting dead body stories. He can be pretty callous, as is to be expected, so he can be fun to talk to about that kind of stuff. He never says much about active police work though. People for him tend to fall into two categories: “Nice Guy/Lady” or “Berry Stupid Guy/Lady.”
Endi’s also pretty intimidating in his way. He’s totally chill, but he’s got a face like one of those Japanese Buddhist guardian angels, and has black belts in kyokushin karate (hardcore full contact) and judo. Even in his sixties, he looks like he’s been carved out of wood like one of those temple guardian statues.
The first outing I had with Nancy and Endi was with my wife. We went to a Buddhist temple that had two really fine guardian statues inside the entrance gate, flanking the portal. Endi kept sticking his head into their space and smiling up at them saying, “guard. Guaaaaaaard. Guuuuuaaaaaaard,” in a really low, guttural tone, like a growl. Then he looked at me with basically the same smile that the statue had. Message received.
Not that I was too worried; Nancy had already told me that Endi said I was a nice guy.
He’s semi-retired now, which means he got transferred to his home town and will be driving a desk at headquarters until he’s 65. To prevent corruption, Japanese cops get transferred every few years from town to town within their prefecture. This has given me cause to see much of Fukushima that I wouldn’t have otherwise, since my wife and I tend go to visit Nancy and Endi every couple months.
At their house last weekend, in breaks between sumo bouts, I was asking Endi what work’s been like. Apparently, guys in his position are used to handle the “problem customers” that police face. Endi’s regulars are old ladies with dementia who live alone and use filing police reports as a form of entertainment. One in particular is a widow whose husband used to be police. Every week she comes in and tries to file one of two reports: either her home has been burgled and her money’s been stolen; or, her home has been burgled and she has been raped. Endi says his duty is to listen gravely to the old ladies, take notes with all his years of report taking experience, assure them that all investigative measures will be taken, and then throw away the notes as soon as they leave.
Endi loves sumo, so it was interesting to watch it with him. Between bouts he was happy to tell me all about the personalities, rivalries, nuances, and conventions. He’s very impressed with sumo wrestlers. One time he was at an onsen (hot spring spa) and there was a pro sumo wrestler in there with him. Endi offered to wash his back for him, and was allowed to do so. It seems that this was his proudest moment in life.
From Endi I learned that it is true that sumos have subordinates wipe their ass and wash their hind parts for them. This is an honorable and useful endeavor for the youngsters, I was assured (”Berry good, yes. Berry berry nice for them.”).
It was also fun watching sumo with Nancy, since she likes having me around to crack jokes with. She’ll trot out her English master’s degree grammar to say wickedly funny shit over her husband’s head. They both liked it when I referred to one sumo move as “the titty grab.”
It was a fun visit.