Japan is a place for sub-cultures; we have our Oaku, our Harajuku gilrls, they are a well-established sub-strata of Japanese society. But today I discovered another sub-species, ladies and gentlemen may introduce to the ninja oba-chan.
Even long term residents of Japan might be confused, so let me explain. An ‘Oba-chan’ is a granny, a elderly Japanese lady, one day all women of Japan, whether they have grandchildren or not shall be called ‘oba-chan’. ‘Ninja’ of course, you know, they are those stealthy assassins, the most famous of which was Hattori Hanzo, not, as Quentin Tarantino would have us believe, a great sword maker, but a great assassin, who become a samurai for saving the life of Tokugawa Ieyasu in the sixteenth century.
What has all this talk of ninja got to with Japanese granny’s I hear you ask? Well, I shall tell you, you see I have this theory: Japanese grannies are all descended from ninja. Sounds crazy right? So let me explain.
I’m out shopping, buying stuff for my Friday night meal, and fancied some sausages. In Japan there is a really cool treat, a sausage fried in cornmeal, a corn dog to American readers, an ‘American dog’ to Japanese readers and simply awesome to this British writer. You can eat in the convenience store, but I had bought two, one for me and one for the wife. Taking it home meant the following: trying to stuff convenience store sausages into the small plastic container in the world, trying to whip an elastic band around. I cannot do it, I have tried but my palsy effected left side will not let it happen. I do try, I had at least t five good goes, but no avail. Time passes; I get frustrated and seriously think about giving up on my beloved sausage.
It is at this point, and only at this point, that ninja oba-chan will appear.
Because suddenly an elderly Japanese lady appears, seemingly without making any sound, takes the plastic carton and then a whip-splat-kerpow – hey presto, I am presented with one neatly wrapped carton of food. I try to mutter a arigatogozaimasu – Thank you, but before I can finish my sentence, I get a hai dozo – There! And as quick as ninja oba-chan appeared, puff like that, she’s gone.
Let me know if you encounter her.