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My first experience with the infamous Aomori dialect!

It was a difficult walk away from the rider’s camp that we had called home for three days. It wasn’t just because of the bonds that we had formed either. Hana-san was right! Our legs didn’t seem to want to work for us anymore. The 2 hours of dancing had taken their toll and as we took our first tentative steps away from our new, leather clad group of friends, we were struck with the horrible feeling that it was going to be a long day ahead.

As we walked however, we both began to feel the shadow of anticipation that greets every new adventure. Apart from the Nebuta festival, we knew little else about our surroundings and what lay ahead. Our goal was a hot-spring marked on our maps at about 12kms from our starting point. Up until this point, all of our route maps had consisted of copies from the pages of whichever road maps we could lay our hands on in local libraries. That often meant that we were relying on data from ten years ago which had on more than one occasion left us scratching our heads as to the location of a park or a campsite that while clearly marked on our guides, had long since become the victim of time. While we had taken such hiccups in our stride at first, we soon tired of those last minute searches for a place to stay after a long day on the stilts. Today, however, it seemed our destination was solid, for we had been told so from the mouth of a local herself. She had also given us directions for a short cut that would get us there much faster than the road we were currently on. As we walked however, further and further down what looked to be turning into a major highway, we started to doubt her words. With the sun beating down more strongly than it had for the last month, we reluctantly pulled up stilts and began a long walk back to where we had first met her, hoping to show her a good deal more than the creases she had left on both of our foreheads. The three kilometers seemed to take forever wiping all smiles from our faces and leaving us walking in silence toward a goal we did not know. At that moment, a truck pulled up in the clearway next to us and out popped a well dressed man, with jet black hair that reminded us of a younger Elvis. Our dour moods did little to dampen his spirits as he clicked off a few photos on his mobile phone. Ootaku-san, as he introduced himself lavished us with words of encouragement but before his enthusiasm could do any more, he had slipped away back into the flow of traffic from which he had emerged. Little did we know how big an impact he would have on us over the days and weeks ahead.

On the advice of another, more trustworthy looking local, we altered our course for another hot-spring a little further out of our way, hidden between the pine trees and family farms of a more rural Aomori. We were immediately happy with the decision. As the traffic thinned out, time slowed to the pace of those around, who seemed happily content with the simplicity of daily chores under a blanket of blue. We soon picked up a tagalong, a young boy of about 12 who seemed relieved to have the company of someone other than his grandmother whom he had come to spend summer with. Ryuto’s quick wit and cheeky way made him quite an easy companion to walk with. He spoke with an innocent cockiness that comes from too much time listening to yourself, but we enjoyed all he had to say about the ups and downs of being a 12year old in the middle of nowhere. For us, his brash way proved a nice diversion from our troubled day, but we were soon to see how it could also get him into strife.

As we rounded the corner, a farmer’s mini truck came careening across the road and screeched to a spluttering halt inches from the edge of the road and certain doom. Down came the window and out popped the head of a toothless farmer whose well wrinkled smile showed no hint of concern for the fact that he had just parked diagonally across the road, blocking the path of any oncoming traffic. I guess parking where one wishes becomes the reward for reaching such an age. As to what came from his mouth next, I can only surmise as no amount of training in the Japanese language could have helped me to decipher the thick Aomori dialect that was flowing from his toothless grinning mouth. Only occasionally could I make out a familiar word that gave some idea about what he was talking about.
“La di da di do di dum America!”
“La di do di da di dum Iraq!”
“La di da di do did um Takeuma!”
“La di Takeuma di do di dum Hokkaido to Kagoshima!”
Despite the gruff manner in which he spoke, his offer of a bag of tomatoes from his garden conveyed his feelings clearly. Just as I was about to say thanks, Ryuto, who had been listening up until this point, grabbed the bag and handed them back to the old man. His cheekiness was about to get checked.
“You can’t give them these. They’ve got spots on them. Haven’t you got any others? They’re walking on stilts you know!”
Before Ryuto could react, the old farmer’s hand had let go of the wheel and swung out of the window in a lightning fast arc that connected with the boy’s baseball crew cut. Such speed was quite impressive for a man who looked likely to drive himself off the road no less than 5 minutes ago.
“You learn to keep your mouth shut about things you don’t know about – you can’t buy them like that!” replied the farmer, possibly, for we all were still in shock, more about the fact that he could do it, rather than the fact that he did do it.

As Ryuto rubbed his head, the old man bid his farewells through his open window, yelling encouragement through his toothless mouth as he chugged off ungracefully up the hill in what sounded like third gear. Our first experience with Aomori’s infamous dialect had proven a memorable one, more so for our travelling companion than for us.

posted by Mick and Miki Tan @ 6:41 AM,

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