I handed Charlie 500 yen.
“Look at me,” I demanded as I held him by the shoulders. “I am going to go buy some pants, and I do not want you wandering off from the arcade. D’ya hear me!?”
“Yeahhhh….” he replied insouciantly.
“Don’t roll your eyes at me! I’m mean it, Charlie. If you get abducted by a weirdo I’m gonna be in big trouble with your parents. And it won’t be any picnic for you either!”
“But what if I get abducted by a normal person?” I think this statement represents Piaget’s Concrete Operational stage of child development, in which they are literal on their way to learning how to be logical. But I suspected Charlie was just being a smart alec.
“Ha ha, smarty pants. Normal people don’t abduct kids.”
The mall was essentially a department store, with the arcade in the center surrounded by sections of kitchen wares, linens, men’s clothing, sporting goods, etc.
And lots of women’s clothing! I was in my glory. I’m not a big shopper but I love to shop when I’m traveling. It can provide great insights into a culture. For instance, there was a whole section of the forearm-covering gloves I described in a previous post. These are commonly worn by Japanese women to keep their arms snowy white.
After five minutes Charlie was at my side, and looking near tears. “It took all my money!” he seethed. He explained he had chosen to play for a Play Station.
Dumb me. I should have known he had never played a game of chance before. I gave him a tutorial on gambling and probability.
“They don’t want you to win,” I explained. “And the more valuable the prize, the more you’re going to lose and the less your chances of winning.”
I handed him another 500 yen. “Think of it as just a game, for fun,” I suggested. He was still smarting—from embarrassment, I think. “Don’t expect to win, and then if you do, that’ll be great. But play the cheapo games where you can win a lucky rabbit’s foot, not the ones with the big ticket prizes.”
He dragged himself back to the arcade and I doubled down on my shopping. I bought a pair of strange cat slippers for Lynn, and a housedress. I bought one for myself, too. I’ve actually worn it quite a bit; here it is in its wrinkled glory on my couch. The saying on top is, “My House: Please Make Yourself”
That’s it—not “Make Yourself at Home,” just “Make Yourself.”
I found a nice cotton t-shirt with a nonsensical saying: Just be fun life is about us got the time come on.
I felt a presence at my side. “This time I didn’t lose my money so fast, but I still need more,” Charlie said, looking a bit more upbeat. I kept putting more money into him so he could put more into the machines and I could keep shopping.
I bought a pair of pants that had suspenders, an elastic waistband that hit right at the bra line, and huge blousy legs. Picture clown pants and you’ll be close.
Charlie didn’t win anything, but he seemed to have had fun. Our next stop was the enormous grocery on the first level, which we would never have known was there from the street. I loaded up on red bean paste, extra oishi soy sauce, miso paste, and food for our breakfast. Then we sloshed back to the hotel in the rain holding our bags and sharing one umbrella.
For the umpteenth time, Charlie sighed and said, “I don’t want to leave Japan!”
But we would leave, the next day, for Tokyo. We would spend a night there, then fly out the following day—my 27th day in Japan.
“I have loved Japan, but I want to sleep in my own bed and take a bath in my own bathtub,” I said to Charlie. He didn’t hear me because he was now immersed in a baseball game between the Bay Stars and Honshin Tigers. I made him a cup of green tea which he immediately spilled, adding to the mess that was his futon.