Japanese love DIY. No, actually they don't. It's DIY stores that they love. On any given morning around 10AM Conan is packed with pensioners clutching small bags of seeds and larger bags of fertiliser. But while the gardening department is jammed with geriatric horticulturalists, the hardware and building materials aisles are eerily empty. The passion for growing weird vegetables in your back yard obviously does not extend to things like painting walls or building a deck. After all, nobody in this country does any maintenance on their house. Ever. The propensity of the Japanese to call in a professional for anything more challenging than changing a light bulb means that very few people have any useful maintenance items like say, a ladder. Which is exactly what I needed.
Our house is quite tall. Which means things like the roof and gutters don't get much love. After the "no sale - leaking gutter" episode, I knew I would have to do something about it and, while I was up there, trim the pine trees that were overhanging the roof. The problem was where to find a ladder long enough to get up to our stratospherically high roof. The answer came from our increasingly helpful estate agent Mr H. He knew a guy down in the village who had such a ladder, or hashigo as it's known here. The great thing about renovating houses in a foreign country is the vastly expanded vocabulary you will end up with. Just think of all those gaijin suckers paying good money for Japanese lessons...all you're going to learn there is useless crap like "Can you tell me the way to the station?" or, "I have diarrhoea". Wouldn't you rather be out and about, chatting with people and learning really great phrases like "Hey old timer, can I borrow your ladder?" AND, as a bonus, end up with free flowing, non leaking gutters. Of course you would. So anyway, H san the agent brokered a deal with the ladder guy. A six pack of Asahi beer was the rental for this prized possession.
Mr H came by the house the next morning in his car and drove me down the hill to the hashigo man's house. I don't know if he had mentioned to the old boy that his ladder was going to a foreigner and that it might be used for foreign purposes, like robbing a bank or buying drugs. He did look rather surprised to see me but seemed happy to overlook the possibility of such criminal intent when he saw the cans of Asahi. Next up came the issue of now to get the ladder back to the house. While the distance from here to there is less than a kilometer, it is all uphill. Japan is certainly a mountainous country and our street has a similar gradient as the north face of Everest. Mr H offers to help me carry it all the way up. Now this guy is in his 60's and to top it off he's wearing a nice suit and tie. I don't want to risk him getting injured/having a heart attack and I certainly don't want a ruined suit jacket on my conscience. I tell him that we need a suitable vehicle. His car is a very sensible and boring Corolla sedan. In White. Not very suitable for the task at hand. Now if this was back home in Auckland I could call on a number of vehicles for this job. Like a Mercedes Benz 500SL convertible, which is just as unsuitable but WAY cooler. Or a Like A Toyota Hiace van. Yeah, that would do. This being Kameoka however I'm stuck with a very sensible and boring Nissan Tiida sedan. Also in White. On the face of it both cars seem very similar in their unsuitability but my Tiida has a hidden advantage....it is an ex rental car.
It is an indisputable truth that rental cars are vastly superior to ordinary cars. These vehicles can do stuff that just isn't possible with your own car. For example, did you know that all rental cars are brilliant for off roading? They are also perfect for street racing, burnout competitions and gravel road rallies. Their engines rev higher and their handbrakes provide more stopping power but, most importantly, they can carry all sorts of items on the roof....like ladders.
I tell Mr H to go ahead and do whatever he should be doing today and hike back to the house. A quick rummage around in the loft comes up with some old curtains and some rubber straps from the Kei truck cover. I jump in the Tiida and roll on down to the village. I notice that Mr H and the ladder owner are still there. Obviously they want to witness some gaijin craziness. When you're 80 years old and live in the boonies anything passes for entertainment I guess. I throw the curtains on the roof as padding and set the ladder on top. Next I take the straps and tie them to the ladder. I then open each door and lead the straps inside the car. Closing the doors holds the strap in place between the roof and the door frame. I hear the old boy utter an "AHH!!!" and turn around to see him nodding in admiration. Mr H is looking a bit concerned however. "Are you sure this is safe?" he asks. "As long as I don't go on the Highway" I reply. I give the old boy the thumbs up and cry "Kiwi Style" as I drive off. Looking back in the rearview mirror I see the pair of them watching me intently. I am silently praying that the ladder stays put...if it falls off they will talk about nothing else for the next 5 years. I make it around the corner and out of sight. The ladder wobbles a bit but stays on the roof.
A couple of days later I return the ladder. The old guy is sitting in his kitchen when I knock on his door. "Hashigo arigato" I say to him. "beeru arigato" he replies to me. I take the ladder off the roof of the Tiida. He looks at me and grins. "Giajin style" he mutters to himself
Another local legend has been created. .