One of the curious things you may find as you venture deeper into the rural areas of Japan is the surprising number of Mormon missionaries. Of all the missionaries – including Rastafarians (on Ikoma mountain), Wiccans (in Okayama), and Jehovah’s Witnesses (all over the damn place) – the Mormons are the easiest to spot because they fit a specific profile. Whether it be in front of the local department store where they cause expectant mothers to run away in (sometimes unfeigned) terror, or out on the streets late at night cruising in pairs on mountain bikes (and for some reason, always donning aerodynamic racing helmets wrapped with white reflective tape), they are invariably young white males in black suits, usually straight from – you guessed it – Salt Lake City.
Disclaimer: I hope you aren’t offended by this rant. It happens to be about Mormons, specifically the branch of mormons I will dub the “Sumoto Mormons.” When I was a kid we lived across the street from a Mormon family with 10 kids (which I’m told is like a royal flush in terms of Mormonic karma) who were hella fuckin’ cool around the block because they had not one but TWO AND A HALF Ataris to play with in their home (the 1/2 figure was due to a buggy machine that only displayed the bottom half of the screen – useable for Centipede but not much else if I remember correctly). Therefore I do not hate Mormons, because they had the 2 1/2 times the toy I wanted throughout my formative years but could never convince my parents to buy – it turns out that I’m secretly jealous of them (whew, good to get that one off my chest!).
I am in a somewhat weird situation with the Sumoto Mormons right now. They assume I’m Japanese (I do look Japanese, but I’m AMERICAN AS HELL – somewhere in Yamanashi Prefecture, my Aussie pal John is rolling his bloodshot eyes and murmuring “bloody Yank!” – eat me, dood.), and I have used this assumption to create a new form of entertainment, “Sumormo baiting.” A couple of months ago these guys approached me when I was returning home from a long walk, asking if I had a couple minutes to spare (in Japanese). Call me a devil, but my immediate response was to stop in my tracks, give them the once over with the trademark Japanese “gaijin gawk” (usually reserved for observing lewdly-costumed Russian dancers on Tokyo subways), say loudly, in English, “NO,” and walk away. Fish on. After that, they waited for me on my street a couple other times at night, eagerly fingering paperback copies of the Book of Mormon, but I spotted them before they saw me and I ducked down the back street.
This morning they stopped next to me on their mountain bikes as I waited in my car at a red light. I was zoning out in pre-work zombie mode with my arm draped out the window, blasting track #2 on the Grey Album. The younger guy recognized me right away. “Hey! We’d like to speak to you sometime,” he said, in English.
I tried to brush him off with a sarcastic, “Eigo wakarimasen” (I don’t understand English), and noticed “JAMES” was wearing a plastic name tag with “Church of the Latter Day Saints” printed on it.
“But Elder Thomas said you were American” he replied.
Ah, shit. Got me there. Elder Thomas was the Mormon guy who was in Sumoto before these guys replaced him. I invited him in for a beer once and we had a nice long talk about things. I served him and his trainee dude green tea and felt curiously like a total fucking sinner for drinking beer in front of them. When they left, they gave me a copy of the Book (I ended up wondering if they were going to ask me to pay for it, which I also feel curiously guilty about. They said it was truly a gift and never asked for money, but did use the book as a reason to come by the house every month. Once, as a joke, I offered it as payment to the NHK guy who came around asking for money, but he made the sign of the cross and said, “devil, be gone.”). So Elder Thomas had apparently told James about me and they had caught on to who I was from the street I lived on, apparently. Which does not explain why they never just came to my door (I must have successfully defeated the surveillance devices on the Book of Mormon by wrapping it in tinfoil, sealing it in a Ziploc bag, and sinking it in a bucket of water), but I digress. “Aight, you got me – I was just messing with you,” I admitted.
“As I was saying, we would like to see you sometime…” he continued.
Well, that’s that I guess. No way to wriggle out of this one – now that we have established that we are fellow Americans in a remote and desolate setting, an invite to the house is a virtual necessity. I invited them over at five this evening. Five this evening, as in, in approximately 5 minutes after I post this entry. From work. As in, I don’t imagine I’ll be going home for a few hours, at least. As in, I sure am glad my little bro will be at home to greet my new Mormon friends.
As in, Adam, I am finally getting you back for some rat bastard thing you did to me in the past that I can’t specifically remember right now, but let’s not let that get in the way of entertainment. Mine, specifically. This should be funny as hell. Will update later.