I am weeding alone early in the week and a lady comes up to me and offers me a bottle of green tea and goes off to weed her garden patch. Today Friday, March 16 we find out she is our host's sister in law, namely another Okano. She can be seen on the right in the photograph. Later in the afternoon another woman shows up, essentially introduces herself and begins asking me all sorts of questions. My Japanese is not good, but I know she is asking where the boss is (Okano-san) and why he is not working since I was. Then she asks about okusan (my wife) and why she is not working (she had to stay in the house and wait for gas guys to hook up LPG tanks for our kitchen cooking gas burner). Then she asked including some sign language whether the wife was still in bed and thought this was quite hilarious. When I replied to some of her questions with "wakaranai" or I don't understand she again thought this was hilarious and began yelling at the first lady across the field about the hilarious situation she had encountered. I would have trouble answering these questions tactfully in English, never mind Japanese, anyway what business was it of her's where my two bosses were.
Yesterday, after walking the dog, we took the bicycles into town to do a bit of shopping including looking for a small cosmetic style mirror, which we seem to have a lot of trouble finding. Japan is strange that way, some things that are available everywhere in Canada can be hard to find here. Anyway we passed by our usual grocery store, went to the post office to get money out of the ATM machine and then went to a two story shopping mall nearby. Found a few items in the pharmacy here and then decided to go up the long hill (these softies walked their bikes uphill) to a boy's store, a bit like a Canadian tire, but probably more gear for the farming crowd. There are all sorts of fascinating tools and gadgets. We did not buy anything, not even the bicycle I tried to tempt Yayoi with. So off we went again, ah, let's amend that, I immediately noticed that my rear tire was half empty. I tried riding, but I could feel every little bump, so I decided to walk the bike.
We approached a Toyota Corolla shop (in Japan Corolla is a genus of Toyota, not a species) and I suggested to Yayoi we try to get some air in the tire. We looked around outside for compressed air, did not see any and spotted an employee in the back having a break. There was a look of trepidation on his face as we (I) approached, but when Yayoi explained our situation, he sprang into action. He spent quite a bit of time trying to get the valve to function, but realized the valve had exceeded it's life expectancy. Then Yayoi asked about a bicycle repair shop and he spent quite a bit of time in the office looking this up and then brought out a book of maps to show us where there was a bike repair shop. We said thank you very much and continued our walk, with my rear tire now totally flat.
The location appeared to be close to the post office so off we went, but did not see any such shop. Around the corner we met a lady leading her bike and Yayoi asked her, whether she knew about the bike repair shop. Yes, she did and indicated it was next to the grocery store we usually shop at.The situation was explained again at the bike shop, where the mechanic pointed out that the bike needed a new tire(s). Tell me something I don't know as you can see strings and not much rubber. Anyway he suggested charging us about 4000¥ for the tire. I said no way as the bike in the boy's store we had been in earlier was about 9600¥. Essentially we were being charged half the price of a new although probably not a top quality bicycle. Taking off the rear tire on a Japanese bicycle would be twice as much work as an American bike due to the mechanisms such as chain protectors. Anyway Yayoi suggested to the mechanic that we needed to get going, so he helpfully got a new valve, installed this and filled the tire at a much more reasonable cost.
Then we got our groceries and went home uneventfully. Today we find out from my tea lady that her older sister had been observing us in town in almost every store we were in. As I have been telling Yayoi, we will be (in)famous here very soon.
The tea lady and our host have both been apologizing for the chatterbox lady, who didn't really bother me much. Today she showed up again and had to have a few words with me across half the field. She has good lungs.