The End of the World As We Know It, redux

May 22, 2011

In August, 2010, I wrote a somewhat tongue-in-cheek blog post (if you’re dying to read it, hit the “previous entries” link at the bottom of the page several times until you get back to 8/19/10) about an erroneous prediction of the Rapture, the eagerly-awaited (both by Rapturees, and, I suspect, by everybody else as well) day when Christian True Believers will be beamed up from Earth to Starship Heaven, as prophesied in The Book of Revelation. I don’t exactly remember the circumstances of the timing in my writing of that piece, but presumably it was in response to yet another Religious Mathematician who crunched the numbers and predicted the event in no uncertain terms (despite the fact that this information is unknowable by mankind, according to the Bible), only to be sent back to the drawing board when the time for the predicted event slipped past without apparent detrimental effect on the world’s population.

I went on at some length about an experience I had had in Tennessee back in the 80s, during a Rapture Fever outbreak chronicled in minute detail by The Nashville Tennessean (front page, above the fold) and several channels of local TV news. As you might remember, or at least intuit, that one didn’t pan out. I would have noticed.
For in Tennessee, you see, I was surrounded by Christians of all denominations, and if there had been a mass exodus of the sort predicted, precious little would be getting done in Nashville for the next, oh, millennium.

Nowadays, though, I spend most of my time in Japan, where the Christian population hovers around 1%; additionally, most of those folks are located in Western Japan, where the missionaries first got a toehold in the years following the Meiji Restoration. This is a good day’s drive, perhaps more, from my Tokyo digs, so I can literally go for weeks at a time without running across anyone from any of the Western religions, let alone a Christian. I do have one Japanese Christian acquaintance, but I see her very rarely; she is, I think, not the sort of believer to be derailed by doomsday prophecy, however.

All of that to say, if the Rapture did indeed take place yesterday, it is quite likely that I would not know about it. I have sent emails to several friends in the US, and not heard back from any of them yet. For that matter, I have not heard from my Japanese friend, either. Hmm. I haven’t seen anything about it on CNN, and the BBC World News never even bothered to report on the prediction, as far as I have been able to gather. The news outlets have been rather widely regarded as godless anyway, so they might well opt not to report anything pro-religion, particularly once all the believers have been spirited away; so, in the absence of any clear evidence one way or the other, I find myself once again sitting on the fence, awaiting a sign.

If any of you are left (you know who you are), drop me a line, okay?

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Bru-chan Goes to the Sumo Tournament

May 19, 2011

It is not an everyday occurrence for me to feel petite when in Japan; typically I can see from one end of a crowded subway car to the other, looking over the heads of my fellow riders, and it must be said that I take up rather more horizontal space than the average Japanese as well. So, I was quite looking forward to scoping out the latest round of sumo bouts in Ryogoku, where even the most diminutive of competitors boasts a girth that puts my not-insubstantial belly measurement to shame. These guys are big. How big, you ask? Okay, let’s see…bigger than a West Virginia Wal-Mart-shopping housewife pushing a cart spilling over with family-sized packages of Pringles, Moon Pies, full-strength Mountain Dew, and Little Debbie brownies. Bigger than her husband, even.

The first (and only other) time I went to a sumo tournament, I had seats high up in the 10,000 seat auditorium; two rows higher, and oxygen would have been required, and perhaps a tether to prevent cheapskate sumophiles from floating off into space. And even those seats ran forty bucks plus. This time, the seats were offered at a much more attractive price—free. The reason for this is that there was a bit of scandal in the sumo ranks earlier this year, in which several competitors admitted to rigging bouts. In penance, the Japan Sumo Association cancelled the March tournament entirely, and made the May match available to spectators for free. A seat lottery was announced, accessible by computer or phone, and the first ten thousand lucky (and/or determined) respondents won admission into the tournament. My seat was only eleven rows up into the raised section of the stands, close enough that I could recognize facial features on some of the better-known wrestlers. “Seat” is perhaps a bit of a misnomer; actually it was a thin foam pad on a three-foot square of floor. Because it was a corner property, it was zoned for only two inhabitants rather than the usual four, so we actually had room for two to stretch our legs a bit, unthinkable luxury that would have set us back a couple of hundred bucks apiece in normal times.

I’d like to go on record now to say it was a rollicking good match. One of the high points was when comparatively small and lithe (as sumo guys go) Takanoyama Shuntaro, at six feet tall and 200-odd pounds, made short work of Tsurugidake Teruki, a human haystack weighing in at north of 360 pounds. Takanoyama received a standing ovation for this upset. The final bout was between Hakuho Sho, the 6’4”, 340-pound odds-on favorite to win not only the bout, but also the entire tournament, and Takekaze Akira, a 310-pounder who stands only 5’7” and change. There were no surprises here; Hakuho dispatched Takekaze in seconds flat. The tournament is not over yet, but Hakuho is unbeaten thus far, and he looks more than able to go the distance.

And me, well, I am basking in the afterglow of feeling inordinately petite, even if for such a short time.