Behold the wonders... OF JAPAN!

Please don’t lynch me!

Yes, it’s JAPAN! Far to the east, mystical land of the rising sun! Many are the strange and exotic customs practiced by the quaint natives of this fabulous Asian realm! Read on in wonder at the incredible rituals and the lunatic, febrile facts of the monstrous everyday which prevail in this preposterous neither-land, heretofore seen only by our valiant U.S. Servicemen and uncounted hordes of video-game journalists.

Every May 17th in Japan is understood to be Happiness Day, or would be, if any except our most advanced professors of linguistics could make sense of their maddening, rapid-fire chatter-language. On Happiness Day, all of the native Japanese rejoice that their dark monster-deities have granted them an additional year of bewitched existence. It is their custom on this, the twelfth most sacred day of their complex lunar calendar, to form themselves into long queues, such as we would use in awaiting admittance to a motion-picture house, stretching out into the streets, no silence anywhere as all chant in preternatural unison, while scandalously-attired, shrieking young women, wearing little more than a thong and strange hoods that give their heads a likeness such as that of chubby, cartoon mice with long, yellow, black-tipped ears and round, red circles on their cheeks, throw out perfectly round, red-and-white colored spheres into the linearly-massed assembly. Other scantily-clad women, wearing pink, feline hoods and emitting a periodic "mew"-like noise, stand by with tasers and mace in the event that one desperate tribesman’s chant loses pace with his fellows. The yellow-hooded women favor the best and loudest chanters with additional globes, which are said to bring luck.

For the entertainment and worship of all who choose to participate in Happiness Day (and all who do not are rounded together by the shadowy yakuza and are later sold in nearby vending machines) are the strange over-class known as the Sumo, fabulously obese quasi-men who rule the outlying isles and participate in televised death sport for their control, who bungie-jump down to their adoring masses each year from huge, airborne dirigibles fashioned like unto gigantic asses. This reporter was honored with the opportunity to observe the fascinating ritual undergone by these misshapen creatures before their launch. In the moment just preceding their leap from the inner structure of these hydrogen-filled gluteus-craft, they turn towards each other, bow but once, then leap, all the while down shouting, in a hellish roar as they descend, only the drawn-out half-word "SUUUU-MOOOOOOOOO!" It is a moving sight, and a sight made all the more moving when, seconds later, stretched far beyond their limits, their bungie-cords inevitably snap, sending them plummeting to the streets below. The shock of impact would surely claim the life of any human, but these epic vats, these fantastic tubs of lard merely bounce, their entire gelatinous mass becoming spread an even, translucent quarter-inch thick layer across the pavement, before bouncing up and resuming most of their former form, a little jittery for hours to follow but otherwise unharmed by the impact. At the festival that evening, children come up and guess the number of jiggles each Sumo experienced after his landing, and guessing correctly is said to bring luck.

After the festival, everyone files on to the mass transit station and attempts to see how many people can be crammed into one rail car, which is a jolly game played by the natives, and each set is enthusiastically filled as each successive crowd attempts to beat the record set by the previous. Once inside, they are ferried randomly to one of only two locations. Most are taken to small rental cubicles, under guard, where they are forced to eat squid while each of their number take turns screeching into an amplifier while repetitive, obnoxious, tuneless bleeps and blaps are uttered as accompaniment. Those whose performances do not match the inscrutable expectations of their colleagues are forced to eat additional squid while the next Japanese makes his attempt. Once the guards at the door decide they have been punished enough, they are returned to the rail car and given another random chance. Most get by with only one or two trips to the booths, but some are forced to return again and again. This journalist can only guess that this is the source of Japan’s high suicide rate. A few, however, manage to avoid all trips to the dreaded booths. If, on Happiness Day, one manages to avoid the booths altogether, it is said to be a sign of luck.

Eventually, they are returned to their respective homes, which are all coffin-shaped boxes stored in vast warehouses, where they each watch garishly-colored cartoon productions on tiny monitors set into the wall, which this evening either involve hovering, tiger-bikini-clad electric women or thirty continuous, well-animated minutes of a public fountain filled with blood. They watch these productions over and over until they are lulled into sleep, then are deep-frozen and shuffled into storage, and then another set of Japanese are taken and thawed for the next day. And so normal life resumes, with a different set of Japanese for each day of the week, until nine days later, the next holiday, Incontinence Day, seventh on the lunar sacredness hierarchy, and the whole process repeats, this time with seaweed candy, virtual pets, celluar phones, Sega Saturns, and vending machine geisha, the last of which are said to bring luck.

(Written after exploding from hearing yet another crazed anime otaku try to offend my implied delicate American sensibilities by telling me about the "strange behavior" of the Japanese. Ha-ha, I trump all you guys. Thanks to fellow traveler Jarrod Love for the idea about the sumo wrestlers and their blimp.)

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