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Batman Is on the Subway

July 5th, 2003

Old story time. It was my first trip to Japan, way back in ’83, and I was having a homestay in the countryside town of Iwata, in Shizuoka Prefecture (now the home of the Jubilo Iwata soccer team). After a month’s homestay, I was headed back to Tokyo for a week, and then home. My host father wanted to warn me of the dangers of the big city before I went. Well, compared to major U.S. cities, Tokyo is safe as houses, but to a countryside dweller in Japan, it’s a dangerous jungle.

So he sat me down, and as I could not speak Japanese very well, and he did speak English fairly well, he explained it to me in my language–albeit with a heavy accent.

“Luis,” he started (it sounded more like “Ruisu”), “when you go tsu Tokyo, you musto be bery, bery careful (“kerufuru”). In Tokyo, on za sabuway, zere is… Batman.”

A little taken aback, I reply, “Batman?”

And with a strictly serious expression, he confirmed: “Yes. Batman.”

I could not think of anything to say, so I just repeated: “umm… Batman? Is, uh, on the subway? In Tokyo?”

He nodded vigorously, happy that I understood. “Yes! Batman is on za sabuway, Batman is on za streeto. Batman is everywhea in Tokyo!!”

I then struggled to comprehend as he told me about how Batman would steal my money and attack me. More and more, I felt on the verge of breaking into a giggling attack, until finally I understood that he was trying to tell me about criminals, pickpockets, in other words, bad men, not “Batman.”

Though to this day, while on the subway, I still keep an eye out for someone with a cape.

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