The extras

Everyone’s life has a set of peripheral, Rosencrantz-like characters around it that appear only in a certain place, or just serve one function, or divulge key information that moves the plot along, etc.  Of course they have full lives outside of the realms in which you usually see them but with my solipsistic blinders on as I usually do I can only think of them as “the delivery guy with the teeth” or some other simple noun phrase with a few pre- and post-modifiers.  I thought I should catelogue mine before we leave our current life and forget the cast of extras that played bit parts in our days here.


  1. The gas station attendant who looks like Ricardo Montalbán.
  2. The cashier at MaxValue who has been checking our groceries for like 5 years and speaks in the nasal voice most cashiers do – I wonder what she actually sounds like.
  3. The Subway cashier with the last name that means “beef tripe”.
  4. The retirees in our neighborhood whom I had in an eikaiwa “circle”, many of whom lived for years in Africa and Europe and the most right-wing of which was born in Korea during the war.
  5. The neighbor who is a lifelong bachelor (and led me to learn the word チョンガ, a Korean loanword meaning “older bachelor”) and smokes which is annoying but who helped us move once.
  6. The leader of the neighborhood association in the last place our school was, who came off as bossy and unpleasant at first but we later learned had suffered from depression.  It turned out she tended to latch onto people as therapy but was incapable of relating to them on equal terms.
  7. The other eikaiwa owners in town, who always sort of loomed in the background of what we were doing, serving as counterexamples or cautionary tales.
  8. The Nepali waiters and waitresses at our favorite curry place, who seem to have set down roots for better or worse.
  9. The city hall employees, some of whom seem quietly professional and others of whom are loudly not.
  10. In particular, the one who wouldn’t look us in the eyes while explaining that while she didn’t enrol me in national health insurance when I first registered as a resident of our city, I still had to pay my premiums retroactively for the period from when I moved there to the present.
  11. The guy in our neighborhood who we often see taking walks… backward.
  12. The other old guy we see taking walks who is in some stage of transitioning to being a woman.
  13. The owner of a different curry restaurant who likes questions about Kolkata but hates questions about other parts of India.  I guess I understand how he feels.
  14. The students I’ve met of other teachers in JALT, who are dynamos of language learning but sadly seem to self-select out of the teaching profession.
  15. A lot of JALT members at EBMs who are quietly competent, others who seem to be incapable of thinking without speaking into a mic, and a lot of single-serving friends and debate partners.
  16. Other JALT people who are well integrated into Japanese society but unlike me choose not to make a big deal about it.
  17. A few JALT people who I think I could have been friends with if only we’d met 10 years earlier.
  18. The eerily young wait staff at the after-JALT parties around Shizuoka.
  19. The few ex-private students we occasionally see around town that we don’t feel like we have to put on our “teacher faces” in front of.
  20. The Sagawa delivery guy who always look really happy to be giving us stuff.
  21. The local handyman who keeps cutting us deals on disposing of our old appliances and furniture.
  22. The elementary school teacher in the neighborhood who expanded his deck into the public land next to his house.
  23. The handful of Christians in town who attend the church, which is a nondescript building a few blocks away from the commercial wedding chapel, which is a big white church-looking edifice.  We never joined them but did feel some kinship if only as deviants.
  24. The Jehovah’s Witnesses, one of whom was our student and true to form chose not to come when we would be celebrating holidays of any denomination.
  25. The priests riding around town always on scooters, one of whom was also our student.
  26. The old guy in our neighborhood who seems competely normal except that his house is always playing Tito Puente very early in the morning when we take our walks and he flies a Colombian and a German flag.
  27. The students’ moms who work at the Aeon mall in town.
  28. The old guy at our favorite dog park who responded to me spraying water at his Borzoi (it was a hot day) by hitting it and pulling it away.
  29. Youki Kudoh, Hollywood actress (in a particularly funny episode of Undeclared) who runs a café in town and who we finally saw there this year.
  30. The office manager at the university I taught at until this spring, a congenial and professional woman who is also coincidentally from Fujinomiya.
  31. The extremely friendly owners and staff at the local udon place we go to every time relatives from the US or Canada visit.
  32. The thoroughly unpleasant lady who runs a gelato place whose products are excellent but always seems to leave a parochial and racist taste in my mouth.
  33. The owners of a vegan café we just met recently, one of whom loves Yngwie Malmsteen and the other of whom went to the same university as my brother a few years earlier than him.
  34. I’m deliberately not mentioning students here unless there is something unusual about them, but we see them around town too.  
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