When I called my parents on Saturday night, I had had a headache for three days.
Or was it four? The details had become vague and I was cranky.
A heat wave has engulfed Sapporo for the last two weeks, sending the temperatures into the humid 30s which might have been tolerable if anyone had believed in air conditioning.
The problem --I complained to my parents-- was that this headache wasn't bad enough to stop me in my tracks, but it was sufficiently painful to make looking at a computer screen or book genuinely difficult.
While I was deeply glad not to be rolling around in agony, it had become plain that if you took away my laptop and reading material, I had no other interests.
So far that weekend, I had cleaned the main room, bedroom, toilet and shower, brushed the cat six times and played dead on the sofa. In short, I was bored.
"Well, I think we've run out of our news," my Dad said after we'd been chatting for a while. "And I don't think much of yours."
"I have to whine to you," I responded, matter-of-factly. "I don't have the depth of vocabulary in Japanese to go on about it to anyone else."
"How about going to see a film tomorrow?" Dad suggested. "Cinemas are usually air conditioned and you'd be far away from a large screen, so it shouldn't hurt your eyes."
And that was how I ended up going to see 'The Avengers' on Sunday afternoon.
The arrival of Western blockbusters in Japan varies from that of 'Harry Potter' (released the same day as the rest of the world) to 'The Hunger Games' (still waiting). Both dubbed and subtitled versions are usually shown, so the trick is to:
(a) recognise the movie title in Japanese
(b) get tickets for the showing with the original sound track.
Western words --which extends to foreign movie titles-- are typically written in katakana; the phonetic script for words not originally Japanese. The majority of these words are originally English but reading them is like walking into a parallel universe in which Samuel Johnson was a crack addict. Fortunately, it's an acquirable skill made easier when presented with a limited list of options... although occasionally, mean tricks can be played such as when 'The Iron Lady' was released in Japan under the title 'Margaret Thatcher'. Fortunately, the 'Avengers' was written as literally as possible:
(or 'abenjaazu' in roman letters: trust me, that's pretty good)
leaving me only to worry about subtitling versus dubbed editions.
At a 50/50 bet, the odds here were reasonable. Plus, 'Avengers' was a movie with an optional plot: there were special effects, a bunch of familiar looking good guys (none of whom you'd select for your side if the alternative wasn't Armageddon), a bad guy with a magic stick and a cube clearly stolen from the 'Transformers' movie. What more do you need?
In fact, I picked the correct showing due to a tip from a friend who told me to look for the Chinese character for 'knowledge' when hunting for subtitled movies. The same character is also in 'university' so it's an easy one to spot.
I also therefore got the rather awesome one-liners from the bad guy, which can't have translated well into Japanese since I seemed to be the only one laughing. Alternatively, I was the only person present who was handling the heat quite that badly.
Mercifully, the cinema was air-conditioned. In fact, the multiplex resembled a cinema anywhere else in the world except that the popcorn and soda options on the concession stand menu were listed in katakana. In typical Japanese style, there was the odd, isolated sign displayed in bare English:
Due to a love of order, you get to chose your seat at the ticket counter and the plastic cups of soda are more sensibly proportioned than their American counterparts. The number of trailers is also much shorter and you are not allowed into the theatre itself until five minutes before the time shown on the ticket. Still, since you already have a determined seat, there isn't the need to get there early.
I picked up a coke and examined the movie posters for the other showings that day. There was a mix of the usual Hollywood blockbusters alongside Japanese movies starring brooding hot Samurai warriors.
I need to work on my language skills.