A few times a week, every week, I jog down to my local park to do chin-ups before work. I do this for a few reasons.
One, unlike in Canada, many outdoor parks feature free exercise equipment, making it incredibly easy to work out at any time without the usual hassles of going to the gym.
Two, going to the park breaks me from my otherwise sunless routine which involves waking up late, eating cereal in bed, watching Lil’ B videos and blogging.
Finally, and probably most interesting, I go to the park for all the amazing characters.The university aged guys practicing manzai (Japanese style comedy), the group of 20-something mothers, all heavily made-up and dressed in gyaru fashion, the businessmen solitarily eatng their lunches, and of course the many homeless meandering around with their rickshaws full of cardboard (yes Japan has homeless).
After months of following this routine, I have become part of this motley crue of park dwellers (not to be confused with this motley crue, or for that matter this one). And while, as a general rule, Japanese people don’t really like talking to strangers, old dudes seems to be the exception.
Case in point, the old, kind of bearded, shirtless guy I sometimes see sitting on the benches near the jungle gym. one day, while I was mid work out, he came up to the chin up bar and started alternating reps with me.
Now, just as an aside, due to my consistent practicing, I can now do approximately 80 chin-ups in a session. Thats about six reps of 10 with four variations. Still, for a guy who appeared to be well into his 60s, my new friend did an impressive job of pulling himself up.
After a while we got to talking and man, known as Yochan by his friends, revealed to me that he’s a boxing trainer. According to him, he had been a successful amateur boxer in his youth (probably in one of the lighter weight classes). After retiring from his office job he told me, he began training again and picked up the part time job.
Next he gave me a demonstration, shadow-boxing intensely for all in the park to see. While his movements were, at least to me, kind of awkward (almost river dance-like at times), he seemed to know what he was talking about. He even showed me how to do some techniques. I would’ve liked nothing more than to stay there all day, learning the sweet science by proxy, but I had to go to work so I left the conversation at that.
Fast forward to three weeks later, yesterday, and I who do I run into again, but Yochan. This time, he wasted no time coming over and saying hi. After showing me a few more combos, he asked me if I’d like to go drinking with him sometime. Although, somewhat homeless looking, he promised, (all in Japanese mind you) that he’d take me to the best, real Osakan izakaya there wask. A bit taken aback, I gave him my number and told him maybe we could do it next week.
Now though, I vacillate over the question: to go or not to go? Is this friend date with a tiny, well-trained killing machine really a good idea?
Only time will tell…