So anyway, we headed down the hill and watched the men make soba. In a very gender differentiated world 99% of the neighbourhood cooking is done by women but for some reason soba making is almost entirely a man's job. I asked one of the soba chefs his theory on why this was and he suggested women aren't strong enough. Pah! Seriously? I've seen pensioners swinging over-full apple crates around like they are marshmallows so don't tell me they lack the oomph to roll out some dough!
Before, after and in between your soba eating experience you could fill your time with a bit of light recreation:
The game you probably know as ring toss. Or wanage which means the same thing. I spent quite some time explaining this moniker to the participants who all listened quite attentively before once more edging right up to the board and dropping the rings over the pins. Oh well. Isn't it a happy picture though?
See the little kid being carried at the back there?
He was crying.
No, he was sobbing. Bereft, distraught, heartbreaking sobs.
Nope. It had nothing to do with Amy (phew!) That game she's playing though? It's a combination of igo and mallet golf which in itself is I think a Japanese mutant combination of croquet and mini golf. And those hunchbacked senior citizens in the background slurping down soba? (You have to hear the sound of 20 or so be-dentured people slurping soba in an echoey room to believe it. Shudder.) How innocent do they look, huh? How soft and sweet and old and harmless, right?
They are hard nosed, non-negotiating, toddler-bullying playground meanies.
Poor little R had rounded up all the errant igo-ball balls from all over the hall and- while holding a mallet- went to get his dad to play a game with him. Now, it's a pretty tricky tactical game when played seriously but it is also enjoyable on a non-competitive whack whack kid level.
Cruel fate and bad timing the pensioner gang finished their soba at that precise moment. And like locusts they descended on the igo mat with gusto and without compassion. Taking up all the available mallets they turned around and commanded R's mallet as well. Brave little tyke suggested that he wanted to play, too. Ruthless lady in floral flat out said "No."
Poor R was devastated and set up a hollering to let us all know about it. Only we adults were struck powerless by the fact that a) no one could really believe the old women could be that nasty b) they are the matriarchs of pretty much every powerful family in the neighbourhood (measured in apple trees, number of relatives who are/ have been local politicians and size and number of houses on property as well as how much gossip they know about everyone else's pasts) in an area where being a matriarch in itself is a powerful position. So direct confrontation was ruled out pretty fast.
Enquiries were made as to the existence of a second igo-ball mat. Nope.
Rather loud (these women are not known for their superior aural abilities) suggestions that he wait his turn as surely it would be his turn next fell on (quite probably literally) deaf ears and as the women marked up the scoreboard for a five game tournament one turned around and asked what all the hollering was about in a less than sympathetic voice which set poor R right off the edge and he ended up being taken home to cool down. Even when told why he was crying she just sniffed and returned to her game.
Now, I'm all for respecting your elders and I'm sure the women in question didn't mean to be so horrible- maybe they were too consumed in consuming their noodles to see how long R had spent rounding up the balls from under chairs and behind drapes etc etc but surely it wouldn't have killed them to give him 5 minutes to whack a few balls around before they got down to the serious business of tournament igo-ball?
Ahhh well, It's all cyclic and as one of my more down to earth neighbours pointed out 'he only has to wait a few more years and they'll all be dead or bedridden and won't be able to come down anyway." Funnily enough I have a feeling that probably wasn't what R's parents told him to console him....