Saturday, August 11, 2001

College Professor Next Door

My wife and I went to visit a neighbor of ours today--a college professor who lives next door. I say "neighbor", but sometimes the forest blocks the view, so, in actuality, there really isn't any house that you can see from our villa. This person lives about 2-3 minutes away from us. We'd never met him before, but the realtor who helped us with our villa told us that a "fussy, difficult college professor lives next door", so, if he was as fussy and/or difficult as he was made out to be, we thought we'd better go and say hello. We took some pastries that we had brought from Tokyo and set out for his house.

I'd seen this college professor's villa from the outside before on a number of occasions, and it's very unusual. There are two cylindrical buildings, about 4 meters in diameter, and about 12-13 meters long, connected at one point, next to each other. In addition to this, there's a separate small wooden house connected out in back. Furthermore, in the round area on the side of the metal cylinder facing the road, there was a comic-like "face" drawn in thick lines on it. From the outward appearance of the building and the rumors about him being so "fussy/difficult", I'd secretly named him "The Mad Scientist". I had to muster up a little courage to ring the doorbell to the house.

We heard the bell ring inside, and a lady, apparently in her 60's, came out and looked at me rather suspiciously. When I said, "Sorry for coming by unannounced. We're the Taniguchis. We just moved in next door and wanted to say hello", the lady's expression immediately softened. As we exchanged a few words, a bespectacled gray-haired man in his 70's, came toward us from the road. I knew immediately from the way he looked that this was the "college professor." He was much more "normal" than I had pictured him, and, from the wrinkles at the corner of his eyes, he did not come across to be "fussy/difficult" at all. My wife and I began talking to him when his wife, who had opened the door when we first got there, invited us in. It ended up that we stayed and visited with this professor for about an hour.

The professor told us that he had built his villa about ten years ago, and the odd shaped buildings were actually Chinese-made nuclear bomb shelters. He also told us about conditions in the area, past history, picking wild edible plants and mushrooms, and interesting stories about how deer run wild in the forest nearby and how an owl actually came flying up to his window. We also heard about a place where they raise rainbow trout and char fish and even sell them to individuals upon request. So, in the evening, on our drive back from shopping, we stopped by a place which was apparently what the professor was talking about. The rainbow trout were 120 yen a piece and the char fish 230 yen. We bought two char fish at this extraordinary price. We are very grateful to the professor for everything.

- MT

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