Japan’s Runaway Turtles

Japan’s Runaway Turtles

So I’m heading to work early one morning when I happen to glance down and see this little Japanese turtle right in the middle of the road, totally random.  I mean, okay, I couldn’t really tell if he was a Japanese turtle or a gaijin turtle, but anyway he had the shell and the stubby reptile legs and all, so I felt pretty good about the turtle part.  And he was escaping from this neighborhood reservoir, full of green water and surrounded by tall chain link fence.  How a turtle got over a seven foot-high chain link fence, I’ll never know, but apparently he was some kind of Rambo super turtle or something.  You never can tell in this country.  Anyway, so here I am half-running in my suit, trying to get to the station because I’m late as usual, without breaking too much of a sweat, and suddenly there’s this little guy struggling to get across the road.  Why, I have no idea.  I guess to get to the other side, like a reaaally slow chicken.   But I kept on going, because I had a train to catch, and anyway there were about a million other people in suits rushing by who could deal with the situation.

And then it occurred to me.  Japanese turtle or not, nobody’s going to help.  Like, the entire nation is going to pass by, look at him, and not do a damn thing.  And then he’ll be crushed by a car or that truck that drives around picking up discarded TVs and bicycles.  I mean, it’s a busy road.  Jeez, why does it always come down to the white guy having to do everything?  But okay, yeah, it does, so I went back.

Japanese Superheroes

Have you ever seen a Japanese superhero?  No, right?  Unless you’re really into anime or something, but otherwise the answer’s likely No.  The whole world knows Superman, but who’s Japan got?  Godzilla?  He’s like a big, walking turtle.  Okay, that’s Gamera.  Whatever.  Anyway my point is that everything in Japan’s so orderly that the demand for superheroes is really low.  And if Superman ever did visit Japan, he’d just be stuck doing all this boring, petty stuff like saying, Don’t throw your cigarette butts down the drain! or separating the recycling into glass, cans, and plastic, only really fast.  He’d probably be Super-annoyed man, actually.  Not that I’m trying to say I’m like Superman or anything.  I’m just some dude hustling to work so I can get the whole teaching English thing out of the way so I can come back home and drink a proper beer.  That’s it.  On the other hand, I guess from the turtle’s perspective, well okay, maybe I am.  I mean, I’m a lot taller than he is, for starters.  By night, an English teacher, and by day, turtle Superman.  That’s gonna look good on a resume.  Oh, life’s turning out just dandy.

So I picked him up.  You know how some people collect snakes or have an ant farm or like to hug sheep?  Yeah well, that ain’t Ken Seeroi.  I was like, Eeeew, how do I hold this gross thing?  He was all moving and alive and stuff, but thankfully he pulled his scary little legs and head back into his shell, so that helped.  I could kind of imagine he was just like a hubcap or something.  But then he started peeing.  So now a million Japanese people are rushing by and here’s this white guy in a suit standing in the middle of the road holding a whizzing turtle and pretending he’s a hubcap.  It’s a good thing I wore blue, and not my grey pinstripe.  Really hides the turtle pee much better.

Mr. Turtle Gets the Ride of his Life

So I carried him back to the reservoir and chucked him over.  I was like, Be free, little turtle, fly!  Only I kind of threw him too far, and for a moment I was afraid he’d sail entirely over the reservoir and splat onto the road on the other side, which would be pretty ironic.  I’ve really got a hell of an arm, I must say.  But eventually he came back down and hit the water in a massive belly flop.  There was a great splash, and slowly he disappeared below the surface.  Back to his watery home.  I don’t care if you’ve got a shell or not though, that’s gotta sting a bit.

Then I slotted back into the line of people rushing to the station, and washed my hands of the whole matter.  Meaning that I stopped at the restroom and rinsed off the turtle slime, then got onto the train and pulled out my smartphone like everybody else.  Faceless and anonymous Clark Kent blending in with the masses, texting his boss that he’s late, patiently waiting for the next time when he’s gonna save humanity.  Or a frog or an earthworm or something.  Life in Japan sure is busy.

 



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30 Comments

  1. Hey Ken!

    Why did the turtle cross the road?

    To get to the shell station!

    ROR!

    • Yeah, I probably should have mentioned that there was a station on the other side of the road. I’ll include that as a footnote, so please draw an asterisk on your screen.

  2. You’re my hero Mr. Ken Seeroi. On your way home did you peek over the fence to see if Mr. Turtle was in sight?

    Nice touch with the Clark Kent blending into the masses at the end. It made me chuckle.

    • Thanks for your kind words, HokkaidoKuma. Mr. Turtle has quite a large extended family, and I’d be surprised if even his own relatives could pick him out of a lineup. I’ve stopped to wave at the turtles several times, but thus far no one has waved back.

  3. Ken,

    I once picked up a turtle in the middle of the road too and I took it home and let it go in my back yard. 17 years later the thing still lives out in the back yard (My home is at the edge of a wooded area and has a stream on my property) and I see it every year or so when I’m clearing away the brush. Every time I see him I pick him up and give him a quick check up to see if he is healthy and feed him some veggies and then let him go again and each time he tries to pee on me… must be a turtle thing. Mine was a painted box turtle that had orange and brown colors on him… and BTW, not all turtles go in the water and if he was a box turtle he most likely drowned… dang now I feel bad for telling you that, but your heart is still in the right place Mang! It was a great read in any case and had lots of smiles. Please write your book soon!!

    • Thanks, Bud. Yeah, as I was chucking him over, the thought did occur to me: “Man, hope he’s not a tortoise!” But given his similarity to the other fellows in the reservoir, I feel pretty confident about his amphibian status.

      Glad to know I’m not the only guy who rescues turtles too. Somebody’s gotta save the earth, and it looks like it’s up to us.

    • Don’t worry, box turtles can swim. They live on land, but enjoy a nice swim. He is probably fine.

  4. There’s really no telling the difference between a Japanese and gaijin turtle? Huh I would’ve expected otherwise…

    …ah well 😛 Thanks Ken, I’m enjoying recent turnover of new content 🙂

    • Thanks, I’m typing as fast as I can! One of the great mysteries of my life is how I can be on the computer for 10 hours a day and still get nothing done. I thought this thing was supposed to improve my productivity.

      • I can totally relate. My productivity has definitely gone down, and that’s saying something as I require a computer to do my job.

  5. And then at work:

    Boss: “Ok, and what’s the reason you’re late today?”

    You: “I had to rescue a turtle!”

    Boss: “Yeah, right.”

  6. Ah, you guys…
    Of course it’s a gaijin turtle!
    – He speaks zero Japanese (I assume, Ken haven’t had a conversation with the turtle?)
    – He completely is lost in the middle of the road in Japan
    – He walks slower than anyone else but is not an ojisan/obasan
    – Everyone likes him but no one knows what to say to him

    Simple logic.

    Now, it is also quite possible that it is the Super Turtle on its quest to become a actual Gamera, and Ken has saved it from being crushed by a car. Now the creature will thrive and soon be crushing cars itself…

    Ah, where is my coffee?

    • If your coffee is like mine, it’s in a can in a vending machine. Nothing like a fresh can, just like mom used to brew.

      You know, now that you mention it, I did say a couple of words to him in Japanese and he didn’t reply. It never occurred to me to try English. How culturally insensitive of me.

  7. Hello Ken!!

    I’m from the Philippines and I happen stumbled upon your blog just recently. I must say your website is basically perfect, because basically is one of my favorite words. But it is actually just perfect. Perfect perfect 🙂 I’m heading to Japan very soon for a 3year contract job and your personal experiences are very good references slash heads up. Thank You!

    • Well, thank you very much. That far exceeds my goal of being above average, half the time.

      Congrats on getting a job over here. It really is a great country, at least today because it’s nice and sunny. Pretty sure it’ll never rain too, so there you go. Basically the best country ever.

      • I’m used to the rain, even worse, monsoon. Just bear in mind where I live 😉 Yay, cannot wait to be there! And I will follow this blog until you get tired of writing. Haha.

        • You know I’m a sucker for flattery. It is to me what ketchup is to a hot dog. Or is that mustard? It’s been so long since I’ve had one that I’ve forgotten. Man, am I hungry. But where was I? Oh yeah, thanks a lot, for real.

  8. We came across a Japanese Superhero the other day after training in the Kanayama area of Nagoya. A lady had fallen off the platform at the train station and a Japanese man jumped onto the train tracks to save her as an incoming train was just about to pass by. You can read about it here http://www.japantoday.com/smartphone/view/national/man-jumps-onto-train-tracks-to-save-woman
    Japanese Superheroes do exist!

  9. Hey Ken,

    I watched Ultraman in the States (D.C, Northern Virginia) when I was growing up (that wonderful 70s decade). Isn’t Ultraman a Japanese super hero? I loved that show. We (brother and sister) also watched Johnny Sako and his Flying Robot. A classic a poorly dubbed Japanese stop-action heroism… You can find episodes on YouTube. Hilarious to see now.

  10. Here’s a link to the classic opening sequence of Ultraman. Brilliant! Kind of Twilight Zone-ish. A true classic. Apparently, from the comments section, I wasn’t the only one riveted. The entire D.C. area remembers! Ha, ha.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rClDI3yWG94

    And, Johnny Sokko and his Flying Robot, another fave.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lnczokOnWjg

  11. You’re his superhero! But I would also think the belly flop hurt. I’ve been in many situations like this (not with turtles) where I want to stop and do something, help someone, talking to someone but instead, walk away or just stand there and regret it later >o<

    • Yeah, I think life’s full of things that you wish you’d done differently. There have been many times when I realized I should’ve helped someone or something, but for some reason, I just didn’t. Going forward, I think it’s kind of a personal resolution for me to be a bit more involved, to take more of a role, in the things around me.

      But you know, it’s a fine line. Do that too much and you’re gonna run into a situation where someone says “That was my pet turtle! And you just threw him over the fence!” So there’s always that possibility too. Life’s full of risk.

  12. I find this story extra funny due to the live turle advertisement on the same page as your post. Perhaps the turtles that don’t land back in the water get sold online to help cover Ken’s beer tab. lol

    • It’s all part of my big internet turtle ring. It’s like a pyramid scheme, only involving stacks of turtles. And once I figure out a way to convert all those towers of turtle into yen, life’s gonna be pretty sweet.

  13. An easy to tell if its a gaijin turtle is actually to check the markings on its head. Japan has a problem with invasive species. Most of the foreign ones had a red stripe above their eyes. They’re called Red-Eared Sliders, and they’re native to the American southeast, but they are sold in Japanese pet stores as “midorigame” when they are just tiny babies with 4-5cm shells. Then they get big and are dumped in ponds, rivers, and reservoirs. So, if it did have a red mark, you just saved a highly invasive species!

    • Japan has a problem with invasive species? Go on. I just hope somebody doesn’t decide to protect me by hurling me in a pond.

  14. I’m calling BS.

    Ken Seeroi doesn’t get up early.

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