Banzai-ing

By: Stella Orange

True story: I used to live in a village in Japan.

I was 21.

I did not speak Japanese.

I was hired to teach English in a Japanese middle school. And two elementary schools. And an evening adult ed community class.

But over the course of my year there, I bet I learned more Japanese words than my students learned English ones.

Banzai is one of my favorites.

###

In Japan, I attended these feast-style dinners with my co-workers.

These were lengthy affairs with platters of the most incredible food you can imagine: Baked fish. Fried chicken. Sushi. Potato salad. Stews. Pickled things. Platters of meats and vegetables. Tofu pockets. Copious amounts of beer.

There would be speeches and social conversation.

None of which I understood.

Which was freeing, actually.

I like making stuff up, so I pretended that I understood everything, just for fun. I’m pretty sure my version was more inventive, if inaccurate.

###

At the end of the night, everyone would stand in a big circle on the straw tatami floor in our sock feet (shoes were left in the entry), and we would all shout in unison:

Banzai!

Banzai!

Banzai!

With each shout, everyone would raise both arms in the air.

I loved this ritual. Slightly goofy, yet participatory. It left me with a feeling of being a part of the group, before we parted ways and slipped off into the night.

At the time, I didn’t know what it meant; I just knew it was the thing everyone did to end an evening.

###

Turns out, banzai has been both a battle cry and a wish for longevity for the emperor (‘may you live 10,000 years’).

But these days, I like to use banzai in my own way.

More of a ‘here goes nothing’ sort of thing.

The reasonable thing to do would be X, but I’m called to do Not-X?

Banzai!

I’m afraid that X is happening but I am mighty, resourceful, and whole, so surely there’s something around here I can find, build, or work with that is bigger than my fear?

Banzai!

The neighbors would have turned back years ago, but I keep waking up feeling like, in the words of Dr. Maya Angelou: wouldn’t take nothing for my journey now?

Banzai!

###

But let’s be real, my brothers and sisters: The dishes need doing, and I don’t really want to. (Banzai!)

Someone needs to take the recycling to the curb. (Banzai!)

It’s fast becoming the season where all I want to do is sit on the couch under a blanket and eat popcorn and drink hot cocoa and put on my jammies before dinner and then fall asleep on the couch and then drag myself up the stairs to bed several hours later while telling myself I’m too tired to brush my teeth and that’s okay, I don’t have to brush them, just this once. (Banzai!)

My point is, it’s a good time to have a banzai or two in your back pocket.

You never know when it’s going to come in handy.

Stella

Stella is cofounder and copywriter at Las Peregrinas, a creative and consulting agency. As our resident word nerd, she writes copy and points out the stories everyone is living and telling through their work. She is also fun at parties.


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