Our time tables had us down to wake up at , and to do tsudoi at . We were then to clean from and have breakfast (awful) at . For an hour and a half. Weird. So I pointed out to everyone that we didn’t have to do anything before 7am, so could we please set our alarms for and ignore the timetable. This led to some… confusion, and resulted in everyone getting up at . But not only did they get up at 6:30, but Ryugenji had to do some moving of things and getting ready, and making his bed (presumably this is what you do when you have half an hour to get up), and every time he moved something or did something he had to say “ush!” to himself, or “gozaimasu” or something. I think secretly he was horrified at our laziness for sleeping in, and was trying to rouse us to do nothing with him.
Which tactic worked; after 15 minutes (at ) while I was clinging to the last shreds of my overly brief rest, Gosuke arose, alert as the day he was born despite an hours’ sleep (bloody kids). He wandered about groaning for maybe a minute and then, adopting his role as room leader, said to me “Stuart, you have to wake up!” to which I grunted. After two more attempts at same, I said “Gosuke, breakfast isn’t until , I’ll get up at ”. To this he said “but you have to do tsudoi.”
Now, the night before when discussing the alarm settings, I had asked about this tsudoi, and no answers were forthcoming. Gosuke had said “it’s a thing”; and Ryugenji said “it’s a bit like prayer”, to which Watanabe sniggered and Gosuke hit him, and they both said “no it’s not”. So I assumed tsudoi was something like, you know, standing about on the balcony going “fuuuuuuuuuuuuck, mate, sparrow’s fart eh?” So when Gosuke told me I had to get up for tusdoi, I said “No I don’t” and rolled over.
So Gosuke says “You have to get up” and I said “Why?” and he said “Tsudoi”, and I said to him (actually losing all remnants of sleep), “Gosuke, WHAT is tsudoi?” And he said “it’s a thing”, and I said “Look, Gosuke, you’re standing around doing nothing. Your tsudoi is going to be going on the balcony and having a smoke; Ryugenji’s is going to be standing around saying “ush!”; and mine is going to be lying right here waiting for breakfast.” Which I think Gosuke didn’t understand, because he stopped making me get up, and wandered out. So at I started hearing everyone swarming down the hallway, and I thought “what?” and decided I had better get up and have a look; at which point I discovered the rooms empty, and Gosuke wandered up and said “It’s tsudoi now,” looking pointedly at me. “I’ll be late,” I said, and went in to get changed, and when I emerged everyone was gone. So I wandered out of my room and down the hall, and was halfway down the hallway from our building to the main building when a gaggle of schoolgirls from another tour group went running past me in a mad flap, obviously rushing to this tsudoi. I followed in their direction and ended up back in the entry way to the whole building, and there before me stood the Gates of Hell, and beyond them my worst nightmare, writ large and waiting to pounce.
For tsudoi, it appeared, involved every single inhabitant of the camp gathering in the meeting room where we had been introduced yesterday, in lines facing the front. The doors to the meeting room were open, and everyone was facing away from them towards the stage at the front. The woman who had introduced the camp to us yesterday was just starting some kind of statement about “making a small speech” to which everyone was paying attention, and the little gaggle of schoolgirls I had seen running was just sitting down in a corner; and the woman was standing facing the door, so if I took even one step through the doorway she was going to see me, and everyone was going to turn to face me, and I had seen on the map that this room held 400 people and I could see now that it was chock full, so that would mean 400 heads turning, and there I would be, 2 minutes late as usual only this time 2 minutes late for the 400 person morning pep talk.
No thank you, Gosuke, I thought, and fled as fast as I could back the way I had come, with the woman’s words taunting me as I slunk back down the stairs … “Just a little speech”…
… which was just as well, because I discovered upon returning to Matsue that a friend of ours had been to this camp on a previous year, and part of their morning tsudoi was the flag-raising ceremony, at which she, the only foreigner in the camp, had been made to raise the Japanese flag. And she was on time!
(And by the way, curse my electronic dictionary for saying tsudoi means “gathering”, rather than its true meaning, “Convocation of Acolytes of Pure Evil, waiting to ambush tardy foreigners and hang them upside down from the flagpole” – the distinction could have been helpful).