So far, the strangest part of my stay in Japan took place over the course of an evening with my first host father’s older brother-in-law. The man is not Japanese; He’s from China. His wife was as loud as he was quiet, as fidgety as he was stoic and she laughed a lot. She would always laugh! Her husband would stare into space.
When I was introduced to Mr. Morisada’s brother-in-law he took my hand, and instead of shaking it, placed a glass of water in my upturned palm. He told his wife to tell me, in English, “close eyes” while he fanned my hand with his. He moved his hand away, still fanning. I could feel a slight cool breeze because of the cup. He had his wife ask, “What do you feel?” With my eyes still stapled shut, I answered, “he’s waving his hand”
“Hai” (means yes)
The wife told me that when she held the glass and he fanned it she could feel nothing. She explained, “When the hand is close wind comes from the moving hand. When the hand moves away, wind comes to the cold cup first, then to the palm.” She laughed and called me a wise monkey.
The old man fished a pack of cards out of his pocket. He mumbled something to his wife who said, “guess card.”
“uh… six” I said. The man held up five fingers and said, “Go.” (go means five). He drew the five of spades.
“no trick” the wife chided, “no magic”. This confused me. How could it be no trick and no magic? The answer: luck.
“Lucky guess.” I said
“You must guess again,” she said
The old man blew on the stack of cards. “Hai!” he said, “chi” (means four). The card on top was the four of hearts. “You guess lucky this time,” said the wife, who was laughing at me along with everyone else in the room. I guessed again, seven. The old man held up one finger before drawing the ace of spades. I guessed again, nine. The old man nodded while he drew the nine of diamonds. We did this twenty times, and thirteen of my guesses were correct. An unlucky number but still, more than half.
Each time, the old man not only knew weather my guess was correct but he unfailingly predicted the correct ‘guess’ before the cards came up. There had to be some irregularity on the back of the cards that helped him foretell the future in this way. Perhaps the wife was in on it too. But then she was sitting on the other end of the table, too far from the cards to read them even after the draw. She could only judge the outcome by my face. When I guessed correctly, I smiled, she laughed. When the old man corrected me by being correct, my jaw dropped, she laughed. I couldn’t help but wonder if all that laughter was some kind of secret cue. But it wouldn’t have done much good after the cards had already hit the table.
After trying to figure out the trick for a few minutes more, I gave up. I stood and said, “How about I show you some cards of my own? Post cards with pictures of my home in America.” I gave the pictures, first to the old man next to me. He stared at them. His wife crossed the room to look. She snatched the cards away saying,
“Him not see your pictures. My husband is blind.”