Konichiwa! I hear it everywhere on the teeming streets of Tokyo in the build-up to the Rugby World Cup, and I have it on good authority from my host at the Global Cabin Capsule Hotel that it translates as, "Who are those really big, good-natured guys you see always walking around in crested blazers that seem way too small and close-fitting for their immense frames?"
The level of interest in the All Blacks is phenomenal. They're one of the top 30 topics of conversation in Tokyo right now, along with food, sex, money, the 50th anniversary of You Only Live Twice (the only James Bond film to be made in Japan) and the whereabouts of Princess Kako, niece of Emperor Naruhito (she's in Austria, and has gone to see the Vienna Boys Choir).
I said to my host, "As topics of conversation, I'm not sure whether those last two are very interesting."
She said, "They're not."
I felt she was getting at something but wasn't sure. It's hard to think clearly in the humid weather Tokyo is currently experiencing. Autumn is coming, people say, and they point to reports that red and yellow ash leaves have fallen on the summit of Mt Kurodake in Hokkaido. Mt Kurodake, at nearly 2000 metres, is known for having the earliest leaf colour change in Japan.
A fat lot of good that did anyone who joined the All Blacks this week for a photo opp and a bit of culture at the Zojoji Temple. A musical item was played on the koto harp. Each note in the sticky heat sounded like the sharp, insistent drone of a mosquito.
"Funny you should mention that," said my host. "The threat of mosquito-driven dengue fever in Japan is something we take very seriously."
I looked into it and saw that as part of preparations for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, a team from the National Institute of Infectious Diseases were about to simulate a dengue virus scenario in a disaster exercise. They needed volunteers. I made a few calls and succeeded in being taken on as a human guinea pig.
The exercise required that I stand in place in a public park near still water for eight minutes to attract mosquitoes.
The mosquitoes arrived after eight seconds. But the team waited another seven minutes before they began spraying insecticide to see whether it would kill the insects.
It killed some of the insects but the noxious fumes had an unfortunate side-effect.
I was taken to hospital and when I woke up, medical staff were standing around my bed. One of them asked, "Where are you from?"
There were sudden cries of delight. They shook my hand, and asked, "Do you know Kieran Read?"
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