Sometimes traditions refuse to die even when no one can quite explain them. Tonight I walked with the “Hino Youjin” (he-no-yo-jean) choir. At the end of every year, citizens get together to patrol their neighborhoods warning everyone to watch out for fire (as the paper-homed Japan had a long history of burning down). It’s an eerie sound to those of us who do not understand the language. They loudly shout Heeenooooyoooojiiin! Followed two blocks of wood loudly clunking together twice. This is repeated 3 times. Then there’s a pause of about a minute and it begins again as they march around the neighborhood. This year I was handed the megaphone, possibly the first gaijin in Hirakata ever awarded such an honor. Unfortunately, I now realize why, after each time I shouted “Heeenooooyoooojiiin!” into the megaphone for all the neighbors to hear, those accompanying me would laugh hysterically. Apparently, in my poor Japanese, I was actually shouting Beware of farts, not fire… Wonder if my twist on tradition will ever catch on.