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Reporter's Notebook - November 3, 1999
By Martin Kaste
Part of MPR Online's "Jesse in Japan" coverage

Hotel Okura, Tokyo

OKAY, THE GOV'S been good so far. He smiled benignly when a Japanese reporter asked him whether he planned to run for President. He hopes he's not disappointing the Japanese people, he says, but no.

None of these people waiting to use their shrine have any idea who Jesse Ventura is, but they never complained about him cutting in front of them.
Photo: Martin Kaste
It's amazing, how polite the Japanese are. At the Shinto shrine dedicated to Sumo wrestling, where Ventura and his old tag-team buddy, Masa Saito, started the day, we trampled the place. TV crews in one direction, microphone guys tucked in underneath, three Minnesota state troopers (plainclothes) pushing and shoving the whole mass up and down the steps around the temple. We actually kind of felt bad, when we stopped to think this was a religious-type location we were "bigfooting." But no reaction out of the 50 or so families waiting in line to set up some divine good luck for their cute kids in kimonos. Either they didn't mind, or they didn't see. But how could they not see?

You start bowing back at people. You can hardly help yourself; they bow, you want to bow back. And you feel bad about all the unknown and unknowable you're committing, just by standing there and breathing.

A long-time American resident here tells me they don't take offense at our rudeness, as long as they don't think we did whatever we did on purpose. One can only hope. I can think of at least a couple of American politicians who'd appreciate that kind of arrangement: "I did not mean my previous comment to be offensive." Well there you are. Case closed.

One other disconcerting thing: If you make the effort and offer a bit of Japanese -- "arigato," for example, they giggle at you. Sure, they bow, but they're giggling, too. When you think about it, isn't that kind of rude?