PEARL HARBOR, Hawaii – Ask any number of the Japanese tourists wandering around for their opinion on America, and you might get a thumbs-up or an apologetic bow acknowledging the attack here 73 years ago. Seaman 2nd Class Hikiro Tamagotchi, on the other hand, has a full-blown case of the red, white and blue fever, and the only cure appears to be more freedom.
Tamagotchi, 18, hails from a small, idyllic hamlet on the outskirts of Kyoto and is stationed aboard the JS Kongō (DDG-173), making port in this vibrant and historical American city.
“I’ve never left Japan before,” Tamagotchi says, wearing a gaudy, vertigo-inducing Tommy Bahama button-down and a New York Yankees ball cap – what he calls “traditional American garb.”
“That’s part of the reason I joined the Maritime Self-Defense Force. I want to see the world.”
Asked on what aspect of American culture he finds most fascinating, Tamagotchi seems to have trouble knowing where to even begin.
“I can’t quite put my finger on it,” he muses while methodically chewing on a hot dog. “I just feel like there’s a lot of ancient wisdom to be gleaned from Western culture. I especially respect the teachings of the martyrs Tupac and Biggie, even though they each represent conflicting schools.”
He then gestures to two fresh tattoos on his biceps: one reading “Water,” and the other, “Spam.”
“Spam is customary fare indigenous to the American island of Hawaii,” Tamagotchi explains. “And water is the essence of life, and I just think the way Americans write it is so beautifully intricate.”
“The English alphabet is really amazing when you think about it. Twenty-six letters, each with an upper and lowercase form – very yin-yang,” he continues. “I had my tattoos done in an ancient technique known as cursive. It hasn’t been taught in decades, and very few Americans still possess the knowledge to read and write it.”
The Kongō has three days left in Pearl Harbor, during which time Tamagotchi hopes to find a pawn shop to purchase a .44 Magnum to take back home, “just like in Dirty Harry!”
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