I find a Japanese toy from the 70’s when I am digging under my dad’s house. Just three parts of a robot bird. It is called a Micronaught. You can put the head of a bird on the body of a man. You can take the arms off the magnetic robot man and attach the wings of the magnetic robot bird to make a magnetic robot bird man. The possibilities are endless depending on how many Micronaughts you have. All you have to do is keep all the bits and pieces in the same place at the same time.
Our toys were stored under the house before our dad took them all to the tip in 1983. It was true we hadn’t played with them for a long time. If I had all those toys now, I could buy a house and a horse and a boat.
I crawl around under my dad’s house like a slater, or an earwig or a daddy long legs looking for the missing parts of the magnetic robot bird. All I find is an Abba card. And, even though it is quite damaged, I put it up on eBay straight away and get $15 paid straight into my PayPal account.
I dig for other missing parts on eBay. I get hundreds of hits for Micronaughts, but none of them have any relation to my particular magnetic robot bird I was given by a Japanese judo player in the early seventies.
I am not sure if I can make this bird whole again. Once a part of something is lost it is hard to get it all back together again. All I can do is assemble the parts that I have and imagine what it looked like way back then.
Thud, thud, thud like giant mutant monsters destroying Tokyo
What is that constant thud? Oh that is coming from the dojo in our back yard. That is the heavy thud of bodies hitting the tatami. Thud. Thud.
Whenever the Japanese judo players visit we get presents: Micronaughts and salted fish and salted plums. Seaweed.
Thud. Thud. Thud.
I still have a pair of his pyjamas
One time I was given a little plastic robot toy man by my dad’s sensei, Yoshiaki Shinojima. He treated me like a prince. He bought me a lot of lollies at the milk bar and attempted to give me serious advice about respecting my parents. He smoked a lot of menthol cigarettes and I still remember the smell of his pyjamas. He fought in some serious battles against Australia and New Zealand in New Guinea when he served in the Japanese army in World War II. And he owned two actual tigers that he kept back in his house in Japan. One of his tigers was called Tora, as in Tora, Tora, Tora.
I can’t remember what his other tiger’s name was. I do remember that Tora was on a Japanese stamp. My mother still has three of those stamps on a strip glued
into an album in a box stored in the roof of her house.
Mr Shinojima is visiting our house with a couple of his students from Japan. They are training with my father in the dojo for serious judo business. They spend a lot of time throwing each other to the ground with a loud thud. There is always the occasional audible groan or scream or yell in the morning or dead of night. Thud, thud, thud. They shake the foundations. They disrupt the reception of the TV each time they hit the tatami.
Nearly all of our toys are Japanese and we have no idea what they are or what they do or what they are called. We can’t read the instructions.
I ask one of the judo students about the little plastic robot man and Yukihiro says he is called Mr Stinky. The special power of Mr Stinky is stinking out his enemies.
Then Yukihiro sniffs at my t-shirt and holds his nose.
‘You are Mr Stinky,’ he says, handing Mr Stinky back to me in disgust.
Then later, at a barbeque with all the Judo Boys from Bendigo and Nunawading,
Mr Shinojima is drinking Fosters with my dad and Yukihiro and I am playing with Mr Stinky.
Mr Shinojima asks me if I like his present and I say oh yes and my dad says –
‘What is it? What is it called?’
And I notice Yukihiro suddenly panic stricken, turning blood red in front of my dad and Mr Shinojima.
‘This is Mr Stinky.’ I say.
‘Mr Stinky?’ says Mr Shinojima, turning to Yukihiro.
‘No,’ says Yukihiro. ‘Not Mr Stinky. This is Ultraman.’
Mr Shinojima is saying something Japanese to Yukihiro under his breath and Yukihiro is looking deep down into his shoes.
And from the dojo the thud thud of heavy human beings like drums.
Words from Eric Dando. He is the author of Oink Oink Oink.
Illustration from Tilly Hutchison. See more of her work at tillydrawspictures.tumblr.com.