This was the winning speech in The 45th Annual National Intercollegiate English Oratorical Contest held in Tokyo in July, 1991. At that time, Yuko Ueno was a second-year student at Sanno Junior College, in Jiyugaoka, Setagaya-ku, Tokyo.

The Invasion

by

Yuko Ueno

"Oh no, what's that terrible smell?!"

I was standing near the door of the train, watching the city outside. I looked around in the car, and then, suddenly, I saw... them. There were two of them. They seemed perfectly at home, sitting and chattering, and they were... I couldn't believe my eyes! The doors and windows were all closed. People were staring at them. But they didn't care at all...

"Hey, isn't this nice?"

"Yeah, it's really cute! The color seems so natural!"

"Do you wanna try it?"

"Sure. It looks great. Can I really try it?"

"Let them finish quickly," I prayed, but we weren't so lucky. I heard one of them saying:

"You'd better wait until it dries before putting on the second coat. The secret is the double coating!"

Who were they? What were they doing? They looked like ordinary, nicely-dressed, middle-aged women, but they were putting on nail polish in the middle of a crowded train! Talking loudly. Laughing. Making everyone angry.

Were they from another planet? No, they were... obatarians.

The name Obatarian comes from the combination of the Japanese word "Oba-san", for middle-aged woman, and the title of the famous horror movie "Battalion"*. The dictionary of new words describes them as 'impudent, selfish, shameless and unpleasant.'

You see them at the railway ticket machines, always in trouble, holding up everyone behind them. On the platform they ignore the line of people, and push ahead to get a seat for themselves. And if they can't find a proper space to sit, they jam into any narrow space they see. In restaurants, they're the ones who delay the waitress, unable to decide on what they want. When they cross a street, they walk as slowly as they can, in a line, delaying traffic. They always travel in groups. Ask them why they do it, why the rudeness? They explain with a confident smile: "Oh, it's because we are Obatarians!"

When I try to understand this phenomenon, I find myself thinking that the reason is deeply connected with the attitudes of their husbands. Whenever I see an obatarian, I see a middle-aged man at the same time, staring coldly, amazed. They could never believe that their own wives could do such a thing. Only someone else's.

I think that once, these obatarians must have been sweet, young girls, trying to look as pretty as they could, delicate flowers playing the coquette. And their young men eagerly admired them. But as time went by, those same young men became their husbands, stopped admiring, and paid less attention to them. How shocking to those women, not to be paid attention to, to be reminded of getting old. Living in a man's world, with little opportunity to do what they wanted, always restricted. But now, in the obatarian age, they have some extra money and more free time. Their children have grown up, their husbands come home late... Now, at last, they have a chance to make up for their lost freedom and youth.

Wouldn't these factors prepare them to be shameless obatarians, once more getting all the attention they wanted? How natural! Who can blame them? I am sure that at least their husbands can't. They may look strong, but I think these women are really lonely and starving for affection. Most of them are nice, normal-acting people when they are alone. But when they come together into a group, they feel as if they can do anything. They share the confidence they don't feel as individuals.

How can we stop this obatarian invasion? For a woman, it means recognizing that being independent is okay, but bothering other people is not. It means getting stronger, and finding the confidence to do things yourself. And for a man, it means that if you don't want your wife or cute young daughter to turn into an obatarian, you'll have to show your affection, and let them lead satisfying lives. Times are changing. We'll have to change with the times. Or else... the invasion will continue.


* The Japanese title of "The Night of the Living Dead".