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If you haven’t seen “Ja-pun” (the musical spoof on foreigners in Japan), then you haven’t seen Japan, say cast members Winton “Winky” White, Kelly Choate, Jessica Kenyon and Cal Grosshuesch. The group rehearsed Tuesday for the final spring/summer show in Yokosuka at 6:30 p.m. Friday at the base’s CPO Club.

If you haven’t seen “Ja-pun” (the musical spoof on foreigners in Japan), then you haven’t seen Japan, say cast members Winton “Winky” White, Kelly Choate, Jessica Kenyon and Cal Grosshuesch. The group rehearsed Tuesday for the final spring/summer show in Yokosuka at 6:30 p.m. Friday at the base’s CPO Club. (Allison Batdorff / S&S)

YOKOKSUKA NAVAL BASE, Japan — The “sumo” skit kept Cal Grosshuesch away from “Ja-pun” for years.

The idea of parading in front of an audience in a dental-floss diaper was, he said, repulsive if not harrowing. But then it happened: The Department of Defense Dependents Schools teacher made his debut in the musical comedy review of the gaijin (foreigner) experience.

Now two sumos go out together, “wrestling cheek-to-cheek” in a popular parody of the Irving Berlin tune. It’s one skit in “Ja-pun,” a show that’s made Americans and Japanese laugh for almost two decades, says cast member Bill Spearman.

“I’ve seen people fall out of their chairs, screaming with laughter — especially at the sumos,” he said. “They’re wiping their eyes. It’s hilarious.”

Gut busting, eye wiping and honking are “Ja-pun” show staples, the cast said Tuesday during rehearsal for the season’s last Yokosuka show, at 6:30 p.m. Friday in the Chief Petty Officers Club.

Then some people throw tomatoes, cast members joked. “Rotten cabbage is bad but daikons are worse,” Grosshuesch kidded. “They throw those like javelins.”

From driving on the wrong side of the road to getting used to a Japanese toilet, the gaijin experience has been “Ja-pun” fodder in show tune spoofs, physical comedy and piles of jokes for 19 years.

“We want to share with our fellow gaijin the memories of those first days in Japan, and to relate to our Japanese hosts just how much we love and appreciate the customs and people of this marvelous country,” said charter member Winton “Winky” White. “After one show, this Japanese man told me, ‘I can tell you really love it here.’ After another show, this American woman came up sobbing. ‘I thought I was the only one experiencing this,’ she said.”

Ja-pun started with a handful of ideas scribbled on napkins in 1986, brainchild of Daniel and Alice Owen and Walter Fritz. With pianist Jo Ann Soltes and actress Eva Graves, they performed the first show at the Yokosuka Officer’s Club that September.

Since, the troupe has traversed Japan from Misawa to Sasebo. The 20th anniversary show is coming up this September at Yokosuka’s Officers Club.

The script pretty much stays the same: Part One is the orientation … getting housing, learning to drive, learning the “benjo bounce.” Part Two is the “de-tour” — “Ja-pun’s” takes on typical gaijin must-sees like Kamakura, the Sapporo Snow Festival, and the Nagoya Fertility Festival.

Cast members include White, Spearman, Grosshuesch, Jessica Kenyon and Kelly Choate.

White is head safety officer for Commander, U.S. Naval Forces Japan. Spearman, a nine-year member who calls “Ja-Pun” his “favorite hobby,” is Fleet Industrial Supply Center’s LAN manager. Like Grosshuesch, Kenyon and Choate are DODDS teachers. “All teachers are frustrated actors,” said White. Pianist Fumiko Matsuno works for Morale, Welfare and Recreation.

The script is structured but each show ends differently due to the rotating cast, Spearman said.

“Everyone brings something new to the show, whether it’s their interpretation of the script or a funny rendition of their own experience in Japan,” he said. “A lot of stories come out.”

Visit the “Ja-pun” Web site at http://web.mac.com/winky0660 or phone DSN 243-5506 for ticket information.

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