First, perhaps I owe you
all an explanation as to why I call myself, "Naked Man."
Some of you may have reached this page hoping to see pictures of
me -- IN THE BUFF -- doing lurid things to similarly undressed Japanese
girls. (Or guys?) Well, sorry to disappoint you. I should have that
page finished any day! For the meantime, you'll have to stimulate
yourselves with your own imaginations.
In truth, the title is an homage to the
event that takes place in Okayama every winter known as the "Naked
Man Festival." It is perhaps Japan's equivalent to the "Running
of the Bulls." Both are supposedly true tests of one's manhood
-- but perhaps the ultimate test would be to combine the two and
call it the Running of the Balls? ... Uhhh, sorry.
Naked Man festival ("Hadaka Matsuri" in Japanese) is basically
a mammoth battle of "Smear the Queer" (anybody else play
that game in grade school? Perhaps a more "PC" name for
the game has been created since then but I doubt it) involving almost
10,000 men wearing only sumo-style loin cloths. They gather at a
temple just outside Okayama City on a very cold night in February.
After several hours of chanting and marching around (fully "exposed"
to the elements), a "Shingi" (a special scented stick
-- I'm not making this up) is dropped from the rafters of the temple,
into the swirling nude mass of men! Whoever manages to escape with
the shingi (and take it all the way to City Hall four blocks away
without getting beaten to death -- literally) will be showered with
luck during the coming year (and win a substantial cash prize in
case the Buddhist luck alone isn't enough incentive).
So the term, "Naked Man" is
a nod if you will, to my Japanese hometown of Okayama, which is
also known as the birth place of "Momotaro" or "The
Peach Boy" of Japanese folk tales. I suppose "Peach Boy"
might have been an interesting title too, but "Naked Man"
serves as a better metaphor for my life here.
It seems almost everyday I find people
staring at me as if I were naked. Of course I'm not, but they're
just not used to seeing a tall, strapping American hombre like
myself (i.e. tall, skinny, bald-but-hairy, white guy), so they
stare! The constant gawking can get a little old (I even caused
a bike wreck once), but in a way it's liberating -- as is being
naked! If they're going to stare at me no matter what I do, then
I might as well do what I want! I am completely free to roam and
do as I please, which is ironic in a country as restrictive as
And now, back to the Naked Man's Journal:
8/22 Wednesday was great:
Chinese men & Japanese women dancing
ballet together and not understanding a damn word of what the other
was saying! (I was supposed to be having a Japanese lesson, but
Sawaya sensei and I chose to watch the ballet practice upstairs
instead. It was for a benefit production to be held at the Okayama
Symphony Hall later that week.) I wonder if I'll ever get the chance
again to be in the same room with so many beautiful, Japanese women
in tights! Ahhh...life is good. Actually the best thing about the
evening (all right maybe the 2nd best) was the fact that everyone
in the room was clueless as to what the other was saying. It wasn't
just me for a change!
8/25 Dinner last night
"It's great to notice my Japanese
progress -- the daily improvement is really obvious when you know
so little! But just when I was starting to feel good about myself,
Chizu put me back in my place. She said something to me and I assumed
it was a compliment on my language skills. What she really said
was, "You have arms like a girl. You should go to a gym and
"...why don't you ask her about my chest hair?"
8/28 "The Tale of
the Pianist and the P****"
Reiko is a piano teacher. She's a Japanese
girl from the "Old School." She was raised to be sweet,
timid, humble and self-sacrificing -- so much so that if her husband
dies before her, she may just jump in the grave with him! Then there's
Rick. Rick is a _____ (rhymes with his name). From here on out,
Rick will be referred to by the nickname Rashan and I gave him:
"Boner." That's what he is most of the time. Boner's favorite
things in life are pumping himself up in the gym and scoring chicks.
I don't know exactly what "school" Boner comes from, but
there seem to be a lot of foreign guys like him here in Japan. They
love taking advantage of girls like Reiko. The other night, I found
myself caught in the middle of these two opposing (colliding?) forces.
Reiko thought that because I am a foreign
guy also, perhaps I could help her better understand Boner, the
man she loves (she met him 2 weeks ago). I told her that Boner likes
her a lot as well. He told me so himself! Of course, any foreign
guy living in Japan would know that doesn't mean he's NOT going
to sleep with as many other women as he can! Let's just say, he
considers Reiko his "First String Quarterback."
Anyway, I don't know what I was thinking
that night, but as we were having dinner with Sawaya and Hiromi,
I suggested that we go check on Boner at Hunters (the local Gaijin
bar and "yes" that is its real name!) She was mystified
by the fact that I knew he'd be there. The fact is Boner's been
there every night since he arrived in Japan!
We went. Sure enough, there was Boner, beer in hand. Fortunately
for Reiko, there were no women in sight or Boner would have been
on them like seaweed on sushi. Instead he was with only a couple
of other sleazeballs. Reiko's face burst with joy at the sight of
Boner by the bar. Boner seemed to be in a state of shock. Not the
reaction we'd expected. She waved a cute little wave at him. He
did a poor job of pretending not to notice. I pulled her over to
a table, despite my instinctive reaction to leave. You could almost
see Reiko's little brain struggling to understand why Boner hadn't
returned her loving gaze...
Eventually Boner came over to say the
obligatory, "My what a pleasant surprise! -- What the HELL
is she doing here?!" Of course the latter part was directed
at me and fast enough for Reiko not to understand. He never broke
the pleasant but nervous smile he had on his face. "Don't worry.
I'm on your side!" I added that I've been telling her what
a great guy he is all night -- why, I still have no idea. Then he
tells me -- still smiling, "yeah well if your on my side --
get rid of her! I've got another girl showing up in 15 minutes!"
Let me switch to the present and tell
you that I now think Boner is actually an OK guy to some extent.
This may sound strange, but you have to understand him in the context
of being a foreigner in Japan. I'm not condoning his behavior (I
just made a typo and wrote "condoming!"), but the fact
is, as far as English-speaking foreign guys, Boner is kind of status
quo. And in the last 3 years I've encountered guys a lot worse!
Many foreign men come to Japan and soon discover they have what
can only be described as "special powers" over the opposite
sex. Many (like Boner) then learn to "harness" these special
powers in order to sleep with as many local girls as possible. Now
some who haven't been here may be quick to condemn such actions,
but others might admit, "Gee, I guess I'd do the same thing!"
Also, it's as if girls like Reiko seek
out guys like Boner! This may have something to do with a real predilection
for S&M in this country that I've noticed. Of course, it may
also have to do with stereotypes of "Western" men all
being perfect gentlemen, like the guys Hugh Grant plays in his movies.
The fact of the matter is, we're more like Hugh Grant in real life!
Now Back to Boner:
Boner returned to his place at the bar.
We finished our drinks quickly and prepared to make a quick exit,
except for Hiromi, who was completely oblivious to the discomfort
in the air. I tried to convince Reiko that everything was daijobu
and I headed over to the bar for a chat with Boner. I told him that
we were on our way out and that he could relax.
"What the Hell is she doing here
anyway?! She knows that Friday nights are MY time and that we only
see each other on Sundays! That's the day when she comes over and
'restores' me to life after a rough weekend of sex, drugs and rock
'n roll with other women!" (For Boner, "restores"
means, she does his dishes, folds his laundry and gives him a blow
job. His words, not mine).
Reiko and I were ready to leave, but Hiromi
insisted on hanging around. Reiko couldn't abandon her friend at
Hunters so we hung around too. Meanwhile the clock was ticking.
Madam X would be there at any moment. Part of me was thinking perhaps
it would be for the best if Reiko were to catch Boner red-handed.
That way Boner would probably lose both his 1st and 2nd string QB's,
leaving him with only the psycho, 30-something-year-old, secretary
(his field goal kicker), who he'd also been seeing. I haven't seen
her but I hear that she drinks so much she's got varicose veins
on her face.
Finally Hiromi finished her drink and
just as we're heading for the door -- in walked Boner's girl for
the night! It was none other than Aiko (the little vixen who was
running her hands through the Canadian Neanderthal's chest hair
in the last edition)!! Reiko and Aiko walked right passed each other
not knowing who the other was. Good and evil. I didn't turn around
to see Boner but I'm sure he was sweating bullets under his "People
(in Japan) tell me I look just like Andy Garcia!" veneer.
8/30 "In my country
we call it Machoman..."
A day with Rashan, Tim and Naoko at the
beach: "I can't recall where exactly. I only know that to get
there you have to go out past The NASA Love Hotel. Wow! What a great
place! An enormous, tacky looking building (that looks like a fire
hazard, I might add) in the shape of a gigantic space shuttle with
an air traffic control tower sticking out of its fuselage. I've
got to take a picture of that place and send it back home! Better
yet, I gotta spend the night there! It looks as ridiculous as the
Enchanted Forest! (Oregon reference -- a children's amusement park.)
Come to think of it, I bet the average Japanese Tourist thinks the
Enchanted Forest is a Love Hotel!
For those of you unaware, there is a thriving
business in Japan of "Love Hotels." As the name implies,
couples go there to get away from their cramped little houses, also
inhabited by perhaps their kids or their parents or both. The Love
Hotels compete fiercely for business and most are quite garish on
the inside and out -- like casinos in Las Vegas, but even more ridiculous
looking. Love Hotels have one or many themes per room to fulfill
even the most creative lover's fantasies.
At the beach, I couldn't help but notice
that among the females, only the young ones wore bikinis -- most
with a little sash concealing the lower half. Of the girls in their
20's and older, most wore one-pieces and some even wore shirts over
them. Meanwhile for the guys it was the exact opposite. The guys
my age were mostly wearing Speedos and tight shorts -- although
none as small as Tim's! Once again Tim amazed me. The first time
was when he made his Okayama debut in a yukatta (see #NM1) and now
there he was on the beach wearing only a slingshot! And the color!
-- bright blue with orange and red highlights!
Why is it British guys seem to be drawn to loud ties and underwear?
It reminded me of that British kid, Jonathon, who was at Talmadge
(my Jr. High) for a semester and tried playing football (American
style) for about a week. We were never sure if he quit because of
the beating he took or because of the ridicule he received when
we saw his psychedelic briefs!
Anyway, the younger guys at the beach
preferred the baggy look. Of course, Tim, Rashan and I stood-out
no matter what we wore. All 3 of us are tall and skinny. Rashan
is black. Tim and I are white and hairy. Of course I'm the hairiest
-- maybe the hairiest guy in Japan for that matter!
On the drive back, I decided to ask Naoko
what she thought about Tim's nose, as it is apparently quite large
in Japan (normal to slightly large for an Anglo Saxon). Tim said,
"Well, if you're going to make a fool out of me, why don't
you ask her about my chest hair?" So I did. After all, it was
a pertinent question for myself as well:
Naoko: Most Japanese girls may be frightened
by it at first. But then they may also discover they enjoy it.
Naoko: But I only like chest hair on gaijin
men. Hairy Japanese men have a texture that I find uncomfortable.
NM: Fascinating. (As Spock might say.)
I told her that many women in the US find
chest hair to be a sign of virility. (Yeah, I wish!) She had never
heard the word 'virility' before, so I explained it to her. She
replied in her soft, sweet, accented English, "Oh, in Japan
we call this machoman.'
9/13 "Friday the
13th for Boner and Reiko"
Friday night wasn't all that special --
for me and Rashan anyway but for Boner it had all the bad luck that
one associates with Friday the 13th. While Rashan and I were enjoying
ourselves with some late night quality Japanese programing, Reiko
and Boner were busy ending their brief and pathetic relationship.
Hiromi informed me on Saturday morning that she had gone out to
Hunters with Reiko and low & behold, there was Boner with another
"Was her name Aiko by any chance?"
"How did you know?!!"
"I'm afraid everybody in town knows
that Boner has at least 2 girlfriends -- except Reiko and you."
Reiko apparently tried to have a serious
talk with Boner, but Boner said he had to go to the bathroom. "Bathroom"
for Boner means he's got to go piss in an alley on someone's bike.
On this occasion, he went out the door and never came back. Meanwhile
Reiko, banking on the hope that he might be outside talking to his
long lost brother, faithfully waited for him for an hour and a half.
Finally Hiromi was able to convince her that they should go somewhere
else and forget about Boner for the evening.
They decided to go to the tiny, smoky
"reggae bar" that everyone but me and Rashan have decided
to pack themselves into lately. Low and behold, there was Boner
again! This time with Aiko! Reiko, still wanted to believe that
Boner is an honest and decent person (perhaps this time talking
to his long, lost sister?), so she tried to talk to him again. Hiromi
has no idea what he said to her, but I assume it was something along
the lines of "Get lost! Tonight I'm going to handcuff Aiko
here to my futon. I'll call you Sunday for a walk in the park then
you can make me a sandwich. Until then, make like a tree and get
the $#@# out of here!"
Still not quite convinced after their
"little talk" that Boner is evil incarnate (Are you as
amazed by her perseverance/density as me?), Reiko decided she wanted
another gaijin man's opinion. So she talked to Les, the owner of
the bar. Les is married and seems to be an honest man, according
to Hiromi. (Boy was she wrong! Since writing this, I have come to
know Les as well. The man makes Boner look like a saint!) Les knows
Boner and knows what he's been up to. He told Reiko the real story
about Boner and didn't pull any punches. But Reiko, being the Madonna
that she is, still felt she had to at least say "Good Night"
to Boner. She made her way over to speak to him, but Boner was on
his way out with Aiko. Reiko smiled and wished him well. He responded,
"Yeah, right whatever" and left.
Their relationship didn't actually end
on that night as it turned out. Reiko wasn't going to give him up
that easily. It would take a full 8 months before Boner would finally
dump her for an American woman who commanded his full attention,
and wouldn't fall for his "Banana in the tail pipe" tactics.
When I last saw Boner, he had become quite...
flaccid, so to speak. He no longer goes to the gym. He no longer
goes to Hunters, except for the occasional drink. He spends most
of his time sitting in the apartment that he shares with his new
girlfriend, smoking and playing games on his computer. The beast
has been subdued. As for Reiko, within a year, she managed to find
another bad boy foreigner, who treated her just as poorly as Boner
did. Life goes on...
PS: This edition
is dedicated to Mauricio and Claudia. The reason why I travel is
because I keep meeting friendly, caring people just like them all
over the world. I was deeply saddened to hear that they are no longer
with us. May they rest in peace.