Volume 2
Naked Man

"Whoever manages to escape
with the
shingi will be
showered with luck
during the coming year


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.



The 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 Japan.


And now, back to the Naked Man's Journal:


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!


Dinner last night with Chizu:

"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 workout."

"...why don't you ask her about my chest hair?"


"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.


"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.

NM: Really.

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.'


"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 woman!

"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...

Naked Man




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.






Join us in March for the
continuing adventures of Naked Man.


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