This was a good-bye party for me, back in 1993, put on by the Ohtawara-shi, Tochigi-ken Board Of Education (OBOE). That's why there's a lot of empty sake bottles... recall that sake is Japanese for alcohol, and it includes whiskey et al, fermented rice wine and beer... sochu... that's fermented rice wine... what everyone calls sake.
I only learned that a few months ago.
What I did learn in Japan was that even an average-looking schmuck like myself could actually have a beautiful woman like me for who I am. Not just for being a gaijin trophy boyfriend. Though, admittedly, that was nice, too, come to think of it.
Japan had made me a stud. There's no way to say that without being an ego maniac, but by this time I had slept with over 30 women in three short Japanese years... even more remarkable considering I had two girlfriends for one year and six months respectively. And never strayed.
People (women) always complain about the so-called double standard between the sexes. If a woman sleeps with 30 guys, she's a slut. If I guy sleeps with 30 women, he's a stud. That's because all a woman has to do is say - here I am. Guys... they have to do real work. Or so I hear.
I was asked out by some 40 women, and slept with 32 women... but number 33... I asked her out.
That's her in the photograph looking whimsical... probably wondering if all the female teachers are going to be told they have to clean up the Ohtawara Banquet Hall once the men stop drinking...
I was a hebi (heavy) drinker in Japan... and really, what that means is I could hold my liquor. I could damn well out drink anyone in that city, and I would look none the worse for wear the next morning.
That's not something I'm bragging about, mind you. I'm just stating a fact.
Kikuchi Noboko (surname first), was my girlfriend, and the hottie in the central part of the photo. She was my secret Japanese girlfriend that no one in Ohtawara was supposed to know about.
That was because we worked together at one of the seven junior high schools I taught at in the city. It was a secret because she didn't want anyone else to look down at her for bedding the local gaijin... even though I may have been sorta good-looking and charming and funny and witty and intelligent and a stud (my words all), I still wasn't someone most Japanese women wanted to get involved with - because I wasn't going to be a permanent resident. I would leave. There was no future.
But... if I found a woman who would do anything for me - I would have stayed.
Noboko was almost that woman.
I was madly in love with her. And she was madly in love with me.
The problem between us both was that I wanted her to prove her love to me by coming to Canada - not to live... but just to visit. To prove she could leave her parents behind... to tell her parents she was screwing me (I mean dating me).
But she couldn't. Wouldn't.
In Japan, for some folks - not all - having your son or daughter dating a gaijin - a foreigner - is bad form. It's like they have shunned being a true Japanese. That's all crap of course, but I bet the majority of people think that way.
Hell... don't lie... it happens in YOUR country, too.
He's a nice guy, but I wouldn't want my daughter marrying him.
Or... women who enjoy sleeping with you, but you can't meet the parents because you aren't of her family's religion or not of their nationality. I see that crap here in Canada all the time. The Italians are famous for that. yeah... I said it.
I can prove it... ask any person who is of Italian descent, and they will tell you they are Italian... even if they weren't born there.
Screw that. That would make me Indian. I've never been there. I don't speak the language. I don't overly care for the cuisine, though I will eat it and enjoy it... just not every day.
I think that's why I had Noboko as a girlfriend. I lived in Japan... and I cared about Japan.
When I was in Canada, all I wanted to be was Canadian. I live in Canada now, and I'll be damned if anyone ever accuses me of not being Canadian.
Noboko thought I had the heart of a Japanese person. I did. I do - to some degree... but here's the thing... and maybe Noboko knew it, too. No matter what I did, or how long I did it... I could never, ever be Japanese.
And while that wasn't very important to her - it was very important to her father.
I'm going to write about Noboko and myself for the next little while - in diary format. But really... I just wanted to show you this photo.
Remember how I said she was my secret girlfriend? Well... I did not take this photograph. In fact... I have nearly a dozen photographs from this event showing her (and sometimes me). It's possible that the photographer was just another horny Japanese man who thought Noboko was hot stuff (she was and probably still is)... but no... this was taken by one of my BOE workmates... who was in his 50s... and believe me, he was no sukebe (pervert). He was about as prim and proper a gentleman as I ever met in Japan.
So why so many photos of her?
Because he knew. Because the OBOE knew. Because every single Japanese teacher knew. I think all of our students knew.
I even think her parents knew.
It's possible that even Noboko knew... but no one ever said anything out of respect to myself and to Noboko.
They knew we were in love, and they knew that we were heading for a horrible bit of heartbreak.
But... that's not until later.
I had previously written about my first meeting with her, and how we finally ended up as a couple... and I may even touch upon that stuff again (it's good!), but I do want to explore the whole foreigner-Japanese relationship thing.
And... for those of you who asked... no... I don't look back on my life and wonder 'what if'. I lament, sure, when things go wrong, but my life today is what my life today is. It's who I am.
I look back at this relationship with Noboko - not because I'm lonely or dreaming... I look back on it because it's part of my wonderful rife.
And because every story deserves an ending.
No... I'm not ending this blog. It seems like it's the only way I can talk to some of you - which sucks - but really, enough people have been asking for a return of my diary stories.
I can't exactly give you my diary stories, though . I lost a couple of those in the house fire a few years ago.
Or maybe, just maybe, I stopped writing my diary when I met Noboko. I do believe this might be the more correct answer. I also knew I would never forget. Ahhh, stupid youth. Of course I forget...
So... I'm going to have to go from memory. Unfortunately, it's not a 29-year-old's memory, but rather the memory of what I think a 29-year-old might have remembered.
More usual camp and newsy stuff coming up... aided by an occasional diary story.
Here's the Isley Brothers from 1974: