I had my official board of education good-bye party the night before, and earlier this morning (Saturday) July 17, 1993, I waited until my girlfriend Noboko left for work before I got out of bed, and went out and about on my bike.
I cycled around Ohtawara looking at all the temples and shrines I could find in four hours… which, surprisingly was plenty. Japan has plenty of places to pray, should the desire or need hit you.
I got back yesterday at 1PM, had a shower and waited for Noboko to arrive after her teaching expectations on Saturday morning.
She showed up at around 2PM… and despite what you are thinking, and I was hoping, we didn't just screw our brains out until it was time for bed. Now... we only spent four hours doing that.
Nope... at 7PM, we did the unthinkable. Not for me because if there's a possibility of something being thought, I've thought about it.
Anyhow… she and I stepped out together into the real world…
Without bothering to peer through the peephole to see if anyone was there, she boldly threw open the door—pulled open, actually—and stepped outside… not caring if anyone saw the pretty teacher stepping out from the ever-smiling gaijin's apartment building.
No one saw us. And believe me, I was looking. For her sake.
She held my hand, practically dragging along the outside apartment complex hallway to the elevator, where we waited calmly until the car arrived and rode down from the third floor to the ground.
The doors opened… and there was a family staring at us.
Noboko, still holding my hand, says good-evening to all and pulls me out of the car as I stammer a hello and a short bow to them.
I turn to them and smile, they give a smile and a wave back. Noboko is still pulling me along like the stubborn dog that I am.
We aren't heading for her car, as I assumed, but instead, we are walking in the humid evening towards the restaurant and bar district located a convenient five minute drunken stagger from my apartment.
It's funny… I'm used to being stared at in Japan, simply for being me and for being a gaijin (foreigner).
Noboko, she's used to being stared at because she's pretty.
But now… she's not just holding my hand, she's got her left arm looped through my right and is practically hugging herself up against me as we slowly walk to a restaurant.
She - who had for months - actively avoided anyone seeing us as a couple, now didn't give a crap. It's like aliens had landed and the world was going to end, so who cares.
Oranges poronges - who cares? (Kudos to you if you think you know where that line is from.)
As we walked, single men, single women, couples, and groups of not-yet-drunk Japanese would bow, say 'konichiwa (hello)' and allow us to pass unfettered - though a casual glance at a store window reflection would invariably show them turning to look back at this handsome couple.
Despite me sleeping with around 30 different women over the past three years, this is the very first time where I was allowed to be someone's boyfriend out in public.
Yeah, Ash and I 'did it' on the front lawn of the Ohtawara banquet hall at around 2AM once, but no one was around—Ohtawara, outside of the restaurant/bar area pretty much rolls up its sidewalks at 9AM.
So… although initially confused by Noboko's bold statement, I was now reveling in this newfound celebrity I just now had thrust upon me… with the conclusion of this evening leaving me with four more days in Japan.
I'll be honest, though… back then… in 1993.. I wasn't philosophizing the whys or the what-fors regarding what was going on… I was just enjoying the warmth of her body as I had my arm snaked around her waist, occasionally snapping lightly at the elastic band on her panties.
Why do women all of a sudden hate the word 'panties'… or have you always hated it? I mean… I've seen various form of women's underwear and undergarments… from g-strings, thongs et al… but this was 1993, and these were panties… no more, no less.
I could describe them for you in greater detail for you guys or interested … but I didn't get to the nitty-gritty until later, suffice to say they were a dark emerald green, with a floral lace pattern stretched across. I have no idea what they were made of… I could assume, but why bother… let it be whatever you want.
Noboko was NOT the type to wear black or red, at least I never saw her in anything like that ever before… but this evening she wore black… a black dress… no spaghetti straps or anything sexy slutty that way (I said sexy slutty… I did not say that was bad)… Noboko was still dressed to the nines (or tens), wearing dangling gold earrings that weren't so dangly… a matching gold necklace, and my sapphire ring on her wedding finger, which in Japan is on the right hand.
The way she was gripping on to me, that ring was front and visible to everyone who passed us by.
I'm not saying it was a stupid large stone, or anything like that—it wasn't, but like I said, I'm pretty sure every woman who passed us and gave us the eye saw it. I doubt the Japanese guys did… probably staring at me and hating me for holding onto Noboko… maybe not hate… but certainly jealous envy.
As we got to the entranceway of the restaurant below the 4C (owned and operated by the same gentleman - and Matthew would know the name of the place - I've forgotten)… Noboko does to me what only one other woman has ever done to me before…. she stops me, hops up on her toes and plants a kiss on me.
Now… I'm a bit of a perv, in case you didn't know, so I'm up and ready to drag her into some side alley and lift, slide aside and go for… but no… Noboko is in charge tonight and says: "I'm sorry I was not a very good girlfriend to you all these months."
I was shocked.
I understand her social position. Her inability to 'show' me off… I put up with it with Junko, and I sure as hell put up with it with Ashley.
I know it's not them being ashamed of me, or of having a gaijin boyfriend… rather, it's to protect themselves from the prying eyes and chatter of other Japanese.
Despite Japan being this quiet, reserved society, they sure like to effing blab about stuff that doesn't concern them. It's even jucier if they suspect sex is involved.
And, let's be adults here, if you are dating someone in Japan, the odds are extremely high that sex is involved.
It's not talked about—certainly not when two or more Japanese are invalid, but when a foreigner is—there are no rules.
One of the first question anyone will ask a 'landed' foreigner after: name and country of origin, is their marital status.
Why? They may not want to sleep with you (probably), but knowing the marital status is very valuable gossip.
Now… this is 1993… and there is no Facebook or Twitter even on the event horizon of this black hole of information data gathering. So… when people find out stuff, they have to physical tell other people.
In Ohtawara, the grapevine is quick and dirty. It is not always purple-monkey-underpants- accurate.
Noboko had heard I had got some Japanese woman pregnant and that I didn't care.
That's totally not true. Not only would I have cared, but I did not get anyone—Japanese or otherwise—pregnant. I have joked about it here in this blog, wondering if such and such Japanese beauty queen might actually be mine, but I know who I slept with, an I know that protection was always involved, unless it was with one of the three mainstays - and not all that often. Back then, I probably didn't have the control I have earned nowadays.
Whatever… everyone is staring at us, and neither of us apparently cares.
I tell her she has nothing to apologize for and slide open the restaurant doors, walk through and allow her to shut them.
We find seats, easily enough at the counter and order up some steamed freshwater crayfish, some beer and sake, of which I mostly eat.
The owner ambles over from within the rectangular cooking area that the counter surrounds and casually asks me (in English) if this (Noboko) is my girlfriend.
You might wonder just why a Japanese man, with not a heck of a lot of English skills, would bother to ask me a question in English, when it would be far easier to do so in Japanese.
The obvious answer (to me), is that that us dumb gaijin have no problem in expressing the truth, while the Japanese might hem and haw.
I've never mentioned these two Japanese words before… and in fact, I didn't KNOW about these Japanese words until about one month ago:
- Honne (本音);
- Tatemae (建前).
Honne, briefly, is a Japanese person's true feelings and desires.
Tatemae, is the behavior and opinion one displays in public.
Some people have written books on the subject of Japanese personality, having you believe that this is something unique to the Japanese.
I think all of us have hone and tatemae tendencies, regardless of what bloody country we live in.
I think the difference is, is that Japanese society tends to try and ensure that hone and tatemae are two distinct concepts, and by doing so, homogeneity can be better achieved.
It's true… there is a oneness about the way Japanese society tries to portray itself… the thing is, that honne—which was only ever released through social gatherings in Japan where drinking was involved, has now crept out more into the open (as of 2015).
Thanks to social media outlets like YouTube, Twitter and even Facebook, the Japanese are being exposed or are exposing themselves and all their individual foibles not just for Japanese society to see, but for the global community.
What is the real Japan? The stiff, unsmiling Japanese business man, or the falling-down drunk Japanese businessman waving at you saying "Harro gaijin-san!" ??
What about all those rockabilly dudes in the parsec, juking and jiving? This looks like a full time deal, and doesn't appear to be fueled by booze or drugs. The same for the kawai look on the women!
Japanese individuality of the group is being replaced by the individuality of the one.
Sorry Mr. Spock, but the needs of the one outweigh the needs of the many, and the cracks are appearing all over the porcelain that is Japanese society.
Noboko - here in 1993 - she is acting as though she doesn't care about Japanese society.
As such, she answers the restauranteur for me—in the best language ever—by pulling me towards her face and kissing me.
I'm pretty sure I heard an 'eeeeeeh' escape from some immature Japanese woman, but other than that, I heard quite a few vocal 'suuuugay' utterances (a slangy way of saying 'wonderful', which is normally, 'sugoi' (sue-goy).
"I love you," says Noboko to myself and the whole restaurant.
"I love you, too," I say and kiss her again before turning and smiling to my curious friend. "Wakata?"
Basically - "Get it? Got it." It's slang.
We enjoy our dinner… the restauranteur asks Noboko and myself if will be going upstairs to the 4C bar afterwards.
A very happy Noboko nods yes, and covers her mouth in that very Japanese way as she laughs - she's even giggling and lowering her eyes.
"You are so Japanese," I tell her mimicking her fingers covering her mouth.
She swears at me in Japanese, with that lovable muttering she does, but answers in Japanese: "Nihonjin, ne…" (I'm Japanese, right?)
"Do you love me because I am Japanese?" she asks in English.
"What?!" I heard her, but what?!
She repeats it in Japanese, and this time the whole place is listening.
"Iiiiiiii-ya (No)", I practically yell at her. "I don't love you because you are Japanese.
The whole offing place went silent.
Seriously. Like for three or fours seconds. It was like everyone was listening and everyone immediately sucked all the air in the place into their lungs.
Noboko was smiling, however, so I knew she knew.
"I love you because you are Noboko."
Someone must have translated it to Japanese, because everyone suddenly exhaled. It was so comical, that the doors would have blown open if they weren't sliding doors.
"Yes… I am Noboko…. and you", she continued, pointing at me, "are chotto baka."
Everyone laughed. Even me, because it's funny.
I told you she was fun.
"I must be. Look who my girlfriend is."
This time there weren't any eeeeeehs - just laughter.
In my head, I am thinking "see.. see how easy it is for us to exist in Japan."
But I know it's different… associating with the local gaijin could mess up her work, and not that I care, her dad's work. There's that whole loss of respect.
No wonder Japan's birthrate is running backwards
We pay up, go outside, open the glass door and walk up the steep stairs to the 4C.
Because I am a known entity, there is no pay as you go… and have a tab set up… but honestly, Noboko and I aren't interesting in getting drunk tonight.
We're interested in showing off.
We have a rum and coke apiece, and we're kissing in public.
As it's delivered, we're told it's on the house - only my second ever free drink in the place… the last time was when the local yakuza boss bough me a drink to size me up (I taught his son at Ohtawara Chu Gakko).
At the end of the night, I go over to the bar (the restauranteur is up there, along with Mark, the New Zealand bartender)… I shake their hand and tell them I am leaving Japan in a few days time.
Mark, my friend and ever the opportunist, asks me "What about her?"
"We'll see," I say… I want to marry her, but we're trying to figure out if that's going to happen. Right now… it appears as though we are enjoying ourselves until I come back in a few months time."
Bows and handshakes, and I feel sad, Noboko drags me by the hand, opens the door, walks down with me, opens the door and out we go into the still humid night of Ohtawara.
At least I have air-conditioning in my apartment… and I left it running.
It's just after midnight… and although it's still hovering around 30C, we are comforted that any future sweating will be of our own doing.
We walk slowly back to my apartment, my hand slides down to her ass, and rather than push it away, she takes my forthrightness as though it's perfectly acceptable.
How could I leave this behind?
Yeah, I know what I wrote.