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Friday, March 27, 2015

Noboko And Andrew: Four Play

Noboko has been living with me in my apartment for the past week. A guy could get used to that.

The problem is—I can't. I'm leaving Japan in four more days because my third, one-year contract on the JET (Japan Exchange & Teaching) Programme is up, and I have to go home.

It's 1993 and I've been calling Ohtawara-shi, Tochigi-ken my home since July of 1990. It's a small city of 50,000 people spread out over a vast expanse of rice fields (and 7-11's - it's an old joke of mine, but it isn't inaccurate).

I'm 28 going on 29 this year, and Noboko, my lovely girlfriend, is 27 going on 28… which is apparently old-maid territory for Japanese women. I know… I don't get it either, but that's Japan. I mean, I don't think she's hit her prime.

She's hardly old, nor a maid… though come to think of it, I wonder what she'd look like if she wore one of those classic French Maid outfits, complete with the black fishnet stockings and the feather-duster.

Oh man… why do I do that to myself?

There are very few women who can make me get all flustered from a mere thought, and Noboko is one of them. It depends on who else might be reading this, but it's you.

So where was I? Oh yeah… fishnets…  dammit! I'm going to go have a cold shower - which is going to be weird, because I'm writing this at work during my lunch.

So... Sunday… July 18, 1993.

She and I are basically living together - but only for the past week, which in hindsight, is a lot too little - too late.

Her father is a major obstacle in her and I getting married. He wants his old maid of a daughter to get married, but doesn't want her to marry me—a foreigner.

It might be because I'm an ass-clown, or maybe it's because I'm just a foreigner. I don't know… if he has told Noboko, she hasn't relayed the 'why' to me… and to be honest, the Andrew of 1993 doesn't want to know.

Ignorance may not be bliss, but it doesn't hurt as much.

Noboko - she's listening to him… I think….

I want to marry her. At this stage in my life, that seems like a very good thing to want.

She knows I want to marry her and wants to marry me. So… that's good, right?

But… she has this damned Japanese loyalty bullshirt that she feels she must maintain towards her father. Her mother - she wants Noboko to be happy, and she seems to approve of me as a prospective husband and son-in-law, having known about our goings-on for weeks and even months prior to her husband, Noboko's dad.

Noboko's father… his primary concern seems to be that he wants a successful career for himself.

In Japan… a man is judged first and foremost by his career… and much less importantly, by his family.

But… Buddha help any one in the family who could screw up the career! That's where Noboko and I come in.

So what is she doing sleeping over at my apartment every night? This is in complete disregard to what her father wants, right? I've got the girl, right?


But why are we not discussing wedding plans? Why aren't we discussing her visiting Toronto? Why aren't we discussing what we are going to do when I come back to Japan in a couple of months? I am coming back in a couple of months, you know.

Ever since I turned 24-years-old… if I say I am going to do something, you can bet your butt I'm going to do it, even at my own expense. I'm pretty reliable that way, which usually makes me someone people like and trust. I say 'usually' because who the fug knows how some people think and act.

I have no idea what is going on in Noboko's grey matter.

I'm an ex-journalist, who worked for Canada's top newspaper, and you don't get the story if you are afraid to ask the question -  so I do. What you can't control, are the answers… or worse yet, the non-verbal answers. Women, Buddha luv ya.

It's like she hears my question, avoids my eyes, and gives you that fugging typical Japanese reaction of "we'll see."

I've been here long enough to know that means "no" in all its various forms.

But, I'm not giving up on her… and I think the ferociousness of that devotion to her should be able to weaken her resolve.

She has already previously disappointed her father while looking out for herself.

She had, a couple of years ago, broken up with an extremely handsome Japanese fellow (I've never heard his name, nor seen a photograph of him, but I assume that if he was engaged to marry Noboko, that he must have been extremely handsome. LOL.)

So… she didn't love him, and refused to marry him… which only upset her parents because she would eventually hit old maid territory past the age of 25… and that makes dad look bad in front of his colleagues at work - especially the upper muckymucks.

How the hell do they know what is going on with the families of their subordinates, when they don't even know what's going with their own? 

So… could she do it again? Make him look bad?

She's certainly doing that to him now, by openly flaunting her sleeping and preferred sexual relationship with me.

But is it all just a house of cards? Is she doing this just to piss daddy off until I leave, fully expecting to never see me again?

Do you know what she said to me this morning?

She called me a lump of coal… saying I have all this potential to become a sparkling diamond.

What the fug does that mean?

Was that an insult? Was that a mistranslation from Japanese to English? Does it sound far nicer in Japanese than in English?

She's talking about my potential… cool…

But it also implies that I'm at the lowest level of my development.

What would you say?

Would you question her meaning?

It could start an argument - and maybe she wants one, I don't know… to make breaking up with me easier.

I don't know. I don't want to break up with her today. I want to marry her and get her all pregnant in a few years time after we mess each other up sexually. Get all that stuff out of our system.

The 2015 me can't believe the 1993 me actually thought like that…she probably incorrectly translated the old 'diamond-in-the-rough' phrase. I think being called that could still be construed as insulting, however.

Why would I want to start an argument?

Look at her face… she's smiling… there's no hint of malice.

But who the fug knows? There's what she says, and then there's what she feels… that whole Honne and Tatemae bull crap the Japanese think and spout (honne = honest personal feelings and behavior, and tatemae = what they actually do and tell everyone in public).

Plus she's a woman.

Yeah, yeah, get upset, but everyone knows men and women think differently about many different things… that whole Men are from Mars and Women are from Venus crap. I read it last year (1992). It's written by John Gray, so a different shade of grey. If I was rich…

The day is young, and so are we. I'd much rather have a happy ending, wouldn't you?

"Thanks," I reply.

Apparently that was the correct answer. In 1993, I certainly had a lot of potential, and aside from having a lot of fun in Japan, I don't think I really accomplished anything. Yet.

"Let's go shopping for clothes," suggest Noboko, telling me what we are going to do, which is too bad, because the suggestions I had in mind were clothing optional.

What the heck are we going to shop for? Clothing? Not for me… good luck finding clothing in my size. I'm not gargantuan, but I am slightly larger than the average gaijin in the height and weight department, and as such, my clothing and footwear sizes are not typically part of the standard lore in Japan. I'm mythical.

I should note, however, that nowadays, should you have feet larger than 30 cm (a US size 10-1/2), there are many places in Japan to purchase shoes.

I would still recommend checking out areas frequented by US military personnel, should you wish to get your hands on moor 'western' food items and clothing.

But, it's still an expensive place to shop.

I used to have shoes shipped over by my mom, as well as boxes of pasta that I could use to make lasagna. Even still… my purchase and liberal amounts of three different cheeses and minced beef would still ensure that my lasagna would cost over $50 to make. To Matthew's credit - whenever we shared, he brought beer, and Ash and I would do other things to settle the bill of fare.

With Noboko… I haven't had to cook for the past three months. She's killing independent Andrew, as she has become my defacto wife, and me her defacto Japanese husband… which means that I don't cook, she makes our supper, and I bring home the proverbial bacon. Mmmmm, bacon.

Only thing is, we both work. So that's hardly fair.

Up until yesterday, I was unable to take her out to dinner and pay for our meal… though we had gone to other cities, where my celebrity was still unknown, so I could and did purchase our meals and movie tickets. At least I felt like a real (grunt-grunt) man. 

After work, Noboko would come directly from her school to my apartment and magically have a whole bunch of veggies, rice and noodles and meats, and would brew up some wonderful-looking meal that never tasted as good as she looked.

I always offered to pay for the ingredients she obviously purchased, but when I queried her on it one day, she said her mom was the one purchasing the foods for us, and meeting Noboko in Ohtawara for an exchange of food for hugs, or whatever.


Noboko's mom really was pulling for us… or for Noboko… whatever.

So - shopping. We walked hand in hand out the door and down the elevator and out to her car.

It's a Suzuki toy car - specifically built for the smaller stature Japanese woman, which means it's tiny.

To get in, I open the left door of the two-door, lie on the ground and then roll in.

She drives us to Iseya… this is the largest and busiest of the superstores in Ohtawara.

There always seems like a flurry of activity when I walk in, like they are getting ready to serve me, but aside from my camera girls, that's not the case.

They are there, by the way, and give a courteous bow in my general direction, as well as a hand-covered smile when I bow back. I slept with them both many times (HERE), but only stopped when either they got boyfriends, or I got a girlfriend. It was never awkward afterwards, for which they have my honest gratitude.

Do you know what the whole hand-covered smile is?

Over 1,000 years ago, it became fashionable for Japanese women to color their teeth black. It was brought over from China, whom Japan hero-worshipped back then.

During the Edo-jidai of the 16oos to 1868, the whole black-teeth thing was reserved solely for married women. It was the way a man could tell what woman he could screw or not screw, if it made a difference.

Women, not caring for the fashion at this time, began to cover their mouth with their hand when they smiled or laughed.

Even though the black teeth coloring was done away with when Japan opened up its borders to the world, the habit of covering one's mouth amongst the women continues to this day, though I doubt many women know why they are doing it, suffice to say that Japanese women have always been doing it, and to not do it would be a non-Japanese thing... and who wants that?   

Noboko said we were shopping for clothing, and so she drags me to the women's clothing section and makes me stand there and hold the nylons she selects. Not fishnets, dammit. I'd say the girl needs to loosen up fashion-wise, but I only hope we have an opportunity for that to occur. Still... she is a junior high school teacher, so it's not like she can dress up like a tart. I enjoy tarts, but then again, despite the calm and gentle demeanor she puts forth for the world, she's pretty fierce when we're alone.

I like that dichotomy of her Japanese honne and tatemae.  I suppose I have that as well... always appearing a happy and smiling person, even when I'm not. The only difference between myself and 99.9% of the Japanese population, however, is that if you ask me - I mean seriously ask me how I am - if I trust you, I'll tell you.

Silky nylons in hand, we head for the cash registers, the yen amount pops up and I notice that Noboko's not going for her purse. Oh-ho! So, we're showing off the relatiopnship dynamic here, too? I pull out the paper and we have new nylons.

"Don't you need some new panties?" I ask. "The one's you're wearing are ripped."

"They aren't ripped," she scowls.

"They will be."

She's known me long enough to know I'm either joking or it's a pleasurable threat. Either way, she smiles broadly, exposing her beautiful white teeth in that non-Japanese manner. Have I recently told you that I love her?

We get in the car, drive 30 seconds and park and then go for an early supper at a small restaurant, in which she helps me select a meal capable of satisfying a man, allowing me the honor of paying for our meal.

Trust me... I'm the type of guy who craves this. Even in 2015. I guess I'm old-fashioned, too.

We eat, finish and walk around town - it's still around 6PM and the sky is bright and warm, yet she gathers herself about my body and hugs me as we amble slowly.

You should have seen the shocked faces on the students who passed us. They knew me, but didn't know Noboko, probably because she worked 10-kilometers away.

My students are used to seeing me... but aside from Ashley and a few other gaijin women, seeing me in public with a Japanese woman was definitely something worth twittering about.

Noboko was attempting to cause a scene... to be open about our relationship... to shame her father. I think.

We walk to the park where the Ohtawara-jo (Ohatawara castle) used to sit, and plop ourselves down on a rock beside the tree.  I have my arms around her, as she sits cross-legged between my legs.

The place was packed with Japanese families enjoying the evening, some occasionally glancing at us, an occasional bow or konichiwa (hi!), things that seem all quite normal to me. 

I bury my face in her hair, kissing her scalp.

We two are alone.

I don't know when - but the stars are out - we go back to our apartment.

Tomorrow is Monday, and I have three more days left of this. For now.

Andrew Joseph

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