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Saturday, February 28, 2015

Relationships In Japan - Friends With Benefits

When I lived in Japan, I used to joke to my friend Doug in Toronto, that my girlfriend and I had a personality problem.

I had one, and she didn't.

Add rim shot here.

I know, that's terrible.  I suppose my constant yammering didn't allow her much opportunity to speak - except when she was yelling at me that we were breaking up over some mostly imagined transgression that I had done, or that a fortune teller advised her to do.

Yes, the latter did actually happen. A Japanese fortune teller did indeed advise her with the statement: "Don't be afraid to tell him you don't love him."

Hell, that was good enough for me, too, after Ashley informed me we were done after three mostly wet months of bliss.

It did convince me to start sowing my wild oats, and after three years, I certainly did harvest a bumper crop. 

I lived in Japan between 1990-1993 - yeah, tell us another story grandpa…

I was part of the second wave of JET (Japan Exchange & Teaching) Programme suckers, I mean internationalites (it could be a word) who jetted over to Japan (weak pun intended) to teach the ignorant masses English.

Actually, I was hired on a one-year contract - extended twice - to teach junior high school English to the then seven junior high schools as an assistant English teacher in Ohtawara-shi, Tochigi-ken… which was about 100 kilometers north of Tokyo located in a vast tract land of rice paddies.

Ohtawara actually translates from the Japanese into English as: Big - Rice Field - Field. I could literally throw a rock in any direction and hit a rice field or a 7-11, provided I could throw 1,000 feet/meters - which I can't… so the point is moot except that there were a lot of both in that city of 50,000 people.

Despite the relative quaintness of this village on steroids that called itself a city, there was quite an ability to speak English amongst the locales. At least there was a well-attended International Friendship Association that was actually in place long before friendly gaijin such as myself, Matthew or Ashley appeared on the scene.

You may have seen gold statues of us placed at various entrances into the city.

Ashley was my girlfriend from perhaps the moment we arrived in Japan, and we liked each other immensely despite the cultural differences - I am a Canadian, and she an American.

Chief differences between the two nations:

Canadian: "Get off the car, eh?"
American: "Eh! Get off the fuXXing car!"

Ash was sweet and polite and that confused the hell out of me - given that descriptor of the two nationalities I just presented… although from Georgia, she did not have much of a southern drawl… except when she had a few too many wobbly pops, if you know what I mean… then it was 'y'all' this and 'y'all' that.

I never understood that whole 'y'all' thing when you're just talking to one person. Y'all is 'you all', right?

By the way… Canadians do say 'eh' - just not all the time… maybe it's most apparent when we hosers are sucking back maple syrup and smacking pucks around through the snow on a cool August afternoon when our sled team is resting outside our igloo that now has both indoor plumbing and electricity… which admittedly is a pot to pee in, which can make the electrical all jumpy and arch-y and painful when using the washroom facilities.

Ahhh… stereotypes. Gotta love'em.

I'm not sure how much of a stereotype I am. I'm of Indian stock (dot, not the feather), am tall, wide in the shoulders, have muscles covered in hair and fat, dress well, don't smell of curry or wear a turban. I am also not a doctor, don't drive cab - but wouldn't say no to that profession except that I have no sense of direction, and do not work at the Quickie-Mart.

I also have few skills in computers, and heaven's to Betsy, I am useless at math. In fact, despite the grammatical errors rife with this blog, I am actually speak English just swell. Ha.

I don't even have an accent, eh. Sorry… my Canadian snuck out. Take-off!

Seriously… that stuff was so 1980s… and maybe… just maybe… you might hear a few Canuckleheads speak like a stereotype if you go to the northern climes or maybe out to the far east of the Maritimes… then again… it really does have something to do with one's cultural upbringing and possibly their education.

Possibly. I know of many individuals in so-called no-brain jobs who are smarter than me and speak as well as I do, but just prefer the life they have over the joyful one I have sitting in front of a computer screen surrounded by 300 other people screaming at the top of their lungs and banging their desk while cursing loudly in an "alas, woe is me' manner while they try to get their work done.


In Japan, Ashley and I were together as boyfriend-girlfriend for the first year of our time in Japan… off and on.

She and I broke up and got back together more times than I currently wish to recall.

She was the first woman I had ever slept with - a fact she refused to believe (thank-you!) - and I was nearly 26 at the time… and about three years older than her.

She would break up with me, and then a few days later she would reconcile whatever demons she had (me, apparently) and we'd get back together.

I'm sure people couldn't figure out why the hell we would keep getting back together… heck… I could never quite figure out why we were always breaking up!

Me… Ash was my first… and I was afraid that should we part, she might be my last since I was a sucker with no self-esteem (thank-you, Offspring).

As for Ash… no idea why she kept wanting us together?

I suspect it was a combination of awesome sexual powers in the sack and the fact that we were both comfortable with each other and trusted each other… at least in the boudoir.

She probably realized early on that our personality and cultural differences would forever keep us apart as a couple, but for a few hours a night once or twice a week, we could provide each other with a warm embrace and wet tongue that let each other know that big, bad Japan was survivable.

Ashley was able to pick up the Japanese far quicker than myself, though I did have a more successful time picking up Japanese in my second year… women, that is.

I guess what I'm saying is… relationships are important in Japan… yeah…

Friendships are a necessary evil to survive the perceived evils of whatever situation you are in… friends who will listen to you rant about your boss, work day or living situation…

It's a bonus, however, if you can also find a friend with benefits.

I got lucky in that regard…. even after Ashley and I finally call it quits for good at the end of our first year… we would, on regular occasion, hook up.

By that time I had already taken to sleeping with half the women in my city at or or above the age of sexual consent (okay, 20-somethings) who would pick me up as I flirted with them at my local bar the 4C, a rather high-class affair or at the Iseya supermarket where they would literally just come running over when they saw me enter the building, and start practicing English on me.

I loved it. The attention. The flirting. The sex. It was no-strings attached. Two people (mostly) wanting to spend time with each other. There was no talk about being afraid to tell me they didn't love me. There was no time - just a few hours a night.

Anyhow… I was getting internationalized by local Japanese women, and a few female JET teachers (I called it Jating)… so it's not like I needed to sleep with Ashley… but you never forget your first.

I'm know I wasn't her first, so I'm sure she's forgotten about me - and that's cool… I hope she's well… but really, even after we broke up, all I needed to do was get a hold of some Southern Comfort and all would be well for us emotionally and physically.

Sometimes you just want to be wanted… in Japan… as a stranger in a strange land… one often doesn't know if one is wanted (in that way) or not.

Hopefully, Ashley knew that even then - broken arrow and all, that I still loved her.

See? It's that Offspring song again!!!

I'm not telling you all to go and hook up with a guy or a gal because that will make you feel good… but why not?Why not make the best of a poor situation.

Ashely and I actually had a real adult conversation where we talked about our non-relationship, and that should just be about sex. She actually said "I trust you" to me or to a bottle of Southern Comfort she was holding. Blood was rushing from my brain, so it's tough to recall exactly.


Go… have your life in Japan… but don't forget that even though there are relationships to be forged, sometimes we still need a little helping hand to 'get you through the night.'

Oh no Yoko
Andrew Joseph

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