Wednesday, August 17, 2011


I don't know how I do it. It's not as if I'm preternaturally beautiful. I don't wear an excess of perfume. I'm not practiced in the art of hypnotism. And yet, time and time again, I find myself with Japanese men falling at my feet.

Long-term readers will recall one incident during which a sake-soaked host-boy collapsed onto my shoulder like a lovelorn teenagers whilst I waited for the arrival of my subway. Turns out, this incident was not to be a one-off.

This evening, I was on the subway (scene of all things salacious) with my good friend S, her handsome child E and her dashing (albeit flat-footed) husband N, wending our way home from a night out on the town (burgers and Oreo shakes). The subway was full of teen girls and salary men and packs of junior high school students enjoying their last week of subway; so it wasn't unusual when a middle-aged man stood directly in front of where I was sitting, holding tight to the handles above his head.

Things took a turn when I felt pressure against my legs, and noticed that he had pressed both his knees directly against mine. My first thought was "creeper", and I conveyed this to Sarah through my eyebrows. I thought he'd processed my distaste, as he then stood back up, breaking contact. Ten second later, though, things got way worse.

Finger-tips still clinging tightly to the handles above his head, my new Japanese friend lost his footing completely and swung, like a child on a jungle gym, coming to rest with his khaki-clad groin, and full body-weight, directly on my left knee cap, legs astride mine. I stared into his eyes, which were now on a level with mine, for three seconds, and processed that this was not, in fact, a creeper, and that this man was either blind drunk, fainting, or having a stroke. I levered myself out from between his legs just in time for him to face-plant onto the subway seat directly where my buttocks had been only seconds prior. At least I'd made it nice and warm for him.

N moved to where he knelt and propped him up, so he was saved the indecency of getting horizontal on the subway floor. Between the efforts of N and the unconscious man's wife (who could have been, if her face was anything to go by, strolling the aisles of the supermarket deciding which brand of yoghurt to purchase that week), the gentleman was maneuvered onto the seat, where he eventually came to, sponging his face with a damp tissue, regathering himself with such aplomb that he even managed to offer us a faint English "sorry".

The hundred other people in the carriage looked on, unperturbed.

Perhaps the most shocking element of the whole thing was the fact that he wasn't drunk. Just hot, over-worked perhaps, dehydrated almost certainly. He has all my sympathies. The heat sucks. And now I've gained karma credits, so that the next time I feel faint, I'll feel free to plant my face in the nearest Japanese crotch.

Friday, August 12, 2011

A New Year

Hiiiiiii-atus. I do a lot of apologising for failure to write, but you should know that with my new JET contract came a new resolution: do writing. Yup, just do it, UH (manly grunt). I look back over the entires that cover my first year in Japan, and I am surprised to discover that the diarists of the world are on to something. It's really rather wonderful to be able to look over what I was doing and feeling this time last August. That said, I feel like that collective psyche of everyone in this particular hemisphere can be summarised in one word currently: hot. And I know, I know, them folk further South are shaking their heads and saying, "Woman, you don't know NO thing about being hot, yesterday I sweat (sweated? why do I have this recurring issue with past tense?) so much I TURNED INSIDE OUT".

But it is hot. I'm lying on by bed at 10.40am on a Saturday morning, with the sky a perfect rectangle of blue through my window. I'm wearing my t-shirt that says I HEART JAPAN, purchased in aid of earthquake relief, and also because I look good in red, dammit, and I'm sweating. Today's plans revolve largely around a visit to the beer gardens, which is no more and no less than the name suggested.

Speaking of names, yesterday at the zoo I met a new foreigner (they keep on talking to me, all the time) and when I introduced myself he asked "How did you get a name like that?!" Um, exCUSE me? How did you become an annoying wanker? So I fed him to a Hokkaido brown bear. It was the kind thing to do.

The new JETs have arrived and the old departed, and I have begun the bitter-sweet countdown to my departure from Japan. I always said that two years would be my limit, but now I face the fact that every event I love about Japan will now be my last one. The beer gardens register on this list, but there are myriad other things in the Japanese calendar year that I'll not find anywhere else.

It's nice to still be able to wax lyrical about my love for Japan after just having spent a purely perfect three weeks back in New Zealand, a three weeks spent driving in cars and eating cheese and drinking wine and watching Gossip Girl and walking on beaches and drinking things out of pink bowls and eating fish and chips and going to op shops and sleeping on living room floors and dancing to Gaga and buying bras and bonding with my 17 year old sister who is maybe the best person I have ever met (but also suspicious, I didnae steal your jumper). Going back after one year was a surreal experience, but surreal only in it's normalcy. Like the Twilight Zone at MIDDAY. You slip back into old patterns like you slip into socks (yup, just go with it). Old cafes are still there, best friends remain, the streets you walk down have different people treading the paths but nothing else changes.

I was lucky enough to go back to a New Zealand where my old life remained, and I could slide back in, briefly, go back in time.

As a holiday, it was pretty much unparalleled.

Japan, with its perfect square of blue sky, and that hot wind, and the crow that sounds like its regurgitating its own heart on balcony (can you regurgitate if you never gurgitated? Can you gurgitate? Is eating "gurgitating"?) has a lot to live up to. Last night I went to a club where my drinks were served by a Japanese man in an Obama face mask, where Nightmare Before Christmas was being projected on the walls, where I was sweet-talked by a hostess called Isis. At 5am I bought gyoza from a convenience store and ate it with vinegar while I Skyped my little sister in her bedroom in France.

Home is where you are, or so the saying goes, but I think it's also where you were.