I met up with Coke Addict again. I hadn’t seen her in a long time, but she contacted me.
Not long after the last time I saw her, she actually ended up dating one of my good friends. This is a long story I’m not gonna get into. He assured me that she was much less coke addict-y once you got to know her better. I took his word for it, but aside from his conversations about her I didn’t have much else to base my impressions of her on. Many months later, my friend left Japan. Coke Addict contacted me hoping to meet with me, to get my advice about my friend, and on some other stuff as well. Since she was a buddy’s girlfriend, I met with her – his testimony was accurate, she is much more normal once you get to know her better.
The nickname still stays though.
We were eating at Wendy’s in Kyoto and somehow the topic of conversation got on what kind of girl I like. Then, somehow, it came down to what kind of fingernails I like on a girl. I told her that I didn’t like long, decorated nails – regular was fine.
Coke Addict: Ah, so you don’t like long nails … it’s like a whore’s fingernails, right?
Me: Well, I guess you could say that.
CA: So, you don’t like whores.
Me: Not particularly.
CA: But, (my friend/Coke Addict’s boyfriend) said your last girlfriend was quite the whore.
Me: Yep. She was a raging whore alright.
CA: But you dated her.
Me: Yeah, my mistake.
CA: So you DO like whores!
Me: Wha? I was just oblivious to her unchained whoreness, it doesn’t mean.
CA: (now smiling to herself) You like whores.
Later, we ran into a buddy of mine, and he tagged along for the night. Hours later we were in a bar, and I was talking to my friend. I caught her staring at me – I literally stopped in mid-sentence with my friend to ask her what was up. Smiling again, she just said “You like whores.” Hours later. So yeah, the nickname stays.
And no, I don’t like whores. Not particularly, anyway.
Anyway, we didn’t get to talk much that day, so I met with her again at a Starbucks. This time, we were able to talk. And, my alleged affinity for female prostitutes only came up once. After we talked, she drove me to the most convenient train station for me to get home. On the way, she hit me with something NOBODY likes to get hit with. She turned to me almost randomly (much of what she does is almost random) and said, “So, your friend says you think I’m weird.”
In a class with Ms. Americanized 2, we play a detective game. We give the students a topic, they pick something from within that topic, and the other students are supposed to guess what they picked based on clues that we give out in English. It’s not a game you can play with every class (it wouldn’t go over so well with the quieter classes), but this class happens to be one of the most hyperactive in all of Japan, so we can get away with it. They’re also one of the most entertaining classes.
This time around, the topic was “Christmas Presents – something you gave”.
Sometimes, the teacher and I enter the game ourselves. Ms. Americanized 2 entered, and as for her present, it was something she gave to herself because she wanted it. So the students took a stab at figuring out what it was…
Boy: You want a boyfriend!
Ms. Americanized 2: Well, yes, that’s true, but …
Boy: Ok, it’s (Azrael)-sensei!
Girl: Oh, no, that won’t work. He’s got a girlfriend now.
Boy: It’s okay. They can form a love triangle.
Girl: A love triangle?
Boy: Yeah. Teacher can become his #2.
Girl: That’s terrible. Teacher doesn’t want to be a #2!
Boy: Yeah, but she’s not getting any younger. She’s gonna have to learn to take what she can get.
For the record, her Christmas gift was a vacation to herself.
In another group, a boy had given a present to himself, worth 10,000 yen (roughly about $100).
Boy 1: (guessing the answer) Oh, I know! Dietary supplements!
Boy 2: (the recipient of the present) Dietary supplements don’t cost 10,000 yen!
Boy 1: The really good ones can be expensive.
Boy 2: Either way, that’s a wrong answer. Even if I had 10,000 yen I wouldn’t spend it on dietary supplements.
Boy 1: You should be spending it on dietary supplements.
Ouch. Goddayum ouch.
I’d debated for a long time as to whether or not I would actually post the “Moeko’s Owl” story.
At that time, it was radically different from all the other editorials on the site. It was a very personal story and dealt with my ex, which was a very sensitive subject. And Moeko hadn’t done it for recognition or anything like that. For a while, I doubted if it was something I should share, especially since there were more than just a few people reading. In the end, I decided that if nothing else, it was a story worth telling.
Of all the other things on this site, the Moeko’s Owl story has gotten the biggest response. People have cried, changed their outlook on life even. People have remembered their own personal Moeko’s. Of everything else, it’s this story that seems to have the most profound effect on people.
But what about the girl herself?
After I got the owl, I actually didn’t get to speak with Moeko for a few months. Even if I went to her class, I was busy with other students, and she never seemed to stick around long enough for me to talk to her. I tried to make myself available for her, but she never came. I don’t want to clearly play favorites among the students, but given the chance I would have made an effort. But I didn’t have any chances. For a while, I wondered if I’d done something wrong – maybe I wasn’t as appreciative of the owl as I should have been?
One day after class, the students were all talking to the teacher about an upcoming test. Since I usually go back to the teachers’ room with the teacher, I hung back and waited for him. I noticed Moeko, who sat in the back of the room, slowly inching her way forward. After a full minute, she’d only closed the distance between us by half. I realized at this point that she hadn’t been avoiding me or anything like that – she was just terribly shy. “Today’s pretty hot, isn’t it?” I called out to her. She nodded in agreement, and finally came closer. We talked as she walked back with me to the teachers’ room, even though that was a trip downstairs she didn’t need to make. I found out that she, like me, had a penchant for falling asleep in class because she stayed up late (she reads books until 1AM or later). I was telling her some of my favorite sleeping in class strategies, and she told me hers – “I put my hair in front of my face, so people can’t see my eyes. But then the boys call me Sadako (from The Ring).” I told her the next time they call her that, threaten to crawl out of their TV’s and steal their Playstations.
I finished a sannensei class with Ms. Forehead in the Ghetto School. Most of the kids filed out pretty quickly, as we stayed behind to collect our things. One girl lingered on however. I remember her well from back when she was an ichinensei – she has very few friends, or none at all, is pretty quiet and keeps to herself most of the time. During class, when she thinks we’re not looking, instead of taking notes she scribbles drawings of anime characters (which she is actually quite skilled at). After all the students were long gone, she walked straight over to one of the walls and squatted down in front of it. This, by itself, wasn’t too weird. A little off, sure, but this girl had never quite been all together there to begin with. But there wasn’t anything to be concerned about … yet.
“What’s he saying today?” Ms. Forehead calls over to her casually. The girl raises a hand to silence her.
Um … what?
The girl remained her in squat position directly in front of the wall for a few moments before standing up. Ms. Forehead repeats her question – “What’d he say today?” “I dunno” the girl says. “He was mumbling, so I couldn’t really tell.” There was nobody there.
After the girl left, I asked somewhat nervously what that was all about. Ms. Forehead took a moment to think about how to phrase her answer, then said, “Ah, that girl, well, maybe she can see…” Here, Ms. Forehead took one of her trademark pauses to think of what she wanted to say next in English. As usual, my mind filled in the blank space for her but this time I actually verbalized my inner monologue. “Dead people?” I said, doing a mild riff on The Sixth Sense. Ms. Forehead snaps her fingers, her eyes go wide, and she excitedly exclaims “Yes, dead people!”
No experience in Japan would be complete without at least one trip to an onsen/bath house. They’re big, open spaces with areas for bathing and soaking. Onsens draw from a natural hot spring, while the bathhouses have large baths with different types – your standard hot water, massage bubbles, electricity currents, and even one outside, so you can soak in the hot water amidst the snow. The Japanese take their bathing pretty seriously, and I gotta admit, it is pretty nice.
There is one drawback though. These are public baths. Public baths, which means a lot of strangers, and a lot of nakedness.
You can always tell the veteran Gaijin from the newbie Gaijin in the bathhouses. The vet sheds his clothes in an instant, and has kicked back in the bubble jet bath. The newbie Gaijin stands there, wearing his underwear and holding the miniscule hand towel and saying “and we’re not allowed to wear our shorts?” No siree Mr. Gaijin, it’s you and Mr. Tanaka, as stark-buck naked as the day you were born.
It’s not just soaking in water either. I’ve seen people bring their razors, their shampoos, even toothbrushes. I’m always amazed at how open the Japanese culture is to bathing with complete and total strangers. At first, you’re tempted to think “How nice! A culture that isn’t totally hung up on the human body, and comfortable enough to do this type of thing.” Then you remember just how fucked up Japan is sexually, and you wonder if this kind of thing doesn’t contribute to that.
If there’s one thing I hate more than anything else, it’s getting stared at while at a public bath. Cause you know what they’re looking at, and why. You can’t even hide it. Not even with your tiny little hand towel. What sucks for me is that I have a tattoo on my right shoulder, and tattoos are frowned upon by Japanese society. Because tattoos = yakuza, almost unequivocally. So I usually have to use my hand towel to cover my shoulder. …How fucked up is that? I’m in a public bathhouse, naked, and being sized up by Japanese men, and my ONE piece of tiny little cloth must be devoted to covering up my shoulder. Welcome to Japan.
And yes, they do look. They stare when we’re wearing clothes. They certainly couldn’t pass up this opportunity to behold a Gaijin Body in all its naked glory.
I spend a lot of time in public bathhouses admiring the ceiling. I can tell you, some of the ones in Kyoto have the finest roof-work I’ve ever seen. Bathhouses are a place, of course, where you come to curse peripheral vision.