I came to Tokyo with an open heart and an open mind. But in the 3 months that I’ve been here Japanese men have given me some pretty bad impressions. Last night, Im walking around Shibuya without a bra because I hate wearing them and can only handle about 8 hours in them. i am reminded that i’m not allowed to do that in Japan. Showing your tattoos is a stretch enough but no bra as well is more than anyone around these parts has ever seen so boldly in public. Hiro walks up to me as I am wandering around looking for my next adventure and asks if I want to have a drink. I’m happy when a Japanese person is so bold, and the last time this happened the guys who did this turned out to be NICE GUYS. Real HEROS. They helped me try to find a hotel when I got into town late at night and most of the places available did not accept women in their hotel and the others were way too expensive. We chatted and laughed and language exchanged, they shook my hand and bid me sayonara as I walked alone, completely unoffended and unmolested up the stairs to my love hotel room. They were both Japanese men who just approached me on the street to converse about my tattoos.
The Shibuya HIRO is now walking quickly up this street and I’m asking him to walk slower and wait for me in Japanese. When a dude doesnt stop and wait for me when we are supposed to be walking together is going to be my new indicator of the Hiro factor. I follow him up the stairs to one of these very popular private karaoke suites that you can rent by the hour all over Japan. I hate singing karaoke recreationally but since I agreed to the drink I’d participate in it I supposed. He speaks no English so I was excited for the opportunity to try to learn more Japanese. it didn’t take too long trying to get through the first Alicia Keys song I chose which I sounded badly singing that he led my hand to his erection, trying to feel me up, down and sideways and now i’m doing my sex worker defense skills which look like me trying to sing while grabbing his hand and making sure it stays away from anywhere I don’t want it, and of course that’s when he puts it on his dick. A REAL FUCKING HIRO. Have we been in this room 10 minutes perhaps? He lays back and rests his head on my thigh. I place my head on his forehead and gaze at him with loving, nurturing energy trying to calm him down, a failed Tantra Ninja attempt. He’s unable to control himself and starts to put his hands down his pants. I get up and and pull my phone out of the wall CONSENTO (the Japanese word for wall socket is consento but most Japanese Hiros dont really understand this concept of sexual consent as its totally screwed up in Japan worse than in America, just watch 10 min of Japanese porn or anime porn and you’ll see just how NO, STOP, DON’T!! mean YES! YES! YES! to anyone watching, mostly HIROS. So I dont want to confuse the guy by saying Stop or trying to negotiate the boundaries in any way. I tell him I’m leaving. he opens his arms and tells me to come sit down with him with a smile. NOPE. LEAVING. i say. For a few seconds he is actually chasing me around the table in the tiny room. i open the door of the room and rapidly walk, in disgust disappearing quickly through the crowded sidewalk weaving up the footbridge and making quick turns through thick Shibuya crowds in case he decided to follow me even though I knew he wasn’t because he had to pay for the room. I stop to lean over the rail of the footbridge and stare at the traffic and bright lights, crazy Shibuya streetlife. I take several slow deep breaths of calm and slow myself down. I am more disappointed than traumatized when this happens now. I pull my bra out of my bag and put all of its ridiculous uncomfortable binding straps and padding back on my always erect but not horny nipples. Maybe this will buy me some peace so I can pass out on the hour long train ride I have back to my suburban room.
I came to Tokyo with an open heart and an open mind. But in the 3 months that I’ve been here Japanese men have given me some pretty bad impressions.
Im on okcupid and Tinder in Tokyo…i’m not interested in you if you have been in Japan for over a year (and there are MANY GAIJIN WHO ARE LIKE THIS) and can’t speak any Japanese. But I also can’t communicate fully with anyone who can’t speak any English at all because I only have a 50% literacy. I can get through most any situation and simple conversation but dating requires depth of language which I dont have yet. And then there’s the Japanese man (HIRO) factor that I seem to be dealing with which has colored my dating experience. Overall it seems to me, the people I’m attracted to are not attracted to me and everyone else is humping my leg, seriously offending or just plain ignoring me. And so I wait patiently because I’m never in NEED of too much anymore after spending almost all of the last year in CONSCIOUS ABSTINENCE…I’d rather have GREAT SEX or nothing at all. On okc I spot someone who is Japanese and cute but also speaks English. He has some “I seem like a nice fun friendly guy” pictures with dogs and nature in them. Im looking to learn Japanese culture and language through dating so I message him about his kickboxing photos. I have been wanting to punch and kick workout with someone for YEARS but you wouldn’t believe how many rejections I get trying to organize a park sparring workout. It seems that no one wants to take it outside of the training center. This was even the case in LA, so when I see his photos holding pads for someone I am quick to message and ask if we can get together and spar sometime. The first thing he asks me is “Are you a man or a lady? Sorry to be rude.” This is the 2nd time a Japanese male has asked me that, the first was from my current house manager before meeting to show me the room, who is also an asshole but in a different way. I thought the name Mariko was a female indicator (ko is almost always for girls names) but apparently it isn’t for these guys. i am amused when men recognize the masculine in me because I think of that as a compliment because its not visible. It means energy speaks. i identify as genderqueer sometimes to the right crowd because as a Tantra practitioner it’s common to answer:: I am both as it is believed we are, but beyond that, I do drag king at times and I acknowledge my repressed male side. I’m not transgender. No desire to change anything. i am as I am and that is both male and female energy within a dominant femme form.
His next messages QUICKLY progress to CAN WE HAVE TANTRIC SEX? Are you a sex expert? What position are we going to FUCK IN? And this is in response to my totally non sexual casual messages about kickboxing and coming to Japan and other non sexual friendly things that you commonly ask on internet dating messages..
I respond to his questions about Tantra with the standard authentic goddess responses…eloquence and science about the energy exchange and what I do and how I teach it. But HIRO, (ill call them all HIRO from now on, as a mockery of the English word HERO) is UNABLE TO digest my answers and keeps responding with his vulgarities.
.. After the last message that asked what position we were going to FUCK IN, i responded with “Charming Approach. Hope that works for you. Good Luck.” and then he responds. “Well, I’m just keeping it real.” And then I shake my head and say,”Yes you are. Our realities are different.” I’d stopped trying to speak Japanese as soon as things turned disgusting because I can only express my boundaries and true feelings well in English. Soon, ill be able to tell a HIRO off and lash him with 2 tongues of a samurai warrior but for now, only English.
I came to Tokyo with an open heart and an open mind. But in the 3 months that I’ve been here Japanese men have given me some pretty bad impressions. The first impression I got was when a drunken salary man vomited on the train floor and his chunks splashed on my barefoot inside my open toed shoe. Lovely welcome to Japan!
I invoked compassion instead of anger because these guys work long hours and drink to mask their loneliness. I felt sorry for them because I’d already seen so many suit and tied young and drunk men sitting or laying on the floor of the train stations. If they had cars like we do in the U.S these guys would likely cause many DUI deaths. The second cultural exchange I got was from a couchsurfing.com host who I thought was so gracious to offer his extra bedroom that he usually rents out on airbnb for free to me as a couchsurfer. Our cultural conflict began when he asked if when entering and leaving his apartment, I cover my tattoos. I obliged even though June in Japan was well over 80 degrees Fahrenheit. I hadn’t invested in the Japanese arm cover fashion that many women there. Then he suggested i should take a bath before I go to bed, which might be reasonable if I had been outside somewhere but basically Id gone from my previous hostel, to his car to his place and had to put my boundaries up around my personal hygiene as it didn’t really impact him, especially since we wouldn’t be sharing a room. or perhaps he hoped otherwise. Such a silly man. He tried so many numerous times and ways to get me to be intimate with him. All in non threatening “nice guy” ways couched in couchsurfing and Japanese hospitality vaguely covering ulterior motives and hopes based on some article he read about couchsurfing being the best new hookup app known to the writer of the article. He justified his actions with reasons like “No Japanese woman walks around with no bra in front of a man like that.” of which I was quick to let him know I really wasn’t Japanese like that. Growing up in America makes a WORLD of difference, however even in America my nipples can be controversial. If it were MY APARTMENT I wouldn’t even be wearing a shirt. And I’d be the house mistress with the power but even still this has caused many an airbnb roommate of mine confusion around how easy it must be to get in my vagina, which they’d soon find out was pretty darn difficult if I didn’t like you. And also IMPOSSIBLE if we shared a roof. This has been my policy since I fucked a housemate and caught feelings for him when I was about 29. I learned the lesson the hardest way and was asked to leave the house. I moved into my own apartment, and made a promise to myself to NEVER MAKE THE SAME MISTAKE of putting myself in a position to be fucked and ejected from a home AGAIN. Me and couchsurfing host even talked it out for about 2 or 3 hrs into the late night hours. i felt like we had come to a resolution and hugged him. My mistake. He thought that hug was an invitation to fuck. He knocked on my door again and said if I came to his room it would be great. I was introduced to the RELENTLESS PERSISTENCE of (some) JAPANESE MEN. A couple of months later I watched a Japanese porn and I saw nothing but No means Yes scenes which, as accurate to life as we know porn isnt, it still offers SOME cultural information and truths. The AV (adult video, what they call porn in Japan) actress was steady saying No! stop! Don’t! Too big! I’m scared! I can’t! all while grimacing and making faces of resistance but whose physical body was squirting and cumming. Through those examples I read that IF there was truth to that in how Japanese women are in sexual behavior, it WOULD understandably create confusion in sex and dating as well as require a man to be persistent as hell and require him to ignore any verbal nonconsent and do the opposite in order to get laid. And feminists in the U.S think WE have a rape culture problem.
For the years from the time that I started this blog, I branded myself for many years as the “Urban Geisha,” an “Educated Whore Revolutionary.” I knew even then, that I was nothing near a “real geisha” but I was fascinated with the idea that part of the geishas art, aside from enticing men was to learn instruments, dances and traditional arts, including the art of conversation. I prided myself at being the Urban artist of conversation because in honest reflection, I was never really that great at sexual acts during my escort years. Unless of course, I was attracted to the client or sometimes a client would surprise me with his abilities which didn’t match my usual “type.” This is what I liked about prostitution. It allowed me to experience people I wouldn’t usually allow in and, they had a 50/50 chance of doing me right despite the attraction factor. The majority of time, I was really being the “2pac of prostitution (activist/musician)” character and many of my clients were urban homies, non violent criminals, drug users and other exiles of society, like I was. We would do a bunch of lines until the sunrise and I would entertain them with my art of conversation while making money. Sex was maybe 25% of the SEX work that I did. Drug users were my favorites because of the fact that sex wasn’t so much a big part of it but keeping their lonely heart company while playing a facade was. And this was my definition of urban geisha. The other part that made me adopt the geisha moniker was because I was of Japanese heritage and I had the PASS TO CLAIM rights to my ancestry in America that the political activist community fights so hard to own and protect according to whichever heritage you can say you are part of. I HAD THIS PASS AND KIMONO CLAD KATIE PERRY DIDN’T as far as I was concerned. But, I was no different than any other displaced descendant of a home country than the Black African American who tries to remember Africa by wearing an emblem around his neck and changing his name to something more African. The reasons we do this in racist America are evident but often our efforts fall short of accuracy. I actually wasn’t any different than a disrespectfully appropriating Katy Perry who was just taking something she thought was exotic (and geisha are indeed RARE and Mysterious, even to Japanese today) and beautiful and creating a show around it for your pop culture entertainment and for you to be attracted to. But when white American people do it on stage though…!!
Now that I’ve spent some time in Japan, in actual observance and research of the true Japan and its culture I can see that many foreigners wear kimonos and the Japanese people are renting them to them for profit, but also to SHARE their culture correctly. Most Japanese would probabaly be happy and proud that Katy Perry were wearing kimono on a big U.S award show, except maybe for the fact that she is mixing a Chinese brocade neckline and high cut waist of a cheongsam with a Japanese kimono in her outfit. Hey, shes mixing BOTH OF MY ETHNICITIES! I should steal that dress from her! Did Katy wear white face and try to imitate a geisha, or is that what the media called it (because all kimono clad women are geisha apparently)? She was actually just a white foreigner appropriating Asian fashions and aesthetic, something that can be super controversial and oversimplified on both sides of racist America. Tourists rent kimono 100s if not 500 times on a good busy day throughout Japan as part of their sightseeing activities. Most of the kimono clad tourists in Japan these days are not even white folks, they are Chinese from China or Taiwan, but the point being that Japanese are happy to share and teach their kimono NOT their geisha customs. There are dressers in tourist shops who help foreigners put kimono on and they style all the accessories so the foreigner doesn’t fuck it up. It’s not a cheap Halloween costume by any means, and its usually very authentic. It is meant to be completely respectful sharing for tourists of Japan, as well as a profitable business to be in.
GEISHA ARE NOT PROSTITUTES and this was the biggest mistake I and other foreigners (mostly men who wish they were) make. They might get together with one wealthy client who becomes her sponsor/partner but mostly they are true entertainers, who are definitely erotic objects of desire but whose austerity around sexual partners makes her that much MORE attractive to seekers. An Urban geisha might be similar to a true burlesque entertainer who could climb a 50 foot pole and do gymnastics tricks to entertain in a g string and feather costume but who also never really had sex with those they entertain. Certainly that was NOT what I was trying to do. i was turning TRICKS. Having quick and dirty sex for profit and I saw my HUSTLING (business street and survival savvy) also as part of MY ART. The other part of my art came into play through writing my blog, speaking my activist truth, performing songs from the Whore Revolution. THAT WAS ALL MY GEISHA-NESS, as I saw it then. I only recently learned about the OIRAN, the kimono white faced entertainers that resembled the geisha in many ways except they were FLASHIER and THEY HAD SEX! Now THAT was more MARIKO PASSION for certainly. To my pleasant surprise, the Oiran traditional shoes were 8” platforms that required a male assistant to walk, which I would often recruit a random “escort” to help me not eat shit in heels on concrete. I regularly performed in 6” platforms in those days and I even had some “taka geta” (tall wooden slippers) of my own that I just threw away before I came to Japan but had owned since I was in my 20s before I even knew about Oiran (unconscious cultural memory!). In Japan, there are regular parades celebrating the Oiran Dochu and Edo period costumes without shame around the association with prostitution because many of the Oiran and Geisha at the time were sold by poverty stricken parents who had no choice for survival. The sad truth behind these parades is that they do not reference the truth of the women who lived these lives of sexual slavery, yes I really called it that.
The Oiran lived in a gated area, and they were not allowed to leave except to view cherry blossoms once a year. The photos that I’ve seen show them behind wooden bars over the windows. Many of them died of venereal diseases and were wrapped in straw and dumped in unmarked graves at the Buddhist temple Jokan Ji. Jokanji temple has the spirits of 25,000 Edo era sex workers buried there. i have plans to visit and report on it in a future blog. The Japanese government is known for the war crime of making Korean women into sex slaves for the Japanese soldiers, but what is also not said alongside the comfort women stories is that Karayuki San were the Japanese women who were indentured sex workers that were sent to other countries to service Japanese soldiers and other races of men overseas. I believe that karayuki san were also used for a short time to serve U.S military soldiers during their occupation in government sanctioned brothels as well. Many feminists in Korea and the U.S demanded the Japanese government apologize to the Korean comfort women, which occurred just in January of this year, 2016 but really, the Japanese should have to apologize and give reparations to the Karyukisans as well, but that would probably never happen as it was hard enough to get the apology and reparations to the Korean women. The government did actually put an end to the pleasure quarters of the Edo era, probably much in the same way that the sexual woodblock Ukiyoe prints became outlawed and banned so did the Oiran houses. The mizu shobai, or sex industry of course never died in Japan, it just changed form.
But there is ALWAYS MUCH BEAUTY in the darkness, darkness and light, yin and yang, just like in African slavery there were rich cultural traditions that survived and remained as a result of the struggle, oppression and captivity. If you are not allowed to leave an area and can’t choose the amount or safety of your clients or you will be punished with death or a beat down, you are or were a sexual slave.
I did an Oiran portrait at a Kyoto amusement park and I was excited and am excited still about looking into getting involved in participating in the parades in April 2017 but in reading more about the truth of the lives of the women and girls I wanted to ALSO be sure not to gloss over the facts, the way the Japanese government and many people who are fans of Oiran Dochu do so often. Having lived the beautiful struggle of a FREE and INDEPENDENT URBAN OIRAN for years, you can see just by scrolling through my escort entries that my life was no parade, but it wasnt slavery, and I suffered and struggled through some of it but there was much JOY, TRIUMPHS, LESSONS AND PLEASURE TOO. Music, art, activism and community WERE the things that I loved in sex work, FUCK THE SEX. Perhaps this was also the attitude of the Oiran and they poured their PASSION and life force into their arts in spite of it all.
What used to be the Yoshiwara Dori of the Edo Era is now Soaplands (kinda like massage parlors but soapier and mostly only for Japanese clients not foreigners). the women are free sex workers NOT and I say this too, NOT SEX SLAVES. They freely come and go to work, have families, test themselves and have safe sex so they don’t have the same UNHAPPY ENDING as the OIRAN of Edo did.
In learning how to survive in Japan as a Japanese American woman from the U.S. Ive found it easier to ACCEPT sexism rather than be surprised by it. It seems to be a way for me to save energy. This is similar to acceptance of RACISM in America or the feeling of powerlessness in the U.S presidential elections. The ways in which this sexism manifests can sometimes be a little new to me but so far, I have been fortunate enough to not feel abused or victimized by any of it. It has been enough of an issue in multiple instances to deserve a blog post and I even tried to post on Quora for some answers from other Japanese women but didnt get a single response. One of my Japanese friends said that older Japanese men sometimes think of sexual talk as a form of affection not harassment and will think they are being endearing or charming when they are really being inappropriate. Like the time an older man walked up to me while I was hanging out during the day in Kawasaki and told me about his erectile dysfunction within 15 min of meeting me in front of a convenience store. E.D is something that Tantra facilitators actually deal with on a regular basis but I doubt he knew I was a professional goddess. He was just trying to be charming.
A Japanese societal dilemma: 社会問題です。A Japanese male on couchsurfing.com hosted me for a few days when I first arrived in the country, but was under the illusion that sex would be part of my stay. This CATERS TO WOMEN guesthouse is the 2nd time Ive had hospitality turn into sexuality in Japan but it seems to happen to me a lot, even in the U.S with roomates I rent my apartment to. I dont fuck roomates or housemates, coworkers or hosts! I learned this was a terrible idea when I fucked a housemate in LA during college, caught feelings for the him the leaseholder/manager and then got kicked out. I had an opportunity to write a review on Hotels.com where i found the guest house but I dont think my review got posted to the site, this blog will have to serve as my only outlet of frustration..The guesthouse was advertised as a “CATERS TO WOMEN” hotel and lists that CLOTHING IS OPTIONAL. The innkeeper is a retired 60yo single, divorced hetero man who barely speaks English. He wasnt queer and he was never naked in front of his guests while I stayed there.
The dilemma for me (similar to my couchsurfing host) was that he was an excellent host: gracious, hospitable, polite; a great and helpful, kind person. The problem was that he asked me lots of personal questions, tried to feed me fruit and asked me on what I assume was a date (he used the word date デート which was the red flag) before dropping me off at the train station (デートしましょうか？遊べに行く？). It was not scary or predatory, just inappropriate for Westernized innkeeper standards and definitely too forward for Japanese societal standards (questions like “Did i swim with a swimsuit? Am I okay with mixed bathing with men in spas?). The same was true for the couchsurfing dude except that he was 10x more persistent which made it a different more overwhelming situation.
In Japan, Male/Female sexuality carries a lot of taboo and shame protocols. I sometimes find it impossible that this guy was just a nudist trying to see if i was of his kin. Over 2 days there were questions and comments about finding a Japanese boyfriend, Do i have a boyfriend etc which are also not appropriate unless the intention was to feel out a womans openness to hooking up with the inquirer. (本音はセクスはしたい). But Japanese culture is so subtle. What is presented on the surface is often not the true feelings of a person.
In the U.S, for example nudist resorts are careful to word their websites and also ask questions before they strip naked on the property assuring their guests feel safe to them and vice versa. I have been to clothing optional resorts before. Im a world traveller who travels alone not looking for sex with innkeepers or hosts and feels that this would be inappropriate, EVEN in a nudist resort not geared for swinging. Most nudist innkeepers Ive talked to during my stay would also agree. In Japan, SEXISM is alive and well ESPECIALLY IN LODGING often geared for MEN ONLY in big cities. In those hotels, i would be and have been turned away regardless of having enough money by the men who ran the establishment. There were no women owners in these all male hotels that I inquired at. I believe a straight man having a CATERS TO WOMEN HOTEL is misleading and wrong. Not all females are strong, outspoken and aware of themselves as I am. While i stayed there, there was a 19 year old traveling alone from Korea staying in the bunk above me. She spoke English and Japanese well. I asked her if she felt any pressure from him and she said no, he did NOT try anything with her. I was glad. The other guests were an American grandmother and her 20yo granddaughter on a trip from Washington DC. Im sure they felt nothing but great hospitality from him and were never alone with him so never experienced the same dialogue as I did.
I have learned from being in Japan for these 2 mos so far is that often the FACE and VERBALIZED EXPRESSIONS are OPPOSITE from the true intentions (本音と建前) . Many Japanese are polite and shy but inside they have the darkest sexual desires that go unexpressed so they end up being released in inappropriate ways. This seems to be an unfortunate byproduct of Japanese sex culture. Repression and shame can lead to harassment, assault or inappropriate intentions. They dont seem to think non physical harassment (i.e being raped by an octopus tentacle level only) matters much and it often gets laughed off or dismissed. Ive experienced the relentless asking for sex or dates even after I clearly said I wasnt interested. But after watching a few Japanese porn, i kind of understood where the relentless behavior might come from. One nite, I watched a Japanese pixelated porn movie in the LOVE HOTEL i had to rent for $65 (expensive for my solo travels). The entire 2 scenes were all “No really means Yes” sex scenes with the woman grimacing during sex but still squirting and cumming. I was not at all titilated by it because I just thought about how many times I had a similar look of disguist or agony on my face and the dude penetrating me thought I was enjoying myself. I asked my J friend if she had EVER seen a yes means yes! yes
! yes! style of porn movie in Japan and she, a journalist who specialized in this area said No.
The reason I was in that hotel was because Id been turned down by 3 hotels for a cheaper $27 capsule room around town either because I was a woman or because it was 1am. I have experienced first hand the fear of being without lodging for a night in a culture that seems to prioritize housing men cheaply, i feel it is problematic to create a pseudo SAFE SPACE via a CATERS TO WOMEN hotel and be the only man on the property. The reasoning Ive gotten as an explaination for the existence of male only economic capsule hotels is because most “salary(business)men” are perceived to be male only. Women are still perceived to be at home with the children which is so far from the truth of present day Japan.
Hotel discrimination is a form of sexism in Japan which creates a power advantage to the male owner. I was NOT traumatized by his asking me questions or inviting me on a date or overstepping personal space boundaries for Japanese culture. I even felt bad about writing a bad review, which I did a lukewarm one for the couchsurfing host because i did feel indebted to his hospitality and I wanted to believe he could correct his behavior. But because of the fact that i feel conflicted by the guesthouse owner and that I feel he is attracted to me I wont be returning as a guest. Many strict rules that dont line up to present day logic exist like this in Japan (like the societal taboos of tattoos). Hotel discrimination’s particular logic has its roots in sexism on an institutionalized level and most Japanese either dont care or dont try to fight it and so neither do I until it manifests itself in a self defense scenario where I have to castrate an octopus tenticle, and I sure hope THAT will never come to fruition.