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.