Tokyo Off Time!

Tokyo Off Time - Part 4 - Dangerous Liaisons

Copyright (c) 1994-1996 James C. Liu

Copyright notice: This article may be freely copied and distributed provided that the header and authorship remains unchanged. No part of any of the Tokyo Off Time! series may be commercialized without the author's permission (address given at the end of the article). This work is non-fiction. Any similarities to other characters, fictitious or real is purely coincidental. Opinions expressed in this article are solely that of the author and do not reflect the opinion of any institution, company or corporation.

Author's Notes: It's finally in this revised issue of Tokyo Off Time! that I'm delving into the immature and personal side of myself. Yepp, admittedly I was a pretty socially deliquent nerd when I arrived in Tokyo in the Fall of 1993. Now, in the Spring of 1996, when I read the old versions of TOT, I can't believe I was THAT candid about myself. In retrospect, I should have perhaps been less open. But, in a way, my originals make me laugh at myself and I wouldn't want to eliminate that pleasure for readers. Therefore, in this issue, I've compiled the stories that I edited out earlier. I confront the issues of CFEO (cute female encounter overload) and dive into social analysis of 20-something and 30-something-ish, single Japanese females. - jcliu, March 1996.
Cute Female Encounter Overload Syndrome:

"A young man leaves high school and chooses to enter into a conclave that promises ivory towers and great knowledge. With few, if any attractive, single women, he applies his efforts to mastering the knowledge fed to him. Nine years later, his mind, laden with equations, understanding of physics, and mathematics, the young man leaves his monastery and heads across a wide cultural gulf to a land where there are lots of girls, and they wear miniskirts and giggle a lot.

"Welcome to the Candy Store boys. This is Tokyo..."

It's now over a month since I've arrived in Japan. Having come from Berkeley's College of Engineering where there are hardly any women, I've ended up in a land the feminists hate. Heck, most American women would hate this place after a while, feminist or not. Why? Well, the women here are fairly slim and body concious, wear nice clothes, use makeup skillfully, act bashful, giggle a lot and worst of all, act deferential to men in public. Plus a lot of them wear miniskirts that show a lot of leg.

The young ladies I presume to be in their late teens to early twenties have that carefree giggle and the "pout" look. It's especially accentuated with deep red lipstick. I've been interpretting those looks at teases. On the trains, I find myself stairing not at faces, but down at shoes, socks, and ankles. Strange. I'm not sure why. Occasionally, I find a nice attractive set and I stare. Occasionally I stare too long and the owner of those ankles stares back at me. I usually smile slightly embarrassed and roll my eyes. I've had a few girls giggle back and the hand reaching for the mouth in a feigned attempt to cover up the dental work. This has absolutely gotta be a tease.

"And the girls notice me. I stand out. But that's not why they notice. They notice because I'm like them but I speak English fluently with other Gaijin I meet on the train, or on the street. I notice that they notice, so I speak even louder..."

I have no doubt that Japanese women have mastered the art of being cute. Even middle aged ladies try to act cute. I used to chide people who went out of their way to date Oriental girls. I've even accused them of have OGF (Oriental Girl Fetish). But amidst all this female cuteness, I've become a hypocrite. I've succumb to the yellow fever. I didn't think it possible, because I thought I have genetic immunity, but now I know it's not true.

I can clearly understand how lots of foreign men can come to Japan and never want to leave. If they want cute girls, Tokyo has them. It has the population density to really increase the literal chance that you'll bump into a cute girl on the street. You might even run her over. It's easy to simply like them. Deep, meaningful and intellectual relationships are not the point here. We're simply talking about cute girls and purile males with weak egos that couldn't handle real relationships in the west. So we come to Asia and WOW it's like a candy store. How long does candy stay sweet if you eat it all the time? I don't know. I haven't bought anything at the candy store yet.

Author's note: My disclaimer so people don't flame me is that: Certainly, generalizations are dangerous, because in any population there are always some people who don't lie inside the norm.

Christmas Cake on New Year's Eve:

Imagine a Japanese woman in her late twenties, early thirties, still single with a pained, lonely expression. There's almost no mistaking the look. It's not to be confused with a bad economy, a bad hair day, or a nasty sushi lunch that didn't sit well (although bad sushi would give me a pained look as well). Rather, these gals are seriously facing the possibility that they'll end up single for the rest of their lives.

"Hey. That ain't so bad..." is what lots of Western women might say. The same crowd, too, might comment that ALL Men suffer from weak Y-chromosome syndrome and perhaps we do. But in Japan, the social structure seems slightly different. Women are economically discriminated against. More so than in the West. It's hard for single women to find genuinely rewarding and advancing careers. Instead, the place for a woman is inside the home. And culturally, the women more or less accept this situation. Japanese women are socialized to get married by a certain age, settle down, raise children and take care of the house. In the last few decades, the women have taken care of the home finances, doing an excellent job of saving so big KEIRETSU can borrow at ridiculously low interest rates. It helps the effort to dump exports on other countries.

Divorce is frowned upon, and women have the most to lose in a divorce. I'm told there are some laws concerning spousal property rights in a divorce, but enforcement is nearly non-existent. But some women do get divorced, end up with kids and zero child support from deadbeat dads. What d'ya know, just like America... If a woman happens to get divorced, the Japanese have a good nick-name for them - BATSU-ICHI. Luckily, not all divorcees end up struggling alone. Some go back to live with their parents. The Japanese have a name for these women as well - DEMODOORI.

Single office ladies - OL's - are especially in a bad situation if there are almost no available guys in the company to marry. I've noticed lots of young, attractive, and I bet some even excellent cooks, plus socially responsible and good citizens in every way. But they and their parents are flocking to match-making agencies in hoardes. These agencies arrange marriage meetings - OMIAI. I asked one professor at Tokyo Tech about arranged marriages. He was a big supporter. He himself met his wife through an omiai and now they have a 2 year old boy. They're happy. He even estimates that about 25% of marriages are arranged.

Within Japan, the locals have adopted some pretty interesting vocabulary words to classify their single women. The term KURISUMASU-KEKKI is the phoneticization of "Christmas Cake." Well, what's up with yuletide confectionary? I've been told that a Japanese girl is liken to a Christmas cake. Both are desirable because the are such sweet things. But both also go stale after the 25th.

The term for New Year's Eve is OOMISOKA. Even though the cake is a little stale, it's still edible after Christmas. You might even put it in the frige to try preserving it. But, if you don't eat the cake, it usually goes bad by New Year's Eve.

Casanova-san's Secrets to Success - maybe...

In the last few weeks I've slowly discovered a potential secret to attracting Japanese gals of the 25+ year old OL-types. I've asked myself why I would even want to attract ladies into my already busy, pathetic, academic research life. Well, maybe it's because I and the other zillion gaijin guys here have pathetic lives. I'm not sure. It just sounds like the cool thing to do and talk about later so I've got that "Japan experience" and I can have at least 5 minutes worth of conversation at the next party I go to back in the States.

You see, I've been doing it all wrong. I had been approaching the problem in a very politically correct, western way, thinking that I'd impress the gals by doing my own laundry, my own ironing, cooking myself, having fine dishes in my apartment, keeping it tidy, etc...but empirical evidence is indicating - BZZZT! Wrong methodology.

The actual secret is to act and -look- pathetic. No macho, anally retentive, Mr. Prim'n'Proper protocols. No starched and pressed super-white shirts and pressed suits with matching silk ties. Nope.

The secret is to be pathetic. It must be their mothering instincts. Or it may be that I just stink. Anyway, I'm reverting back to the old days when I was really pathetic. For example, I'm complaining about the KABI growing in my bathroom because I never clean it. (Okay, I scrub it out every week, but the kabi are pretty damn tenacious here in Japan). It gives the gals a chance to say one of their favourite words..."YAAADAAAA!" Next, I've stopped ironing my shirts. (Not like I was doing a great job anyway). I wear them wrinkled and they notice me right away. Oh yeah. I've been spilling stuff on my ties and trying pathetically to clean them off. I've got a new diet as well. I eat instant yakisoba, but I add too much water and eat it like ramen. This is something a pathetic gaijin is allowed to do without too much embarrassment. But news has spread fast. All the secretaries in my building at Tokyo Tech know now that I'm the guy who can't even do instant noodles. Well, don't let them know that I'm basically hoping they'll notice so they'll want to make me an AISAI-BENTO.

Business Cards a la Japanese Instructor:

Cute. A great smile. Plus she speaks great English. I forgot to mention, that on Monday, the previous holiday, I bumped into one of Tokyo Tech's Japanese teachers while shopping at the Landmark Tower Plaza in Yokohama. She said she also saw me, but wasn't sure if it was me. It's a small world. 30 million people in the greater Tokyo-Yokohama area and the two of us bump into each other in Yokohama on a holiday. I gotta think this is Karma...

Well, I bumped into her again today at the sundries store at Toukoudai and serendipitously for me. You see, I was trying to get MEISHI made at the campus store and I was trying to explain what left-justified text meant. I had a battery of Japan's top engineering students trying to translate for me, but they all kinda shook their heads and bowed and gave up. Too difficult. I didn't even know these guys, but they tried to help. Saaa, Shinsetsu da kedo... These guys are really cool albeit, their EIGO sucks big wads. Really, I need to improve my Nihongo fast. Afterall, this IS Japan.

Then she showed up. My saviour. In very short order, she took care of everything. She even helped me convey that I didn't really care what font they used, just that my name gets centered and not to forget the email address. The only glitch was that they looked at me funny. In front of me, I had a plethora of choices for fonts and I didn't care which one. They had the what's-up-with-this-gaijin look. It's the same look I get at restaurants during lunch when they ask me how I like the coffee that comes with the lunch, and I reply that I don't want coffee. Then they have that confused and insistent look of ...But the coffee is included...and we have to serve it to you so how do you want to drink it... but...but... I don't want any...

Okay....sure...TimesRoman. I look at them. Nothing registers. They look at each other, mumble something. Shake their heads. Ryumin Times Gothic? Then smiles all around...

The lesson here is that, when you go out to get meishi done, bring a friend who's bilingual. Otherwise, your meishi will look pretty funky when they get done with it.

As for the Nihongo no SENSEI's specs...she's KAWAII with short hair, no mousse, gel or other visco-enhancement hair products. Single. 160 cm. Nice ankles. Conservative dressing (i.e. very professional, with above the knee length skirt). Pretty close to OOMISOKA I think. Maybe 29. No gray hair. Anything I miss? She asked me if I was walking back to our building, You know, with the "ISSHO NI ARUKIMASHOO" look that's so inviting... I had to decline because I road my bicycle and it was parked a little ways out of the way. But I had to think twice...the bike or the girl... I chose the bike.

What's wrong with me?

Matsuri Girls:

Every year, in the fall, Tokyo Kougyo Daigaku (Tokyo Tech) or Toukoudai has their fall festival. They put up this big banner in front of the campus with three massive kanji on it. KOU (engineering) DAI (daigaku) SAI or (MATSURI, festival). It takes place over the weekend and it features a whole bunch of stalls where you can buy YAKISOBA, OKONOMIYAKI, AGEMOCHI, baked potatoes, biiru, etc...They also have stalls where you can play games (like chopsticks-catcher...a game where they give you heavy, meter long sticks and you try to pick up slippery packaged items.) They also have a stage set up near the front entrance to the campus. Anyone can request a song and sing karaoke...But I wasn't ready to debut yet. I really wanted to, but perhaps it would be too forward of me.

I've never really been introduced to the student body at Toukoudai, so this was a great opportunity. I must disspell some myths that I myself have desiminated. The first one is that there are no cute girls at Toukoudai. Why the retraction? Well..ummm...ummm...ANOO...EETOO... Well, it was those 3 gals operating the "Putt-Putt Golf" game. For 200 yen, you get to try and putt 3 different holes. The first two holes are gimmes. The last one is an uphill impossibility. Of course, on the off chance that perhaps someone gets extremely lucky and putts all three holes successfully, they can win a prize. Anyway, I'd describe the putt-putt golf game as a cheap version of what the BUCHOUs and KACHOUs get when they go golfing with their favourite OLs. Basically, for Y200, you get to putt with a bunch of gals watching you. If you miss, they all sigh in unison and then shout "GANBATTE, NE!" and then clap. If you make it, they all clap and shout "OMEDETOU!" It's like golf with your own cheering section. I can see why the Nihon no kachou like golf. :-)

Anyway, the three-some were definitely TOTEMO kawaii ONNA. I was with a friend visiting from the US. He has some photos which document this fact. In fact, he has SHASHIN of lots of kawaii onna at Toukoudai. I must admit I was completely amazed that Toukoudai had any girls at all, let alone these amazingly comely girls. I asked one where she was from and she said, Midorigaoka...just one station away from O-okayama. She's only 19 and a sophomore in Mechanical Engineering. (Berkeley never had it this good when I was a sophomore in Engineering). Anyway, to make a long story short, well, it began to rain Saturday afternoon and my friend and I were stuck without umbrellas.

I wondered whether there were any stalls at the matsuri that were selling umbrellas. Expressing this sentiment as best as I could in Japanese, we were immediatedly escorted by our lovely 19 year old hostesses under the "MAMORI" of their "KASA" to O-okayama EKI where there was a small shop that sold umbrellas. For a moment, I had that queazy feeling like I was going to get reamed in the wallet again. You see, it was obligatory to buy the umbrellas since they had escorted us all the way to the station. The umbrella's ended up being of excellent utility and for only Y1,000 , so they weren't expensive. But still, it was a lesson not to be too forth-right in asking for something when really, one means to only enquire about how much it costs.

As a PUREZENTO for providing us with such great escort service in the rain, I offered them a pink bunny which I won at the "chopsticks-Catcher" game. The gal I presented the bunny to was too hazukashii to accept, but a little broken conversation convinced her well enough. I asked them if I was "OKASHII." They giggled and covered their mouths, then they shook their heads..."iie, tanoshii yo!" That's when I asked them what year they were in. Of course I followed up with the obligatory "GO-SEMMON wa, nan desu ka?" (What's your major?)

Get a load of this..."Me-ka-ni-ka-ru Enjiniiringu...sou desu..." (It's Mechanical Engineering). Flabbergasted, I was. I proceeded to ask why I never saw any cute girls like her on campus...of course her hand covered her mouth in another be 19 again. Gee. It makes me feel old now to be a KENKYU-IN (researcher). Well, it looks like these gals hide in the classroom and I work in the lab. We never meet.

Oh, by the way, the reason why these girls were so accomodating was because my friend and I had actually tried to putt the golf balls into the three holes. We gave them Y400 for zilch. Of course we lost. But then again not really...:-). One particular gal manning the table was very attractive and quite sophisticated in her mannerisms. She offered us some concillatory candy to sweeten our bitter loss at golf. Such a sweet thing...I'm referring to the candy of course. :-)

Koudaisai wa, TANOSHIKATTA naa...

My friend was off to a personal date in Shibuya on Sunday, so I was alone. I wandered around some more and met with the Putt-Putt Golf gals again. I also had a taste of GAKUSEI-Yaki. Believe me, students seem to know how to burn things. Everything from TAKO-yaki to okonomiyaki was burnt. Of course, to add a sexist statement, the guys seemed to be doing most of the burning while the girls seemed to be doing it right when they did do it. A consequence of Japanese socialization perhaps? Maybe. One more reason perhaps to avoid the male-chef-wannabees.

All-in-all, the Tokyo Tech college festival was a fun place to be. I was told be other NIHONJIN that other matsuri at the other campuses are equally enjoyable. So if you happen to be in Tokyo in the autumn, these festivals offer realitively cheap entertainment. And at least for me, trying to converse in Japanese with the locals was also educational.

Jaa, James


keiretsu large Japanese industrial conglomerate (e.g. Mitsui)
batsu-ichi divorcee; batsu=strike, ichi=one
demodoori woman divorcee who returns to her parents
omiai arranged marriage meeting
kurisumasu kekki Christmas Cake; slang for single woman over 25
oomisoka New Year's Eve; slang for single woman over 31
yada gross; objectionable; no
aisai-bento aisai=loving wife; bento=box lunch
meishi business card
eigo English (language)
sensei teacher, instructor
kawaii cute
issho ni together; as a group; with
aruku, arukimashoo to walk; let's walk; with
kougyou industry, industries (technology)
daigaku college, university
sai, matsuri festival (two pronunciations for one Kanji)
yakisoba Japanese fried noodles; yaki = grilled; soba=type of noodle
okonomiyaki Japanese pancake style pizza
agemochi fried sticky rice cake; age = fried, mochi=sticky rice
anoo... hesitation word, like "uhh,..."
eetoo another hesistation word
buchou department manager, director
kachou group manager
ganbatte Go!, cheering word said by others
ne, nee... phrase ending used to implied "isn't it?" or "won't you?"
omedetou congratulations!
totemo very, extremely
onna woman
shashin photographs
mamori protection
kasa umbrella
purezento present, gift
okashii strange
go-semmon (go = honorific) semmon = major field of study
kenkyu-in researcher
gakusei student
tako octopus
nihonjin Japanese people; nihon = Japan, jin = person