Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Bicultural cross-dressing and the intellektual

One of the good things about living in Japan is that just by living here, one can become an expert on all things Japanese. After a while, this biculturalism, along with ones own intellectual superiority sets oneself apart from the crowd.

I know it has me.

It was a nice trip up to Yugawara for a stay at Sansuirou ryokan: the train was lightly occupied, there were no drunks sucking down beer and chu-hi at 11am, and we even arrived at the station a few minutes early instead of the normal 1 minute all-out run through the station to catch the train. The curry rice that I had at Coffee West (not the small one by the station, but the big one just down the block) was especially delicious. We had time for a short hike to the sea, but since access was closed off apparently due to some sort of construction/economic stimulus, we substituted a climb to the top of a small but slightly steep hill nearby. Then, after managing to get lost in that small town, we made it back to the station and caught a cab to the ryokan. Unlike the last time, the driver was not a frustrated F-1 wannabe whose only driving skill was acceleration.

That evening in the ryokan, I got to put my stunning language skills, my education, experience, and impressive intellect to work in dealing with the nakai-san (much more than a maid, but that seems to be the English translation). I managed the delicious 11 course kaiseki with no problem. "Does Japanese cuisine match your taste?" nakaisan asked. Well, for an old hand like me, naturally it does. And the meal was delicious though I still am not sure exactly what some dishes were although she explained each. I did not divulge the latter though, as I did not want to cheapen my sophisticated image.

After dinner and the ryokan's wine-like specialty sake (and after nakai-san dropped about every other dish when cleaning up) t'was time for the traditional bath. Would have loved to have gone to the rooftop rotenburo, but only ladies could go after 9. Men could only go to the indoor bath. I did not appreciate that at all, for I wanted to see the stars and the naked ladies*.

I reached for the yukata in the closet that I had sworn nakai-san had pointed out. The wife saw that and said "違う、違う!”** "Huh? Wrong?" I asked. "These are for men" she said, grabbing one out of the other closet.

Well, something seemed strange about it as the sleeves were short and designed differently. It seemed rather short too, but I am not a yukata expert so who I was to question a Japanese? Despite that, I decided not to wear the yukata to the bath, but just wear what I had on. (A purist's nightmare, I suppose.)

During the bath with men old enough to be my father (and older) I reconsidered my disappointment with not being able to bathe while looking at the stars and naked elderly ladies. I returned to our room and there enjoyed the exotic, sensual experience of donning a real Japanese yukata. Lafcadio Hearn himself would have envied me. We soon turned in.

One of the great pleasures about sleeping in a yukata is that you don't really sleep in it very much. You get to enjoy waking up several times with it half off, or over your head, or the sash wrapped around your throat strangling you.

Soon enough---or not soon enough---it was morning and the boss woke up and suggested that she take a photo of me in my fine traditional Japanese wear. I was a bit befuddled, since it was not exactly the first time I had worn a yukata. However, an order is an order and I posed for a few. Then she went out for a pre-breakfast soak.

I chose not to go, but instead made a cup of green tea and turned on CNN which was broadcast in Japanese and English simultaneously*** making trying to understand it a great fun. I then heard nakaisan at the door announcing that she was ready to put away the futons. Come on in, I said.

She busied herself with the futons while I coolly sipped the tea and exhibited my skills at understanding two languages at once.**** "That's a woman's yukata," she informed me. Picking up the one that my wife had said was for women, she said "These are for men."

"Is that so," said I, being secure enough in my masculinity as to not mind being caught crossdressing by the maid. Besides, I was too busy imaging what I was going to do to my wife. The woman still does not understand who wears the pants in the family. I will need to shave a bit closer though, as whiskers tend to clash with my outfits.

Breakfast made up for it.

*I shouldn't need to mention this, but in 2010, men and women have segregated baths, or bath times in the vast majority of places. Should I be incorrect, I'd like to know...where...when...age groups etc...(I found that I may not have been completely correct here. Search down to the comment by the photographer.)

**Japanese and kanji used solely to impress the easily impressed. Chigau, Chigau: Wrong! Wrong!

***If the TV had a bilingual function, we could not find it. Especially not on the 34,453.6 function remote.

****Actually, I can barely understand one language, let alone two at once.

I can imagine the number of hits I'll get from Google from people searching for Japanese cross-dressers.


  1. This is hilarious and oh so true:

    "One of the great pleasures about sleeping in a yukata is that you don't really sleep in it very much. You get to enjoy waking up several times with it half off, or over your head, or the sash wrapped around your throat strangling you."

    I'm new here and really digging it. Thanks!