Tuesday, February 3, 2009
So, I was coming home on the Joban Line a few days ago, when I saw something a little unexpected. The train was packed, which was not unexpected, and I ended up smashed against the door. There was an old man pushed up against me so close that I could smell his old man stink.The heavy beer odor coming from the old man`s mouth made his natural stink all the more powerful. I do not know if he was aware of his own stink or not. He seemed to be either unaware of just did not give a flying fuck. I thought that he would at least have the decency to try and lay off the back of my neck. Sadly, I underestimated the old bastard, as the train went around a tight corner he leaned into me causing this dirty old lips to make direct contact with my neck. His lips were crusty along the edges, while being wet in the middle. The old bastard did not even attempt to show any shame. He just rode the neck kiss out until the train made it around the corner.
After an unpleasant, and unwanted, homoerotic moment I really wanted to get the hell off the train. It is a very strange feeling to have some old fuck press his lips against the back of my neck. I gave him a real dirty look but he seemed not to be phased by me in the least. He appeared to be playing it off like nothing happened. He got off at the next station to my relief.
Wanting to put the odd experience behind me, I stared at the floor of the train trying to get lost in my own thoughts. Usually I am able to drift off pretty easily, but I caught something from the corner of my eye which kept my mind in the moment. Besides me were two high school boys. It was around 9:00 pm at this point so I found it a little strange to see them on the train. They were standing next to each other very close; even by packed train standards. After a second look, I noticed they were holding hands. Not only were they holding hands but one was whispering sweet nothings into the ear of the second. I was not convinced they were gay until they gently stroked each others neck. This was the first time I had seen a public display of gayness on the train. I mean, I expect to see it in a place like Shinjuku but not on a train full of salary men. See these two young lovers on the train got me thinking about what is must be like to be gay in Japan.
It is no secret that Japanese society puts an overwhelming amount of pressure on people to conform. While there are a lot of unique individuals in Tokyo, an army of suits and ties storm on the city daily. Early in the morning it looks like a strange scene out of 1984 as a mass of working men and women march off to slave away at an office. Also, modern Japan has a strong, and at times very strange, conservative vain which underlines society. To be different, i.e. gay, I imagine must put a large amount of stress in a persons life. In a society which expects people to sit down, shut-up, and do as they are hold it must be hard hiding a gay lifestyle. In the states the culture is slowly becoming more acceptable of gays. Hell, in California gay people can get a legal marriage. I have not been to all parts of Japan, but in Tokyo is seems that gay bars are confined to certain areas of the city; referring to the infamous golden gia. Also, some to think of it, I have never ran across an openly gay person at work. Although, I think that one of them is very much gay or at least Bi, even if she will not admit it. Japanese can be real keen at noticing if there is something different about a person, so being a closet gay at work must take an Oscar winning performance daily.
While Japanese may, in many respects, not allow much room for the gay lifestyle, I do see a tide of change. There are several TV stars in Japan who are trans-gender and gay. I was a little shocked to see just how popular and famous these people are in japan at first. These days I have gotten used to, and even enjoyed, being entertained by trans-gender and gay people on TV. Some of them are actually pretty good looking(did I just say that?). The person I enjoy seeing the most is Ai Haruna. When I first saw her/him I really thought the person was a women. Strangely enough, a good looking women! When someone told that she did not start life as a women I was honestly surprised. She is very funny and entertaining all the same.
In Japan, trans-gender folks are called New Half. They are very popular on TV and seem to be integrating into society well for the most part. Does this mean that Japanese society is becoming more open to gays and trans-gender people? Well, as modern Japan seems to accept many things off the beaten path, open displays of same-sex affection may become common place in the years ahead. I still wonder how things will play out in a working environment. Will Japanese people be OK to work along side a very open gay or trans-gender person? The work environment in most Japanese office is about as bland and conservative as a GOP poker night. The Japanese usually never to anything out of line at work. Hell, it is rare for them to even crack a joke. It would be interesting to be a fly on the wall when a person like Ai rolls into the office for her first day of work.
Jason at Jason`s Random Thoughts wrote a good article looking at the raise in popularity of New Half in Japanese pop culture. You can read it here.
Is Japan becoming accepting of gays and trans-gender folks? I would like to hear your thoughts.