Sunday, September 30, 2007

Ten random facts about Japan

I was tagged a while ago to provide interesting random facts about myself. I couldn't think of any. Instead, here are 10 random things I learned about Japan during my recent trip.

  • Male locker rooms often have female attendants (and nobody covers up).

  • The water in Japanese hot springs (onsen) is not scalding hot. It's about the same temperature as bathwater.

  • Napkins are unknown. You just have to be neat while eating.

  • Prices in Japan are cheaper than the US for a lot of things. You can get a nice meal of noodles for $4.50. A room for two in a really nice business hotel in Tokyo can be had for $110 per night if you shop around.

  • Transportation, however, is more expensive than the US. Gas costs $6 a gallon and a two-hour train trip is $90.

  • Young women in Japan use girlish mannerisms and voices.

  • Karaoke is more fun than one might guess. Especially in a rowdy gay bar in Tokyo.

  • Tokyo doesn't have a lot of public parks. For a city of this size and population density, there's not much public space.

  • Sushi is a finger food. Chopsticks are not used to eat it, and sushi is turned upside down so that the fish side touches the tongue first. Using chopsticks for sushi looks as weird to the Japanese as eating a hamburger with a knife and fork does to North Americans.

  • Gay culture in Tokyo is like Salt Lake 25 years ago. Most people are closeted, gay men are perceived as feminine, and the bars are cliquish. It's like junior high all over again. Gay life in the US is, by comparison, much more mature.

  • Thursday, September 27, 2007

    Conversation in a Japanese hot spring

    ME: Wow! Look at those bites. Those mosquitoes really like you. You must be tasty.


    ME (affectionately): If I were a mosquito, I would bite you.

    TOBI (innocently): But you already bite me.

    Tuesday, September 18, 2007

    Why I Love Hawaii

    Israel Kamakawiwo'ole was a Hawaiian singer of remarkable emotional power.

    I don't live in Hawaii any more, but Braddah Iz reminds me why I love it.

    Monday, September 17, 2007


    As readers of this blog know, my boyfriend is a sweet, sexy, sporty guy in his early thirties. Up to now I have always referred to him here as "my BF." It's time he got a name. Please welcome "Tobi" to blogland. Tobi, by the way, is from Japan and his enthusiasm for raw fish is inspiring. Let's just say that Tobi knows good uni when he tastes it. He's also an accomplished cook who makes delicious traditional Japanese dishes.

    This week Tobi and I are going on vacation to Japan. Actually, he's already there visiting his parents. I will join him, and we'll spend a week together seeing the sights, with a few days in Tokyo and the rest in the countryside, including two days at an onsen (hot springs) resort. (Hot springs are incredibly popular in Japan. It's a major element of the culture.)

    In Tokyo we're going to check out all of the standard touristy sights but also make our way over to the gay neighborhood, Shinjuki Ni-chome. Neither of us has been there before. It's said that there are 200-300 gay bars and restaurants crammed into this little neighborhood.

    I'm very excited about the trip. We love spending time together as a couple, and as far as Japan goes, it will be great for me to have a native guide, especially one as adorable as Tobi.

    Being gay is not easy in Japanese culture. The culture treats almost any expression of individuality or difference as unpardonable selfishness. There is intense social pressure to conform. Tobi emigrated to the U.S.-- not knowing a soul here-- because living in Japan as a gay person wasn't feasible. Tobi's emigration to the U.S. reminds me a little of Brady's recently posted Plan B.

    Japanese society is very conservative socially but this is not religously motivated. Tobi has had little exposure to Christianity and finds it foreign and somewhat frightening. His experience with Christians (of the non-Mormon Bible-thumping kind) has left him skittish.

    We generally spend our lives immersed in our own culture. Its conventions become part of us, and its myths become our reality. Getting to know another culture intimately is a way of breaking open one's own. I myself have found comparing the Japanese gay experience with the Moho experience to be enlightening, and I think being a gay Mormon is easier than being a gay Japanese person. (Sorry, guys.)

    Anyway, now you know a little bit more about our situation. I'll fill in more of the gaps in future posts and I'll be happy to answer questions entered as comments.

    (I'm still not 100% adjusted to the idea of using pseudonyms, but I think it's less stilted than always saying "my boyfriend.")

    Friday, September 14, 2007

    Sunday dinner

    When I was growing up, my mother always made Sunday dinner. This was an afternoon meal that followed Sunday School. In those days, we went to Sacrament Meeting in the evenings.

    The odd thing is that the menu was fixed. We had the same meal on Sundays throughout my entire childhood and adolescence. Here's the menu:

    - Pot roast (you brown the meat, always chuck roast, by searing both sides with onion and then cook it in the oven until it is past well-done)
    - Frozen peas (reheated)
    - Mashed potatoes
    - Brown gravy made from the roast's drippings, flour and water and sometimes with a dark brown gravy extender whose name I can't remember
    - Salad in one of three forms (depending on your mood)
    a) Iceberg lettuce with Italian dressing made from a seasoning packet
    b) Orange jello with shredded carrots and canned pineapple chunks
    c) Green jello with cottage cheese curds and canned pineapple chunks (and nuts?)

    In the summer the frozen peas would be swapped with whatever vegetable happened to be available from the garden.

    Was my mother deranged, or is this what people ate in the 60s and 70s? Is this a Mormon thing? Why did the menu never change? Why that menu? Did anyone else have a fixed Sunday menu? Does this still go on?

    I don't know if the trauma of Sunday dinner made me gay, but I know it contributed, at a minimum, to my love of sushi.

    Wednesday, September 12, 2007

    Sunstone Essay

    Blogger Troy Williams has a thoughtful essay Kissing the Damned that was delivered at a Sunstone panel last month. Quote:

    I have never connected romantically with women. And I thought -- oh my god, I am going to die without ever knowing what it’s like to fall in love. That scared me. I don’t care what the Church says about life-long celibacy – you simply cannot mature and grow emotionally without physical and sexual intimacy. Prolonged sexual abstinence stunts your emotional growth. Repression messes with your mind. Sharing our bodies is vital to our psychological, emotional and spiritual wellbeing. And without the fulfillment of this primal basic need I was becoming a painful bitter wreck of a human being.

    And I thought to hell with this – I want to experience love.

    Troy's experience with celibacy matches my own. In my case (and I certainly don't claim this as a universal), being in a mixed-orientation marriage felt a lot like celibacy. It was only later when I was able to have normal romantic relationships with all their messiness, passion and confusion did I start to mature sexually. One way to put this is that I was unable to share my body with a woman.