Monday, September 17, 2007

Tobi

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.")

10 comments:

Beck said...

Thank you for sharing more about "Tobi". I look forward to understanding more about your relationship as you blend culturally together.

Curious - does the age difference pose any interesting blending challenges as well?

Enjoy your vacation!

playasinmar said...

All that and he's also a chef?!

Not fair.

Kalvin said...

Hey, I use pseudonyms myself. Not because I care if people know my name, I just don't want my thoughts searchable to employers. There's always a degree of wisdom in internet secrecy IMHO. I wouldn't be surprised that it's much worse to be Japanese and gay than moho. I still don't know that many Gasians despite living in SF, but I do see them all the time. And who doesn't love raw fish, except my long-term sexual companion (a pox upon him for that one)?

Oh if only You Tube had the video of Varla Jean Merman going to Tokyo and searching out Hello Kitty collectibles to share with you. Sigh....

MoHoHawaii said...

Beck, the age difference of 15 years spices up the relationship. I really like his energy and optimism; he likes my experience and steady affection. There are a few age-related issues-- for example, I have grown children and feel that I am too old to start a second family. He loves kids and would someday like have children of his own.

Playa, Tobi isn't a professional in the kitchen. He learned it all from his mom. Like a lot of gay boys, he used to help his mom make dinner. He likes her recipes best. (Japanese straight guys don't go near the kitchen.)

K., I'm coming around to being okay with pseudonyms. Search engines pretty much force this on us.

MoHoHawaii said...

Here's a piece of funny trivia. In Japanese, the word "moho" is a slang expression meaning "gay." It's "homo" with the syllables euphemistically swapped.

J G-W said...

Wow, now we REALLY have to visit you next time we are in Hawaii. Göran is a total Japanophile. He studies Okinawa-style karate, collects katanas, and reads manga like its going out of style. Oh, and raw fish: can't get enough of it. He's even tried teaching himself a little Japanese, and has a life goal of traveling to Japan some day.

The cultural difference between the U.S. and Japan superficially doesn't look like a big deal... I think a lot of Americans just assume Japan is a modern, industrial nation that has adopted a lot of Western norms. But everything I've heard is that when it comes down to the nitty gritty of interpersonal relationships, family ties and traditions, the cultural difference is huge. Has it been a challenge in terms of making your relationship succeed?

MoHoHawaii said...

John, I have to clear one thing up. I used to live in Hawaii, but now I live in a rainy West Coast city known for coffee and software. You're welcome to come visit, but be aware that September through June is our wet season. :-)

Also I should mention that Tobi and I don't live together. We've been together about a year and are now in the phase of defining what our future might look like.

The cross-cultural part of our relationship is interesting. Tobi himself is in the middle of two cultures because he is by temperament very attracted to Western traits such straightforwardness, a sense of fun, open-minded and nonjudgmental attitudes, etc. He appreciates the fact that we can pretty much tell each other what's on our minds.

Other parts of him are very Japanese-- a reluctance to say no directly, a focus on group cohesion, a strong distinction between intimate and casual relationshps, using silence to communicate, etc.

If you're interested I can recommend a book, The Japanese Mind by Davies and Ikeno that covers the cultural differences fairly well.

I wouldn't say that cultural issues have caused any problems with us. We are aware of the differences and talk about them. We try to use humor and affection to smooth out any misunderstandings that might arise.

J G-W said...

Ah, my bad. I guess I shouldn't be surprised, since "Bored in Vernal" is now living in Saudi Arabia, and not very bored at all. OK, next time we're in the vicinity of the Space Needle, I'll email you.

Culture can sneak up and bite you when you least expect it... Partly because it's so ingrained in us, we don't even realize how it conditions us. But I agree with what you say about relationships... Every relationship is always one person (and his private universe) coming into ever greater intimacy with another person (and his private universe). It's always an alien encounter, regardless of what cultural assumptions are shared or not. That's what makes it so exciting!

SSA said...

Wow, harder than hell? Didn't know it was possible. This is perspective.

- Peter (a pseudonym)

Remus said...

Wow, my life must suck. I'm a gay mormon and a gay japanese... :)