Writer, photographer, "rapper" and general technophobe takes on the internet in what could be a very, very messy fight. But it's alright: she's harder than she looks, and she's wearing every single ring she could get her hands on.


Sunday, 18 April 2010

Nakedness Part Two

After being held hostage by a group of eight year olds for two hours this afternoon, I finally decided that I might as well be hanged for a sheep as for a lamb, shoved a jumper on over my pyjamas, grabbed a towel and opened the front door.

"Are you alright?" I asked them in Japanese. The boys immediately screeched, jumped on their bikes and rode away as fast as they could.
"That'll learn ya," I said, smoothing down my hair and getting in my car. Because, I had decided, if I was going to expose myself in front of strangers, I might as well get some health benefits from it at the same time.

I'd been putting this trip off for two weeks. In Yokohama I went to an Onsen (public bath) at least once a week. In Nichinan, where a fully dressed foreigner causes traffic pile ups, I'd been postponing getting completely naked in front of the local community for as long as possible; vaguely aware, on some level, that they wouldn't have the Tokyo habit of staring-politely-ahead-and-pretending-to-be-interested-in-the-wall.

I was right. They didn't.

If I thought three boys circling like sharks outside my house this morning was embarrassing, it wasn't a trickle in the ocean of mortification I sat in this evening. Butt naked, I walked into a room full of equally butt naked ladies, and every single one of them stopped talking and stared at me. You know the dream where you suddenly look down in a public place and realise you've got no clothes on? That's what it's like. Except that it's not a dream, and you don't understand what anyone is saying about your body because it's a totally foreign language. And you can't cover yourself up with your hands, because that conversely draws attention to how naked you are, so the only way you can get through the experience is to throw your hair back and keep your hands by your side and stride in with as much gusto and nonchalence as you can muster.

It didn't stop them talking to me, though. I had assumed that - as in Tokyo - our nakedness would be a barrier to conversation, but it wasn't at all; in fact, they were all delighted by the fact that I had embraced their culture and wasn't wearing any clothes and - I suspect - got far closer than they would have ever got to me if I had been wearing some.

One old lady - the more confident of a large group - shuffled towards me energetically, breasts floating like little popped life belts. She got to about half a metre away, stopped and then stared at me.
"Hello," she eventually said in Japanese.
"Hello," I said, trying not to look awkward. She said something I couldn't understand, no matter how hard I focused (I'm convinced that if I concentrate when somebody speaks, at some point a light will go on and it will suddenly all make sense: the way that Julius Caesar suddenly did during third period on a Tuesday when I was 14).
"I'm sorry, I don't speak much Japanese," I explained. She ignored me; there was no way I was getting out of it that easily.
"Are you okay?" she continued in Japanese.
"Yes, thankyou."
"You're very red," she pointed out.
"Yes," I agreed, smiling and going - if possible - redder. "It's hot." We both politely sidestepped the fact that nobody else in the room was red; Japanese women go a beautiful, sheeny kind of golden pink.
She asked me if I was an American.
"No," I said. "I'm from London."
"Ah, America. I've got two friends from America. Is America nice?" she asked (I think: I only caught a few basic words).
"Yes," I lied. "But I'm not from America. I'm British."
"My friends like it in America," she continued happily. Then she chatted for a few minutes - I have no idea about what, but it was obviously a great story because she laughed a lot and pointed at the sky - and then she bade me good evening and shuffled over to other side to tell her friends what she'd learnt about me.
"She's American," I heard her declare in excitement.
"But she's from London," one of them pointed out.
"American," my new friend confirmed.
"But London isn't in America."
"Isn't it? Where is it then?"
"So she's not American?"
"No. She's English."
"What language do they speak there, then?"
I could sense that her friend was getting a little frustrated with her, but my lady was taking it all in good grace.
"English? Goodness. She's red isn't she."
And then they all laughed good naturedly and waved at me, breasts waving energetically.

There is a point, when you're sitting, naked, in a pool full of naked people who are all grinning at you and waving sporadically, that you have to accept that at some stage you're going to have to get out of the pool and stand in the middle of the room, naked, and say goodbye. I waited as long as I could, and then I started to feel dizzy from the heat, stood up, had a head rush, sat down again, went redder, stood up and waved goodbye to all of my new friends, who were all watching me in fascination (they probably wondered what the hell I was doing).
"Nice to meet you!" fifteen naked women shouted at me as I grabbed my towel and tried not to look happy to see it.
"Otsukarasamadeshita," I replied - or something like that - bowed deeply - still without any clothes on - and then backed out of the Onsen with as much dignity as I could manage.

You know those naked dreams? As I put my clothes back on and wandered back into a clothed society, I found myself thinking: I don't think I'm going to be having any more of them.