Letter from Japan #5

January 6th 2008

Dear young adults

I”ll describe the setting for you, it was a cold day, the sun was apt to set, snow lay across the earth. Night was soon to setting in. I sat with a relaxed posture day dreaming away, I was surrounded by naked Japanese men.

Yes, my final letter will tell one final tale of my first time…in a Japanese hot spring. However, before we get there will have other business to discuss, do we not?

Christmas has come and gone with its host of suprises, News Years too has pasted (we survived),On  Christmas eve I dressed as Santa Claus and appeared at a kindergarten party, I also lent my Santa suit to the grandfather of my first host family,and he used it to stage one of those “Santa Appears” things for a three year old girl. (there are pictures on facebook, I feel as if I’m plugging my own facebook, with as little success as someone selling ads for the year book), The real Magic of Xmas for me was a call from my NJ Thugs, who b’allin. Free things like friendship are that “magic of Christmas”.

New years was a shocker for me. My host family went to bed at 10pm and I alone stayed up until 12 playing that sad new years song on the recorder (should all ….be for got, you know that song).Oh, the radio made a Gong sound at 12, that was nice to hear.

Don’t misunderstand me, the Japanese do have wild parties that they soon forget yet smell for days, just my host family didn’t have a mini riot.

The day of new years many Japanese go to the local shrine and receive new years prayers. Mine said ” Sunshine and rain make a garden” I was taken a back at how profound eastern logic is.

Line break!!!…………………………………………………………………………..

My new host grandfather is a sweet old chap, he is always off, busy going to various funerals. At his age many friends and loved ones are turning the bend. In the mornings I tend to see him tying his black tie while he shuffles to get dressed up in a hurry. He fixes himself up quite prim before heading out. I usually have the pleasure of asking him “Alas, Grandpa who died today”(imagine this spoken with Tr. Drew’s voice, Latin class joke!) He usually hangs his funeral-best in the kitchen just to keep it handy.

He also has the wonderful tendency to feel and poke tangerines. He buys a large crate of tangerines, props them on the table, removes his glasses and takes a good 15 minutes weeding through them to find the best one. Then he hands it to me. Kindness.

Now for the story about nude bathing, the real meat of this letter (buffalo steak)~ ((even I think my comments are too much))

I recently went to the snowy region of Japan. I was visiting my Japanese family in-law. One fine day after a breakfast of cooked grasshoppers (a snow region specialty) The father-in-law suggested that I and his father go to a local hot spring. ( a shower area with numerous pools naturally heated by volcanoes.) I knew this meant that I would have to be naked amidst other men, but it didn’t bother me yet.

I arrived at the one hot spring and went over to the mens only sections. (I swear, just like in greek mythology there was faint laughter and harp music coming from the women’s only section) OKay,okay, back to work…gotta focus

Standing in front of my locker I reluctantly removed my remaining cloths and warped a towel around myself. I bolted into the Sauna( the only room towels were allowed to be worn) and realized quickly that no one expect myself was wearing a towel. I sat down between to sweating naked men and realized that I had come to one of those few points in Life where I must “park it” and have a serious think.

((( Okay, I’m the only non-Asian here, so people are going to look at me, If I wear a towel people are going to look at me, If I must have the misfortune of seeing everyone else’s Chinko ( that your Japanese word for the day) why not return the deed. I thought along these lines.)))

By now I was dieing, no, dead, in the sauna and my father-in-law was edging me to go into the big hot spring. Sitting much like Rodan’s the Thinker, who lives just down the street from school. I returned to my thoughts

((( American men do not bath in front of each other, why?, European soccer teams do.it must be because there is something we are afraid of.))) Then something inside clicked and I got rid of the towel and marched into the large pool just like all the other naked homies.

Actually at one point during the day, A man asked me if he could borrow my shampoo by tapping me on the shoulder (WATCH IT. NAKED MEN! was my brains response) but in reality I just bowed repeatedly and handed him my shampoo. But hey, I guess this is the first time a naked man ever touched me! There is a first time for everything.

Over all, the hotspring was good. A really important cultural and relaxing experience.

If you read this and said to yourself ” this is so wrong”, then maybe you and I have come upon a misunderstanding. What clicked for me in the sauna was the fact that being naked around men, seeing naked men, and such things has nothing to do with shame. Sure people see you and it was really awkward to be in that place, but if you have nothing to hide about yourself you have nothing to fear. The people who are afraid of such places probably fear something about themselves. I have not become a nudist, but I did come to this odd understanding sandwiched between to men in that Sauna.

So Japan has been a true adventure, things like this pop up every now and then and the lessons I learn from them change my heart and hopefully bring some light to your’s. I wrote these letters because I wanted to share these things. As I said in my first letter I wish you could all be here.

Your friend,

Deren Temel   1/6/08

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