Onani Samurai

-by Avery Fane

     I was honored when Tyler invited me to write for his ambitious and extremely intriguing new project: Ten Colors Japan. Not only because I love the concept, or because he's as close as family to me (despite not seeing each other in five years), but because many moons ago I was a published journalist, and it sounds like fun to get back in the game.
       So I thought long and hard on this. I decided on a casual diary like format, and I decided to try to submit at least bimonthly. Now, the issue is where to start. You see, I met Tyler in 2003. About half way into my 11 years in Japan, and while our friendship, as well as many of our stories cross paths, wavelengths, and even countries, where to start was a real pickle for me.
        Then it hit me. The spring of 1999. I was a young pup, in my third year of Japanese high schooling (technically my second year; however, I was in year three, or grade 12/senior year in the West). Now, I had only been living in Japan for a year or so at that point, and I'd experienced pretty much everything you read about, hear about, see on TV or even see in anime. I didn't think there was any form of culture shock I couldn't weather–except Gundams and used panty vending machines. Neither of those are real.

         I had just finished doing 'Nanpa' (basically the act of picking up girls, which is a very cat and mouse like game in Japan, especially when you're 16 years old) with my high-school friends, and we were on our way to get curry at our favorite Japanese curry joint at Tsudanuma Station. We were crossing the walkways, which are essentially giant pedestrian roadways atop the car roadways below, and being rush hour (7-9pm in Japan), there were easily ten thousand pedestrians coming and going. As we neared the entrance to the JR station, we noticed a huge crowd gathering. We stepped into the circle.

          What we saw next, was something I'd never heard of, in any way shape or form: right before us in the middle of a crowd of people numbering at least two hundred, was a salary man sitting in seiza position with his pants around his ankles, masturbating furiously at a photobook of some teen idol. Words do not do this spectacle justice, and my only regret is that I couldn't afford a digital camera back then (no camera phones either), to show people this unbelievable occurrence. Like a trained samurai, he finished quietly, sheathed himself to clean off, and took a breather. Before the crowd could exhale, however, he turned the page, and went right back to work with the precision of the highest sushi masters.
         I was in such disbelief of this, that I turned to my right, and then to my left. All two hundred or so of us were watching. Silently. Respectfully. Together.
        Eventually, he finished, and honorably cleaned off. He fixed his belt, tie, and lapels, then picked up his briefcase and disappeared into the crowds. A moment of silence passed. There was an air of disbelief emanating from the circle. Did this just happen? Yes, it did. Everyone shrugged and went on with their business.
        "Ka-re dayo!" (Curry!) my friend said to me.
         "Soussuna, kuouze" (yea man, lets eat!) I replied. And so we did. I seemed to be the only person that thought this was strange; yet we all saw this for the first time together.
        Was what he did legal? Oh hell no! Publicly acceptable? No way, Jose! Did I try it or should you? There's limits to the saying "when in Rome", you know (I'm not going into any of those bath houses! Not that there's anything wrong with it).
         So why did I chose this as my first contribution to Tyler's new enterprise? Well, there's no doubt this will be one if the strangest stories on the site, but more importantly, I think it's a perfect example of how Japan exists in the modern world. Will all my articles be about sexual deviance? Probably not, but this one is.
          Let's take a look first at the environment. We've all seen Shibuya crossing, and the waves of people going about their daily lives. Tsudanuma hardly has the crowds of 1million an hour of Shibuya, but its not far off, as far as Chiba is concerned.
         This kind of social chaos, if you will, affords a special kind of anonymity. You see, growing up in a country with 3/4 the population of the United States, in an area roughly the size of Montana, you become accustomed to the fact that you'll see a LOT of people everyday- and almost never see the same people twice. Now unlike India, with a population of a billion and a notion of zero accountability for actions, Japan, on the other hand is still very much a socially codependent construct. To clarify, it would be safe to say that maintaining the homogenous 'norm' is the status quo.
      The man masturbating in public wasn't "Sato-San from Smith Street" (this article is in no way defamatory against any Sato-Sans on any Smith Streets), rather, he was playing the socially accepted role of a stressed out individual blowing off some steam in a rather unconventional way. Believe it or not, people didn't get that worked up. No police were called, probably because he wasn't hurting anybody. Had a policeman come to see what the crowd was about, he might have gotten out his Billie club, however, how does one differentiate one crowd of people from another, in one giant sea of people? As for "Sato-San", he might walk across that very walk way everyday at the same time for the rest of his life- and no one will ever recognize him, nor he anyone else.
          Now, the Japanese social codependency relies on just that: a group. If enough people do it, it's okay. If it was one person watching one man masturbate, that would, in the Japanese context, be wrong (unless you're into that kind of thing). However, this was a rather large group of people watching. I'm sure that I wasn't the only person to question what I was doing and look around, but just like anyone else that did, I thought: "everyone's doing it and nobody's being harmed, so it's okay".
        Then, there's of course the man. Japanese society isn't known for it's stress free evenings on the porch. Rather, stress related incidents are rather common. Japan doesn't have the same range of social crime that the West does, and very commonly when a person's had all they can handle, they lash out in uncommon ways. When these lash-outs make the news, it's often violent and harmful in one way or another. This gentleman risked it all, fully aware he'd be locked up, I presume, to fulfill an awkward last ditch fantasy.
        Well, he got away with it. I would say this is entirely based on the social codependency of Japan. He needed to do this. Everyone realized this. He wasn't harming anyone. Again, everyone realized this, and since everyone was watching together, it must have been alright. Pure luck delivered him free of a police patrol, and there you have it.

Life's a trip. Buy the ticket, take the ride.

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