In the summer heat, I have suspended my regular sento visits: enjoying gratuitous single-sex neighborly nudity and soaking in a large hot tub. Although I prefer going to the “yakuza sento” Hagaromo in Nishi-Shinjuku, where tattoos are allowed, the nearby “Magic Sento” is lovely, too. The owner’s son performs a weekly magic show in the lobby.
As many of my readers know, I am maintaining two blogs: this one about personal interests (ranging oddly from flowers to pottery to male hair and female geeks), and another about a public policy research project sponsored by a prominent foundation and corporation. I have purposely not linked the two blogs, so as to provide more freedom for me to write candidly about my thoughts and interests in this blog.
Prior to moving to Tokyo, I have always been out. Youthful activism and a hostile academic environment shaped my professional career in unexpected ways. It is ironic that the elite academic department that blacklisted me is one that claims a dedication to cultural relativism and openness. I have no regrets, and have been able to reclaim and re-purpose my academic training into a career first in industry and now in public policy.
Creating a new life in Tokyo presents new challenges to a queer identity. With no threat of anti-gay violence in Japan, the flip side is a complete expectation of heterosexuality. And, for the first time, perhaps because of middle age, a new environment, a desire to “be harmonious,” and the sheer quantity of new people I meet every week, I feel an unfamiliar hesitation to challenge conceptions when I am asking new contacts for help and orientation.
This has led to some awkward situations for me. Continue reading long post