Random Gay Tokyo life

Sublime and random Tokyo gay stories in August:

1. A gay Italian visitor to Tokyo is *shocked* at the sight of Japanese men using paper fans to cool themselves on trains and sidewalks. “In Italy, only women and fags dare use a fan.” There is nothing more satisfying than observing an Italian man surprised by another nation’s male effeminacy.

2. My new super-gay hairdresser (rare in a country where most are straight) has recently told me about his working the festival circuit with his yakuza friends carrying a portable shrine shoulder to shoulder and dressed in fundoshi (ritual male thongs), his earlier stint at a Ginza hair salon when he cut the hair of  minor royals, and advice about yankii and nudist beachs in Chiba.

A few years younger than this author, my new gay Japanese sensei is also a middle-aged competitive body builder, with distinct orange in his hair and skin tone. Did I mention that we met at Haguromo, the super-gay and sometimes yakuza-filled sento? How often can I get my short hair cut? He’s talented with hair and full of helpful stories and expressions.

3. I’ve heard that many Japanese prefer “small faces.” Just recently, a Japanese friend explained that Japanese distinguish between weak faces (うすい、薄い)and strong faces(こい、濃い). Previously I understand that these adjectives are applied to liquids like tea (literally, the concentration through quantity and steeping time) and even to food types (sort of like light and heavy).

Apparently with people, so-called weak faces have “fewer distinguishing features” or “fewer things sticking out.” Strong faces have deep set eyes, large noses, more prominent chins. This distinction is at once racial and yet pretends not to be.  I have a hard time grokking this, but will be more open to hearing about these immutable differences.

Kindness of strangers on Tokyo Metro


Yesterday, two magical encounters occurred while riding the mid-day Tokyo Metro to the enormous corporation that is generously supporting my research.

Five stops into the ride, a diminutive older man engages me in conversation and then presents me with an unusual origami crane. By pulling on its paper tail, you can make its wings flap up and down. This energetic grey-haired sprite described himself as a “trouble-maker” who fights to preserve historic buildings, a type of activism Japan needs more of.

Well after he departed the train, the young woman on my other side began resting her sleepy head on my shoulder. A certain amount of proximity and even touching is common on trains, but I became alarmed when more and more of her weight pressed onto my suit jacket. I tried to alert her by saying “excuse me” and even gently touching the top of her head, with no reaction on her part.

I looked across the train, and could see that some passengers were sympathetic and others pretending to ignore the situation. Should I stand up and let her fall over? Should I try to rouse her? How could I wake her without touching her inappropriately?

All of a sudden, a man from the other side of the train came over and gave a hard slap to her shoulder furthest from me. She woke up, and stumbled out of the train without an acknowledgement or look towards me. I was very grateful for the slapper who resolved this uncomfortable situation.