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The Birth of Japan Game: Episode 4: The Exile

The Birth of Japan Game is a chronicle in ten parts, recounting the early years of Dorian Gray’s journey along the path. The narrative begins some time in 2006 and concludes in early 2012. Names have been changed to protect the guilty and innocent alike. Previous episode here.

After my year as an exchange student finished, I returned to Australia a mess. My emotions were all over the place from Maya and Momoka, and the thought that I’d been uprooted just as I was starting to get a handle on Japan. Preoccupied with girls, I’d ended up doing very little actual study, barely managing to scrape through with a pass. But it was all for nothing anyway, as my university was in the process of downsizing the Japanese program, and there were no longer any classes in which to put my sharpened language skills to use.

Over the course of the year I’d become a different person. Friends and family alike noticed the change: I was wearing Japanese clothes and my skinny-to-start-with frame had become even more angular through the barely-there serving sizes of a Japanese diet. I’d brought strange books, magazines and CDs back with me. Everyone around me seemed louder and larger than I remembered. Reverse culture shock was hitting me hard; for weeks I wandered around in a daze. The university campus seemed like something from a past life. I felt like a ghost.

All I could think of was getting back to Japan. I’d glimpsed a new and hypnotic world and knew that it was where I belonged. J-pop songs were blasting in my head all day; the futuristic rush of Hikaru Utada’s “Traveling” with its psychedelic music video seemed to encompass everything I felt. In contrast, Australian life seemed provincial and irrelevant. I drifted into the orbit of the city’s Japanese scene – a loose conglomeration of exchange students, permanent residents and those on working holiday – and even had a few girlfriends, but none of it seemed to matter. I was adrift, dreaming of sleepless neon cities across the ocean.

The only thing to do was plan my return to Japan. I set about applying for the Japanese government’s JET scheme, which sponsors foreign workers as teachers and town council employees. Still fairly prestigious despite years of cutbacks, it seemed like the best bet for housing and a reliable paycheck, especially since I still wasn’t confident enough in my Japanese language skills to consider simply travelling over on a tourist visa and applying for company jobs.

Just as it had with the exchange program, my academic record and period as the Japanese Society president served me well, and I turned in what I felt to be a compelling application. The process was long – nearly half a year – and each step of the way filled me with maddening anxiety. First my application was accepted, then I had to attend an interview in person. I felt that my entire future hung in the balance, and some nights I could barely sleep.

On the application I was asked to put down where I wanted to work. I filled in the most urban locations I could think of: Tokyo, Osaka, Nagoya, and a few smaller-but-still-close-to-cities areas such as Chiba just in case.

Finally an offer came.

It was an island in the Seto Inland Sea.

I jumped onto Google and immediately searched for it.

No.

No, it couldn’t be.

I flipped back to the email and read a message from my predecessor describing his life. The picture he painted wasn’t simply rural, it was another world altogether that seemed utterly disconnected from the Japan I knew. He described fishing trips, deserted fields and simple country people. Under “things to do in the area” he had written “quiet walks in the dark.”

I’d heard about such cruel placements, but surely the strength of my application and the preferences I’d put down would have counted in my favor?

Reading the fine print, I saw that there was really no choice: the placement offer was take-it-or-leave-it, and if I left it, I’d have wasted six months on the application. There weren’t many other options: for the past six months I’d been working at a hardware store, and the thought of another year or more of redirecting surly Australians to the hammer section filled me with despair. After punching the wall a few times and cursing the authorities, I wrote back confirming my acceptance.

My mood improved somewhat on the flight over, and during my orientation in Tokyo, which still seemed like home. But when I eventually flew out to western Japan and caught the long bus and then ferry that would take me to the island, I felt my confidence slipping. Instead of attractive young women, I was surrounded by aged farmers and other toothless geriatrics. I tried to make small talk with my coworkers, who had come out to meet me, but didn’t get very far. One of them asked me about my interests.

“Clubbing, fashion, music,” I said. “And you?”

“Fishing. And, smoking.”

The types living in my apartment complex seemed barely more exciting. As I lugged my suitcases up the hill, I saw that a number of the residents were outside having a barbecue. The men were mostly tanned, pot-bellied and barefoot, while the women had missing teeth and blonde dye-jobs that had been left too long without maintenance, resulting in an abrupt black-and-yellow streaked look (the Japanese refer to this as “pudding” hair). There were a few local gangster types who seemed more out of shape than threatening, and a scattering of Chinese and Brazilians who had come over to work on the ships. I tried talking to everyone, but heard mostly complaints about the island’s monotony, and incredulity that I had actually agreed to come here. The island didn’t even have a convenience store, just a market. There seemed to be nothing to do but get wasted and go fishing. Apart from that, the height of excitement was an establishment just across the water that was well-stocked with Filipina hookers.

“I’ll take you there some time,” a young man told me. “The girls are kind of busted up, but their bodies are okay. Better than my wife, at least.”

His wife was seated next to him. Her expression conveyed less anger than total, paralytic weariness.

I settled into my apartment, which looked as if it had last been renovated fifty years earlier: tatami mats, low ceiling beams, no air conditioning and a toilet that backed up constantly. Still, I tried to make the best of things. My work in the town hall was a joke; most of the office workers were incompetent at best, barely able to perform their meagre administrative duties, but at least they left me to my own devices. Helping out in the island’s schools was equally undemanding, and from time to time I taught English to an assortment of elderly pensioners who seemed more interested in drinking than talking.

And, of course, all I could think about was girls.

Utterly fixated on my goals, I went about building my “urban lifestyle” even in the midst of this absurd situation. My determination to inhabit my dream life was nearly quixotic. I walked along the island’s dirt roads in flashy clothes while humpbacked old women passed me carrying vegetables. The spectacular scenery of the Inland Sea was lost on me. Lush forests, misty mountains and traditional architecture? What? I wanted to be attending parties and hanging out in clubs all night. I worked out early on how to catch a ferry to the mainland and then take a bus into central Hiroshima, which I proceeded to do without fail nearly every weekend for the next two years. These weekend trips were my life: even now I think of this period as “the Hiroshima years,” and few of the monotonous weekdays on the island have left any lasting impression.

Slowly, against all odds, my dream life came into being. Hiroshima was a small city, but it was a city nonetheless, an urban center with shops, bars and clubs. Commuting there every weekend and staying for two nights was expensive, but what else was there for me to spend my government salary on? The island’s cost of living was nonexistent; my subsidized rent and utilities were all but free and my neighbors left me fresh vegetables and often bought me lunch during work hours, so that I hardly spent anything on food. The prospect of living frugally and simply saving the money – as my predecessor claimed to have done – never occurred to me. I wanted to live.

During my first weekend in the city, I managed to find the Nagarekawa nightlife district – a shadow compared to those in Tokyo, but still packed with tons of bars and clubs to explore. I struck up a conversation with one of the bartenders and was soon introduced to a group of young Japanese men who offered to take me out drinking with them. I would end up hanging out with this same group for most of the next two years. They would go on to show me the ins and outs of the small but surprisingly active Hiroshima club scene.

I was still eager to make more Japanese friends, spurred on by my memories of those I’d met in Tokyo. In my mind, Hiroyuki, Rintaro, Ryu and the rest had grown into idealized heroes. I was determined to follow in the footsteps of these nanpa geniuses and start tearing up the streets. The thought that I could simply approach the girls I wanted anywhere and at any time filled me with an almost unbearable excitement.

Somewhat eccentrically, I’d started to think of nanpa as an actual art, something requiring as much discipline, training and contemplation as martial arts or a foreign language. I felt as if I were investigating Japanese tradition as much as anyone researching the country’s literature or learning its tea ceremony. I was deep in the nightside of the culture, a latter day disciple of that mythical “soft bunch,” those fin de siècle Meiji and Taisho era decadents who had, I imagined, lived only for women, shrugging off the harsh heritage of Bushido in favor of a floating world of ethereal beauty and slick, perfumed flesh. I was a deracinated foreigner in the middle of nowhere, an anonymous kid on the street talking to strangers, but in my head I was an initiate, a young monk sworn to the hunt. Thinking only of girls every day and every night, I attained an almost mystical level of concentration and felt an attendant joy. Little by little I cast off my weaknesses and aspired to the level of absolute indifference to rejection that I’d observed in Hiroyuki.

The process was painful, though, and through it I became well acquainted with my own petty weaknesses and entitlements. The first three months I spent mostly on my own, trying desperately to pull girls from bars, clubs and train stations and striking out more often than not. I was still reactive and inexperienced, and it showed. I knew that I’d have to “level up” everything about myself if I wanted to succeed.

I thought long and hard about the kind of man I wanted to be. I would have to be daring, but also discreet: Japan was a land where surfaces counted. If I was seen as a loud, obnoxious foreigner, the social circles I wanted access to would be closed to me forever. I would have to be stylish: this was a fashionable country where looks mattered.

And so I hit the gym to stack some muscle onto my slender frame. I dyed my hair from light brown to a striking blonde and got a haircut from a Japanese hairdresser. “Kakkoyoku kitte,” I told her: “Cut it cool.” I read magazines like Joker and Men’s Egg and copied the male models I saw in them. I was tall and wiry enough to get away with the often punishing clothing sizes, not made for thick Western frames. I can see now that my efforts were superficial imitations, but at the time they were what I needed. I felt like a different person: the mental changes I’d initiated were now radiating outwards.

The other key change was the result of a gradual process that was now paying off: my Japanese language ability. Over the years I’d whittled this initially blunt instrument down to something closer to what the poet GZA of the Wu-Tang Clan referred to as a liquid sword. During my year in Tokyo I’d spent enough time in bars, izakayas, karaoke booths and, perhaps most importantly, sitting on the couch of the dormitory living room watching hour after hour of formulaic, implausible, poorly-filmed and edited but still somehow compelling Japanese soap operas that I’d actually reached something like near-native conversational fluency. And the hours spent in classes and studying textbooks added the final grammatical finish. I could talk.

Incredibly, when I approached girls with my new clothes and language skills, I was sometimes mistaken for a half or even full-blooded Japanese. This seemed absurd beyond words, but it told me something about the power of suggestion. Wasn’t race, after all, just another fiction? I had no desire to actually be Japanese, but I saw now that even in this most rigid and racially conscious society, the boundaries were flexible. Performance was everything. And hadn’t it always been this way? Hadn’t the onnagata, the female impersonators in kabuki theatre, been considered more feminine than actual women? Why couldn’t a foreigner fully integrate himself into Japanese society, provided he acted the part and, more importantly, understood the mindset of those around him? He would still be a foreigner, of course, and seen as such, but over time he might become something more; might become, simply, a person.

But I was still looking at the process through the rose-colored lens of idealism. True integration doesn’t just mean skimming the cream off the top of a society, it means duty, hardship and, inevitably, heartache. When people start to see you as a person, I learned, they start to expect things from you. And nowhere is this more apparent than in relationships – not the fast, anonymous one-night hookups of the party scene, but lasting relationships where the girl invests in you, imagining your shared future and discussing you with her friends.

Back then, most of this was still beyond me, but now, almost ten years later, I can see that my intuition about language, at least, was correct. I’ve met hundreds of Japanese-illiterate foreigners in Japan – some of whom have lived here for decades – and they’ve always seemed curiously divorced from their adopted home. Many of them fall into routines of dependency, relying on wives or girlfriends to take care of everyday tasks, everything from paying bills to doing taxes to ordering in a restaurant. But I have no desire to be a child again. And even as a student I knew that in the real world, language, culture and psychology are largely inseparable.

Now, when someone asks me how they can hook up with the Japanese girls of their dreams, I always ask them how good their Japanese is. If it’s not at least conversational, I tell them to go back and hit the books. I don’t believe that language skills are utterly necessary – if your confidence is rock-solid and your charisma world-class, you can get by. But why not give yourself the advantage? Even a few phrases will put people at ease. The fresh-off-the-boat act is no draw for the nation’s most beautiful and desired women, if it ever was. Too many foreigners here limit themselves to internationalized, English-speaking girls when they could be going for the top beauties. This “international party” scene can become a trap: not only are you likely to be competing against scores of other foreigners there under the pretext of “language exchange,” but the limited pool of girls is nothing compared to the endless variety on parade in the streets.

On that note, it’s worth mentioning the kind of girls I was interested in. Along with the previously mentioned stereotypes about Japanese men, there’s still what might be called the Madame Butterfly archetype – the idea of a Japanese woman willing to endure endless privations for her errant lover, selflessly devoting herself to an imagined future and all but wasting away in the process. Perfectly feminine, perfectly submissive, perfectly forgiving.

Perfectly boring.

More recently, this stereotype has had something of a resurgence in the context of dismissing Western women as less feminine and desirable. It’s a frequent theme in expat bars: Western women – presumably because of their historically recent social and economic equality – have lost their charm, and so it’s time to turn East in search of “unspoiled” and “natural” girls. Needless to mention, Western women themselves are rarely present when this unconvincing theme gets trotted out.

All this was anathema to me. I still loved Western (and African, Latin and Middle Eastern) women, and even in Japan I didn’t want wilting geishas, I wanted strong women with their own drives and desires. I wasn’t looking for a mother or daughter but someone I could look in the face and be proud to call my equal.

And, for the most part, that’s what I got.

Okay – except for the “looking in the face” part. Girls here above 170 cm are still rare.

In general, Japanese women are not at all like the stereotypes. Most of them know exactly what they want and wield considerable social power – and this is doubly true for the more sexually attractive ones. And while economic inequalities persist, often manifesting as glass ceilings at work and the pressure to put marriage and children before career, it would be a mistake to call Japanese women powerless or second class citizens. Neither are they waiting around for a foreign knight to sweep them off their feet: most are perfectly content with the high value Japanese men in their lives.

So despite the considerable time I’d spent studying Japanese language and culture, I still came in with the attitude that I needed to prove myself and wouldn’t be given any free points or passes. I was an outsider, and so I’d have to work twice as hard as the locals to get what I wanted. This attitude served me well when grinding out long hours doing approaches on the streets and in the clubs. But even now I see fresh-off-the-boat foreigners wandering around with a crude sense of entitlement, as if Japan were a third world country or colonial port. Wearing gauche tourist clothes, speaking loud English and staggering around drunk, not realizing how dated and unattractive they seem. Needless to mention, these types are almost never seen with high quality girls.

My ideal was also sexual rather than cute. To put it mildly, I wasn’t turned on by girls who looked and acted like children. I wanted women: powerful women aware of their own allure. I was through with girl next door types like Maya and wanted the girls who turned heads in clubs. Right away this differentiated me from most of the foreigners I met, who seemed content with any girl at all as long as she was Japanese and willing. It’s not my place to judge other people’s tastes, but I saw my share of handsome young men with frumpy middle-aged women and serial foreigner-daters who wanted them more for their ethnicity and fantasy image of Western (almost always meaning American) culture. My black friends attracted a different kind of “gaijin hunter,” and often complained of being stereotyped into a hip-hop role, even if they were more into jazz and house. I learned to avoid these types; they were as bad as their Western equivalents, the fantasists longing for Cho-Cho-San.

Striking out on my own in Hiroshima, though, I quickly realized that Momoka had been a fluke; most of the top level beauties I approached wanted nothing to do with me. High on beginner’s luck, I’d assumed I could easily replicate my earlier successes, but instead I ran headlong into a period of repeated failure. I was being jerked around by my emotions and taking everything too seriously. Worse, I had no one to talk to about any of it. My new Japanese friends in Hiroshima were into partying, but none of them seemed as nanpa-focused as my Tokyo-based friends had been. I needed someone to talk to about the path I was starting down, but I was alone.

Over the past year or so I’d been corresponding online with a man who called himself Nubreed, an American who had spent several years living in Osaka and practicing the art of nanpa. Nubreed was back in the U.S. now, but he still maintained his blog, which had been an invaluable early source of info on the Japanese game scene as it then existed. Unlike the clownish pickup artist types who seemed to think the “Mystery Method” and its derivatives were a good fit for Japan, Nubreed kept a cool head and practiced a more empirical approach. Thoughtful and sensitive, he was attuned to the realities of life in Japan, and took time to learn the language and culture. And just as importantly, he actually seemed to care about the attractiveness of the girls he approached. Indeed, Nubreed’s standards were probably the most punishing I’d ever encountered. According to him, next to no foreigners other than himself had ever really made inroads with truly attractive and popular Japanese girls, who he defined exclusively as the girls most desired by aggressive Japanese gamers: young, slim, tanned and fashionable, the kind of girls who appeared as models in magazines like Egg and Blenda. Over email Nubreed showed me photos of several of his hookups and ex girlfriends, which more or less confirmed what he’d been telling me. Even better, his blog was written in a clear, accessible style that was totally free of unnecessary jargon. I knew that he was the real deal, and only wished that he was still in Japan so we could game together.

In frustration at my recent lack of success, I mailed Nubreed and told him about my solo attempts at street and club game in Hiroshima.

“I’m going hard but just don’t seem to be getting anywhere.”

“You need a wing, dude,” he told me. “Actually, I think I might know a guy in your area. He’s going up to Osaka for Silver Week and will probably be rampaging around. Why don’t I tell him about you and you could maybe hang out with him? I know he goes into Hiroshima a lot too.”

Nubreed put us in touch over email, and I resolved to head up to Osaka to meet Dylan. I was excited but also exceedingly nervous, as I knew next to nothing about him and had never before met anyone who self-identified as any kind of gamer or pickup artist. I imagined that he would be some kind of aggressive frat type, or else a high-powered businessman down to slam drinks and aggressively pursue girls. I worried that he’d consider me a deadweight newbie.

Amusingly, my fears couldn’t have been more unfounded. Dylan turned out to be a short, mild-mannered, very well-groomed Australian who’d been living in Japan for close to a decade. Even now he remains possibly the most socially-calibrated individual I’ve ever met, and one of the few foreigners to have integrated with absolute smoothness into Japanese life. His spoken and written Japanese were beyond flawless, well up to interpreter level, and his cultural knowledge was vast. He was about six or seven years older than me and currently living in the Shimane region, which meant he could fairly easily take weekend trips to Hiroshima. He was accompanied on the trip by his friend Jared, another Australian with a close-cropped shaved head and a dour expression. Again, neither of them matched my preconception of what a gamer or pickup artist would be like; they were about as far from the douchebro stereotypes I’d read about online as I could imagine.

Catching the shinkansen train up to Osaka alone, I felt the same sense of excitement I had when I’d first visited Tokyo. I’d never been to the Kansai region before and had no idea what to expect from Osaka, a city I’d heard was “dirtier than Tokyo, but more relaxed.” That actually sounded right up my alley, and I imagined there would be certain kinds of girls in Osaka I’d never see in Tokyo or anywhere else. This proved to be correct, in a sense, and the city remains one of my favorites.

I met up with Dylan and Jared outside the capsule hotel we’d all decided to stay at, and that night we attended an international party, then spent the next few days doing street nanpa during the day and going clubbing at night. None of us managed to pull or even did particularly well, and in fact it was difficult for me to tell what “doing well” would even entail. Were we supposed to be shooting for fast sex as soon as possible? This clearly seemed like the best option, given that we’d be leaving Osaka in a few days and wouldn’t really be able to arrange any dates. Even so, we mostly went around collecting contact information, using the then-current sekigaisen or infrared ray exchange function on our old-style clamshell phones. Both Dylan and Jared seemed very polite, not at all close to what I remembered of the street nanpa I’d witnessed from Rintaro and Hiroyuki. Weren’t nanpa dudes supposed to be a bit more thuggish and direct? I tried to adjust my style to come off as more “nanpa,” and Dylan seemed surprised.

“Wow, you’re pretty aggressive…we usually don’t open this much,” he said. “You just shoot right in after anyone with no hesitation. Never seen anyone with this little approach anxiety. I mean, what are you even using as an opener?”

“Um, what is ‘open’?”

“Talk to girls. Like that three set we just did.”

“Sets? What is this, tennis?”

“Set just means a girl or group of girls. Like that static two set over there.”

“Static…what?”

“They’re sitting down in front of Starbucks. Static sets are ones that aren’t moving,” Jared explained.

As became clear over the course of the week, these two had been influenced by the Western “seduction community,” which I was still pretty much entirely oblivious to. I’d never read Neil Strauss’s book The Game and didn’t have much idea what the Mystery Method or anything else was. I’d heard about this scene online, but it didn’t seem to have much to do with Japan or the girls Nubreed and I most wanted to approach. What was the point of making up unnecessary jargon about “sets” and “escalation ladders”? I’d seen successful nanpa in action from my Japanese friends, and it didn’t seem to require any of this kind of terminology.

Dylan and Jared seemed impressed with my approaches and my ability to hold a girl’s attention. Even so, I didn’t feel like I was much good at nanpa yet, and I still wasn’t getting laid. But the novelty of taking so much consistent, concerted action over such a long time period was intoxicating, almost like an altered state of consciousness. This was something I’d never really done before at such length, and certainly not with like-minded people who were totally on the same page. I couldn’t imagine my old university friends being up for it.

“You’re going to put that much time and effort into just talking to girls?” I could imagine them saying. I’d always felt that my deep-rooted desire to get better with women and engage with more of them was somehow abnormal, stronger than most people’s, but the presence of Dylan and Jared normalized it. We were all on the same page, and we soon became fast friends.

While I was driven by raw libidinal fire and obsession, Dylan treated nanpa as an amusing diversion. He even claimed not to particularly care whether his encounters with girls ended in sex or not. Looking back on it now, his attitude was clearly healthier than mine, but at the time it was difficult for me to understand his detachment. Over the next two years he would act as a calming influence, helping me keep perspective in the face of what often seemed to me like devastating upsets and failures. It was exactly what I needed: encouragement leavened by a sense of proportion. In other words he was exactly the kind of “big brother” figure I needed at the time. Dylan also introduced me to the Japan Lair forum, which was where he had met Nubreed, and which proved to be an invaluable resource. On a whim I chose the screen name “Dorian Gray,” as I was a big fan of the Wilde novel and related to the hero’s theme of carrying on a double life under a mask of respectability.

I returned from the Osaka trip galvanized, utterly certain that I was on the correct path. My life fell into a predictable routine: sleepwalk through working life on the weekdays and head up to Hiroshima on the weekends for street game with Dylan and Jared. We soon learned the layout of the city, and came to concentrate our nanpa efforts on the area around the long, crowded Hondori street of shops that led down to the Parco department store. The Nagarekawa nightlife district was only a few streets away. Hiroshima was no Tokyo, but there was no shortage of beautiful girls, and we almost always returned home on Sunday with our phones full of new numbers. We made friends in the Hiroshima night life scene too, and one young Japanese man, who I’ll call DJ Zero, turned out to be a reliable guide to the bars and clubs.

One night I arrived in the city on Saturday for a date with a girl I’d approached outside the Aeon Mall a few weeks back. This girl turned out to be half-Korean, tall, decent body and face, good hairstyle. During the initial conversation she’d mentioned being a fan of the author Eimi Yamada, whose books mostly concern Japanese women having sex with foreigners. This would seem like a good sign, but it would turn out later to have unexpected consequences.

We met up about 9:30 outside Parco and I took her to an Irish-themed pub called Molly Malone’s. Over mail I’d asked her if I could borrow one of her Yamada books, since I wanted to try reading it in Japanese. She brought it along and I flipped through it a bit while we were ordering drinks. The date proceeded reasonably smoothly; she mentioned wanting to go overseas and seemed generally interested in foreign culture. The conversation was going well and all seemed on board for bringing her back to my hotel afterwards. Everything was going well…but then at one point she excused herself to go to the bathroom, and on the way back she went up to a tall man standing by the bar and started talking to him. I was a bit pissed off at her approaching someone else right in front of me, but I assumed it was someone she knew. Eventually she came back over and sat down.

“Is that your friend?” I asked.

“No, it’s my husband,” she said, with no hesitation.

I looked at her in incomprehension.

“Actually, he’s my ex-husband…” she continued. “We’re divorced, but I’m still living with him. He’s from Nigeria and wants to stay in Japan, but he can’t find a job. Actually, I’m still in love with him.”

“Well…maybe you should get back together with him then?” I said with an icy tone.

I looked up and saw that the Nigerian ex-husband at the bar was giving me his own frosty gaze.

“I want to, but he doesn’t want to get back together with me,” the girl said.

“Why not?”

“I have too many friends…he became jealous. It’s difficult.”

At this point I was still on board for taking her back to my hotel, but during the course of the evening she kept excusing herself and going over to talk to the ex-husband for ten minutes at a time. As a result, I rapidly lost interest, and actually felt bad for the Nigerian ex-husband, who looked increasingly angrier each time she went over to talk to him. This culminated when we got up to leave, and instead of coming up to pay half the bill she ran off and started talking to him, then disappeared, leaving me with the bill. I paid it all, then sent her a message telling her to come back. Half an hour later she reappeared.

“I’m really sorry…things are difficult,” she said.

“I understand…anyway please pay your half of the bill.”

She looked down. “I’m sorry. I don’t have any money at all.”

“Nothing in there?”

I pointed at her bag, where I could see the Eimi Yamada book. On a whim I reached over and took the book out. It was hardcover and looked fairly new; it would have been at least the price of what she owed me.

“Well, I guess I’ll borrow this at least,” I said.

“But I think you don’t want to see me again, right? When are you going to return it?”

“Not sure. Maybe after I’ve read it.”

“Sorry…you can’t have it.”

I held up the book and walked away from her. “Thanks…maybe I’ll see you around,” I said.

Dejected from the encounter, I went to McDonald’s and tried reading the book for a while, but eventually became disgusted with Yamada’s weak prose style and threw it in the trash. After that, still drunk and somewhat hyped-up, I wandered alone over to Nagarekawa and entered the club called Mugen. I went up to the second floor and saw that they were having some kind of reggae event; it was fairly crowded and there were several attractive girls, although most of them were with guys. I introduced myself to a bunch of people and danced for a few hours. At around 4 AM I tried pulling one girl out of the club and got her as far as the door before she insisted on waiting for her friends. I left and started walking back to my hotel.

As I came within less than a minute’s walk of the entrance, I noticed a young girl wheeling her bicycle along the sidewalk. She stopped to check her phone, and on impulse I went over and started talking to her.

“Are you grounded in the Enlightenment?” I asked her in English. Recently Dylan and I had been experimenting with exactly this kind of nonsensical “opener.” I half-suspected that the content of any opening line made no difference whatsoever, and this experiment seemed to prove it, as the girl suddenly stopped and took off her headphones.

“What?”

“I like your bike,” I said. “What did you do tonight?”

The conversation progressed over the next ten minutes. She was a short girl, twenty-two years old, and I noticed her extraordinarily thin legs, displayed by black mini shorts. She was generally very pretty. I learned that she had never left Hiroshima, spoke no English and had no interest in foreign countries or culture. Her name was Miya.

“What are you doing now?” I asked her.

“I was going to go to a bar run by my friend, but it was closed so I’m going home now.”

“Let’s have one drink together,” I suggested.

“Huh? Where?”

I pointed to the nearby Lawson convenience store. We went and got drinks, and then very naturally, with no hesitation I led her back across the street to my hotel. Once inside my room, we popped open our drinks and talked for a while longer. It turned out Miya was a dancer and was taking some kind of Hawaiian dance class. I got her to do a demonstration, then started giving her a massage, which somehow transitioned into a make-out. Before long we were naked and going at it with furious energy. Her body was slim and tight, and she apologized for “looking like a shougakusei (school student),” but for me it was unforgettable.

After only an hour of sleep, Miya awoke and excused herself with a final kiss, then headed out to catch the first train of the morning. I went straight back to sleep and awoke at noon, unsure of what had just happened. My night had gone from terrible to amazing with no warning. Had I really just slept with a girl not even twenty minutes after meeting her for the first time? A girl I had approached alone on the street in the middle of the night? In spite of all I had learned about nanpa so far, in spite of all the time I’d put into street approaches over the past few months, next to everything in my background screamed at me that this shouldn’t have worked, couldn’t possibly be real, in fact might even have been some creepy form of harassment or coercion! And yet Miya had been ecstatic. What had I gotten myself into?

One thought on “The Birth of Japan Game: Episode 4: The Exile

  1. I stumbled upon your story while browsing the internet and I love your writing style! Not to mention the content of your writing is pretty insightful and hits close to home on some parts. Looking forward to the next episode!

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