This is part one of a three-part story (read parts two and three in the next two days), where foreign woman Rosaria shares with us her experiences with a challenging relationship with a (married) Japanese man. It might not have the fairy-tale ending we grew up looking for, but still offers a unique look at one experience of being a foreign woman in Japan–thanks very much to Rosaria for sharing!
It’s snowing like it often does in this New England town where I’ve been living since I left Tokyo six years ago. I can hear the snowplows dragging by, and as I look out of the window, the tossed cigarettes and candy wrappers that were blown onto the sidewalks are being cleansed by a blanket of pure, white powder. I’m wishing that my memories of Hiroshi could be erased as easily. And, like the snow, thoughts of the past drift and swirl, turning years with him into moments of hazy, dreamlike reality, with each passing day.
I remember that summer when a friend of mine telephoned to ask if I’d help his friend with English. I told him that I wasn’t interested in teaching adult Japanese men. Usually businessmen bored me, and no matter what approach I used with them, they were somehow unable to remember a word of what they learned. Worse than that, they would inevitably make a move on me, so I was reluctant to take the job. However, my friend assured me that the guy was only interested in making money; women were last on his agenda. He also told me the pay would be great, and when he said the man’s name, I realised he was one of my favorite designers in Tokyo. I was dying to know who was behind such beautiful clothes, so I agreed to meet him.
As soon as I saw him, I liked him immediately, especially his way of talking. It was almost, but not quite, feminine. So sweet was that voice of his. I could have sat and listened to him forever. He had artist’s hands. They were small, with strong, defined fingers. His nails were evenly cut. He was wearing jeans, and his butt was so small, it nearly broke my heart. He was dark for a Japanese, and he had crooked teeth. Then out of the blue he told me that we probably wore the same size jeans. That comment blew me away. I knew I had to see him again, even if it were for a once-a-week English lesson.
After the interview, I didn’t hear from him for a month, and even though I was involved with someone else at the time, he was somehow on my mind. He finally called and asked me out to a movie. In the theatre, sitting next to him drove me crazy. I didn’t want the film to end. Afterwards, he suggested going out to eat, and he took me to a trendy French restaurant in Tokyo. I hardly ate a thing. I was shaking all over, and besides I didn’t care for fancy French food. When the waiter brought the bill, it was outrageous, and we didn’t even have anything to drink. When I made a comment about it, Hiroshi politely asked me to ignore the costs of things whenever we went out together. I thought, ‘wow, he is planning on seeing me again.’ I promised myself that I would never mention prices again, but it was often difficult not to take one little peek at the bills. He really knew how to spend money. He despised stinginess. He once told me that if he went out to eat with a client, and the person suggested that they go Dutch, he would take that as a bad sign and would no longer do business with that person again.
The first date I had back home was with a man with a Yale Med School and was also a designer of sportswear. At the movie theatre, he asked if I wouldn’t mind splitting the bill. I was so shocked that I insisted on paying for both tickets. During the movie he tried to hold my hand, but I was angry and wouldn’t let him. After the film, I didn’t want to hurt his feelings, even though I thought he was cheap, so I told him I wasn’t liberated enough to continue such an arrangement. He made some excuse, saying that future engagements, such as opera, would be costly if he had to pay for both of us. If he’d only known that once, in London, Hiroshi booked seats on the Concord just because I told him that I missed my sister in New York.
The sex was fantastic, but it didn’t happen all at once. It took us six months to finally get it on. After a few dates, it started with long, sweet goodnight kisses, combined with the cigarette smoke in his car, made me weak in the knees and wobbling all the way to my door. His smoking was awful, but I never complained because I didn’t want him to stop seeing me. He said he’d been smoking since he was 15. Luckily, for both of us, soon after we starting getting serious, he went cold turkey and said it was for me. The first time we slept together was in Kyoto. He had a house there that he took me to one weekend. On the train, he said that he used the place as a design studio, so it was scattered with fabric and thread, and it was also cold and damp. Because he knew that I was a neat freak, he wanted to warn me in advance. I was so excited to be alone with him; I couldn’t care less what the place looked like. I was dying to touch him, that skin, that black hair, everything about him drove me wild. We finally arrived
at the house. He slid open the glass doors, and the earthy smell of new tatami and old wood greeted us. Tibetan rugs covered the floors. On the table was an antique basket to die for filled with Japanese rice cakes. The house was warm. Long before our arrival, someone came and prepared the house for us. Hiroshi didn’t miss a trick. It is strange that almost all of the furniture and rugs in that house are with me now, but Hiroshi will no longer walk on the carpets with those little flat feet of his again. That was the first time I slept with him. He took over an hour to take a bath, and I thought he’d forgotten about me. It was definitely worth the wait. From that night on, we decided that we would spend as much time as we could together.
Read more about how Rosaria and Hiroshi’s relationship progressed here, available from August 1.