Remember when I said Vancouver was the worst place in the world to meet men? I take it back. Rural Japan is way, way worse. I haven’t felt this invisible and ignored since the last time I went to a gay bar.
Now, I’m not the kind of girl who bases her self-worth on her attractiveness to men. But it’s nice to have a little male attention now and then (being hit on by pimply teenage boys and the mayor doesn’t count).
I feel like Quasimodo out here. Men cross the street when they see me coming. Construction workers fall silent and stare down at their boots when I pass by. I could jump up and down in the middle of the road wearing nothing but a bikini and the men would still avert their eyes and run the other way.
I decided to ask the male teachers at my school why Japanese men went out of their way to avoid me. Of course, I had to wait until after several rounds of beer and sake since the male teachers are only brave enough to talk to me when they are completely wasted.
“Why do all the men in this town refuse to speak to me or even look at me?” I asked in broken Japanese once they were properly loaded.
“Japanese are shy!” yelled the 27-year-old social studies teacher. “Japanese man has Samurai soul! Samurai are shy!”
I politely pointed out that a truly shy person wouldn’t be screaming at the top of his lungs in the middle of a restaurant about how shy he was.
His response was to yell even louder. “I WILL BE YOUR BOYFRIEND!” He then drew imaginary circles around his nipples while chanting something that sounded like, “Ling, ling, ling, ling, ling, ling, ling, ling.”
The consensus around the very drunk, very loud, very rowdy and very obnoxious table was that Japanese men are painfully shy.
I realized the only way I was going to get a date in Japan was if I made the first move. Unfortunately, this isn’t as easy as it sounds.
For starters, the married men in this town don’t wear wedding rings. It’s impossible to know who’s single and who isn’t without wasting valuable time. I’d strike up a conversation with a cute guy only to have him say, “My wife is on your volleyball team” or “My son goes to your school.”
Not only is it impossible to tell if a guy is married, it’s equally difficult to tell how old he is.
One night after volleyball practice, I chatted up some cute basketball players who spoke passable English. They weren’t shy at all (that should have been my first clue). After about 10 minutes of flirting, one of them asked me to guess how old he was. I gave him a good, hard look and said 28. It was an honest answer so I couldn’t figure out why they were killing themselves laughing. It turned out they were all 19! I got out of there faster than the bullet train leaves Tokyo.
My luck isn’t much better with foreign men. While spending a weekend in the city, I met a guy from Australia. He was tall and lean with rugged good looks and a wicked sense of humour. We hit it off immediately. He even asked for my phone number and offered to take me surfing. Just when things were looking up, he dropped the bomb and casually mentioned his boyfriend. His boyfriend!
It’s hopeless. I didn’t think my love life could be any more non-existent than it was in Vancouver. How does that old saying go? Just when you think you’ve hit rock bottom, someone throws you a shovel. Yeah. That about sums it up.