By Rashaad Jorden (Yamagata-ken, 2008-2010) for JQ magazine. Rashaad worked at four elementary schools and three junior high schools on JET, and taught a weekly conversion class in Haguro (his village) to adults. He completed the Tokyo Marathon in 2010, and was also a member of a taiko group in Haguro.
If you were to tell stories centering on the most memorable aspects of your stay in Japan, what would you focus on?
Donna George Storey tackled the erotic. Her autobiographic eBook, Amorous Woman, brings out a side of Japan that many might not see. Inspired by Ihara Saikaku’s novel, The Life of an Amorous Woman, Storey brings to life the kinkiest aspects of her nine years in Japan, where she worked as an English teacher and a bar hostess, in addition to enjoying the company (to say the least) of countless Japanese men.
Amorous Woman actually doesn’t start in Japan but in San Francisco, where the novel’s protagonist Lydia is teaching Japanese business etiquette (despite the fact she knows little of it) to businessmen en route to the Land of the Rising Sun. But she’s actually planning to do a 180 from her life in Japan—Lydia has decided to model her life on a Japanese courtesan-turned-nun, a character that only lives in the fantasies of Ihara Saikaku. She even tells herself upon leaving Japan that she will never have sex again.
If only if it weren’t that easy to get the subject off her mind. Since she knows “plenty about picking up strangers in hot spring baths, handcuffing guys to beds in tacky love hotels,” among other things, she decides to tell the real story of her stay in Japan to two students over dinner. That’s when Amorous Woman really heats up.
But the novel’s kinkiness starts well before Lydia ever steps foot in Japan. She describes her mother and a woman named Mrs. Muller (who, like her mother, was a widow) as being her first teachers in sensual pleasure, but it was her cousin Caroline and Caroline’s friend Marybeth who got Lydia to lose her innocence. Marybeth practices giving Lydia a blowjob, and Caroline sets up the big cherry popping for her cousin. And she was ready: Lydia’s first sexual partner Mike thought she did a good job, to say the least.
Lydia’s libido only picks up in Nihon, where she was “hungry for new flavors of every kind,” including foreigners. (Despite saying she didn’t come to Japan to shag white guys, she gives awesome head to a fellow American named Jason whom she meets on a bus). During the early portion of her Japanese stay, most of her bed partners were college students (the only Japanese men with time for her), but she moves on to salarymen, even marrying one named Yuji Yoshikawa.
But if you thought marriage was going to tie down Lydia, you’re sorely mistaken. In part because she was unhappily married, Lydia continues to enjoy numerous flings with both men and women. And through a new position at a hostess club, she meets more men she can open her legs to. (How else do you think she celebrated her last night in Japan?)
In between all the sex, though, there are numerous hilarious moments in Amorous Woman, like when Lydia teaches one of her lovers the meanings of first/second/third base, etc. And that wasn’t the only time Lydia introduced some new vocabulary to adults: at a bounenkai, she mimics sex acts on stage while teaching those in attendance some not-so-G-rated synonyms for one’s private parts.
Even if your life in Japan wasn’t as raunchy as Lydia’s, you’ll appreciate the cultural references she includes in the novel, such as an omiai, the occasion where she met her husband, and shibari (Japanese bonding). She also takes readers into the world of Japanese weddings and work parties, and hilariously explains some differences between Japan and the U.S.
I would have liked to have read more about what attracted her to the men she met in Japan. Of course, the answer to that question might be obvious. But she enjoyed several dalliances with businessmen, who are not considered sexy in the eyes of many. Also, there was no mention of what brought her to Japan in the first half of the book.
The latter quibble is mild. Amorous Woman is well written—especially the vibrant, vivid sexual acts—and you get the feeling that this would make a great film (If nothing else, there would be some hilarious scenes). Although this book is geared toward adults who have spent time in Japan, those who only know of Japan the stoic stereotype of the salaryman will be nicely introduced to its freakiness and kinkiness.
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