42.2

One day Kei asks me: “Would you like to go to Kurokawa Onsen?”[1]

“Kurokawa? Of course, I would!” Deliciously impure thoughts fill my mind and I am barely able to contain my excitement. 

“No sex, though.”

“No sex? What’s the point in going to a hot spring if we’re not going to . . .”

“I meanit! No sex.”

“Okay, okay . . .” I say, doubtful this is going to work.

“But we can bathe together.”

“Well, now you’re talkin’!”

 

A week later Kei and I are in the mountains of Kumamoto prefecture, driving past the village of Kurokawa, where many of the more popular ryokan[2] and hot spring baths are located. She turns the car onto a gravel road that crosses a shallow river and continues on up into a thick bamboo grove. At the end of the road is an inn that looks deserted.

“Is it even open?” I say.

“Yes. I made a reservation.”

 

All the baths, we are told by the innkeeper, are “family type”, meaning—wink, wink—private. We collect some towels and a key, then walk down a stone path to a small wooden bungalow. Once inside, we get undressed, wash ourselves off, and then step into the bath. Kei has draped a wet towel over herself, covering but not quite concealing the beautiful curves of her body. The towel covering my crotch is propped up as if by a tent pole.

“You want some help with that?” she asks.

“I’d be much obliged.”

As Kei goes down on me, the chirping of the cicada in the surrounding bamboo thicket reaches a deafening crescendo.

 

 

Later, as we are reclining at the side of the bath, billing and cooing, Kei asks me why I hate my wife Haruka.

“It’s not that I hate her.” I know what Kei means: kirai, the Japanese word for “hate”, doesn’t quite carry the same sense of revulsion that the English word does.

“Well then, why do you want to get divorced?”

“That’s a difficult question.”

“Yes, but I want to understand.”

“I don’t know really. We’ve been married for two years, been together for twice as long. You’d think I might be able to understand someone after being with her for four or five years, but I can’t. I don’t know what she is thinking anymore or what motivates her. I can’t understand how she has come to accept our relationship the way it is, how she can look at it and still consider herself happy.”

“Why not? You do the housework, the shopping, the cooking. You let her travel abroad . . .”

“True.”

“If we were married, . . .”

Kei and me married, now there’s a thought. 

“. . . would you let me go abroad all by myself like that?”

“Probably not,” I answer.

“Why not?”

“The reason I let Haruka travel is because I don’t want to be with her. If she asked to go to a four-year university in America, I’d say, ‘Sure!’ and start helping her pack. I don’t miss her when she’s gone and I’m not particularly eager for her to come back. As for you, I would miss you, and I would long for your return. I’d also worry that you might find someone else.”

“And Haruka?”

“I’ve been pinning my hopes on her finding another man.”

“You’re terrible, Peadar. What if I told you I was going abroad for a long time whether you let me or not?”

“Then, I would go with you.”

Kei kisses me.


[1]Kurokawa Onsen (黒川温泉) is one of the better hot spring resorts in Kyūshū, if not all Japan.

[2]A ryokan(旅館) is a Japanese style inn.


The first installment/chapter of A Woman's Hand can be found here.

A Woman's Hand and other works are available in e-book form and paperback at Amazon.

37

Why do you think your relationship with Kei would last as long as it did?

Instability.

Instability?

Yes, instability. Uncertainty. Unpredictability. All those “ins” and “uns” that are like fuel to a fire. Although Kei and I met regularly—about once a week, sometimes more—there was never any guarantee that at the end of a date we would end up rolling in the sack. Most often we did not. A typical date, if you could call it that, involved the two of us walking in the evening under the branches of the willow trees along Meiji Avenue, talking about life. But every once in a while—usually when the imo jōchū [1] with umeboshi [2] she liked to drink went to her head—Kei would cuddle up next to me, rest that fragrant head of hers on my shoulder, and let me kiss her. The world could burn down around us and I wouldn’t have cared at all. It was that very unpredictability—not knowing when or where we would have sex again—that drove me mad with desire. It might be this afternoon; it might be two months from now; it might be at my home, in a dark alley, at a love hotel, or, yes, even on the deck of a yacht moored in the wharf at Minato. I would never know until she was lying naked below me, nipples like radio dials pointing upwards. The woman was as inscrutable as they come. And it was that very inscrutability, that unpredictability, which fired me up so and gave the relationship far more life than it would have everhad if Kei had just allowed me to get bored with what an easy a lay she actually was.

Excuse me?

I think Kei in her own way was forever trying to put the brakes on the relationship, to stop cheating on her husband—a man she really did intend to stay with until death did they part. But, by being inconsistent with her affection towards me she only succeeded in throwing fuel onto the fire. If we’d had a “normal” affair with regular sex, we probably wouldn’t have stayed together for nearly as long as we did.

 


[1] Imo jōchū (芋焼酎) is a clear, pungent liquor distilled from sweet potatoes. It is produced mainly in southern Kyūshū.

 Umeboshi (梅干し) are sour pickled plums.

The first installment/chapter of A Woman's Hand can be found here.

A Woman's Hand and other works are available in e-book form and paperback at Amazon.

36

I take it the answer is “No”.

No?

No, you did not consider the morality of what you were doing.

Morality was not a driver my actions, no. If anything, I was motivated by what I thought would make me happy, or, more accurately, less un-happy. The moral thing to do would have been to confront my wife and say, “Look, Haruka, we both know it: this marriage ain’t working. Let’s stop before the hole we’re in gets any deeper”, and face the consequences.

Why didn’t you?

Oh, I tried. On several occasions I tried, but . . . I’ll never forget this one time when we were having one of our legendary fights—about what I can’t for the life of me recall—and in the heat of the argument, I said: “Haruka, I can’t take it anymore! I’ve had it with the constant fighting and bickering! I want a divorce!” And, what does Haruka do? She buries her face in my chest and starts crying, blubbering rubbish like, “Don’t leave me. I love you.” Now, tell me, what is a man supposed to do in a situation like that?

Start sleeping with Ms. Availability?

Yeah. Odd though it may sound, thanks to my relationship with Kei, the next few years ended up being some of the better ones of my marriage.

I believe your average polygamist would find himself agreeing with you there, Peadar.


The first installment/chapter of A Woman's Hand can be found here.

A Woman's Hand and other works are available in e-book form and paperback at Amazon.

35

I’m curious, Peadar, did you ever consider the moral implications of what you were doing?

The implications of what?

Cheating on your wife, Haruka. Cuckolding Kei’s husband.

Oh, that . . . 

Yes, that.

Well, back when I first started sleeping with Xiuying, I felt nervous more than anything—nervous that Haruka might find out. I didn’t know how I would explain myself. But then, Haruka never did find out . . .

At least you don’t think she did.

Are you implying that she knew about the affairs?

I’m not implying anything, Peadar. It’s just that many women turn a blind eye to their husband’s infidelities, knowing that divorce would be far more disruptive to their lives than the occasional fling.

True. You know, before we married, Haruka surprised me by saying that she would be able to tolerate her husband visiting a soapland . . .

Pardon me?

Soaplands are a uniquely Japanese kind of brothel. Customers pay to take a bath with a woman who washes the man, massages him, and then depending on the customer’s needs and budget, either has sex with, or performs some kind of act on the man resulting in the man’s “pipes” also getting “cleaned”. Or so they say; I have never been to one myself.[1]

Those enigmatic Japanese.

Yes, well anyways, Haruka said she could forgive “an affair of the body”, but not “an affair of the heart”, the latter being the bigger threat.[2]

How would you have felt if Haruka had also sleeping around?

A German friend once asked me the very same question and it gave me some pause. How would I feel, I wondered. Would I be upset? Would I be angry? Or, would I be relieved? I had been with Haruka for more than four or five years, married for over two of those years, and I was now quietly longing for a way out of the marriage. If Haruka were also engaging in an extramarital affair, I concluded, why, there was the exit! All I needed to do was walk through it.

And don’t let the door hit you on your way out.

Knowing Haruka, though, I don’t think she would have overlooked the opportunity to lay into me with her usual extortionist demands, so I doubt she ever knew.

So, you didn’t think about the morality of . . .

What’s morality?

Knowing what the right thing to do is, and when to do it.

Was it morally wrong to sleep around while I was married to Haruka? That’s what you want to ask, right?

This isn’t about my wanting to ask you anything, Peadar. That isn’t my place. All I can do is help you reflect upon your actions, and hope you ask those questions yourself.

Alright, then! I’ll ask myself: was it morally wrong for me to have slept around? Before I answer that, let me say that I think the morality of any action depends on the circumstances.

Moral relativism?

Moral reality. Listen: I have a friend who sleeps around a lot and isn’t very good at keeping it from his wife. I’m sure he tries to be discreet, but he makes bonehead mistakes. It wouldn’t surprise me if his wife knew much more about his infidelities than he realizes. The interesting thing about it, though, is his wife has, as far as I know, never ever confronted him about the philandering. Her own father was a randy old sod who actually livedin a love hotel of all places, so I doubt she has any illusions about the trouble men’s dicks can get them into. The bar she has set for my friend to be “a good husband” is so low that he is able to skip over it. It seems that if he is able to bring home a steady paycheck and be a halfway decent father, she’s more than content. Is it, then, immoral for my friend to cheat on his wife? Probably, but then his wife might actually be disappointed if he didn’t, perverse as that may sound. So long as my friend is able to keep his extramarital relationships on the physical level, not the emotional one; so long as he doesn’t shove his wife’s face into the affairs, there doesn’t seem to be any overtly negative consequence to his infidelity. Expectations are important, too.

Expectations?

Yes. If you enter into a relationship where there is no expectation of the partners being faithful, then it probably isn’t immoral if either of them seeks sexual encounters outside of the relationship.

What do you think Haruka’s expectations were?

What about mine? I didn’t go into the marriage thinking that I would end up sleeping around. If she had been more cooperative, I doubt I would have ever . . . 

So, you’re saying it was Haruka’s fault?

No . . . It was both of our fault. We were both in our own way uncompromising and selfish.


[1]Prostitution is illegal in Japan. Technically, that is. The definition of prostitution, however, is limited to coitus, meaning that pretty much everything else that one can image isallowed. Also, there is no stipulated penalty for those who are prostitutes or those who use them, so, if a prostitute does have vaginal sex with a John, the act is considered to have been done in private between two consenting adults. (How convenient!) Although the laws regulating “businesses affecting public morals” (風俗法, fūzokuhō) have been amended over the years, prostitution is still going strong in Japan.

Case in point: a few months ago, I was approached by a “pimp” on a street corner in Nakasu, Fukuoka’s “adult-oriented” entertainment area. He asked me if I was interested in going to a “soapland”. 

In my two decades in this country, it was the very first time that any of these black-suited panderers had ever approached me. It left me with the impression that either Japan had come a long way in accepting foreigners or the economy still hadn’t recovered completely, “Abenomics” notwithstanding. A buck is a buck, no matter which schmuck the girl fucks.

I had a minute or two until the traffic signal changed, so I asked the pimp how much a visit to his soapland would cost. (No harm in asking, right?) He answered that there was a flat fee of fifteen thousand yen (about $160). 

“So cheap!”

Surely there must be some catch, I thought, and asked him if that was just the price you paid to get into the joint, the so-called nyūyoku-ryō (入浴料, lit. “entering bath charge”).

“No. It’s fifteen thousand for sex.”

“Get outtahere!”

I then asked if there was an extra charge, known as a shimei-ryō (指名), for choosing the girl, and he said, “No, you may have sex with any girl you like.”

“Really!”

While I didn’t take him up on his offer, I could see why many Japanese men do. When the light changed, I crossed the street and walked away, the modest price of a convenient “affair of the body” niggling at the back of my mind.

[2]“An affair of the body” in Japanese is karada no uwaki (体の浮気); “an affair of the heart”, kokorono uwaki (心の浮気).


The first installment/chapter of A Woman's Hand can be found here.

A Woman's Hand and other works are available in e-book form and paperback at Amazon.