September 29, 2005
Apparently a number of years back this schoolgirl panty thing was big among Tokyo`s salarymen. There were gallons of burusera shops in the dodgier areas like Kabuki-cho and Shibuya and Nippori, and panty vending machines on every corner, like little shrines, where you tithe your 500 yen offering, and out pops the little salty eucharist.
Until scandal hit.
Now you wouldnt have thought production costs would be too high in this industry, considering that you`re buying and selling shitty and sweaty underpants, things which in any normal country have essentially negative value.
Just send your purchasing team down to an interschool athletics gymkharna with a suitcase full of Hello Kitty and Winnie the Pooh plush keyrings, and trade them off for panties. Were I the local yakuza boss that’s what I’d have done.
But no. Always looking for ways to cut costs. Which lead to the downfall of the entire pre-loved-panty industry.
Now keep in mind, that I’m sure that you and I may find all this amusing.
And the salarymen were always more than happy to keep a spare pair in their bottom drawers for those little panty-emergencies.
The yakuza were getting fat off the profits.
And the schoolgirls were able to keep themselves in floppy socks, and Disney and Louis Vuitton paraphernalia.
But you can’t please everybody all the time.
It was the wives you see. The wives just weren’t impressed. And they got together with the church groups, in order to condemn the trade.
And it wasn`t long before they came upon a soiled panty factory.
To be honest, when I first heard about a soiled panty factory, it conjured up rather arousing images of a huge open hall filled with schoolgirls wearing nothing but cotton knickers and bras, doing aerobics, starjumps, running on treadmills, and wrestling.
But the reality was different.
The reality was closer to an old woman wearing a white apron and surgical mask with an easel, and a palette. But rather than paints on the palette of course, there was, well, you know, faeces, piss and brine. And of course a bit of blood for the premium panties.
And the clincher?
Not all of the blood shit and piss was even human.
Not all of the blood shit and piss was even human.
Think of it. To discover that the panties you`d been wearing on your head while you flogged off in the lounge when no-one was home, that you thought had been baptised with the healing innocent juices of a virgin schoolgirl had just in fact been crassly besmirched with a bit of dogshit.
It`d be enough to make me, well, perhaps not engage in such a depraved act!!
Once word got out, those vending machines became untouchable.
Something had to be done. So the yakuza bosses got a think tank together, and came up with a new concept: nama-sera.
This word that has been haunting me.
I haven`t actually ever SEEN a namasera store, but the idea is thus: you go inside, and there`s a heap of photos of cute chicks on the wall. You indicate the one you want, and step into a back room. You slide open the panel, and there`s the girl, the actual girl, in a room, working on the Stairmaster, or whatever, doing sit-ups. She comes over to the window, removes her panties and hands them to you through the panel. You pay a little extra, but you can be absolutely assured, they`re, well, freshly squeezed.
But as for the vending machines themselves, well their relevance to Japanese society has been tested and found wanting. They are nothing now but painful reminders, like scars, or the line of pale skin on the ring finger of a divorcee. Painful reminders of a time, when a subculture of over-stressed men, spent their evenings beating off to the smell of dogshit. These machines have been removed, replaced, discarded. They are relics of an innocent era, one of trust. Now they are lost to us, they are artifacts. All that remains is that sweet fragrance of a story, of a memory, of myth.
September 13, 2005
Shibuya Crossing is, apparently the busiest intersection in the world, so I’m told. And Starbucks sits enthroned above it. It is a cruddy Starbucks, filthy and smokey and cramped, and the sun streams straight through the place in the afternoon, but it has a quality view. Each time the lights change, thousands of people stream across that intersection. So many damn people. I can’t help but to keep trying to find where Wally is amongst them.
And all around the perimeter, enormous plasma screens with crisp mountains clothed in stately pines, and people dancing and cheerful and glowing. One of the screens showed the news, and there was a freaky picture of Saddam Hussein with a big thick grey beard, looking so very tired. But all the rest of it was advertising and music videos of bands with names like ‘Bump of Chicken’.
You know, one thing good about not being able to read or to understand, is that I am completely immune to advertising. The time I spent in Japan, I just didn’t desire anything. I didn’t give a toss about the latest movie, the latest video game, or the latest burger at McDonalds. I didn’t want to go away on holiday, I couldn’t give a shit about the pop stars or TV shows, I didn’t want to buy any CD’s, I didn’t want to have that operation to cut that extra piece of skin off my eyelid. I didn’t want to buy the latest toothpaste, or have my body cryogenically frozen after death.
* * * * *
There is a lot of sex shit going on in Japan. I don’t really understand a lot of it.
In the internet cafes, they supply you with a your own private booth.
They supply you with some convenient but suspicious tissues beside the monitor.
They are also very careful to fully spray and wipe down all the seats and table, and under the tables once you’re done. And it’s more than once that I saw the guy in front of me in the queue to pay, in his work suit, with the front of his shirt untucked.
* * * * * * *
I was in class this one afternoon, and I pointed out a schoolgirl to my student. She was quite clearly a schoogirl. In her little cr , pleated skirt, loose socks, white shirt and blue bag festooned with plush Disney keyrings. I mentioned her to my student.
She said, “She isn’t a schoolgirl.”
And you know, she did look kind of older, but, I mean, hello, she’s in a uniform.
As it turned out, it was the last day of the school year this day.
If you were to hang around the high schools just before the final bell of this day you would get to see gangs of yakuza, the Japanese mafia. They are easily recognised as swaggering men with bleached mullets, bright blue suits, sneakers and hawaiian shirts.
It’s on this day, the last day of school that the yakuza descend on the posh, more exclusive high schools, waiting for the final bell to ring. And when it rings, and the girls stream out, the yakuza wade in, handing out flyers and business cards.
Nothing too seedy, they just want to buy the worn-but-unwashed uniforms off the girls, to sell them to frustrated tired overworked salarymen. Young girls can apparently make a tidy profit out of this little exchange.
And I mean, school’s finished, they have no further use for them. And they can always go and buy another one with the profits anyway.
How they get home without their uniforms, though, I am not sure. I haven’t spoken to anyone about the logistics.
But if all this isn’t odd enough, it in fact goes one step further.
What happens is that, on this day, grown women go out and buy the uniform. They then dress up in it and parade around. They are hoping, you see, to be stopped by the mafia, so that they, pretending to be schoolgirls, can sell their uniforms and make a quick yen or two !!
Hence this fully grown woman in a schoolgirls’ uniform strutting around the train station.
* * * * * * *
And then there is the terekurabu – Telephone Club. I’m not sure exactly how it works, but men sit in booths waiting for the telephone to ring. They answer it, and it is some sheila who wants to have sex with them.
SOMETHING like this, but I really never did cotton on to what it is all about. Sounds a bit too damn easy to me.
And then there are the yakuza again, seriously at every station handing out flyers to the hot girls. Maybe they are recruiting hostesses or prostitutes. Maybe they are finding girls to fulfill the other side of the mysterious Telephone Club equation – I am not sure. But whatever it is, it is serious business, because these guys are everywhere.
And then there are restaurants where the waitresses wear no underpants; hostess bars; and host bars where the entire place, workers and patrons turn and applaud you if you buy a bottle of Moet; love hotels; hotels where you have a French maid waiting on you hand and foot, and hotels where they dress you up in a nappy, read you a children’s story, and rock you to sleep in a cradle.
I kid you not.
You know, I bet God didn’t have any of this in mind when he created Adam and Eve.
But as for soiled panties, well I mean I finally found some. But what about the vending machines that I’d heard so much about? Where were they? And what about this question of proving that they were real schoolgirls panties, and not just crisp panties dipped in brine.
Well, Wako sipped on her latte, and explained it all to me, we are in the new age now, that of namasera….
September 9, 2005
Suffice to say, my relationship with Yoko never really got beyond that incident in that old shed.
Eventually she used that age-old line: “You don’t love me for me. You just use me to help you fulfill your sick fetish for soiled schoolgirl panties.”
She just didn’t understand me.
It’s research. It’s anthropological research.
And anyway, we all use each other. The j-girls bloody use me up and spit me out.
Naho was a cute little thing. I say to Naho this one time, I say to her, “So, little lady, how’s about if I take you out for a steak dinner?”
So says Naho, “I’d love to. When?”
“How’s Friday night sound butterfly?” It’s all on.
“Great! Can I invite my friend Michiko? She is interested in practising her English too.”
She’s interested in practising her English too.
Is that right eh?
How discreet. Well is it ok if I invite my mate, Hairy Pete? He’s interested in shagging you too…
* * * * *
Anyway, it ended up being Wako who became my real partner in panty-crime. I took her out on a dozen dates, before she finally broke the news to me that she had a boyfriend. And a daughter. And a husband.
You get that though. We hit Shibuya one night. For her it was a date. For me, another opportunity to sniff out some panties.
Across mighty Shibuya Crossing, to Senta Gai. Straight off the bat I got kicked out of a sex-information shop by the proprietor who, in broken English, calmly and apologetically explained that this store was only for Japanese men, and that I had to leave.
Not to allow this to break my stride, I tried in the police station: “burusera wa dokudesuka?” – using my expert grip on the language: “Where are soiled schoolgirls panties?”
I actually get that look far more often than you’d expect – three policemen looking at me as though they’d just scraped me off their shoe. Before they bark at me to get out of the station.
Obviously a ‘Japanese-only’ police station as well.
But pounding the streets block by block, and Wako grabbed my sleeve. And pointed. There it was, in hiragana, a sign surrounded by oscillating yellow lightbulbs, saying burusera.
This was it. My breathing came shallow, and my chest was hollow.
I slowly, in awe, made my approach. Wako slightly behind me, the way Japanese girls always walk behind you, never beside.
I pushed open the coloured strips of curtain, and we entered the shrine.
I felt I should genuflect.
Obviously it’s kind of embarrassing when you’re in a sex shop with your date, looking for sweaty used panties. But not as embarrassing as you’d think. Wako was intrigued by this whole idea too.
But still it is a sex-shop, and you’re just bombarded with blatant spread apart looking-at-women’s-internal-organs nudity. You don’t know where to look. Whoops there’s a big pair o’ titties, spin around, whoah girl what are you doing with those vegetables, duck back get a face full of doggy-style, hey I didn’t know you could tie it into knots like that.
So here I am, I’m in this porn shop, and I am trying to look but not look, so I look at the floor, glancing furtively around when I think Wako’s not looking. The proprietor sitting back reading the paper, all of you pretending that none of the other ones are there.
“There! Wako! in the corner!
“That big pink bucket!”
A hand drawn sign saying burusera. And that bucket full of stapled clear plastic bags. Inside the stapled down plastic bags are bras, panties, bra-panty combos, and with each set, a photo of a pretty schoolgirl, and a little signed piece of card. All of them simple and cotton.
This was it, burusera, soiled panties, evidence of a culture so removed from my own. I trembled as I gazed through them, trying discreetly to see if I could spot anything really pervey like stains. I said to Wako I said, “But where are the vending machines, and how can we be sure that they are real?”
Which is when she took me by the hand, and led me away to Shibuya Starbucks above the Crossing, and, over a latte (and Starbucks in Japan do the best motherfucking lattes on this planet), explained to me some really bizarre and disturbing shit. She explained to me that this bucket full of skid-marked panties was merely a vestigial remnant of an broken industry, fattened and gorged on itself, and broken.
Burusera is finished, a relic. The vending machines are no more.
Namasera is the New Perversion.
Namasera. A cold shiver of a fœtal memory ran through me, a remembered subconscious aversion to this word.
Nama. My first ever Japanese word revisiting me.
Next time folks.
September 8, 2005
If you were to look, from orbit, at the growth of Tokyo, from when the first shogun established his capital there to now, in fast forward, I reckon it would look similar to a meteor striking the earth. Just in terms of a meteor’s blind disregard to beauty or nature, as its impact crater crater of pollution and destruction just crackles out in greedy fractal ribbons, crushing all in its path, hungrily devouring trees, burying rivers, releasing foul clouds of toxin. Birds and animals retreating from its onslaught, from the tide of oblivion’s approach.
The difference being that after a meteor hit, eventually the pollution would blow away, and the Earth would heal up, where there ain’t no chance in a hurry of that happening any time soon in Tokyo.
At Kunio’s suggestion, my search for panties took me to a small, blasted, shack out on a distant highway on the edges of Kanto’s great metropolis, on the edges of this crater. Out here, in the penumbra, the crushing city relinquishes it’s grip on space a little, allowing a bit more room to breathe, to allow for lingerie warehouses, car yards, and government research centres, enormous gaming centres, restaurants with car parks, nurseries, outdoor furniture places.
Here, the cluttered jumble of the city starts giving way to the tesselating geometry of the rice fields.
This was Abiko, my neighbourhood. When I lived on the dark side of the tracks, my closest shop was one that sold weapons and armour. It was a shorter walk for me to buy a samurai sword that had once been used on human flesh, than it was to get a loaf of bread.
Next door to this store was our izakaya, our local pub. The ultimate local. When Eddie would arrive for a nama biiru, the landlord, who had all his regulars’ phone numbers would ring around all the girls in Abiko, letting them know that Eddie was there in case they wanted to pop down. And vice versa, Eddie would be at home, and he’d get a friendly call to let him know that there were some hot sheilas currently having a drink, and that he might want to pop in and say a quick konnichiwa.
Now that is how all locals should operate.
Had to avoid going on Tuesdays though. Tuesdays you’d be served a bowl of nama tori, raw chicken, with your beer.
Ah, Abiko. Lake Teganuma, Japan’s third most polluted lake; Mt Fuji, her tallest mountain looking so cliched on the horizon on a clear day; the bookstore inexplicably named BOOBIES; the okonomiyaki restaurant; the karaoke place ; Watami; the hostess bar that we couldn’t get into being that we were foreign and all; the McDonalds where, when the wind came from the right direction off the lake as it was funnelled by the buildings, would whip the school girls’ skirts up around their faces when they stepped from the shopping centre, to the rousing merriment of all the men who had set up camp there just before the school lunchbreak, for just this reason.
Which brings me back to my purpose. Out on this stark highway with Yoko. I needed her you see, because she had a skill I sadly lacked, being able to read Japanese.
It was late. We’d been out to see the cherry trees, the ruddy glow of coalfires flitting against the wintry blossoms, Shibamata all pulled closed and deserted like a romantic ghost town.
Windswept out here and hollow, deserted, trucks swept the leaves up into whirlwinds as they thumped past. I know that the rice fields are beyond, but in the night they are just gulped up into blackness.
The shed shines out a lonely light onto the night.
We furtively look around for witnesses.
And we duck inside.
Lined with vending machines. Condoms, dildos, strange torch things, glowing gadgetry, wigs, cockrings, those balls you shove up your arse, fake vaginas.
And two machines full of underwear – bras, knickers, and bra-knicker combos, lacy, cute, cotton, crotchless, suspenders, stockings, Disney.
The splintery old shed shivers as another truck’s cushion of air slams into it.
“Is this it,Yoko? ” luckily the machines didn’t give off enough light to see the glitter of anticipation in my eyes, “Have I found it?” My left hand was scrunching the back of my shirt.
“They’re clean ones.”
Disappointment flooded from me.
“Clean ones! Why is there a twenty four hour shed in the middle of nowhere selling clean underpants?? You fuckin’ pack of freaks! What, in case a lad you’ve met is taking you to the love hotel and you shit your pants on the way, is that it?”
Next panty stop, Shibuya.
September 6, 2005
The word nama.
A vital word for any foreigner to Japan to learn, because it is one third of a very important sentence:
nama biiru kudasai. A glass of beer please.
Like I said, vital.
You can learn a bit about a person and about his opinions and his pleasures and his desires and his fears by finding out the first sentences that he learns to say in a foreign language.
In Japan for me, they were :
Nama biiru kudasai One beer please
Awa nashi No head on my beer please.
Izakaya wa dokudesuka? Where is the pub?
I am sure that if you gave these sentences to Sigmund Freud he could possibly wring some kind of character personality out of this info, but I don’t hold much stock in psychologists.
Nama biiru kudasai. One beer plese.
And I had understood the word nama to mean ‘glass’ .
But in fact, it took nine months before the beautiful Wako was to tell me that this was, in fact, apocryphal.
Nama yasai raw, fresh vegetables – a green salad
Nama sakana raw fish, or sashimi
So nama biiru really doesn’t mean a ‘glass’ of beer, so much as it means ‘draft beer’ fresh from the tap, as opposed to bottled beer.
It is often difficult to directly translate foreign words, but nama really has a meaning similar to ‘fresh’ or ‘raw’.
It is a tangled path through which I travelled to arrive at this knowledge.
* * * * *
During one of my forays (strictly for research of course) to Kabuki-cho (which you’ll remember from last episode is Tokyo’s major sex district) a girl in trackey-dacks and a t-shirt walked up to me and asked me for a light. Before I could tell her I didn’t smoke, she angled conspiratorially toward me and says to me, she says….
‘Nice girl ? Fucky fucky ? Wow wow ?’
Um, excuse me ?
You heard it right ladies and gentlemen : Nice girl fucky fucky wow wow.
God bless. It was worth spending 18 months in Japan just to hear those immortal words. There’s Kabuki-cho right there ; flipping over, asking to have her belly rubbed, right there.
Kabuki-cho. This kiwi guy, English teacher, on about his third night in Japan, ends up paying a small fortune to get into this filthy little Kabuki-cho nightclub.
He knew something was amiss when, on entering the place, he was ushered into a booth.
This little HAB (that’s Hot Asian Babe for the uninitiated), proceeds to undress, and encourages him to do the same.
Next, she bends down, takes a deep breath, starts giving him a blowie (that’s oral sex for the un-Australian amongst you - it also refers to a large iridescent fly with a vicious bite).
So she’s giving him a blowie, but he is blind drunk right, and this is all a bit too subtle for his current sensibilities, so she wraps his old fella up, stands astride him, and climbs on board the love train.
As I said. He is blind. And she’s riding his pony, and ridin it and ridin it, and pumpin it, and thrashing at it, and rockin’ it ‘n’ rollin’ it but, you know that kind of booze-induced numbness, and he just can’t manage that all-important money shot.
So she takes the job in hand. So to speak. And takes a firm grip, and starts really pumping away at it, like a plumber trying to dislodge a really stubborn drainage clog.
You know, you need it like that sometimes.
But he is blind drunk, (as I have said) and even she, a professional, couldn’t burst the dam. Nothin.
So before that RSI started up again, or tennis elbow or whatever they get, she had to give up. Our kiwi friend was shrugging his shoulders, ah well, did you best, you know that kind of mutual embarrassment, I’ve got a limp on, you couldn’t finish the job, sorry about that, I’ve had a coupla beers tonight y’know, all ready to slink out… when the manager comes in.
Well this is a surprise.
And the manager’s bowing, scraping, apologising, and bowing again, in a permanent stoop, in fact.
And gives him his money back.
Now that is customer service.
God bless Japan.
I searched and I scoured this particularly unseemly little corner of the world. But I did not find one burusera vending machine.
So my next stop in my quest for panties: A little shack, nested on the side of a dark distant highway, on the edges of Kanto’s great metropolis.
For next time.
Soiled schoolgirl panty vending machines.
Burusera in Japanese. The origins of the word being buru – bloomers, and sera – sailor.
The Japanese got the design for their school uniforms from British Royal Navy uniforms at the end of the 19th century, shortly after the Meiji Revolution.
Trying to get my mitts on some burusera had been a side project of mine the entire time I was in Japan; trying to discover the truth behind this mythical piece of perversion.
Soiled schoolgirl panty vending machines.
* * * * * * *
So my first night of serious research took me out through Tokyo’s night, to the crackling, burning neon pink pleasure district of Shinjuku and Kabuki-cho.
Globes of neon.
That unbelievable smoky clamour of pachinko that gathers up the neon cascades and joins with them into an unbearable, numbingly addictive cacophony, of thousands of tiny falling silver balls.
Globes of neon. Echoes of searing white melting neon shining from sunglasses, crystalline explosions reflected in the cinder-block walls. I panicked away from a wildly flapping crow.
Blinding neon, like a core of white heat etching indecipherable images onto my retinas.
And identical black and navy- besuited businessmen everywhere trying to catch a midnight neon suntan. Rivers of them, just mashed together and flowing. And from out of the seedy establishments, jabbering and music, and plasma screens advertising the latest frivolity, and photos of the scantily-moralled women you could meet up the dark stairs and behind the iron doors and big African security guards.
Those yamamba girls with the orange salon tans and the white makeup round the eyes, and the orange hair with feathers in it, and the white lipstick, and embossed fingernails and Louis Vuitton bags and Mickey Mouses and Eeyores dangling from keychains, and the jeans cut so low you can see the red pinpricks where they’ve had to pluck out their pubes, and “SPANKY FAVOUR” or some such incomprehensible English smeared across their tanktops.
Eyes the blue of glaciers or storm clouds, or golden drops of amber, giving them a kind of vacant, feline air. Flashing a bit of knickers.
I flinched away from that crow.
There’s no way I could ever get laid in Kabuki-cho, not without paying for it. If you are a pretty girl, the moment you exit the station you are pounced upon by those yakuza mafia guys with blonde mullets handing out leaflets, god knows what for exactly, but something dodgey, that is for certain; and ogrishly making the girls far too aware of how hot they are. Each compliment and solicitation is like a bid in the auction for their attention, thus slowly boosting the girls’ expectations and standards far above what I have to offer them, goddammit.
I wish I knew what was up with those leaflets. What is up with those fucking crows??
But there are no crows. They are merely patches of darkness between the scrolling Chinese characters in an otherwise all encompassing dazzling rainbow world, so replete with pitching light and colour that a rare patch of darkness or shadow actually take on a kind of hallucinatory weight and substance.
“PACHINKO AND SLOT
PASSAGE. Because the thing which appears most in Shinjuku
SUCH A THING IS.
Our supporter in this store. As for this store.
The way that a ball like the sun bursts open
is the order of this store.
Love a ball is,
I hope this means something to someone.
I couldn’t write something that fucked up if I tried.
There`s every type of entertainment here. Restaurants, bars, hostess places, pachinko parlours, video game centres, prostitutes, wank booths, stalls selling legal hallucinogens, movie cinemas, love hotels.
The place is also peppered with florists, innocent little places, run by old ladies.
It`s nice to know that there are moments of gallantry within the jungle here.
And that shop on the corner that sells everything. Life-sized Winnie the Poohs. Mobile phones. Kneepads. I want to buy the red sofa just to see how the fuck they get it down from that top shelf.
Swallowed by a foggy path, down to my favourite Tokyo bar, in Golden Gai, run by this old mama-san. This place has been her dream since she was young – this cramped little pub. Funny the nature of people’s dreams. Above lives a retired prostitute, who catered to the American soldiers during the Occupation after WWII. Golden Gai - a little region tucked away, narrow streets of hundreds of tiny (as only Japan can do tiny) bars. Literally they are as small as bathrooms, to seat no more than four people. The place just sits there, as though forever, unaffected, immune to the world’s progress, like an old man drinking his sake.
Real Life is so thick in these tiny Golden Gai streets that you could mash it with a potato masher.
To be continued.