2011 Trip Report - Allan Wicker - What I really did in Japan
What I Really Did in Japan
by Allan Wicker , 2011
Ever since the Desert Explorers Newsletter ran a photo of me seated with two young l women in a traditional restaurant in Fukuoka, Japan, a couple of years ago, there has been a clamor to know just what I was doing there.
Well… it wasn’t really a clamor. Actually, it was only one telephone call, earlier today, from Neal Johns, asking me to give an account of my activities for an article for the current Newsletter. And, could I please do it today? If I didn’t, he said, he would spread all sort of scurrilous rumors about me. For those who don’t know Neal, this translates into “we really need an article to help fill up the next Newsletter.”
One of my duties at Kyushu University was to advise several graduate students on their research projects in environmental psychology. One student was studying a shopping street where street vendors sold fruits, vegetables, flowers, and the like from carts that they wheeled in daily. The street was reserved for pedestrians during the day. Among other things, the student was interested in how the vendors and merchants having shops on the street displayed their goods.
Another student’s focus was the city’s entertainment district, which came alive at night to provide food, drink, and a variety of diversions for visitors to the area. Among the other establishments are hostess clubs and love hotels. She and a friend gave me a tour of the area one night, and told me a bit about what goes on there. Hostess clubs are places where groups of businessmen go to drink, converse with one another and with pretty young hostesses who pamper them. The sexual activity is pretty much limited to conversation, I was told. Each club has a mama-san, or chief hostess who welcomes visitors and oversees the operation. (I never entered such a place, but did have my picture taken with a mama-san in front of one of them.) Love hotels rent luxurious rooms by the hour, and they tend to foster anonymity. For example, their entrances are usually obscured, and the person at the front desk (if there is one) may be behind an opaque screen. These places are said to serve a variety of clients, including young couples living with their parents, the people you’re thinking about, and groups who go there to watch sports events on large screen TVs. The student was investigating the network of support services in the entertainment district.
A student project that I visited, but did not assist on, was the establishment of an afterschool activity center for children on a street where small shops sold produce and everyday items. At the center, children could come and go as they wished, and engage in impromptu activities with one another and with adults from the neighborhood.
Of course I did a lot of other things in Japan, some of which are reflected in the accompanying photo(s).