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27 November 2012

Translated Novel: "Let's Fundoshi" Chapter 7

A Candadin man experiences FUNDOSHI, Japanese traditional male underwear, swimming suit and custume for festival.

Read Chapter 1 first.

“But this is a very Japanese thing. You might not like it because of difference of religion and customs” said Gen. He seemed so considerate.

“Don’t worry. I know things like that” Jacques replied. Speaking of religion, Jacques’s family has been traditionally Catholic but actually he visited church a few times a year. He was not a dedicated Christian. He wouldn’t mind things like that.

Besides, as he learnt Japanese culture in his major, he was taught Shinto has been recognized as festivity rather than religion. Like even Japanese prime minister is Christian or Buddhist, he could visit Ise Gingu shrine. It is said Japanese Shinto does not hold strong faith. Shito is polytheist. Unlike monotheist Christianity, it is rather considered flexible in terms of how to be faithful. It is similar to Native Americans primitive religion that admires nature as divinity.  

The origin of the festival was that during Edo period, a big tsunami hit the town and flooded the shrine which ended up pulling enshrined body to the shallow in the sea. Then local fishermen at that time carried that back to the shrine.

Next day, towners gathered in Watanabe’s to discuss festival matters. Yuriko joined as a member of the organizer family. Participants were mostly shrine parishioners but young boys, middle age and elderly men who would be carriers of the mikoshi (portable shrine that contains enshrined body) attended as well. Gen and Taro were among them.   

At the shrine, ceremony of purification would be done and then the mikoshi will be carried by the men, women, young and old until near the beach. From the beach to the shallow was men’s job. That was called “Sea walk.”

Jacques made a proposal for the preparation as an organizer. The proposal as a responsible man in charge of the festival matter. He took off his Yukata to show his proposal. Jacques stood and others sitting on tatami (straw mat) floor looking up to him.

“This year we are going to wear this for the Sea Walk.”

All the members looked at him shocked.

“Isn’t this Fundoshi?” one man said.

Jacques was only in white rokushaku fundoshi and bandana and tabi shoes.


“Jacques-san, why are you wearing this?” said Taro.

“Because this is tradition of the festival.”

“Why, are you, foreigner propose that?” said another.

“I am in charge of this festival so I want to do things successfully and make it joyful for those who carry mikoshi and those who view that.”

“But showing bare ass, we don’t want to do that” said one young man.

“If you want to do that, why don’t you do that alone?” said another young man.

“No. All of us have to do “Sea Walk” in this fundoshi. If not, significance of the ceremony is denied.”

“We don’ t want to be told what to do by a foreigner like you” said another man.

“So are you really a Japanese man? Don’t you mind changing form of traditional ceremony that runs for centuries? Before you treat me as outsider, why not ask yourself how much you know about yourselves?”  


All of the sudden, people became silent for a while.

Taro stood up.

“Jacques-san is right. If we cannot carry mikoshi in fundoshi, we would never be truly Japanese men. It is an insult to the enshrined as long as we loathe our own tradition .

Again, silence. Then Yuriko spoke out.

“Taro is right. It seemed only those who truly understand Japanese tradition here are Taro and my husband, Jacques. For women, it was just great to view guys’ bare asses lined up.” Yuriko tried to support the two men.

“Yuriko, let me join. I believe I’ve got good son in law.” Taizo said. “When I was Jacques’s age, all the men wore fundoshi in festival. It was a uniform for the festival and all of us together bathed in the sea getting fundoshi wet. All of us got unified. That was a most shining moment of our life.”

Taizo smiled. His eyes sparkled. He looked happier than ever.

Finally proposal that all the men participating in “Sea Walk” wear fundoshi on naked bodies was approved.


To be continued to Chapter 8

15:21 Posted in My novel | Permalink | Comments (0)

26 November 2012

Film"Midnight Cowboy" Hard place for gays

1969 film that a young Texan boy travelled to New York hoping that he would make a fortune but just got troubles ending up being a male whore in cowboy outfit selling sex to men on 42nd street.

I learnt about this film by reading a magazine article published in the same year. That was Japanese magazine. It says "The film is about gay issue in America. That describes how hard for gays living in America. In Japan gays are considered abnormal but not outlawed and in showbiz industry gays can take advantage of what they are. In most states of America gay sex is outlawed. For politicians exposing himself as being gay means end of his political career." (November 18, 1969, PREIBOUI (Playboy) published by Shueisha) That was Japanese perspective of the film at that time.

Sounds odd. Now as we see, America is much more open society to gays than Japan. There are openly gay congressmen and a senator. In some states gay marriage is legalized. But just a generation plus ten years ago, America was a hell for gays. The film clearly described how homophobiac American society had been.

Maybe such oppression turned driving force for liberation along with other civil rights movement like Blacks and women.

The story of the film was very boring to me but I understand significance of the message delivered in the film. Surprisingly the film was released as X-rated at that time. It can never be classified as X-rated by today's standard. Maybe because it was a time even a Color TV with remote was considered most sophisticated product as depicted in the film.

Things have changed drastically over the decades.

22:43 Posted in Film, Society | Permalink | Comments (0) | Tags: gay, homosexuality, cowboy

06 November 2012

Translated Novel: "Let's Fundoshi" Chapter 6

A Candadin man experiences FUNDOSHI, Japanese traditional male underwear, swimming suit and custume for festival.

Read Chapter 1 first.

“That’s right.”

“No. I never saw men in fundoshi in the festival. They wore short pants and naked in upper body.”

“You might not remember but before you grow up, all the men carrying the mikoshi wore fundoshi on their naked bodies. Then they crossed the ocean in that outfit.”

Jacques said “you mean summer festival. Will that be held this year as well?”

“Yes, this year we will be the hosting family as captain and organizer.”

“Oh, really?”  Jacques became very curious. 

“Yeah, but the festival has become less attractive these days. Originally, men carry mikoshi crossing the ocean wishing for health and safety and success in fishing. When the festival started a long, long time ago, all the fishermen wore fundoshi so we followed the tradtion but some youngsters started to feel ashamed of exposing ass.

When I was young, nobody was. Actually that kind of outfit has significance because girls could find their most suitable type of guy among naked group. My late wife once told me she chose me because she liked my ass that she saw in the festival.”
Yuriko looked surprised so did Jacques.

Why Japanese guys have become ashamed of fundoshi, Jacques decided to search it on internet. What he found was that as Taro explained, it was mainly due to westernization of Japanese lifestyle. Since late 19th century, Japan has actively acquired western culture to modernize the nation. As a consequence cloth has changed like kimono to western cloth. Because men started to wear pants, fundoshi as underwear could not fit to new cloth. So men changed underwear as well.

Fundoshi as swimwear was seen as barbaric from westerner’s perspective because bare ass is exposed on the beach or swimming pool. In the old days, Japanese olympic swimmers practice in fundoshi but in tournament they changed to modern swimwear.

As industrialization progressed, modern swimwear has become cheaper to purchase so fundoshi has become less common. In the old days, ordinary citizens had no choice but to wear fundoshi.  In that sense, modern swimwear was convenient choice to use when it comes to putting on and off to do thing in restroom.


Nowadays fundoshi is only worn by sumo wrestlers and men in festivals as entertaining. But in festivals fundoshi has become less seen. Because people wear less frequently making it less chance to see men in fundoshi. It has become embarrassing thing to show and see. Now men in festival wear short pants which cover their ass and thighs, instead of fundoshi.


But festival should succeed some kind of tradition from the old time. Should people abandon it just because it does not match current style? As Taro said, it is a matter of identity. Can Japanese do things like that without hesitation?


Next day Taro’s father Gen visited Watanabe’s place to hand over duty as organizer of summer festival. This year was Watanabe family’s term. Gen and Taizo were both fishermen and parishioners of the local shrine. Each parishioner family has to host and facilitate annual festival in rotation.


That role was played by male head of the family and its first adult son or husband of first daughter. As host, they had to lead the mikoshi march which was biggest event in the festival. They have to be in the front of mikoshi carrying bar and calling out to the carriers as captain.


But Gen looked at him strangely and said, “Can you do that? Taizo seems not well and you are foreigner.”

Jacques got angry and replied,

“Sure, I can. Don’t treat me like a fool.”


Continued to Chapter 7

19:02 Posted in My novel | Permalink | Comments (0)