• 09 . 12 . 04
  • Embarking into town to buy Christmas presents, I stumble upon a disturbing scene.

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Not A Lot Like Sodom Or Gomorrah

Just as I thought I was beginning to get to grips with all the randomness that occurs here, Japan today once again excelled itself in its ability to surprise and slightly disturb me. I was out and about today looking for Christmas presents and otherwise browsing through Yanagase, a kind of sprawling indoor mall in Gifu, which was once a nationally famous shopping arcade, but is now more well-known for its generous employment of various Russian and Philipino girls in the “late night entertainment industry”. As it turns out, the whole of Gifu is apparently infamous for this kind of thing as well…

Amongst the hostess bars, the ¥100 stores and the oddly-named shoe shops (Brain Breakers, anyone?!), Yanagase still does contain some very nice shops, selling a wide range of jewellery, carvings, Japanese goods and other assorted paraphernalia. The majority of them are small and pleasant and, more often than not, simply run by an elderly couple. I was in one such store, browsing around looking for gifts when I noticed that an elderly man was standing next to the register, leaning over the counter facing me. As he was on the shopkeeper’s side, I presumed he was the owner and was just having a look at a price list or date or something on a poster. I kept on browsing.

Turning a corner at the end of one row, I happened to glance in his direction again. He was still leaning over, though that’s no longer strange to me, considering the condition of many of the old folks’ spines in this country. What was strange, however, was the sight of a younger woman, previously obscured by the items on display, sitting behind him with her finger up his bottom. You know that kind of horrible fascination that you get when you see a car crash and can’t help looking…? She seemed to be wearing hospital trousers, so I’m hopeful that it was just an inspection, but even so. And as if having a woman’s finger up your arse in broad daylight in front of customers wasn’t enough, he was actually having a conversation with one of those customers about the weather!

Of course, being English and thus reserved, I naturally averted my gaze and continued browsing, albeit a little more briskly. When I had chosen my gifts, I took them to the counter, whereupon the young lady extricated herself and the man sat down, covering himself with a blanket. We exchanged a few pleasantries, he wrapped the presents, I paid for them and I left. As I was leaving I couldn’t help turning once more, with the grim fascination I imagine Lot’s wife felt, and saw that he was standing up and assuming the position once more. He smiled at me and in my haste to leave, I turned round too quickly and knocked over a salt cellar. With a briefly mumbled apology, I scarpered.

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