Readers' Submissions

Meeting the Family

  • Written by BKKSteve
  • March 24th, 2007
  • 15 min read


China Hotel Guide
• Xi Yue Hotel Chongqing
• Carlton Hotel Chongqing
• Jian She Hotel Chongqing
• Xin Hua Hotel Chongqing

I’ve read many submissions on meeting the girlfriend's family and while they vary a bit in content most are along the same lines. This submission I promise will be different. Why? Because it happened in Japan with a very traditional family in a very unconventional way. This experience is etched in my memory like the presidents on Mt. Rushmore are etched in stone, no amount of time or circumstances will ever fade a single detail of that day. The sights, smells, sounds, tastes, and touches are as real today as they were over 20 years ago. Have you ever done something so totally different, so out of character, so totally outrageous that you know if you share it with your buddies they won’t believe you and if they did they’d try to commit you to a mental ward? Friends, there comes a time in every mans life when you’re asked to “cowboy up” and the consequences of not doing so would be to reduce your manhood and ego to mere dust in the wind. I’ve drank the venom of a cobra, downed a live octopi, and ate chilis so hot they’d melt not only the paint but the steel underneath.. but these mere stunts can’t compare.

You might have noticed that most Japanese female names end in “ko?” Ko means “child”, so the name “Keiko” simply means Kei who is a child. Keiko. Most Japanese names have a descriptor added to the end and they vary in meaning from beauty (mi) to big (dai) to great (ta) and so on. Not much different from our use of the names “Big Al” or “Crazy Larry” and so on. Most of the Japanese girls I’ve dated have had “ko” attached to their name but there was a special girl I’ll always remember named Kami which translated at its root means “beautiful spirit” and if a name ever fit a girl this was it. I say girl because at 19 Kami looked all of 14-15 years old. When we first met I actually asked for her ID card to verify her age which was an insult I barely made it past in her eyes, and I knew this was the case when I asked so this should tell you how young she really looked. Perfect jet black hair, black eyes with clear whites, unblemished perfect alabaster skin, girlish figure with the curves appearing in the appropriate places, and the softest smoothest skin I’ve ever touched. Her jet black eyes conveyed much about her emotions, but the first time she took me by the hand there is no way to accurately describe the feeling, perhaps like electricity through the finest deerskin with a Vulcan mind meld for good measure. Kami had my full attention from the moment I set eyes on her until the day she left for her university in Kyoto.

During this period of my stay in Japan I had been asked by my Sensei to care for his house while he was away on tour for about five months. He told me the plants would need water, but besides for that to just keep the place tidy and give the appearance of it being occupied. He was happy I accepted and instead of a key he handed me a slip of paper with an address. Having never been there I didn’t know what to expect, perhaps a small apartment or the quite common small cement house. Loading my “stuff” in the car I thought anyone seeing my car outside his place would certainly know someone was living there. Why? My car was a sort of fluorescent puke/lime green that glowed in the dark. Why? In Okinawa most of the cars at the time were your basic white or basic black or some very close variation. There were too many nights I’d come out of a yakitori bar late at night and look up and down the rows upon rows of the same type of cars painted the same color and sigh in frustration knowing I’d have to try more than a few to get the right one. The solution was both obvious and simple. I visited the base auto hobby shop where there was a paint booth and asked the on-duty attendant if there was any abandoned paint I could mix to some odd color. He smiled and said there was a few gallons of paint that came in by mistake and they couldn’t get rid of it because it was such an ugly color. Perfect I thought! At least until I popped the lid and saw my least favorite color in its least attractive shade. Nonetheless I started early Saturday morning masking off the car and by late Sunday night was removing the tape of my brand new bright lime green Toyota Crown Royale! To say it received a few stares would be kind. To say people gawked at it as I drove down the street would be accurate. Still, it was a small island and people quickly got used to it and never once did I ‘misplace’ my car again. Oddly enough the young Japanese car guys liked it and soon there were neon color cars all over the place and I’ve often wondered if I started something that turned into the wild colors you see on the Japanese tuner cars today.

Arriving at the address my Sensei provided I saw a tall cement wall with two big wooden doors with a built in mailbox and paper slot. Parking outside the wall I grabbed my bag and went to the doors and there was a thick rope to pull and when I did the right door nudged free and I was able to effortlessly swing it inwards. As I walked through the arch I had to catch my breath because not only was the property huge, and not only was there a huge traditional Japanese home in the middle, but there were beautiful gardens and ponds from end to end. I grew up in the Santa Monica, Bel-Air, Beverly Hills, Pacific Palisades, and other such areas which all had beautifully maintained landscaping but none of them compared to what I was feasting my eyes on now. There were several types of traditional gardens, a rock garden, tea garden, pond gardens, and more. Each perfectly designed and maintained. I probably spent a good 30-40 minutes walking around looking before heading towards the house. At the steps I stopped and removed my shoes and sliding open the rice paper like doors I was greeted with polished wood floors, large wood pillars and beams, and stacked tatami mats. The only other homes like this that I’ve been privileged to visit have been historical homes.

After a week I was starting to get relaxed and fell into a routine of making sure the ponds were at the right level, fish fed, plants watered, all per his neatly written directions he left for me. As was my habit I ran every morning on the base with the troops but as dusk started I’d run the same distances again on my own. 10k’s in the morning and 10’ks in the evening. It took the week to find a route I preferred that wasn’t very crowded and this particular path took me through the roads that went through the stone “haka’s” which in effect were family graves, a sort of stone monument that would hold the urns holding the ashes of the deceased family members with cement walkways and other cement areas all around them. Rows upon rows of these could be found separating neighborhoods so they could be close to the family homes. The “cementness” was a bit obvious, I always figured it was a way to keep things clean and cut down on weeds and dirt and mud but perhaps there’s a spiritual reason behind the layer of cement holding the rows of family crypts together. It made for a nice running path though and no one seemed to mind. Running by every day you could see flowers, food, and other gifts left for the “ancestors” and sometimes the entire family would bring lunch and make a day out of it as a way of honoring the deceased.

Obon is a very important holiday in Japan, a three day holiday conveniently turned into a week long event as people took off work and school and made preparations to visit the family crypts to pay their respects to the ancestral spirits of family members on both sides of the family and any other branches of the family close enough to visit. During Obon these roads I ran on would be packed full of families eating, visiting, crying, and paying their respects. On the last day of Oban I was running the last kilometer or two which ran through the crypts and this day I was working on a pretty good pace because we were having a base wide 10k competition I was preparing for and this year I wanted to at least place. Trying to keep up this pace in a now crowded area was foolish and I discovered how foolish when a car door opened right in front of me and I went flying through the side glass ever grateful it was a frameless window. Picking myself up I noticed I was bleeding pretty good from the road rash on my legs but not a single cut from the glass! I was instantly surrounded by concerned Japanese which included the driver of the car who opened the door on me and he was doing his best to apologize. At the time my Japanese was still in it’s learning phase and I was trying to let them know I’d be ok, that I just wanted to go home and clean up and paste on some bandages. It was then that a waif of a beauty appearing all of 13-15 years old appeared wearing the prettiest blue dress who spoke English and helped me tell everyone I was ok and getting them to go back to paying their respects. She introduced herself as “Kami” and looking me up and down remarked that I didn’t really look ok and that I needed someone to tend to my wounds. She asked where I was staying and when I told her she knew the place and taking my hand led me down the road home. I still remember how soft her hand felt and the feeling it gave me during that first touch. Incredible doesn’t begin to describe the feeling.

By the time we arrived home my wounds were starting to hurt and our talking was starting to get personal and soon I was sitting on a stone stool while she cleaned my wounds and applied disinfectant. She stayed on for dinner and over the next few weeks we began to know each other very well. The house and gardens were wonderful, but her presence added to their beauty and maybe it was the way she tended to my every need, or perhaps the old traditional style house and gardens, because it started to feel like I was living in 18th century Japan and to be honest during that time I found it easy to forget I wasn’t Japanese, at least during my off time. She really helped me improve my language skills and I helped her improve her.. other skills. She was younger than me but not by a lot and we had some things in common, and I knew at the end of summer just a few months off she’d be leaving for Kyoto to attend college, yet we did our best to squeeze every ounce of time we had free into seeing each other. One night while laying on a mat in the rock garden she asked “would you please come and meet my family?” Without thinking I said I would and in retrospect I should have asked a lot more questions.

Kami gave me an address and said her entire family would be meeting there tonight and if I came about 5pm it would be perfect. Arriving at the address I thought it was a mistake because it looked an awful lot like an old style family bath house the like I’d only seen on the local television channel commercials. Military personal were banned from “bath houses” because the kind that catered to military personal offered special services the military didn’t think we should accept, yet I had promised and I figured there wouldn’t be any special services offered at a place her family frequented. According to the commercials on television there was the bathes, the spa treatments, and the eating experience and I figured I’d find her family seated at a table for dinner. I was wrong. As soon as I walked in the door a pretty young thing in a kimono seemed to know exactly who I was and told me to follow her. Arriving in a sort of dressing room with wicker baskets to put our clothes she instructed me to strip and place my clothes in a basket she provided. She stood there looking at me and didn’t move except to hold out a towel. I’ll give her credit, she didn’t even flinch, no embarrassment, no anything but a steady look of impatience as she repeated her instructions and pointed to the basket again. That moment was a very long moment and I confess to being more than a bit shy at that point in my life and more.. not completely in control of my body in a potentially stimulating environment. Frankly I didn’t know what to do, but I realized if I didn’t do something soon the towel would prove to be entirely inadequate in providing any sort of modesty. Turning my back to her I quickly placed my clothes in the basket and reached back for the towel which I’d swear she moved back just enough out of reach to make me turn around more than I wanted to get it! I was watching her face for a sign of a snicker or some other emotion but there was none as she led me around the corner.

Rounding the corner I heard “Hi BKKSW, I’d like to you meet my family!” There in an approximately 3×4 meter bath sat the entire family naked! All eyes turned to me and I must have turned a hundred shades of red as they all slightly rose to greet me before sitting back down again. Kami looked like a Cheshire cat, a beautiful naked Cheshire cat sitting next to an equally beautiful naked woman she called haha (mom). Introductions were made all around including both younger and older sisters, dad, and grandma. Thank God for grandma, without the sight of a naked grandma I would surely have put on a most indecent display. Two more kimono clad young ladies joined the first with a stool in hand and I was instructed to sit and when I tried to sit my elbow was grabbed and the towel taken from around my waist and it felt like everyone at the same time turned to look at me. I sat as fast as I could hoping to preserve a bit of modesty. The attendant girls removed their kimonos and scooping a bucket of water from the bath opened a fresh soap and started to scrub me. I think if I wasn’t so nervous and frankly shocked and had allowed myself to enjoy the experience I would have lost control. One girl asked me to stand and scooping up fresh bath water in the bucket once again started to dump it over me to rinse the soap from my body before motioning for me to join the family. The 4-5 steps to the bath were very long steps but take very quickly as I swear I felt all eyes on me, but by the time I’d taken a seat in the relative privacy of the very warm water everyone seemed to be looking at each other and chatting away having a very good time.

I learned that her family tried to do this at least once a month to keep family unity and closeness. In truth it was a very intimate experience and by the end of the bath I knew everyone’s names and many things about each person and to this day I’ve never gotten to know a family in such a short time as I did this family. The questions and chatter came so rapid fire that I didn’t have the time to check out the sisters or mom or even the thoughts.. the thoughts all came in the following years as I relived the moment over and over again as if I still couldn’t believe it happened. As each person finished they left the bath, showered, and went into their respective dressing areas leaving Kami and me alone in the bath. A few minutes later we followed and after we walked to an adjoining dining area and enjoyed a great dinner together.

The rest of the summer Kami and I spent every free moment together knowing that our time together was soon to end. While we were intimate and cared a great deal for each other, it was more like really good friends than lovers. Before this time I’d always had the belief that intimacy and love had to be experienced together, but Kami taught me to separate the two and just enjoy life and the moments life provides because in her young but wise words “we’re only young once.” Kami contributed greatly to my ability to be forever young. The outside has certainly taken a beating but as I pass my mid-40s and close on 50 I can honestly say I don’t feel any older than I did that day, inside.

Until next time..

Stickman's thoughts:

Interesting indeed. You sure have sampled the delights of much of Asia!