I’m a woman. Don’t get me wrong --I’m thrilled to be
woman, and there are times in my life – like when I’m lowering
myself into a Japanese electric bath – that I think , "thank
goodness I don’t have testicles". But being a woman in Japan
is not an asset. Sometimes it’s positively toxic, like when I tried
to step down into the training area of a sumo stable, and was told in
no uncertain terms that the workout floor – composed of gallons
sweat poured over dirt and sprinkled with abraded sumo skin – was
actually pure and sacred. Furthermore, that women – according to
the sumo interpretation of the Shinto faith – are anything but pure,
and by their very touch would contaminate aforesaid sacred space.
The only way to get my footage was to go outside, climb
up an unexpectedly solid rosebush, lodge my backside against its prickly
stem and hang my chin on the cement eave of a windowsill.
Unfortunately the sumo stable faced a major highway, so
over the next few hours several hundred passersby made it clear by look
and gesture that I must be some kind of perverted peeping tom. No wonder
the Japanese think Caucasians are barbarians.