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Revisiting Stefhen Bryan's controversial book on Japan
A few days ago, Jeff Krueger posted a new interview on his excellent website Deep in Japan. I found that podcast particularly interesting because I knew the guy who had been interviewed. In 2007 Stefhen Bryan self-published a book called Black Passenger Yellow Cabs and I wrote a piece about him for The Japan Times (now hidden behind a paywall). So now I’m resurrecting that old article and posting an abridged transcript of the podcast. Let me know what you think about it.
It’s the same old story: on the romantic front, foreign ladies living in Japan have it bad while the guys do unbelievably well. For every woman who complains about Japanese men’s aloofness and lack of communication skills, there is a man who boasts about all the local chicks he’s had.
But is it really so? Apparently, the foreign women’s situation is not all that bad, at least according to Caroline Pover’s Love with a Western Woman: A Guide for Japanese Men in which she reports many success stories in which the ladies have found their almond-eyed Prince Charming. Now let’s look at the other side of the story and ask ourselves whether Japan really is a foreign guy’s paradise on earth.
According to the common saying, just being a foreigner – especially, but not only, a tall white Caucasian – is a guarantee of success. Never mind the guy in question is a dork who has never scored on his home turf. Once in Japan he turns into the proverbial Charisma Man. So how come we often hear of relationships gone sour, divorce and Japanese women “kidnapping” their children and fleeing those supposedly perfect marriages?
In the last few years, the foreign men’s sexual and romantic (mis)adventures in Japan have been told and analyzed in a number of books. Among them, in 2007 Jamaican Stefhen Bryan self-published Black Passenger Yellow Cabs: Of Exile and Excess in Japan, an “erotic ethnographic memoir” in which he chronicles – sometimes in graphic details – his encounters with about 30 Japanese women.
Bryan is a self-proclaimed “Rice King” which means he loves Japanese and other East Asian women. After having a number of Asian American girlfriends while living in the US, he came to Japan in 2001 in order to satisfy his addiction. “Man, I love the thick, glossy, jet black, straight-as-an-arrow hair and smooth skin. Love those upturned cat eyes,” he says.
He ended up teaching at a school in the deep Japanese countryside where seeing a foreigner (let alone a black guy) was a big event. In the next seven years he “overdosed” on local women to the point that by the time he flew back to America he declared himself cured from his addiction.
His fascinating romp has managed to offend some readers because of his attitude and the language he sometimes uses, like calling Japanese women “yellow” (the same way he is black and Caucasians are called white, he points out), and the openly erotic nature of some of his stories, but he insists that it is all part of the foreigner’s experience in Japan.
“My women didn’t realize how good sex could be until they did it with a foreigner,” he says. “They used to say, ‘Wow, you are so strong, you can go over 10 minutes!’ They are very sexually frustrated, especially middle age women, married or not.”
His success with Japanese women notwithstanding, Bryan believes that intimate unions between Westerners and Japanese can be very difficult. “I discovered soon after moving to Japan, that collectively this is a low emotional quotient society,” he says. “I knew that if I were to marry a Japanese woman I had to de-socialize and re-socialize her. I've watched so many Western men in Japan who were enamored with the kawaii factor in Japanese women, marry them, completely ignoring, to their peril, that these women are children and have zero problem-solving, critical thinking and conflict resolution skills.”
Bryan is convinced that this low emotional quotient is a major contributor to the discord between Westerners and Japanese in Japan.
“Westerners stand a higher chance of having their relationships works with a Japanese partner, if they leave the country,” he says. “The social pressure to conform is too great. So they should at least leave Japan temporarily and live in his home country for a while to give the Japanese partner some exposure to his culture.
And that's exactly what I did. In my case, I had my wife pursue a professional degree at a university in the US. And now she is taking the New York BAR in July. So now she's lived in the US for seven years. Now when we return to Japan, my actions won't be a mystery to her. And since I've lived in Japan for nearly a decade, I completely understand her.”
According to Bryan, there is a difference between white and black men. “I think many white men in Japan are attracted to that demure, kawaii, helpless personality many Japanese women project. I personally hate that kind of image – the Japanese woman who serves you beer and cleans up after you. I like powerful women,” he says.
Next time I’m going to post the transcript. In the meantime, if you want to listen to the interview, here’s the link.
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