My Month in Fudai
Ah, settled in! I love this little cabin. I’m here with my Guatemalan coffee, which is excellent, a gift from my publisher to help me through my month “off the grid”. I’m up on a hill, overlooking the wide Pacific, here in the Iwate Prefecture, northern Honshu, the land of my great-great-great-grandparents. I’m a Gosei, as the term is.
The whirlwind of the publishing world was running me ragged. Through my connections I met Prof. Hayakawa, a nice old retired man who rented me this old cabin. When he bought it back in the 1970’s it was without electricity and he kept it that way. At first I thought he just wanted to regress to his childhood, but after three days here I see the charm of being cut off from the modern world. And I have the peace of mind of knowing that I won’t really miss anything. My agent Clara in New York has arranged with the local post office to send a messenger up here if there’s a real emergency. Meanwhile it’s just me up here in the cabin with the wood stove. It’s so quiet. The only noise is the wind, or when it rains.
I went to town for the first time today. I thought I had worked up my Japanese tolerably well but hearing the chattering in the local market I realize I’m pretty much lost. I understand the occasional word or two, but I don’t dare start a conversation. I’ve tried to look like “the locals” who to be honest dress very drably and conservatively. Japan is a rich country but this part of it is rural and rather depressed. Also to be honest the weather here in November is pretty gray and miserable. It rains most days and doesn’t get much above 50 degrees (or I should say 10 degrees Celsius). But even on the occasional pleasant sunny day everyone keeps covered up. As a stylish woman who actually posed for a fashion magazine (albeit in my 20’s, an eon ago), I find this to be very stifling. My first day out I made the mistake of going out in shorts. They were long shorts, down to the knees, but I sensed the darting of eyes. I’ve learned my lesson! Drab, cover-all for me. Drab, drab, drab.
The cabin has a big bay window looking out onto the ocean. The Professor had a telescope set up just at the perfect height so that I could snuggle in the overstuffed chair and take my time surveying. It’s a very powerful telescope and I imagine I can see clear across to -- he also has a globe in front of the bookshelf -- Hawaii? No, that’s too far south. Directly east would be, eventually, Northern California. To the south, Australia. To the north, Hokkaido (site of the 1972 winter Olympics) and the Kurile Islands. According to the Professor’s encyclopedia the Kuriles are the cloudiest place on earth. Fudai must be the second cloudiest.
Sipping my coffee, I usually can make out ships on the ocean. I can see the curvature of the earth -- only the tops of the ones furthest out are visible. How far? Ten miles? Twenty? I can believe it. The ocean is as drab as the town, dull gray, which makes anything I see on it that much more noticeable. To the right, another hill, and down to the left, the town of Fudai, population about 2000. That’s my guess; Fudai is too small to have an entry in the encyclopedia. Directly down below, a rocky beach, with a tiny shed. I see some small nets outside, and an upturned rowboat perched on the rocks. I imagine men coming here to fish. I’ll keep my eye out. Maybe keep a log of their comings and goings.
This diary is not really for publication; I don’t think anything will come of it. It’s more just for the experience of writing it. I brought a couple of notebooks and a fountain pen (!). I haven’t written complete sentences by hand in years. With no computers, no internet, no cell phone, no TV or telephone even, I enjoy the slow pace of a former time. My handwriting was jiggly at first but if I take a deep breath and think: slow, slow, slow . . . the fruits of the efforts of my grade school teachers in San Diego re-emerge.
After that first entry, I found I didn’t have anything to write about, at least not until today. Instead of writing I bundled up and hiked around. Fortunately I brought a raincoat. The nearest house is on the next hill. Another one is behind. I can’t see them from my cabin; the trees hide them. Also I’ve dived into the Professor’s interesting library. There is a lot here about traditional Japanese culture, mostly in Japanese, but also a lot in English, including the encyclopedia.
But about what happened this morning. Or rather, what I saw. I mentioned that tiny shed on the shore. As I was training the telescope on it my mouth dropped open. A naked woman -- completely, totally naked -- came out! How could she be naked on this cold, drab day? Her skin was dark; she seemed like a black woman, or mixed race. She grabbed some of the nets and went over to the boat. Now a small beaten-up old car stopped by and a man came out, dressed in what looked like traditional fisherman’s gear -- rain hat, leather coat and pants, big knee-high rubber boots. About 40 years old, is my guess. The woman looks a bit younger. Together they turn the boat upright. Her nudity contrasts with his heavy covering. Her breasts, which are large, swing around as they carry the boat to the water. She seems as strong as he is. She strides over the rocks in her bare feet like it was nothing. My own feet would be cut to ribbons, doing that.
It is she, not he, who pushes the boat out onto the water. She swims out, then climbs onto the boat, water dripping from her nipples -- her breasts really are huge, contrasting with her trim waist -- and it is she, not he, who rows. It seems so unfair. She’s naked and exposed to the elements, while he sits all covered up in the boat watching her do all the heavy labor. They’re about a hundred feet out. At this point it starts to rain and drops on the window start to obscure my view. But it looks like she puts on a diving mask, ties a rope around her waist, picks up a little knife and a net, and dives over the side of the boat.
The rain is heavy now and all I can see through the window is a blur. I think about going outside to see more but I decide against it. I’m too comfortable where I am. I feel greedy, in my fluffy thick socks, my terrycloth bathrobe, enjoying the heat from the wood stove, sipping my coffee. While that poor woman is out there naked and wet and now diving in to cold water. I now realize who she must be: a traditional “ama diver”.
I’ve looked up what the encyclopedia has on ama divers. I remember hearing about them but I didn’t know they dived naked. Also from what I recall they are now “extinct”. The article has old photos of them diving in little loincloths, topless but not naked. More recent photos have them in full-coverage cotton suits. In my view these are concessions to Western ideas of modesty -- to the extent of actually doing these ladies harm. Some years ago I did an article on the Chukchi people in Siberia. I learned how wearing wet clothes in cold conditions is the surest way to hypothermia. The Chukchi disrobe entirely when they go inside, those big tents called yurts. The reason is to avoid sweating into their clothes. Going outside in wet clothes in minus 40 degree weather would be suicide.
So it makes sense for ama to dive naked. Apparently they brought in a rich harvest of oysters, abalone, whelk, and other shellfish, expensive delicacies. They were a staple of the local economy. The ama were all women because women are better able to stand the cold water off coastal Japan, which can go down to 9 degrees Celsius. This led me to an article on “human climatic adaptations”. Studies done in the 1950’s showed that the ama’s constant exposure to the cold water resulted in a thicker layer of subcutaneous fat. Also they developed breathing techniques that allowed them to stay underwater longer and avoid decompression sickness. This was necessary because the best delicacies are not found until one goes down at least thirty feet.
Their only equipment, besides the loincloth, was a diving mask, a culling knife, a little net, and a rope around their waists which they tugged on when they were ready to be brought up. (With a load of shellfish they wouldn’t be able to float up to the surface by themselves.) You might think they would use flippers but their feet were bare. I suppose flippers would be unwieldy on the boat, or climbing over the rocks on shore.
Remarkably, they dove even in winter, though less (fifteen dives a day, spaced out, instead of about a hundred). Wisely, they rotated the location of their dives, to allow for annual re-growth.
The article on climatic adaptation mentioned the tribe of Yaghan in Tierra del Fuego, now exterminated by disease and conquest, who were observed in the 1800’s living naked in sub-antarctic conditions, swimming in freezing water, babies walking naked in the snow. But that adaptation was developed over the space of many generations, like that of the mountain people of Bolivia, who had developed larger lungs to breathe in the thin high altitude air.
I couldn’t find anything more in the library except one nauseating picture book called “Japan’s Naked Mermaids”. It was ostensibly about the ama but consisted of young, svelte women lounging in the warm sun on rocks in bikini bottoms, holding masks like they were props. One was naked on a rock, looking like she was having an orgasm as a wave broke over her crotch. I wondered why the Professor would own something so exploitative, until I read the dedication on the overleaf: “To Hikaru: An epitaph. I must tell you I didn’t buy this -- I found on the curb. Signed, Fumiko.” Maybe the ama were driven out of existence by leering Westerners.
At any rate, those indolent young wakai in that book bear no resemblance to the brave, hardy ama I just saw in action. She seems to be living a hard life.
I’ve seen the ama dive several times today, and yesterday. I wake up, bring my toast to the telescope, and she’s out there, emerging dripping onto the boat, emptying another generous catch out of her net, sharpening her knife on a little stone. I read, take a hike, come back at lunch, she’s jumping off the boat again, her toes curling over the edge as she heads downward. In the afternoon, after I shower, drying my hair, all nice and warm in my bathrobe, the boat’s farther away, I can barely make it out as she dives off the far side. All the time the man sits on his little bench, bored, smoking a cigarette, even reading from a magazine apparently. After she empties each net he sorts out the catch, puts them in little open crates, and writes something down in a book. Before sunset is her last dive, right near the shore. She’s clearly tired, dragging her naked, dripping body up over the side of the boat, her huge breasts crushed underneath, squashed out to the sides. Once on the bench she sits back on her elbows, catching her breath. Since she’s so close I can see her nipples, as out of proportion as her breasts, stiff with the cold. Her deep breaths are probably part of the special ama “technique”. Her body is toned as if she spends all day in a gym (which in a way I suppose she does). The deep breathing brings out the hard concavity of her tummy. I would love to have toned muscles like that. But at what a price!
The boat goes to a different place each day, consistent with what I’ve read. It’s not always the same man. On one occasion it was two men. I noticed that nobody ever talks. It’s an unspoken ritual, done so many times I suppose that speaking is not necessary. But there isn’t even any small talk. No jokes or smiles. The impression I get is that for some reason the men don’t like her. And the feeling is mutual. I could just be guessing, of course. But now that they’re so close my feeling is a little more definite.
I can see that she isn’t black or mixed race. She appears full-blooded Japanese. Her dark skin is an all-over tan, due to constant exposure to the outdoors and the sun. It also seems like nudity is her natural state. She isn’t shy about it at all. As she lays back she relaxes her legs so that they’re spread, right in the man’s face. Neither seems to take any notice, even though she’s totally exposed. She stretches and I see that she doesn’t shave her armpit hair. Which would seem crude to civilized women like me, but not to her evidently.
After the man totals up everything she (not he) rows the boat to shore. They overturn the boat and perch it where it was. The man packs everything up in the car and drives away. There is no car for her. Instead, she squats, pees, and turns and goes into the shed. I suddenly realize that this is not just a fishing shed. This is where she lives.
I have the feeling she’s the only ama here. I don’t know her name but I will capitalize from now on: she’s “the Ama”.
Today was another remarkable day, a visit to town, but that’s not what was remarkable about it. The main street is a kind of open market and I was taking my time looking at jewelry. Despite the drab clothing everyone wears, there are some coral and abalone designs here that are pretty inventive. Also the selection is surprising. Lots of natural pearls and mother-of-pearl earrings.
For the first time I see someone (else) who appears not to be from here. She’s a well-dressed woman in heels (very unusual here) with a man in what looks like a chauffer’s uniform. She’s also not very well behaved. She pushes her way past people, then gets next to me and scoops several sets of what looks like shellfish bangles. The meek old lady behind the counter is trying not to act offended, especially when the woman gives her a 10,000-yen note and leaves without waiting for change.
I exhale. The people here are justifiably resentful of outsiders but realize they need their money. I look around and wonder if the Ama ever comes here. She can’t be in that shed, or out diving, all the time. I smile and imagine her coming by here naked.
I must be psychic. There is a commotion and I go to see what it is. An old panel truck is approaching, and the Ama is standing up in back! Naked! As the truck lurches to a stop on the rough road her breasts bounce and jiggle. Then she hops off the truck, oblivious to the stones hitting her bare feet, and helps a man unload. It is a few dozen sacks of her “catch”. Despite being unprotected by clothes or gloves or boots, she is the one who does most of the work as the heavy sacks are hefted into a bin. This woman is strong. They finish the work -- all wordlessly -- and then the truck backs out and leaves. Now it’s just the Ama and another man. She is carrying her mask as if it was a purse, the straps tied over her wrist. She converses with the man at the bin and for the first time I hear her voice. It’s low, and a little squawky. As if she’s not used to talking. She seems to be arguing with the man. The dispute seems to be an ongoing one; both are rolling their eyes. She gesticulates, causing her breasts to sway back and forth. Her rough toes stretch out as if ready to stomp on the man’s boots. It appears to be about money. He finally gives her some paper notes which she stuffs into her “purse”.
Why is she naked in town? Diving is one thing, just walking about is another. Is she naked all the time? Does she even own any clothes? She doesn’t even own a purse -- she uses her mask instead. It’s not the new split type with a notch for the nose. It’s the oval type, roomy enough for the purpose.
She walks down the market and I turn away, not wanting to look like I’m gawking. Nobody else seems to notice her nudity.
It’s been a week and she’s been out diving every day. Of course. There is no such thing as a weekend for her. It’s the same routine, except yesterday, when a trawler came by. It came within about a hundred feet of shore and she swam out to it, with her mask on, her net and knife in one hand. It hardly needs saying that she is an excellent swimmer. She practically lives in the water. There were about fifteen men waiting as she climbed on board. As she bent over the gunwale to arrange her rope she braced herself by extending one bare foot way over to one side. Then she bent down over the water to arrange the knot. Her buttocks were spread in this position and she must have been displaying a clear view of her anus to the men, some of whom looked, others were looking elsewhere. The contrast between her nude and totally exposed body and the fully clothed men was never sharper. The rest of the hour the men lowered their nets over one side of the boat while she did dives over the other side. The men caught lots of fish but I imagine they were not as valuable as the treasures she was harvesting with her knife.
I figured this time of week is when she goes to town so today I went down again. Sure enough, she was there, without clothes or shoes, just her nude body and her purse/mask, ordering some fried clams, taking money out of the mask to pay for them. She walked down the street, looking at the open stalls. Then she went further, to the storefronts.
I’m noticing a few things. She seems sad. She never smiles. And I notice something else. She’s always alone, and no one talks to her. She seems to have no friends or acquaintances. I get the sense the people are deliberately ignoring her. Japanese culture is very conservative and they might be offended by her nudity. Like I noted, she doesn’t have to be naked in town, just to dive. She’s being deliberately transgressive for some reason.
I manage to wind my way around the side street and come up near her at the storefronts. There’s a bench there, and I buy a soda and pretend to relax. In fact I’m observing her closely as she looks into a store window.
I count the ways she is unique here. She doesn’t wear clothes or shoes. She has no friends or acquaintances. She’s the only Ama. Her skin is dark, and theirs is pale. And there’s something else about her -- I don’t want to use the word “savage”, but she seems outside their “civilization”. Her bare body itself seems like a rebuke, or an intrusion, into this modest, conservative culture. To begin with, in a country of notoriously flat-chested women, her breasts are gigantic, standing clearly out from her body, not sagging despite the lack of a bra. Maybe the cold air does it, or the salt sea water tightens her skin. They are even browner than the rest of her, with chocolate-colored nipples, big and dark and hard, thrusting out in front. The sun and the wind and the cold and the water have toughened them, coarsened them, enlarged them, as if they are savagely poking into the eyes of the soft, pale, civilized, docile townsfolk.
Also I notice her body hair. On her head her hair is tied back in a knot without the aid of any string. Her pubic hair is very “bushy” (sorry, I can’t think of any other word -- I don’t have an internet thesaurus handy). It sticks out; I’d call it “fluffy” if it weren’t so gritty with sea salt. Being exposed to the open air all the time must make it grow. Her armpit hair is so abundant that I can see wisps of it sticking out even though her arms are at her sides. She also has noticeable leg hair, unshaved, and a light covering of hair on her arms, almost as florid as a man’s. Her feet are tough and broad, strong toes spread out, toes that help her perch on rocks and gunwales. It hardly needs saying that her fingernails and toenails are unpainted. They seem not clipped but filed down as if she uses a pumice stone.
Her butt cheeks are taut, muscled, as are her shoulders. I wouldn’t call her “bulky”, but she is a big woman, at least by Japanese standards.
A chill breeze brushes over me and I shiver. Despite her no doubt thorough conditioning I see that it affects her too. Goose bumps rise on her butt, on her shoulders. And on her breasts, and around her nipples. I’m pretty sure I see her shiver like me, though I get the feeling she’s trying to suppress it.
I suddenly realize what she has been looking at. It’s a clothing store, and her eyes have been caressing the warm sweaters in the storefront, fondling the fluffy blouses, nuzzling into the gloves and the leather boots. Her eyes seem to be longing for them. A horrible thought hits me. Maybe she’s not allowed to ever wear clothes!
I can’t get the thought out of my head, that in this cold and dreary climate the Ama is forbidden to wear clothes while everyone else gets to bundle up. Of course I can’t be sure of it but why would she spend all that time looking at the clothes in the window? I desperately want to ask someone why this is, maybe ask her myself. But my Japanese is so poor, I’m sure to bungle it. Plus -- maybe no one is allowed to even talk to her, except on business. I don’t want to violate any local taboo. Weird as it seems. I wish I had access to the internet so I can look this up. I’ve ransacked the Professor’s library but there’s nothing more to be found. There is a book on local history, but it has no mention of ama.
When I see her out diving now, I’m overcome with sadness. I so want to help her. But I’m not absolutely sure she’s unhappy. The people here are poor and she does seem to have a secure job, miserable as it is.
I saw her in town yesterday, around lunchtime. She was eating fried clams again, sitting across across the street from me, as I sipped some tea. It was a chilly day but she paid it no mind. As she munched she looked absently down the street. She stretched her tough bare foot out onto the bench, her vagina open to anyone who cared to look, though no one did. I was thinking that she was offending people by her nudity, flaunting it, out of revenge, at not being allowed to wear clothes, but now I’ve changed my mind. She’s not shoving it in people’s faces, or showing off. She simply is a stranger to feelings of modesty. No part of her, inside or out, is considered “private”. Every part of her is public, and no one thinks about it, including her. She’s obviously lived without clothing for a long, long time. How many years? Her entire life? The encyclopedia said ama (small “a” now) would begin training at age twelve. It’s hard to guess the Ama’s age. She’s no teenager, that’s for sure.
A quick squall overtook the town. This happens quite frequently here. The sky darkened, thunder, a few drops, and then the sheets of water came down. Everyone fled under the canopies, myself included. But not the Ama. She continued calmly eating her now-soggy fried clams as pellets of cold water hit every part of her. Cold water on her body was something she was quite used to. Rain dripped off her nose, off the toes of her extended bare foot, off the lips of her spread vagina, and off her huge, hard nipples, which seemed to stick out even more, as if pointing at the townspeople in accusation.
Another visit to town, and again I saw the Ama. Today was even more startling. She was walking toward me, this time without even her purse/mask. She was approached by three persons in white coats, a woman and two men. Wordlessly she stood still, right in the middle of the street. A blood pressure sleeve was brought out, puffed up, and her readings taken. One of the men wrote in a book. Now she opened her mouth as the woman spread her lips and checked her teeth. This activity was blocking the road but nobody seemed irritated; they just passed on by, waiting for the bottleneck to clear, as if this was a regular event. Now an otoscope was poked into her ears as they were examined. All this time she stared out into the distance without emotion.
I should have guessed what was to come next. Inspection of breasts of such size was a two-person job. The woman doctor did the left one, one of the men did the right. The Ama stood upright and held her arms up; firm as they were, this caused the big brown mounds to ride up even higher. The two doctors began at her hairy armpits and with their poking and squeezing and prodding they worked their way onto the tops of her breasts, then around the sides and then the bottom in a long clockwise journey, each working with both hands the entire time. Tall as she was, they didn’t have to bend down to do it. They vigorously mauled her, left and right, like they were kneading dough. All this time her gaze into the distance remained unchanged. Finally they worked their way in to the big dark nipples, which they squeezed and tugged and stretched and twisted in a way which would cause pain in an ordinary woman. Reflexively I almost reached up to protect my own, shielded from the cold and from the world’s gaze by bra, blouse, sweater and coat.
Then -- I’m sure my eyes widened as she squatted and casually gave a urine sample into a plastic cup, right in the middle of the town’s main street. Next, she sat down, her bare butt on the hard stones, and bracing herself with her elbows lifted her hips up with her hands. She spread her legs so that her crotch was right up in the doctors’ faces. Each man held onto a foot, so as to spread her legs further, as the woman brought out a speculum. Yuck! I hate gyno exams; it seems they always keep the speculum in a freezer, and it’s a very uncomfortable feeling being pried opened that way. I especially hate feeling the doctor’s breath on my insides. Be that as it may, the woman cranked the speculum open, and with a penlight in her mouth must have been visualizing the interior of the Ama’s vagina and her cervix. This did bring some kind of reaction from passersby; a couple of men stopped to peer inside her, and a couple of women too. The woman doctor moved her head away so as to give them room to look.
Finally the speculum was removed and she turned around onto all fours. One of the men brought out what looked like a giant metal penis with a tapered end. He put some gel onto it and none too gently thrust it into the poor Ama’s anus. She grunted as he thrusted and withdrew, thrusted and withdrew. Was this thing called an anoscope? Finally all eight or so inches was inside. The Ama was breathing heavily; she swallowed and rested her head on her hands, braced against the road. A light was shined into this contraption and again passersby took turns with the doctor looking down into the depths of her gut. It was inserted for about a minute as things were written down. Then it was taken out, inch by inch, as she grunted. Finally they put it in their bag and left. Not a word was spoken the whole time. They didn’t ask permission, and when finished they didn’t say thank you, they just left her there, butt up in the air, catching her breath, her still-gaping anus affording the whole town a view of the interior of her rectum. After a moment she got onto her feet, a little unsteadily, then walked off in the direction of the rocky beach, regaining her normal gait, hard bare feet thudding painlessly on the stony road.
It was a sunny day today, all day. Gloriously unusual. The ocean sparkled. The hills were brilliant, the now-leaveless trees casting sticklike shadows, like a lattice work on the bare ground.
Also it was unusual in that the Ama was not diving today. Instead I saw her puttering around outside her shed, arranging things. She hefted herself up by one foot onto the roof and undid some kind of latch, and now the entire side of the shed fell forward, giving me a view of what was inside.
Was I snooping? Of course. But it was in “plain view”, as the American police say. I had to know how she lived. So I trained the telescope on it, using the most powerful lens.
The ama, according to the article in the encyclopedia, get ready for their dives by praying in a special hut with a little stove which heats the inside so that it’s almost like a sauna. The idea is to save up heat before the cold plunges outside. Indeed I saw a little stove inside the Ama’s shed. But very little else. There was no bed, and no blankets, just a cleared area of soft sand with a lump built up to rest her head on. No electricity, of course. A few shelves with maybe food or some books. The place was pretty empty. And of course -- I expected this by now -- no sign of any clothes or shoes. She really does live a naked life. And a solitary one. From what I read, ama support each other and to sweat together next to the stove, praying, is a bonding experience. This one has no one to bond with.
She swept out the inside with not a broom, but a dried up bush that she has found. Does she ever bathe? I suppose she doesn’t need to, being in the water so much. But I was wrong -- I saw her dip into the ocean, and stand at the edge, smearing wet sand all over her body. It’s a natural exfoliant. She rinsed herself off. Then went into the shed and reached over to what looked like dried seaweed hung on the wall, which acted as a towel.
No bathroom. She must relieve herself outside, somehow.
The shed is pretty sturdy. She was able to climb up on top of it, her prehensile toes skittering up the side. Even though it’s just rough unfinished wood she lay down on the roof, her face up to the sun. It must have seemed like a warm day to her. I smiled as she basked on her shed, eyes closed, legs a little open. She was enjoying this. She certainly deserved it.
Today would be Thanksgiving Day in the United States but of course it was no special day here. In town I was able to make out a poster announcing a town meeting tonight and I decided to go.
There was a town council of five older people and they were hearing public comment on what sounded like -- a “tourist pier”? A man in a suit, evidently an outsider, explained the project and took questions. My sense was that the townspeople would be happy to attract any kind of business and they were leaning towards the proposal. A couple of townspeople got up to the podium and read statements in support.
Then I saw a turning of heads. The Ama had appeared in the doorway. She strode up to the front of the room, the slap of her feet against the tile floor being the only sound. She did not hide behind a podium; she faced the town in her total nakedness. The council behind her was formally dressed but in a way her bare, tanned skin was the most imposing outfit there. Room temperature seemed to be a little warm for her; she was sweating, but perfectly calm.
Her arms were at her sides though her breasts wobbled a bit as she spoke, her nipples pointing here and there as if at everyone in the room. Because she was speaking slowly I could understand her even with my limited Japanese. She said (more or less): “This pier will disrupt the beds of abalone and oysters. Future diving would only be profitable elsewhere, perhaps on shores abutting neighboring towns.” Then she left the room, again with the slapping of bare feet. There was silence for a few moments and then the council chairman spoke again to resume the meeting. I didn’t understand much of what was going on but it seemed sentiment had changed.
I don’t think I will recover soon from what I saw today.
I visited the local shrine, which I had noticed past the storefronts. There is an old man who keeps it, with four young female assistants (I think they’re called miko), apparently high school students, or recent graduates. There’s a “formal” service on the day of the full moon. I went out of curiousity, though hoping I would not get bored. I want to write something for publication about my month here, but I don’t want to write about the Ama -- or maybe I should say I don’t dare. It would be too disruptive to the town if the outside world finds out. So maybe I can write about other things I saw here.
It seemed like half the town was in attendance, of all ages. There was a pre-service picnic which I had missed. Then the big gong and the service began. There was incense and chanting, the old man and the four young women, in their long ceremonial robes and headdresses, the wooden sandals with socks. Now, to my surprise, the Ama appeared from behind the curtain. Wordlessly the brown nude climbed onto a table in front of the altar, and got onto all fours, then down onto her elbows. Facing the crowed, she joined in the chanting, which seemed to be the same ten or so syllables, over and over. As she chanted her heavy breasts, almost extending down to the table, swung to and fro.
One of the miko got behind the Ama and spread her buttocks. The Ama’s eyes bugged out as she chanted. It was perfectly obvious what the miko was doing with her tongue, and it utterly surprised me. Anal licking! Here in conservative rural Japan! Now another miko knelt down behind. The Ama gasped and continued chanting, more labored now. She skipped the occasional syllable and tried to keep up with the keeper and the other miko. I could picture two female tongues, one noodling through the Ama’s anus and into her rectum, the other twirling around her clitoris and laving her labia. I was squirming in my seat, thinking what it must feel like. The Ama’s big nipples scraped the table as her breasts quivered and shook. Her eyebrows twitched crazily and her distracted eyes seemed to look individual people in the eye as her glance darted around. I was horrified that her eyes would at some point lock onto mine but fortunately they didn’t.
A normal female reaction was inevitable. The Ama’s breathing got heavier and she started to sweat. She could only chant a word or two now. Meanwhile everyone else started joining in the chant. Were these folks as familiar with the signs of female arousal as I am? They had clearly seen this before. Their chanting got louder as the Ama rose up to the crest. Then she stiffened, her sightless eyes rolled upward, a pregnant moment . . . then the mighty scream. With her well developed lung capacity I swear it could be heard a mile away, from her shed. The two miko behind her hung on to her butt for dear life as she bucked and bucked, each spasm shaking the table.
It was obviously a very powerful orgasm, the kind few women can achieve. But -- I know this sounds strange -- it didn’t seem like she was enjoying it. It seemed like an ordeal that she was required to go through, like scourging or mortification (to cite Christian equivalents).
And it was not over. The Ama gritted her teeth and grimaced as the two young tongues kept up their assault even when they should have stopped. I have had clumsy lovers do this after orgasm and I know the pain of hypersensitivity the naked woman was experiencing. Now the two other miko came over and pulled her breasts to the side. They stretched their mouths over the distended nipples and began not too gentle sucking. It was more like chewing, from what I could see. A second orgasm followed. And then a third.
The powerful jolts must have shook her to the core. After the last had spent itself the Ama collapsed onto the table, falling onto her side and then absently sprawling out her legs, leaving her crotch open to the crowd, catching her breath through a wide open mouth, her eyes closed as she faced upward. The chanting stopped and the keeper said a final prayer. Then more incense, and the gong, and the service concluded. The miko tidied up after the keeper and they all left the altar. Everyone filed out of the shrine, leaving the Ama sprawled on the table, lying in her own juices, exhausted, naked, abandoned and alone.
I was tossing and turning last night, still upset about the shrine ceremony. I wish I could understand what they were chanting. From my understanding of the religion here prayers are usually directed to the kami (gods) for some type of relief, either to cure an illness, or to end a famine, or for prosperity. My guess is that they were offering up the Ama as a kind of fertility sacrifice, so that her lucrative harvests may continue.
Who knows? I really wish my Japanese was better. I’ve been a stranger here, and my month in this little cabin is over now. Today I listlessly peered through the telescope as the Ama did her usual diving. Yesterday’s ceremony must have taken a lot out of her but she evidently had recovered. I was careful not to be an intruder, but . . . what this town does to the Ama is simply not right.
I decided to do something about it, in my own small way.
This afternoon I went to the market, for the last time. It was almost sunset. I made the old lady feel good by buying 15,000 yen worth of whelk bangles and pearl earrings, and an exquisite abalone necklace. Then I went into the town’s one restaurant and gorged myself on baked carp and left a gigantic tip. As it got dark the hanging lights went on outside. Now I saw the Ama coming down the street, without her mask/purse, maybe to look at the clothes in the storefront again. I put my plan into action.
One of the stands sells wonderful big fruit sandwiches. I went up to the Ama and bowed. She seemed surprised -- of course. No one ever says hi to her. I took her by the hand to the stand and got her one of those sandwiches.
I never saw her smile until now. When she smiles her whole face lights up. Her strong, bare body seemed to radiate with glory instead of privation and hard labor. She held the sandwich in both hands (it’s that big) and made a show of taking a huge bite. I could not help the tears in my eyes, even as I noticed the startled faces of the people around me.
We walked together to the edge of town. Then she hugged me, her big brown breasts squashing against my jacket, her big hard nipples almost poking through it as if trying to touch mine. I looked down at my boots next to her broad, tough brown feet. She turned, still working on the sandwich. I watched her always-naked body as she walked into the darkness and disappeared.
Back in New York, back in the world of gadgets and internet and publishing, catching up on work -- I find that the Professor has passed away. The cabin was left to his granddaughter, a doctor practicing in Denmark, who has never been to Japan.
I put on the abalone necklace, like a ritual, and conduct as thorough an internet search as I can. Yes, there is an Ama in Fudai, a mere mention in a cached dead link. Another dead link tells me her name is Yurio Uneyo and she is (or was at the time) 32 years old and single. On a hunch I go to the Ministry of Economy web site and look up the economy of Fudai. Being a Japanese site, it’s well-organized and quite detailed. It doesn’t mention the Ama but doing a little deduction I find that her catch supplies 13% of the town’s total income, in food and in jewelry.
I go onto weatherunderground.com. The forecast for Fudai today is for snow.