The man, having hastily removed his clothes wedges himself between her open legs, tugging at his penis, possibly to give it an extra  bit of hardness, slips on a condom and then plunges it into the girls’ already waiting and well lubricated vagina and begins to pump. He doesn’t last long. A minute, two at the most, before falling by her side. What I remember still the most is the cryptic smile crossing the girl’s thin lips. Her little fish eyes fluttering, her getting up, picking up her discarded clothes  from the stage and walking away.

I am in Japan on behalf of Playboy. One of the enticements my boss Lee Hall had dangled in front of me to tear me away from the sunny Santa Barbara, California to the cold and cloudy Chicago, was an assignment in Japan.

Lee made good on his promise and sent me on a short exploratory trip to Tokyo within the first months of my moving back to Chicago in 1979. But it wasn’t until the mid 1985 that he actually  assigned me in earnest to the project. In his opinion, though the Japanese had started out wonderfully well ten years earlier, now the sales had began to go south and something needed to be done. On their part, our partners Shueisha had brought in a whole new editorial team and Lee felt that I could form a part of that team, and help them lead in a fresh editorial direction, thus helping them  gain back some of their lost readers and hopefully find some new ones.

Flattered as I was, technically I was still the division’s Production Director. Perhaps because I had proven my editorial impulse, working with Playboy in the Netherlands, two years earlier, he must have felt that I could do the same with the Japanese. But Japan was not little Netherlands. Plus I had lived and worked in Holland for several months and had some idea of what the country and its people were like.  But Japan seemed like a completely different planet. The two times that I had been there for short visits, I couldn’t say with any certainty that I even had a least  sense of what the Japanese were all about.  Even those two short trips had made me realize that the Japanese were like no other people I had ever known. I needed to know more about the country, the people and its culture before I would take on the challenge.  Lee didn’t only understand but totally concurred with me

He  recommended that I read Edwin Reischauer’s The Japanese – in his opinion, one of the most defining books ever written about the country and its people.  My first sense of Japan came from reading Ek Zalak Japan Ni (A Glimpse at Japan)  by the most prolific Indian artist and writer, Aabid Surti, who has since become a close friend. I had also read the Japanese novelists that included Yasunari Kawabata and Yukio Mishima. I added to them, Behind the Mask by Ian Buruma and Pictures from the Water Trade by John David Morley. Several months later, I felt prepared enough to board the Northwestern flight to Tokyo.  But I still wasn’t ready to be face-to-face with the Japanese editors and the executives of the giant Shueisha Inc., who held the license to publish the magazine. What I wanted to do first of all was to get to know and experience Japan on my own.

●●●

I arrived in Tokyo on Monday night. Checked into the Imperial Hotel. Got a good night’s sleep, dumped my baggage in the hotel’s storage.  A duffle bag slung over my shoulder, I ventured out accompanied by our Tokyo rep Ray Falk’s assistant Yastaka Sasaki. We boarded the outbound Hakusana #1 – Japan’s famed  Shinkansen – the bullet train, that would take us  from Tokyo’s Ueno to Kanazawa.

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