Archives for posts with tag: Japan

Flying Free Like A Hawk

Haresh Shah

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“You’re doing a good job if you manage to piss us off fifty percent of the time, and piss our partners off another fifty.” Our boss Bill Stokkan would often tell his managers, usually during one of his pontification sessions. More true of his international divisional heads who had not only to deal with the products but also with the cultural nuances of the people from several countries. In my case, it also worked to my advantage that I was not an American born American. Especially the people I worked with from the non-European and Asian countries felt that I understood them better just because I was born and grew up in India. That I brought a different sensitivity to our working together. Equally so with my American management, because by then I had spent as many years in the West. As difficult as it could be sometimes, I had developed a close rapport with the people on both ends and had earned their confidence and the respect.

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Reflections On Japan’s Preoccupation With Death

Haresh Shah

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Ray Falk
and Kayo Hayashi are scratching their heads to come up with something to do with Shah-san that evening. But I put their dilemma to rest. It’s my second night being back in Tokyo and we all have had an exhausting day – especially me, being grilled by the Japanese editors about them not getting the rights to Norman Mailer’s Gary Gilmore piece. Kayo drops me off at the hotel around half past five. I spend some time browsing the Imperial Hotel’s little bookstore  and buy a copy of the 1968 Nobel Prize winner in literature, Yasunari Kawabata’s novel, Beauty and Sadness. My intention is to read a bit of it after I have had a light dinner in one of the hotel’s restaurants or just take it easy and order a sandwich and a beer from the room service. I don’t get around to doing either. Soon as I enter the room, I stretch out and close my eyes to relax for a while. The next thing I know, it’s past one in the morning.

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A Fleeting Glimpse At The Land Of The Rising Sun

Haresh Shah

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I have landed in Tokyo during the day on the Christmas Eve of 1977. I am enroute to Bombay with a non-business related stopover in Japan. Even so, Playboy has arranged for me  to be met at the airport by one of our Tokyo rep’s people. This is my very first trip to the land of the Rising Sun, and I am excited to be here, even for a short stay of 48 hours.

Arriving and negotiating through Haneda International Airport feels like a free fall into a total disaster area. Even considering that the Japanese like and thrive on things small, neat and functional, their international airport is ridiculously small, overcrowded and chaotic. And yet they somehow manage to maintain order within what would seem daunting to anyone else. As I claim my baggage from the carousel and look around, I see a huge easel, wrapped across it is a wide band of paper sign saying: Mr. Shah – next to which it is repeated in katakana using the Japanese characters for my name. When I present myself by the sign, a uniformed hostess walks up to me with Welcome to Japan and pins to my lapel a name tag and informs me that someone is waiting for me outside at the MEETING PLACE.  Keiko Shirokawa is there to pick me up and take me to the hotel Dai Ichi in the famous Ginza district – that bustles with restaurants, bars, night clubs, department stores and boutiques.

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A Postcard From London Carrot

Haresh Shah

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Keiko (Shirokawa) of Ray Falk’s office takes me out for what I thought to be the most expensive Chinese dinner. Apparently, what is French cuisine is to us in the West, in Japan, Chinese cuisine is considered a notch above any other kind – exquisite and exclusive.

After dinner, we stop at a cozy little whiskey bar. It reminds me of the Booze & Bits in Chicago, located right in the heart of the hubbub of Rush Street, invisibly tucked away behind an inverted L-shaped narrow passage north of Oak Street. Must have been a storage room turned into a nice little watering hole for the people in the know. A bunch of us at Time Inc. used to hang out there frequently and collectively we all had incredible crush on Sherry – the blonde bombshell of the bartender. No one could ever touch her, but she did well with her smiles, excellent service and bit of a coquetry thrown in.

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Haresh Shah

The Rituals Of Wine And Women And All That Jazz

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Imagine this: If you have ever been to Tokyo and cruised Ginza after hours – the people, the traffic, the shuffle crossing at multiple cross roads where the traffic comes stand-still at every street corner and hoards of shoppers and revelers crossing streets this way and that in each every direction, and the crowds of salarymen making ruckus, drunk out of their minds, some carried by the group up above their heads like a soccer player having just scored the winning goal, and the roaring loud cacophony of it all. It’s a different world, nothing you have experienced anywhere else on the planet. Otherwise straight-laced and well behaved like poor little lambs, after-hours the Japanese let themselves loose. No one you would recognize the next morning when you walk into the office for your long drawn out meetings.

Imagine then, that twelve of them having won Playboy Japan’s reader contest are transposed to the Lincoln Park Playboy Club in  Chicago, sitting around the tables pulled together side-by-side with the bustling Bunnies making fuss over them, serving drinks with their smooth seductive Bunny Dips, big sparkling smiles on their faces, being as sweet as they can be. They   know that these young men have won Playboy Japan Reader’s contest and that their role is also to play gracious hostesses to our guests from the faraway land. The young men are all around twenty five – self-conscious and shy and in awe of the VIP treatment they are afforded. Far from being their drunken and rambunctious selves in Ginza, they are extremely well behaved, amazed and feeling like kids in the candy store.

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Haresh Shah

Lessons In Interactive “’Bout The Birds And The Bees”

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My brain is still busy processing what I had just seen, when I see flailing hands of the several young men in the front row. Yastaka Sasaki explains to me that they are playing rock, paper, scissors. The winner would then get to climb up the stage and get to fuck the girl who has just concluded the “second act” of her striptease routine and is now waiting in front of the sparse post-lunch time crowd of young “salarymen”. Completely naked, she is squatted there on the stage floor on her knees, legs spread wide apart, the spotlight still focused on the exposed glistening inner layers of her vulva peeking through her dense and dark, artfully manicured patch of pubic hair. Her face wears a contemptuous frown with a forced smile on her lips. Staring intensely at the faces of the men in front of her, as if daring the one who would take her as a prize right there on the stage with everyone in the audience watching.  Having eliminated the rest, about six of them, the winner eagerly climbs up the stage, and honest to God, there they are, just a few feet away from our eyes – her lying down on her back, opening her legs wider, her knees pointing upward like a dead duck on a kitchen table waiting to be stuffed. Her hands resting on sides, as if preparing to lift her slight frame into a bridge position for a gym routine.

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Haresh Shah

From Only One Nipple To Pubic Wars And Back

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How ludicrous the censorship can be isn’t  even worth discussing. The books that once considered to be obscene and pornographic are now hailed  classics. Just to name three: Lady Chatterley’s Lover by D. H. Lawrence, Tropic of Cancer by Henry Miller and Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov. And Nabokov even went on to win the Nobel Prize for literature.

That Playboy launched in December 1953 will face continuous hounding of censorship was a given.  Hugh Hefner did fight many battles and endured incessant harassment from the self-appointed moral guardians of America and the world.  Even so, it wasn’t up until January 1971 – full eighteen  years after Playboy was born that he dared show a partial patch of pubic hair on that month’s Playmate, Liv Lindeland. Nothing for a few months after, until October when one got a glimpse of a dark bit peeking through an out of focus foliage on Playmate Claire Rambeau. And suddenly the shroud was lifted. Also with the arrival of Penthouse on the American shores from its initial launch in the Great Britain, what Hefner termed to be the “pubic wars” broke out between the two publications.  It was no longer just pubic hair, but what came to be termed among the editors and the photographers as explicit “crotch shots” began to appear in both magazines in an effort to outdo each other. Until at some point, Hefner decided to scale back by saying something to the effect that its silly, we are not going to imitate the imitator.

While the US Playboy would never dare show the frontal nudity on its cover even today, not even  breasts, there was no such restriction in Germany back in 1972 when the German edition was launched. In its very second issue it had a Polaroid layer peeling off a photograph of the  sleeping beauty with her fully exposed breasts staring right at you.  For none of the Western European editions, “to be or not to be” of  breasts or even pubic hair has ever been an issue. They don’t deliberately go out of their way to run explicit covers, because it is universally believed  and accepted that nothing makes one want to pick up a magazine more so than a friendly face making an “eye contact” with the readers.

Enter Japan – the edition launched in July 1975. Even before its launch, it was possible to buy the US Playboy in the country.  But the local laws dictated that no magazine showing pubic hair could be distributed in Japan. How do you get around that? Simple. The customs hire a bunch of teenagers,  throw  them together in a cramped room, pile huge stacks of imported magazines in front of them, hand them fat tipped black magic markers and make them go through each photo and scratch a big blob of  wet black ink in the pubic region. Voila, now the Japanese youth would be  saved from their carnal temptations and the corruption of their innocent minds.

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