Memories Out of Season

 

 
In the early 80s, I was living and teaching in Tokyo, and on a number of occasions played tennis with Japanese friends. During my first year, they invited me for a “tennis weekend” at a mountain resort.

 
It was a hot day on clay courts, and at one point I stripped off my T-shirt. While culturally appropriate on any Seattle court in summer, I apparently scandalized all of Niigata Prefecture.

 

With great embarrassment, my doubles partner whispered that I could not “play nude.”

I quickly apologized and slipped on my shirt, though this embarrassment struck me as very odd since just the night before, we—men and women—had all bathed together in the resort’s large sento, which I’m pretty sure is not culturally appropriate in Seattle, without anyone showing the least embarrassment.

It was my first lesson in understanding the peculiar logic of a different culture, and I later included the experience in Tales of Tokyo.