It’s too easy in Japan to feel like the white elephant in the room – an ungainly, unseemly creature; lumpy and bumpy, chubby and clumsy; with big ears and a massive nose in comparison to the neat, petite Japanese (Japanese women).

They are chopstick thin, and I’m a rounded spoon. Pencils, against an eraser. Kokeshi dolls (as seen below), while I am a cuddly, too-hairy teddy bear.


It’s easy to feel out of place, here; to feel ugly, even. I sweat damp patches the size of Africa beneath each arm, topping up my deodorant every few hours in public toilets. At twenty seven degrees centigrade, it is just about to burn into summer. How do the Japanese ladies stay so cool-looking; so composed? I feel my fat bits wobbling; my thighs slick with perspiration. How do they do it? How do I do it too?

I become self-conscious. I have the biggest bum and boobs of any human I can see. One of my legs = enough fat for a whole Japanese body. Well, except maybe for the sumo wrestlers, who I saw coming out of the wrestling arena yesterday. But still, you know what I mean. I feel like a whale. Whale-ish! Welsh. Ah!!!


In my first rakugo session. I have to sit kneeling on a zabuton (slim, square cushion) for what feels like an age. My thighs feel shaky afterwards, as if they filled with Lucozade, and they ACHE. I have to kneel in front of a whole hall full of people on the 24th of this month, and recite a rakugo tale in full. What if I can’t get up afterwards? What if I get ‘dead leg’? Will I look like an elephant in a zoo, perhaps? Will I embarrass myself totally???

Elephants were once seen as mythical, near-fairytale creatures in Japan, a bit like foreigners, thanks to the country’s old ‘seclusion policy’. I saw an exhibition of elephant art at Tokyo Museum at the weekend, and all those lumbering white creatures did was remind me of myself. I am bigger than I was when I visited here last – a size 16 instead of a 14. I feel it powerfully. A rice ball besides many toothpicks; a bowling ball bouncing about next to many slender pins…

It’s too easy to feel like an elephant here. ‘Big-o size-o’, as they say. But I am trying to own my ass (own up to my ass). I am attempting to accept myself… Feeling self-couscious isn’t stopping me from doing anything. I want to adore my body… I am not a kokeshi doll, and never will be. I never liked dolls, anyway. But to not feel like an elephant-woman… Well, I wonder how to do this, in Harajuku, surrounded by doll-women, as I am.


2 thoughts

  1. Loving the updates, I can’t kneel for more than a few minutes because of my circulation, and I have to say I feel lumbering and whale like most of the time anyway! But I still desperately want to visit Japan.


    1. Thanks, Wendy! You should visit. British people don’t need a visa, and I flew from Cardiff airport with just one change at Amsterdam! The kneeling, the knee-thing… Well, it’s a problem. I managed about 20 minutes but was in agony afterwards. Of course, modern Japanese use chairs, but for rakugo I unfortunately have to kneel :-/


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