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Thursday, April 08, 2004

Asia -- Drinks are on Me (long)

I took a trip to Asia.

Quite unlike Southeast Asia, North Asia is expensive. The economic disparity is large: Japanese frequently journey southward in search of more genuine and less expensive women, not unlike Californians wandering into Baja, except far more organized. But even within North Asia, there are tremendous differences between countries.

Japan is the most civilized and advanced country in the world that does NOT have a Christian or Catholic-influenced history. As such, its morals are quite different from those of the West. In fact, the differences can be deceptive and surprising, as the Japanese exist behind a shell painted with Western business culture, Western high technology, and Western two piece suits. Behind this is a no-holds-barred open-minded sex culture. Most Americans are, in fact, offended by the Japanese sex culture, whereas some Japanese view the American offense as merely an odd cultural repression (with the globalization of media, however, everything is becoming homogenized, and ultimately I believe the Western morals will prevail.)

Now if Japan were the Canada of North America, and Thailand the Mexico, then South Korea would be the United States. Christianity is the leading religion in Korea, and although the roots of that culture are not deep, there is an uneasy peace between Western and Eastern morals. The moral tone is West of Japan, but still far East of the USA: for example, in Korea there aren't hands-free bars scattered around town as in Japan (and by "hands-free," I'm talking about a different kind of oral/microphone experience than in cell phones or karaoke!), but you can find a hand release in Seoul about as often as you find a barber shop. In the same place, in fact, and on virtually every city block.

Asian cultures are historically very hierarchical. The hierarchies have changed in the past millenia, from monarchy to feudal systems to imperial systems, and recently to business conglomerates. It is incorrect to assume that Western business weakened the hierarchy: each Korean or Japanese conglomerate is more powerful than any previous king could have dreamt, and certainly are more stable than the elected governments. Samsung is the most valuable company in Asia, and alone produces more than 20% of the GDP of Korea.

In fact, lacking a vibrant startup and small business community, Asian cultures usually see more than half of their GDP produced by a small number of companies, 70-80% of their population hired into a relatively low-paid service job, and an expected lifetime of a political party of less than 20 years (China excepted). The consequent lack of robust dynamics in their economy makes for interesting boom-bust cycles, and, as in any monarchy, a huge importance in strong leadership.

A side effect of the hierarchy is the sex trade. It caters to the businessman, the current version of the feudal warrior or sponsored tradesman. Because the money flows down this way, the service industry understands very well that their bread is buttered by the knives of the corporations.

Another side effect is the fraternity of business. Much like the warrior king culture, the businessmen congregate in social groups with interesting cultural idioms, mimicking their superiors, yet knowing the likelihood that they will ever achieve greatness is limited by who they know. This is reflected in an existential attitude in their literature, which is nothing if like reading Camus or Dostoevsky (in fact, their literature is often translated into French and Russian before English.) And these fraternities are very close. It's not uncommon for businessmen to go out drinking with their buddies EVERY night until midnight. They see more of these guys socially than their wife or kids.

Now make no mistake: there is a sex trade that caters to people outside the fraternity. But it's different. Hence the difficulty in getting the top sex services in Northern Asia if you are a tourist. Or not well-connected with a native "guide." Is it racist? Certainly some part of it is a race issue. But most of it, IMO, is their history of catering to the "lords" and "the fraternity." If you are outside, you don't get to play.

So what happens when you mix the focus on business with the fraternal hierarchies and the non-Western morals? Interesting forms of group sex! There is, as noted above, a different sex trade for individuals and people outside the fraternities, but by far the larger proportion of spending goes to group sex. But it's not quite what you think.

Now I'll confess up front: I have never been interested in group sex, unless I'm the only guy. Performing in front of a fraternity of friends never did anything for me, yes, even when... especially when! I was in a large college fraternity. I just don't want to be distracted by the vision of a bunch of naked guys, vastly preferring the pulchritude of women. Maybe in porn I could indentify with a male character (except, perhaps a member the size of a watermelon), but live action with other guys? Not for me.

But I'll also confess... I tried it out on this trip. And despite the dangers of talking about this (c.f. my earlier post on Singapore and some of the responses,) what the hell...

Let's start with the tamer of the two experiences: Korea.


KOREA

I have a few people in Korea who I have known for decades. I knew them when they were studying and raising kids in the USA, and I knew them for the decades while they and their generation rose to power in Korea. So I'm connected to conglomerate executives, government ministry officials, and university administrators and academics (the latter being more respected and powerful in Asia than here.) Most of my evenings in Korea, scratch that, ALL of my evenings in Korea consisted of drinking with such contacts.

The ones who don't know me as well will show me a tame night. Some drinking and talking at a lounge. The best thing is the conversation. The worst thing is the pervasive cigarette smoke.

Those who know me better, and know that I am open minded, will take me to a somewhat wilder place. Usually it starts with dinner, then some warm-up drinks, and then to a private bar room or karaoke room with bar girls or kieseng (the Korean version of geisha) depending on the quality of the place. What I'm calling a "bar girl" is less well-educated: she must know how to carry a conversation, sing, feed you, and drink with you (at about a 1:2 to 1:4 ratio of drinks because she'll have up to four customers in an evening). A true kieseng is better educated: she should know more languages, can write calligraphy and recite and compose poetry and music.

The drink is mostly to give you an excuse to be on bad behavior. It's also the same kind of trust-bonding that getting drunk with your fraternity brothers serves.

The girls themselves are arranged in hierarchies. At the top is the bar manager, usually a girl in her late thirties or early forties. At the bottom is the youngest girl (the youngest I met was 19), who is "in training." Younger girls call the older girls "older sister" (it's one word in Korean) and defer to them. The younger girls have fewer stories, usually act more shy, and are generally less popular.

The girls are beautiful. Yes, even before you get a couple of liters of whisky in your system. The 19 year old was very cute, with a fantastic singing voice, and a sweet disposition. She was called in for me because she spoke the best English (majoring in it in college, in fact), but it took a while for her to warm up to it. The other girl with me had been educated in Turkey. She was 26, was charming and riotiously funny, and had a cosmopolitan attitude rare in US providers. I could fall in love. But then I'd be the topic of only one of the zillions of poems about businessmen falling in love with these women.

The evening was a lot of fun. It was dominated by talking, joking, and singing. There was at least one girl for every guy.

Sometimes private parties will merge or split. Each girl is completely focused on one guy. You will be fed, your glass will never empty, and you singing is always considered great. Somehow the girls are very good at keeping the party lively and the conversation going at the right times, and giving you some private time at the right time. They get flattered, they take care of it, you detox a little, and then... more partying. Repeat until nearly unconscious, or until four or eight or twelve hours have passed.

Now keep this in context: these gals have to entertain you, without use of a movie, theater, or a distracting event, for all that time. Conversation is key.

So where's the sex? In the group setting in Korea it doesn't get past heavy petting. If you go past that, you are encouraged to "get a room," which is usually pretty conveniently located, sometimes right upstairs. You can also take them to a spa, which is a nice way to detoxify with alternating hot and cold (or oxygen-laden) rooms, and eating, sleeping and television areas above. This definitely worked for Sigmund.

And how was the sex? Awesome if they are pros (not all are!) Pros are trained. But other girls are not, eschewing the sex part of the trade for whatever reason.

The professional journeyman - apprentice system has a lot merits in my book. The fact that these gals are TRAINED, and continue to train when they are doing "doubles"... it's definitely an amazing thing. I mean, I have experienced some great civilian or professional duos, but nothing like this. They say timing is everything, and I now realize that the duos I've had in the States do not coordinate their timing. Nor do they seem to zero in on your biorhythms and CONTROL you... and the internal muscle control of the older gal was fantastic. There was a few minutes when she was trying to teach this to the younger gal, and I was a very willing subject. They had these all these patterns and rhythms, and I almost passed out from the novelty of it. The older gal would watch me carefully, stroke me on my leg or arm or whatever, and then based on my breathing would ask the younger one, mounted on me, to change the pattern or hold her hand and tell her to squeeze me in time with her hand. There were a few times I really felt like begging for release.

I am not easy to please, but these gals seemed to have little trouble with me.

Summary of my experience there: each and every girl was completely into ME. But even better in some ways. It wasn't just sex, or those looks, or a teasing dinner: it was being bathed, cuddled in a sauna, meals prepared and fed to me, and never even having to pour a drink for myself. Oh yeah, and the sex was better. But, heck, that was a short part of the long nearly twenty-four hour experience.

Decadent? oh yeah.

I was worried that one of my friends had driven his car to this place. Many execs have drivers, but for whatever reason his driver was off that evening. But, no fear, there is a service where a driver showed up and drove his car to his house (dropping the rest of us off as needed.)

By the way, an anti-hangover remedy is required. There is this vile concoction that is trendy: mixing beer and whisky (called an Atomic or Nuclear Bomb, depending on the ratio of beer to whisky), and beer, whisky and wine (called a Vampire, for it's frothy blood-like consistency). I call it gastric suicide, especially after the insanely spicy meals they like to eat. I read that Korea has the second highest annual per capita consumption of alcohol (14.4 liters of pure alcohol per adult) next to Slovenia (15.1 liters). Now I believe it.

Now I do need to insert a disclaimer. I have no idea if the night out is typical. I just haven't been to Korea enough. And I do know that the people I was with can spend money, but I didn't see it. So it was all free for me, and I don't know how much it cost. I know the imported booze is NOT cheap. So I'm guessing it was several thousand dollars.

An obligatory note: there are a zillion massage parlors everywhere, mostly hidden in spas, barbershops and ads. Everybody knows they exist, and there is no stigma to it. Many of these gals are amazingly good at a handjob or oral sex, in the sense that they can wave the wand and magically that's about all it takes. There are also glassfront hookers, not unlike Amsterdam. The neighborhood isn't that great, but it's worth seeing, just to see all these gals in mod getups and these grandmother types trying to hustle you in for a quickie. So even if you aren't in the fraternity of business, there are services. I have no real experience here, but FYI.

Next stop: Japan.


JAPAN

Japan is more sexually open minded, or perverted, depending upon your point of view, than Korea.

The Korean kisaeng aren't at the quality of a Japanese geisha. This is because of the Korean rebellion against the Japanese colonial system and their use of Korean women as "comfort women" (prostitutes for the military) and as the destination of sex tourism in the 1960's. As a consequence, the Korean government strongly separated the kisaeng into two: a lower class kisaeng that was part of the sex services, and a higher class one that was government sponsored, considered an art resource (much of the historical literature and music was composed by kisaeng), and was NOT to have sex.

Consequently, the Korean kisaeng I met, although well-educated when compared to a typical US provider, was nothing like top Japanese geisha.

Now when I talk about education here, I'm talking about cultural education. These are not PhDs in physics or computer science. These are artists, musicians, and even satirists.

In Japan I also know a few people for a long time. Like Korea, I've known them as they have climbed their (mostly predestined) path to power. Through that long investment, there is sufficient trust for them to take me into the innards of the Japanese experience.

It is said that there are three lives in Japan, and Asia more generally. There is your private life you share with your family; there is the public life, a face you wear in society; and there is the fraternal life, which includes a variety of stress-relieving activities including sex and drinking. These three lives are kept independent, and until quite recently, by social contract each stays quite independent with a "don't ask, don't tell" policy.

So let's talk about two experiences in Japan. I'll divide it into the low track and the high track.


LOW TRACK

The low track night started with four guys and an early dinner, and then what we'd call a progressive bar night. Migrating from tiny bar to tiny bar, where "everybody knows your name." The bars are TINY. I was introduced at each place, and several toasts ensued.

Then to the districts with larger bars with sexual services, such as "hands-free" (or "no hands") bars. This is where you sit at a bar and receive oral service under the table. There are also version of this where you can go to a booth. HJ, BJ, and FS are available. The girls are usually imported from China or Southeast Asia. Every now and then you can overpay for a blonde, but the service is usually far worse. The point at these places is that you have the zipless fVck. Virtually no interaction. In some places you can hold a conversation, for example with a bar girl, while the action is going on underneath with another girl. See if you can keep a straight face. It's like Monkey's military cadet fantasy in Portnoy's Complaint. You can also engage in a variety of interesting games: who can hold out the longest, and so on.

Recall this is a social outing, so I'm here playing a variety of truly mind-twisting drinking-plus-sex games with these guys. Frankly, if it weren't for the drinks beforehand, I'm sure I would have backed away from the whole thing. Talk about performance anxiety!

After that was another bout of drinking. My hosts weren't as used to holding large quantities of hard liquor: the Japanese per capita alcohol consumption is half that of Korea, although they drink nearly twice as much beer (by volume.)

Then to a private room bar, much like the Korea experience. The girls weren't quite as pretty, nor quite as friendly. They were attentive and had perfect protocol, but I liked the more down to earth friendliness I found in the Korean room. Food and drink were available, as was a karaoke system that magically swung out of the wall. The games here did not have a limit at the heavy petting stage, as in Korea, and could easily have developed into group sex in the middle of the floor. The room configuration was traditional, so rather than chairs and a table, there was a very low table and cushions. It turns out this is very amenable to activities other than eating, without moving furniture.

After the "run around in a circle nearly naked acting like chickens" game, I elected to retire to another room rather than play the "who gets to cVm inside the hostess with the mostest" game. It started to get too weird for me, I tell ya.

The sexual experience here wasn't as good as in Korea. Perhaps it's that we didn't connect as well. Or my mind was too fVcked up with the weird games. My friends were drunk off their asses, but had a great time. When we hooked up afterwards, it was traditional to share detailed experiences, much like being in a fraternity. Lots of joking ensued, followed by sleeping in the cab.

I wasn't really that into it.


HIGH TRACK

Well, after the crazy games I played on the low track, I was academically interested in what the high track would hold. Only academically, mind you.

I went with a group of three other people, one of which was the clear "senior" person. He was very well-known and very wealthy. He had a private club he preferred, and arranged the evening there.

We were driven to a rather non-descript frontage in Tokyo, where the ubiquitous doorman guided us into a small foyer then down a narrow corridor and into an elevator. The elevator opened up into a HUGE room with beautiful wood carvings, statues, and even a water fountain and sand garden. A duo of lovely ladies in uniform greeted us. Out of hidden doors a set of traditionally-garbed ladies emerged, helped us remove our shoes, and guided us individually into dressing rooms, where I was shown how to put on a kind of toga diaper. I was shown downstairs into the baths, where I was cleaned most delightfully by two pretty girls who joined me in the hot and cold tubs.

I was sad to see them leave, their having caused certain reactions in my physical state, but I was then shown into another room where I had an excellent massage from several women. At some points there was only one girl, at others there were three, one working on my head, and the other two on my body. I nearly fell asleep.

I was then taken to a larger bath where my companions were. We hung out talking a little there, relaxing and loosening up, and then were taken to a room for dinner. There were two women taking care of the room including the room "mother," and one geisha for each man. The food had many courses, each of which was fed to us. My geisha spoke English with a delightfully cute accent, and gave me a short language lesson on each food item (immediately forgotten), its preparation and its history. I am quite inquisitive, but she was excellent at addressing my many questions.

I was the subject of many good-natured jokes (at least the ones I could understand!) and my friends and I discussed politics, the economic outlook, and business. The girls contributed from time to time, and would have little entertainment breaks between "courses" where they would sing or dance. At one point my girl and one other brought out a kind of flip chart thing and did competitive five-minute classic-style paintings, an Asian version of that PBS painter, Bob Ross, except competitive and in a different style. My girl "won" the contest. In fact, due to my status as guest, my girl won a disproportionate fraction of the contests, which through some strange system I still haven't mastered, meant that I also consumed a disproportionate fraction of the drinks.

There were many sexual jokes, and a lot teasing. Many references were to the food and sex, especially the nearly live food.

At one point toward the end of the meal, we played a stripping game with a fan dance. I remember thinking it was very interesting, and particularly fun how the girls were able to keep themselves and their partners covered strategically with fans.

In any case, this eventually degenerated into a drunken groping session. But it did not go all the way, so to speak, in that room. My geisha, who was very charming and made excellent eye contact, made it quite clear that if we wanted to continue, there were rooms available. Indeed I was interested. Now one of the room sets available was a kind of voyeur room, where you could see others going at it. It was pretty interesting, although not for me. There were other themes, including a rope room, but I was never that good with knots. I asked some questions about that, and I think I was just about to understand the aesthetic, but the girl's pert bosom kept distracting me. So we went to a more traditional private room with a mat, and she set up some incense and, well, we went at it.

She was quite good. Again, timing appeared to be the key, as well as well-coordinated stroking of different places on my body. Some good breathing techniques and her attention to me kept me on edge for a long time, making the release quite impressive and, alas, pretty final also. But I found the combination of her MIND, her conversation, and her technique to be quite stimulating.

Unlike the Korea experience, this was not a day-long cyclical experience. It did take six hours, but the spa experience and the multicourse meal and entertainment meant that this was dessert, not an intermission before more partying. But a heavenly dessert it was.

In the ensuing "pillow talk," my geisha told me that there is extensive training, and some regular customers can help "break in" new girls, which involves training them with a more senior geisha. Sound familiar?

Now I know what I had was not a typical experience. I was relating some of it to a friend of mine, who commented that it was probably a night that cost the senior guy "maybe $10,000."

I sent him a thank you note.


END NOTES

So that's my excessively long post on Asia. The short version?

Korea was fantastic: a room full of very pretty girls with superb, mind-altering skill and a wider range of "I'm focused on you" talents. So good, it's a drug.

Japan was also great. The low track was nothing if interesting although some of it was too strange for me. The high track was an amazing experience: entertainment, conversation, and sex all in one. But unbelievably expensive.

Overall, my most interesting experience was the level of sexual skill I experienced. It blew my mind. I usually only get one shot in an evening, so it makes sense that the journey is most of the reward. And I now see that the journey can be made pretty darn good.

I wonder if providers in the US are not very skillful, and that the skill level may even decrease with the rise of independents. Who will train them? The notion of a culture where they train each other is quite fascinating. And of course, this was a decadent experience. Not in the same way as my travels with "J", but still... decadent.

I offered my friend in Korea to pick up the tab the next time, if he'll make the arrangements!

Now if only they could get rid of all that cigarette smoke, and cut down on the drinking a bit...

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