Travelling from the tiny seaside town of Oarai to Tokyo, I boarded an ancient rattler of a rail motor:

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It was perhaps the weirdest rail journey I have ever taken. The theme plastered all over the station and the train was ‘Girls und Panzer’:

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Cartoon images of girls in school uniforms mingled with German panzer tanks. The connection is obvious … at least in the world of manga.

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Japan is, of course, not a kinky country at all, with no repression.

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This country would have to be one of the most repressed I have ever visited, with an extraordinary return of the repressed at all sorts of levels. On the one hand, everyone is impossibly polite, nice, tidy and meticulously rule-abiding. Everyone bows at the slightest meeting. Even on a train, the person wheeling the trolley with food will bow at the end of the carriage before making her way along, offering drinks and snacks. Police officers assist you with the most trivial detail, all the while wearing a huge smile. Everyone drives about 10 km below the speed limit, for fear of breaking the law. And forget about crossing an empty intersection if the pedestrian light is red. Even more, excessive noise is a no-no. You can speak on a mobile phone in a train only in vestibule of each carriage. Hotel regulations make a big thing about quietness. Every word is spoken softly.

At the same time, Japan has one of the largest prostitution industries in the world. Worth an estimated 10,000 billion yen a year, it is in your face – so to speak – everywhere you turn. In grocery shops, leaflets advertising local services can be found. If you live in the country, your letterbox will be full of such leaflets. But call it prostitution. Ah no, is it ‘health delivery’, or ‘soapland’, or you can engage in a ‘romantic’ getaway in a ‘leisure hotel (the latter are a cheap way to travel in Japan). Keep in mind that prostitution is technically illegal in Japan.

However, you don’t have to go that far to see such repression and its release at work. Take the toilets in a standard hotel. They all come with a curious panel of buttons on the side:

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Initially, I ignored such devices, but then I became intrigued. How do they work? I tried pressing the buttons, but to no avail.

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However, after sitting upon such a toilet a few times, I noticed that the green light went on (square button) after some water noises. I then pressed the ‘bidet’ button. At this moment, a phallic like tube emerged from the back of the toilet:

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And before you know it, a stream shoots right up your anus:

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Now let me be clear, such a photograph is not possible until after sitting down, pressing the appropriate buttons and waiting for that tingling feeling down below:

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In fact, it requires significant dexterity to leap up from the seat while one’s underside is being doused, aim the camera and take a shot before the stream stops. After numerous attempts, I became somewhat damp, but now I wanted to try the ‘shower’ button. What would that do?

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Yes, this one was for the ceiling, since it shot almost straight up with significant force:

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As I said, Freud would have wet himself with excitement over all this. Return of the repressed – and how. But as I dried off, I also realised that Japanese cleanliness goes a long way, since it seems to me that anyone who uses such a device cannot help but having one’s whole internal system washed clean.

Forget the propaganda about the Shinkansen (‘new trunk line’) trains in Japan. Images and stories would have you believe they are sleek, aerodynamic things that race about this tiny country at high speeds. Not true, for they actually look like this:

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Obviously, they travel at very high speeds, occasionally hitting 40 kilometres per hour.

Earlier this week I had to get from China to Japan. Since flying is a crap way of travelling, I took a ship from Shanghai to Osaka. Two days it takes, across the East China Sea.

The ship was the Suzhou Hao:

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Simple and with none of the silly additions, like shops and multiple restaurants. We had one dining hall, where everyone ate the same food:

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My cabin was exceedingly simple:

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We made our way out the the busiest port in the world, at the mouth of the Chang Jiang (Yangze):

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Only to join a flotilla of ships leaving and entering the port:

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Meanwhile, I made sure not to take the slipper on deck and keep my fingers attached to my body:

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Night at sea is one of my favourite experiences, so I make sure I am on deck when everyone has gone to bed:

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Or perhaps sunrise at sea is the best:

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Later that morning I became entranced by the passing water:

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Although I took to heart the warning not to become too entranced:

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Especially in light of a curious pair of shoes on deck:

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Or did he have the same strange desire to take a ride in one of these?

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Then we had our first sighting of Japan – always a thrill in a new place:

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The Japanese even sent out a fleet of welcoming vessels … or were they a warning, especially since Chinese people are not allowed to travel in Japan on their own?

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Up between the southern islands we went, with another day of sailing:

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Then it was all hands for the arrival in Osaka:

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Arriving in a new land by sea is like a wary kiss – after a patient approach – and then a slow embrace:

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The burden of growing up in China. A youthful Mao reflects:

The study of how to be a citizen is the study of the history, geography, political doctrine, and artistic climate of one’s country … Certainly, the study of being a person or a citizen is easy, while the study of being a Chinese is difficult. There are five thousand years of history, the land extends over seven thousand li, political doctrine is extremely complex, and human feelings and customs are broad and complex. How can we approach all this? If we were Japan, with only three islands within our borders, or Germany, with a history of only half a century and land equivalent in size to our two provinces of Guangxi and Guangdong alone, how easy things would be! (Mao’s Road to Power, vol. 1, p. 79)