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The Rim Worlds

... out on the Galactic Rim things are very iffy and if you fart really hard your're liable to blow yourself on to an Alternate Time Track.

A Bertram Chandler.






















The Mentor

Grimesish Grumberlings, If This is Tokyo it Must Be Friday

Some time ago I was invited to be one of the overseas guests at DAICON IV, this year’s Japanese National SF Convention, to be held in Osaka. I decided that it was high time that I showed the flag again in Japan and began to make arrangements. As I did six years ago, I booked on a Sachi Oriental conducted tour, transport and hotel accommodation only, no meals, on the understanding that I should be staying an extra night in Hiroshima, waking my own way from there to Osaka and from Osaka to Takamatsu, where I should be rejoining the tour. This meant that I should be missing Beppu (where I lost my trousers in rather embarrassing circumstances in 1977), a well-known and very interesting spa resort, but this was unavoidable.

On the evening of Thursday, August 11, Susan ran me to the airport. As she had some other engagement that night, she took me to Mascot rather earlier than required, but this, as it turned out, was advantageous. Checking in at the JAL counter I found that, despite my stated preference in such matters. I was booked in the non-smoking area. I was able to get this changed.

I settled down with Heinlein’s FRIDAY - a book that I highly recommend - and, when I wasn’t reading, kept my eyes skinned for other intending passengers carrying tell-tale red Sachi Tour bags. I thought, as one usually does on such occasions. “What have I let myself in for? What a boring bunch of hicks!” (As usual first impressions were wrong. During the tour, after my cover had been blown, quite a number of science fiction addicts came out of the woodwork. One young lady, who omitted to bring reading matter for the trip, devoured FRIDAY as avidly I had done.)

The start of the tour was the usual hurry-up-and-wait routine. The tour guide, a charming young lady with very good - apart from the usual Japanese confusion between ‘l’ and ‘r’ - English made herself known to her flock. Finally we boarded the jumbo. Eventually the thing took off. Drinks were served, then dinner. The meals aboard JAL airliners are of quite high standard, especially when compared to those served by certain other airlines in Tourist Class.

There was a Japanese film which I didn’t bother to try and watch, trying instead, without much success, to get some sleep. At last we touched down at Narita, Tokyo’s airport, early on Friday morning. I had written, before departure, to my friends in Tokyo, saying that I did not expect anybody to come all the way out to Narita to meet me, suggesting that they make contact with me at the hotel later in the day. Meanwhile, all of the incoming passengers were feeling the heat. At last, having cleared Immigration and Customs, we boarded the bus that was to take us into the city. It was a two hour drive, along the inevitably crowded road. Arriving at the hotel, I found a message from my translator saying that he, with others, would be calling for me about 1100 hours. I learned too, as did the others, that our rooms would not be available until noon. I was not the only one craving a shower and a change into non-sweaty light clothing.

But this was not to be for quite some time. At 1030 Mr. Noda appeared and presented me with the day’s very full programme. First of all, there was to be a Chinese banquet lunch. Then there was to be a special showing, just for my benefit, of a new Japanese feature-length animation which had been perpetrated by one of my Tokyo friends. Then there was to be a conducted tour of the Sony factory. Then there was to be a combination book—launching and welcome party at which my publisher and most of the Japanese SF writers would be present, and also Frederick Pohl and Dr. Elizabeth Ann Hull (Fred and Betty were breaking their journey in Japan after a tour of Mainland China, on their way back to the U.S.A.). Then there was to be a visit to some famous Tokyo night club.

Other friends and/or Faithful Readers arrived. We had a few drinks - I confined myself to green tea - and then it was time to leave for the Chinese restaurant. The meal - course after course after course - was most enjoyable, as was the company. But I am not used to eating heavily in the middle of a hot day and, too, was becoming more and more aware of my sweaty, unshaven condition. But, it was intimated, I must, repeat and underscore, must attend the special showing of CRASHER JOE. So we all went by train to some suburb to the studio where this was being shown.

CRASHER JOE is one of those notorious Japanese comic books animated and set in the future. Sitting on either side of me were my interpreters, one male and one female, who were supposed to be explaining the action to me. The soundtrack was very noisy but, even so, I tended to doze off, aroused only by the occasional burst of exceptionally heavy gunfire or by a planet-wrecking explosion. My two interpreters were doing as I was doing. (Later I Learned that all Mr. Takegawa’s friends had failed to be impressed by his magnum opus and that he had hoped that I would envince some enthusiasm for the masterpiece.)

After the film showing, I put my foot down firmly. I said that the visit to the Sony factory would have to be cancelled and that before I kept any other engagement I must have the too-long deferred shower, shave, etc. So I was taken back to the hotel and allowed to make myself presentable.

TO RULE THE REFUGEES (THE ANARCH LORDS)The party was a good one. When the Japanese put on an European style buffet they make everything look so very attractive. After the over—heavy Chinese lunch I did not intend to do any more eating that day, but weakened. Autographing pen in one hand and chopsticks in the other, I took my stance within easy reach of the heaped platter of smoked salmon and the heaped platter of marinated baby octopi and, between signing things, contrived to fill what crannies remained after that Chinese lunch. The book launching was TO RULE THE REFUGEES (THE ANARCH LORDS), number 13 in the Hayakawa Rim Worlds series.

At some stage in the proceedings, I learned that the night club visit was no longer on, as this establishment was heavily booked out. Mr. Tetsu Yano, a prominent SF writer and translator, volunteered to take me on a tour of Tokyo’s red light district. A fan, with low taste similar to those of Mr. Yano and myself, accompanied us.
The first show to which we went was a very clean one. The props were a large air mattress and a basin of Suds. The actors were a naked young lady and a naked young man (a volunteer from the audience). The NYM disposed himself prone on the air mattress. The NYL thoroughly soaped the back of the NYM. Then she thoroughly soaped her front. Then she lay dawn on top of the NYM, front to back. Presumably she eventually turned him over, achieving consummating in an explosion of lather. But we left: Before this happened.

The next call was at a topless. almost bottomless, bar. The waitresses — quite shapely wenches — were attired in shoes and skimpy aprons fore and aft. Now and again one of the customers would go upstairs, briefly, with one of the waitresses. What transpired between them, I do not know.

Finally we went to see the “Peepshow”.

Imagine a small, brightly—lit room, with every wall a mirror, a two—way mirror. Imagine cubicles surrounding this room, each one provided with a stool, a packet of disposable tissues and a plastic wastepaper bin. Imagine a young lady in this room who slowly strips, making the rounds of the —to her unseen audience. Imagine this young lady, now completely naked, draping a length of gauze about her loins and then masturbating digitally. (The gauze, of course, being to hide the fact that the masturbation was simulated, not actual.)

When I next met Betty — at the DAICON in Osaka — she asked, “Where
did you and Yano-san go after the party in Tokyo?”

“Just for a walk,” I said.

But she persisted and finally I told her the full story, saying that the “Peepshow” management had the interests of their clients at heart, providing a box of tissues in
case they should be suffering from heavy colds.

“Don’t be silly,” she told me. “Those were for use if your spectacles got fogged up!”

I still have to tell her about the “Music Hall” to which I was dragged, kicking and screaming in Kyoto.
Originally Published in The Mentor No: 53 - Oct 1984