On the 18th of April 2001, Stefhan Bryan flew out from Los Angeles over the Pacific and landed in Kensai region of rural Japan, to begin a new life and new job as an English teacher. Bryan, a self-confessed sex addict, swiftly realised that in Japan he could happily indulge in his extreme preference for ‘yellow’ or East Asian women. In Black Passenger, Yellow Cabs: Of Exile and Excess the author describes his sexual exploits (in fairly graphic detail) with a large array of willing local women from a variety of socio-economic backgrounds, shapes and sizes. It was through wanting to understand the underlying factors that created this society of sexually available women - who were open to exploitation by Western men - and how this linked to his own ‘predacious history’, that spawned the idea for the book.
In the first chapters Bryan explores his early years growing up in Dunkirk, Jamaica. The town as he describes it is antipodean to the fantasies we in the West have of Jamaica as an island paradise. Growing up on a Church commune - where he was one of two males in an all-female community - he was brought up isolated in a strict, religious environment by an over-zealous mother. Outside the walled confines of the commune - on the ironically titled 1 Wild Street - Bryan witnessed displays of extreme violence on a daily basis, and relates in the book that in his early life the ‘symbols of death were everywhere present’. In this awful economic situation the only release he found was through sex. Already experimenting by the age of 5, he lost his virginity at the incredibly (but true) young age of 7 after pestering two local teenage girls. Relishing the power he discovered pleasuring women and himself ‘in that warm sea of Jell-O’, his sex addiction was born.
Around the time of his sexual awakening Bryan noticed that the only economically successful denizens in his downtrodden neighbourhood were the Chinese. They owned the shops and drove big American cars and lived in gated communities choosing not fraternize with their largely African-Jamaican customer base. He became fascinated with Chinese shopkeepers (and their daughters) and decided then, that as a man of African descent he would commit ‘racial suicide’ and only sire children with East Asian women.
Any book that destroys all preconceived ideas about a place and a culture is a book worth it’s weight in gold. For me Black Passenger, Yellow Cabs was such a book. This book changed my ideas about Japan the way V.S. Naipaul’s An Area of Darkness completely torpedoed my fantasies of post-Colonial India as a sort of happy-clappy, spiritually-minded, vegetarian, hash-smoking paradise (thanks for that fantasy John, Ringo and Paul – you bastards).
When we think of Japan, what comes to mind? For me it’s Geishas; well-groomed Zen temples; Manga; bullet trains; gadgets; Battle Royale; sushi on conveyor belts; silent identikit commuters; Hokusai’s ‘The Wave’; futuristic cities; The Empire of the Sun; Mt. Fuji; Nintendo; The Bridge Over the River Kwai; J-Pop; Akira;the ideal Corporate culture; a disciplined hard working population; disarmingly cute and shy girls; middle aged men in orange tinted glasses drunkenly crooning in karaoke bars to Easy Listening classics always mistaking their l’s for r’s (Come fry with me let’s fry let’s fry away)…
The reality of Japan as Bryan discovers, is of a culture that is decaying from the inside. In his words ‘Japanese society is in part of collection of psychological pathology’. It’s a place where it’s not unusual for mothers to give handjobs to their sons during stressful exam periods, leading to serious Mummy issues (mazacom). A place where men sit next to women on subway trains openly looking at porn on their phones but refusing to even glance at the real woman next to them, because of dysfunctional Confucianist social norms. It’s a country that has high-speed trains but no central heating in apartments or schools, because of backward Samurai ideas that sees suffering a virtue (bushido). It’s a society that is so infantalised that the police have to use a Manga cartoon of talking bird to convey serious information to the populace. It’s a work culture that encourages young men to work 14-hour days often leading to death from overwork (karoshi).
The legal system and prevailing cultural norms in Japan seem to be designed to shit on the native female population. Because it is considered unmanly to do so, Japanese men are unable or unwilling to give them pleasure beyond their own limited needs. In Japan women are discouraged from tertiary education and are considered passed their sell-by-date by their mid twenties, leaving many stuck in dead end part-time jobs still living with their parents well into their thirties. Bryan speculates that a number of factors are causing a severe drop in Japan’s birthrate – including a tax code that penalizes single mothers, and a legal system that is biased towards men in divorce cases. Increasingly women are opting against marriage or long-term relationships altogether – favouring host clubs where they pay to meet men for anonymous sex.
In this desert of gender relations the Western male – be he black or white – has ample opportunity to get laid, and in great numbers. And Stefhen does. He really does. The structure of the book goes something like this: a few chapters where he meets and shags a Japanese girl or three (often without a condom, resulting in 14 abortions during his time in Japan) followed by a chapter where he considers the failings of Japanese society.
It is a bizarre and unique form, that takes a while to get used to, but overall it works. For me the chapters that give a detailed critique on the failings of Japan, are a sort of relief after pages upon pages of graphic descriptions of sex. The chapters with titles like ‘Mother and Ai’, ‘Tomoko’ and ‘Anita McKenzie’ describe him meeting and seducing Japanese women. Actually the seduction seems to consist of cooking them dinner, pouncing on them, and then penetrating them with his seemingly huge member; and he often quotes his conquests saying things like ‘“Mecha dekaii,” (very big)’ etc, etc).
As an aside I found the endless variety of names the author gives for his penis hilarious. A sample: ‘my little teapot’, ‘the Anaconda’, ‘my Negritude’, ‘my hardened timber’ and, my personal favourite, ‘the rocket pointing skywards’. Some of his descriptions of sex will bring a smile to your face for their unintentional cheesiness: ‘I partook of her southern cuisine’ or ‘we spent limitless nights together in cultural exchange’. But these are minor infringements in a book that is generally free of the stylistic bumps in the road and the embarrassing metaphors one typically finds in erotic literature.
Those of you who are prudes (if there are any of you left) will probably want to head from the protruding mons venerises (or is the plural mons venerai?) straight to the analysis and the statistics. Or if you are (like most of us) the other way inclined, skipping the stats to read about the sex. This would be a mistake, as the sex and the stats are there for a reason. The analysis serves as way to illuminate why these women behave as they do – and the erotic memoir provides a personalized view of the strange cultural and sexual dynamics in action.
But Black Passenger, Yellow Cabs really succeeds in my opinion because it works as a Hollywood arc. At its core is a story about a man who realises the failings of his own culture through observing another, manages to exhume the ghosts of his past, and finally after a struggle finds love and triumphs over his addiction.