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Tony Parsons Column: Harmless frolics or an orgy of racist sneers?

Byline: TONY PARSONS

THERE is an old Japanese saying: "A husband should be healthy and absent."

Last month some 268 Japanese husbands were healthy and absent for three days in the southern Chinese city of Zhuhai.

There they took part in a mass orgy with around 500 prostitutes.

Apparently it was quite a party. At their five-star hotel, the orgy spread across three floors. The lobby, the lifts and the corridors were all full of cavorting Chinese whores and their Japanese clients.

There was no attempt to hide the wanton display of sex tourism, and appalled Chinese businessmen took the story to the media.

In mainland China and Hong Kong, the romp is still front page news, not least because it occurred on the anniversary of Japan's 1931 invasion of China.

Here in Japan, the mass orgy mini-break is the news story that dare not speak its name.

To the Chinese, the Zhuhai bonkfest was a racist insult. The China Daily said: "The Japanese have chosen this sensitive time to humiliate the Chinese and tout their wartime behaviour."

China's Phoenix TV reckoned the "barbaric" nature of the orgy recalled "the atrocities of Japanese militarism all over Asia".

WAS the date of the orgy an insult or mere coincidence? Personally, I believe the timing of the Zhuhai orgy was coincidental.

It combined the three things that the Japanese salaryman likes best - a group outing, plenty of alcohol and sexual relations with a woman he considers to be his social inferior.

The Chinese say that the fact the Japanese men tried to take a group picture in front of their national flag proves the timing was carefully judged.

This overlooks the fact that every Japanese likes having their photograph taken all the time.

To the Japanese, even those who are appalled by the thought of a few hundred drunken salarymen waving their little noodles in the air for three days, the incident says more about China's "prostitute problem".

Chinese chat rooms on the internet are still full of the Zhuhai orgy. "This is a provocation to China," said one message. "It is a denial of history by the new generation of Japanese."

But the attitude in Japan is - don't mention the orgy. The newspapers gave the story the odd paragraph, then quickly dropped it.

When I broached the subject with one elderly Japanese gentleman, he smiled with embarrassment, his fluent English suddenly deserting him. The tawdry topic left him literally speechless.

To China, what happened in Zhuhai is all tied up with the bestial behaviour of Japan in the middle of the 20th Century.

To Japan, what happened in Zhuhai has no relevance beyond the filthy Y-fronts of a few hundred business executives out on a beano. And in those two very different attitudes you learn all you need to know about the legacy of Japanese militarism in Asia.

In China - and the Philippines, Burma, Korea, Singapore and the rest - the attitude is: never forget. In Japan, the attitude is a lot closer to: get over it.

One to one, the Japanese are models of kindness and sensitivity. As a nation, they can be exactly the opposite.

When Japanese thoughts turn to the Second World War, they tend to focus on Hiroshima and the horror of a nuclear bomb landing in the middle of a civilian population. Japanese memories of the war concentrate on the pain and suffering of the Japanese.

It is true that the museum at Hiroshima contains images that will stay with anyone who sees them for a lifetime - and images that you will never see published in the West.

When you see a new-born baby that has been roasted alive, or an old woman who has lost every inch of skin on her body, it is difficult to say: "Well, you started it."

Because only a cretin could believe these innocent souls started anything.

Yet this constant harping on the horrors of Hiroshima is not a healthy attitude to strike if you were one of the war's aggressors.

The Japanese are unloved in Asia. This probably has as much to do with Japan's economic power as it does with the country's war crimes.

According to the latest issue of Newsweek, Japan - even after years of economic downturn - is still the second richest country in the world.

It is as if the Germans had rampaged across most of Europe and then built an economy to rival that of the United States. Of course the Japanese are hated for what they did in Nanking and 10,000 other places. But the Japanese are also hated because they are the only Asian people who can afford to hire 500 Chinese prostitutes for the weekend.

China likes to believe it is on the verge of becoming an economic superpower. But it will be many a year before Chinese businessmen go on sex tours to Japan - and even then they would find working girls who are likely to be Thai, Filipina - or Chinese.

THE orgy at Zhuhai rubbed China's nose in Japan's economic clout, and that hurts.

Individually, you would be hard-pressed to find a more decent bunch of people than the Japanese.

But they will continue to be hated across Asia while they act like the past is dead and buried. And in the here and now, the mighty yen can buy anything it wants - including the leggy daughters of China.

"What about those girls in Zhuhai?" a young Japanese woman said to me. "Nobody held a gun to their heads."

That's true enough.

But the mass orgy at Zhuhai took place on the anniversary of Japan's invasion of China, when untold numbers of Chinese women had sex with Japanese men.

And all them had a gun held to their heads.
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Oct 13, 2003
Words:959
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