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Sunday, July 2, 2000

JAPAN LITE

Way too much jello has been going to waist


My husband is in to soft-porn: the Victoria's Secret catalog. Whenever a new catalog comes in the mail, he's got it ripped open before I even get a glance at the latest cheetah-print lingerie Naomi Campbell is modeling. Victoria's Secret is most famous for their lingerie, but they also sell an array of fashionable clothes, swimwear and shoes -- all of it fairly sexy. Laetitia Casta, who was recently named the most beautiful woman in France, is one of the many top models at Victoria's Secret.

Now, I may not be a French "Marianne" like Laetitia Casta, but I'm willing to pretend I am. So I ordered a string bikini from Victoria's Secret and went on a diet. Indeed, one of the good things about mail ordering from abroad is that you've got a couple of weeks to diet before the clothes arrive.

Suddenly everyone on the island started telling me how thin I looked.

"Have you lost weight?" said the priest. "Are you getting enough to eat?" said my neighbor Ueda-san. "Shouldn't you be eating more?" said the carpenter.

It did seem a little odd to me since I hadn't even started dieting yet. Then I figured it out -- they had all heard about the bikini.

Living on Shiraishi Island is like being a member of the Brady Bunch: Everyone wants to help you attain your goal -- by trying to convince you that you've already attained it. But the island people don't understand why I want to wear a bikini. One of the women keeps reminding me, "You don't have to wear a bikini, you know."

"Oh but I do," I try to explain to her. I've only got a few more good years left to wear a bikini. After 40, you start scaring people. Then I'll have to go to Europe where no one is ever too old to wear a bikini. With all the topless beaches there, the word "bikini" is a little misleading however. You really only need the "kini."

But modesty still reins in Japan. Even on beer posters, "sexy" Japanese girls pose wearing one-piece swim suits. It's not until the last couple of years that I've even spotted a Japanese tourist wearing a bikini on the beach on our island. But I hear that bikinis are in this year, so I don't want to be left behind.

The island people also don't understand why I'm dieting. "You're not fat," they say. They're right. I'm not fat; I'm puffy. I even have a "flat tire." If I lie down, I have a few blissful moments while my stomach visits my back and temporarily disappears. But as soon as I sit up, a major shift happens and the stomach reappears. My middle is thick, more like a tree trunk. If you cut me in half at my stomach, you could count the rings in my stomach to tell how many beers I've drank.

I'd be lying if I said I wasn't jealous of the slim figures Japanese girls have. It even strikes me as a little bold to be so damn skinny. When you come from the United States like I do, where over half the people are obese, you can't help but be suspicious of an entire population of people who ain't got no jello. Not a morsel of fat on their hips, not a mere training-wheel size flat tire around their middles.

The only time the Japanese girls have extra weight is when they're pregnant. Even then, they don't gain the circumference that pregnant women in America do. Pregnant Japanese women look like they've merely swallowed a baseball. They say you can tell if the baby will be a boy or girl depending on how big the shape of the mother's belly is. If it's a boy, her stomach will protrude more, and if it's a girl, the stomach will be rounder. But with American women, it would be hard to make this distinction. If someone is extremely overweight, you may not even be able to tell if they're pregnant. You may even have to ask -- "Isn't that a baby in your thigh?"

My Victoria's Secret bikini finally arrived. I was well prepared to make the Laetitia Casta transition. But when I opened the package, I was shocked to find that they had only sent the "kini." It looks like Shiraishi Island is going to have the first topless beach in Japan!

Visit the Japan Lite home page at www.amychavez.com or e-mail comments to: amychavez@mailexcite.com


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