I was enjoying an iced latte at the corner Starfucks in Nihonbashi after work two evenings ago, when I thoughtlessly ran my tongue around along the inside of cheek and noticed something was missing. Now I don't usually sit on the corner tonguing myself but for whatever reason I did and I have my unconscious mind to thank for that.
You may have already guessed, but the Kaisha is not exactly the kind of environment where facial piercings are embraced. Shocking, I know, but stay with me here. Child that I am - and notice how I didn't qualify that with "rebellious" for I didn't have much to rebel against as a teen - I am not ready to give up my piercing. Despite being an aspiring corporate drone, I cannot bear to take it out yet, even though it's so small some people don't even notice it. So for most of the week, I leave only the back part of the jewellery in, and it generally doesn't protrude from my face. I guess you could say I am going undercover at work, pretending to be a well-heeled office lady when really, I just wanna rock up to a bar with my facial piercing and order a stiff drink. Only I am so not a badass.
When I was interviewing for jobs here, an older slightly pervy male acquaintance from my Waseda days suggested that I take out my piercing for interviews in Japan. I was kind of offended, thinking he should know that I know piercings are not job appropriate. But of course, I was forgetting that the mere fact I have a facial piercing must mean that I don't know what is appropriate, good or proper. I remember years ago a family friend emailed my dad an article about the relationship between pierced adolescents and academic performance, sexual risk-taking and the parent-child relationship, which caused him to scoff since I excelled in school and him and my mom knew pretty much most of what I was doing. Incidentally, this (now ex) friend turned out to be a lying scoundrel who had cheated on his wife for the duration of their decade-long marriage.
Not that North America has become so liberal on tattoos and piercings in public, but compared to Japan, it's pretty out there. I don't expect to work as a professional anywhere with a facial piercing but piercing is on the whole a lot more accepted, common and accessible across the Pacific. All reactions to my piercings in Japan have been of surprise, amusement and curiosity. I'm sure it helps that I don't usually look like a much of a wack-job. If you go to one of the more youthful areas of Tokyo (Shibuya, Harajuku, etc.), piercings are fairly easy to spot but I've rarely seen them on anyone older than teenagers or not part of a "scene" that tends to attract pierced followers. This isn't at all surprising in the country where new graduates who have streaked their hair with brown during university dye it back to a uniform black once they enter the job market. Earlier this year I was accosted by a guy with homemade fliers while walking through Shinjuku station. He implored me to take one and attend the heavy metal live show it was advertising. When he kept bugging me to take one despite telling him I wasn't interested, I finally turned to him and confessed that I was more into hip hop, but thanks. I'm not sure that a purple pencil skirt and heels scream heavy metal but maybe he had noticed my piercing?
In the seven or so years I've had my piercing, I've never swallowed it. During my Pure days it used to come unscrewed from talking a mile-a-minute at a club or violently making out with someone outside a club, and I somehow recall once rooting around in the pavement cracks at 6am trying to find the front half that had fallen off while waiting for the Koenji McDonald's to open. I don't know, I guess I used to be kind of classy like that. On and up, that's what I always say.
Frankly, I think the fact that I haven't had to replace the jewellery I wear in the piercing since I left Japan at the end of my year on exchange may be a testament to moving on and up. I actually lost both parts of the jewellery a couple times while on exchange, which always left me desperately phoning around Tokyo to find a place open that could replace it before the hole closed up. During one of these times I met a super nice and laid back piercer guy from back home who gave me the down low on piercing in Japan. He even went so far as to suggest that I leave instructions in Japanese on how to take my piercing out in my wallet in case I ever got into an accident. His reasoning was rather than figure out how to unscrew it, a Japanese doctor would tear or cut it out. Lovely. Another time I met a great deadlocked Italian guy who would serve you iced tea in the bright airy tattoo studio he worked out of before sticking you with a needle.
Did you know that most places to get pierced are medical clinics here? I didn't and am unfortunately too lazy to try and find the law about it but there are very few piercing salons, studios, what have you, for the express purpose of man-made holes. I know body modification is regulated by law overseas too, but for some reason in Japan this has resulted in clinics offering piercing as a medical procedure, rather than the ubiquitous incense-fused shops overseas. To tell you the truth, I would much rather go to a piercer whose profession it is to get your hole healed, than to a quack doctor who took a quick course in body piercing before adding it to the menu. Not that they're all like that but you know the way my mind works.
Back to my evening Starfucks session. It quickly dawned on me that I had swallowed my jewellery during the course of the day and had nothing to put in the hole to keep it open. One of the places I went before was closed, and the other no longer in existence, so I began to scroll through pages of Google babble bullshit before finding only three piercing studios in Tokyo. The next day I ended up at Extreme, which is a short walk up the narrow road next to Forever21 in Harajuku. People, if you are looking to get a hole opened in Tokyo, go here. Clean, professional and the two guys who run it are really nice. And OCD about sanitation. They didn't have the size I needed so I have a glass retainer in until my order arrives. I am almost tempted to get another hole but unfortunately, there's nothing I want done. So now here I am with a bit of glass sticking out of my face and hoping that no one notices and that the fluorescent office lights don't catch it when I am talking to someone. But wait, I never talk to anyone, so in this case, my systematic ostracization is actually working in my favour. Yes.