Your Holiday Romance

Penny Loosemore had her misgivings about working as a cabaret dancer in Hiroshima. But then she met Yuko ...
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The Independent Travel
I Don't suppose any holiday romance is conventional, but mine was particularly unusual because of the situation I was in. On a holiday that had so far lasted a marathon 10 months, working and sightseeing my way around the world, I had somehow managed to end up in Hiroshima working as a cabaret dancer of all things.

The club where we performed was one of the classiest nightspots in town and there were 14 girls altogether, mainly from Australia - where I had originally joined the troupe.

We all lived in an apartment block just outside the city centre. By day, we trailed around the shops and doughnut bars and took trips to the surrounding countryside. But by night we were transformed into glittering angels, descending from a spotlit stage to perform our dance routines in front of a darkened nightclub of strangers - mainly wealthy business men. From where we span and swooped to the disco beat we could only make out the silhouettes of the customers' heads, sometimes bent towards each other in conversation, more often stock-still, watching.

Between the evening's three show performances, we had to sit at the table with customers and chat to them - "hostessing" it was called. On the whole, I really disliked it. It was hard making small-talk with people you didn't know and whose language was a mystery. The feeling that you always had to smile and be nice to them was so false.

But there was one man, Yuko, who stood out from all the others. He always came alone, and sat politely listening to me talk, as though he was really interested in what I had to say.

After a few weeks, I agreed to meet him for a pizza outside work hours. We ate pizza, which seemed a strange thing to eat in Japan, and chatted. He seemed very easy-going and relaxed - quite at ease with himself which I found very attractive. Outside it was pouring with rain, but we walked the streets holding hands. It was very romantic. When he gave me a goodnight kiss, he was so gentle, almost like a child.

After that we went out a few more times. On one occasion he took me to a tiny bar above the shopping precinct where female hostesses served us drinks and generally pampered us. It was strange being on a date with a man and seeing another woman light his cigarette for him, but he explained that it was quite usual in Japan.

The romance side of things never really progressed beyond that first kiss. But it felt right like that for some reason, as though it was meant to be a very innocent thing. One month later I was heading back to Europe on a plane. He wrote his address in my filofax in Japanese, but I haven't written - holiday romances are meant to be just that.