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Recently I've been starting too many of my little stories with phrases like "At one of my exhibitions recently ..." This might lead you to believe that having exhibitions is all I do! That's not the case though, as I actually only show my prints once each year, for 6 days in Tokyo, followed immediately by 6 days in Osaka. The rest of the year, I 'hide' in my workshop and work on the carving and printing (and typing!)

But of course, as the carving and printing work is very solitary, and the exhibitions are full of communication and activity, exhibitions are the place where many of the ideas for writing come from. And so it was that ...

At one of my exhibitions recently I met a couple who came to see my woodblock prints. I say I 'met', but actually we didn't talk much; they strolled around the room pretty much in silence, and a short time later they moved out the door and walked away. But even though they didn't speak to me, they did leave quite an impression.

He had come in first ... and she had followed a moment later. He moved this way ... she followed a few paces behind. He decided where they would walk, what they would look at, how long they would stop in front of any particular picture. He spoke to her, giving his opinions about what they were seeing ... She said nothing. When they left, of course it was he who led the way.

I couldn't help myself ... as they left, I too stepped to the doorway, and watched them proceed down the row of shops. He never turned his head once, to see if she was alright, as they made their way down the busy street ... not once ...

I am sure you can guess my feelings at this behaviour. Yes, you're right, I do feel quite a sense of distaste for this sort of thing. But even stronger than my disgust at his actions, is my sense of wonder at his feeling ... Does he like having that sort of relationship? Isn't he lonely? Wouldn't his life be much more pleasant if he had a partner, not an 'attendant'?

I've talked about this type of behaviour before with Japanese friends, and they tell me that in the man's mind, it is simply more important that he is seen to be the important person. At home, they say, he is probably quite kind to her ... It is only in public that he behaves in such a cool and callous way. The tradition that dictates such behaviour is still very strongly ingrained.

Well, that may be true ... maybe. But I fail to be swayed by the argument that because something is traditional, it must be accepted. I have no wish to argue the point with the man I met at the gallery, but in my own life, could not dream of behaving that way. Perhaps the argument can be made that I am just as much a prisoner of tradition as the couple in the gallery. My culture demands that men treat women with overt respect in a public environment (the cynic would wonder how much of such behaviour is carried over into private life ...). For me though, to walk down the street side by side with Sadako, is nothing to do with cultural training, status, or 'importance'. It's just simply pleasure to be together with an interesting, intelligent and attractive woman. Is it 'demeaning' for me to be seen asking her opinion on something, to be seen treating her as an equal? I cannot and will not believe that. Whether the two of us are in a gallery ... in a crowded supermarket ... a quiet park ... or completely alone in my home ... makes no difference to the way in which I behave towards her.

Perhaps that man in the gallery is kind of a 'hero', selflessly giving up such pleasure in the name of tradition and custom ... I am more selfish though. I will not forego the pleasures of partnership with Sadako. What did I just say? "... interesting, intelligent and attractive ..." I think I'd better be careful. If she reads this, then next time we're out walking together, she'll be suggesting to me, "David, I think you should move back a couple of paces ..."