Monday, January 31, 2005

I am so going to visit the Ghibli Museum, hopefully in a couple of weeks. Miyazaki fans, commence being jealous.

Sunday, January 30, 2005

Back from my weekend in Nagoya. A quick run through the events of the weekend goes like this: saw Howl's Moving Castle (in Japanese), saw The Phantom of the Opera (in English), beat Tadashi's ass at bowling, got beaten at pool by Tadashi, played many fun and strange games at a game center, had good Mexican (once again, wondering why my own hometown here is lacking it so badly and sadly), bought a pair of jeans that were the equivalent of 80 dollars (which is sadly not that expensive really for a pair of jeans here) and also bought (in Tokyo, on my way down to Nagoya) "In the Miso Soup" by Ryu Murakami, a sort of thriller that's been recently translated. It's really good. I read the first third of it on the bullet train down to Nagoya, the second third of it on the way back up today, and will probably finish it tonight before bed.

Some extended notes.

First, "In the Miso Soup". I love this book because it's holding me in its narrative tight, the voice of the narrator, "Kenji", is wonderful. The one thing I'm sort of irritated by in this book is that I feel it's feeding in to an already xenophobic culture's ideas of Americans, the crazy foreigners who come from a chaotic society in the West and prey upon Japanese culture. Some of the observations that Murakami wants to make about Westerners are well founded, and occasionally he will also find it in his critical range to critique Japanese society as well, but often he makes criticism of Westerners that drops into vague unthought-out sterotypes without any substance. And when he brings up the problems that Westerners find with Japanese society, he just sort of says basically, "Well they wouldn't understand, and so why bother trying to explain it, even to ourselves." Which I just think is a cop out. I'd rather see him try to take a swing at putting down the defense of Japanese culture while he's criticizing another one. Like I said, he can occasionally do this, but it's far outweighed by a sort of xenophobic situation that is actually the drive of the entire plot. So I like it, I just wish the author's ideas were more his own and not culturally received stereotypes.

Secondly, "Howl's Moving Castle". Wow. That's all I can say. It was breathtaking. It's my favorite Miyazake now. It was wonderful to watch in Japanese too. I understood most of what was being said. There were only a couple of times I had to lean over and ask Tadashi something. Once when a curse was put on a character and I knew it was a curse but I wasn't what all the reasoning was behind it, and then again when there was a visit to the queen. I understood a lot of what she was saying, but once she got into a sort of highly politicized discussion about one of the other characters and a sort of history of the war that's in the background of the movie, I got a little lost and had to lean over again and ask for a bit of help. Not too bad...two hours of film, ten or fifteen minutes worth of it not completely comprehended on my own. I was a bit of a little kid at times when I'd understand something I recently have been studying and would repeat what they characters said and translate it to English and be given the nod that I was correct. I liked the movie so much I even bought a keitai (cell phone) charm of one of the characters, Kabu, the scarecrow. Tadashi got Heen, the wheezing little dog. The merchandise for the movie is so damned cool.

That's my weekend mostly. Hope you all had a good one too.

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Off to Nagoya for a weekend. Hope everyone has a good one.

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Today's big shout out goes to the B to the A to the R to the Barbara Gilly! Thanks for the package of "home". Meds! Pancake mix! Thousand Grand Bars! Mac and Cheese! And how did you know I am a total freak for the Double Chocolate Milano Pepperidge Farm cookies??? I totally downed half of them already. There goes the 4.5 pounds lost in the past month and a half. Yes, the weight just keeps on flying off somehow. I haven't been this light since high school. Weird. All those nice clothes I bought before I came here sort of sag on me. I'm going to have to invest in a new suit, which according to Tadashi, are really cheap to buy here, even the really nice ones. I guess I don't mind having to buy new clothes if it's because I'm losing weight instead of gaining it. But honestly, I can't believe how easy it is to take off weight here. Fujita sensei told me from the beginning if I wanted to lose weight, eat a traditional Japanese diet, and although I'm not eating a traditional Japanese diet, I'm eating one that's much closer to that regimen than I ever have before. I eat a lot more vegetables here than I did in the states. I love the way they're prepared here, mostly shredded, rather than chunked, like in the States. They taste better too, but I'm not sure how they're prepared that gives them this distinctive taste. I hear it has something to do with vinegar or some other substance they might use to pickle them or whatever that process is called. I dunno. I'll have to start asking questions about how the veggies are prepared here now.

One of the nice things about living in another culture is having to reacquaint yourself with the world. You're constantly shaking hands with life and asking it all sorts of questions, treating it like a new acquaintance with hopes of friendship, rather than taking it for granted or assuming you know all you need to know about it to get along.

Thanks again, Barb!

Monday, January 24, 2005

Updated: Well I'm glad it isn't Maud after all. Thanks for the correction, Barb (and link fix, Chance, and yes A.S. and I are tight enough to not let differences get in the way of our relationship, Anonymous. Isn't love great?)

Just some random thoughts, since I've been concentrating on other people lately, one person in particular, and not on a whole lot else.

First, Matt Cheney is writing some wonderful thoughts on fiction and reality and language at his blog, The Mumpsimus. The last two entries are rich, and the comments on the entry about psychological realism are great too. Matt's impetus for the entry on psychological realism in fiction and the predictability of character originated with an entry about this subject at a blog kept by Trent Walters. So go take a look.

As for me, I don't know if we can ever really know the essence of a person or a character. I don't think we can. I think we can approach a person or a character, but that your approach must always be in motion as that person's essence will be too. I don't believe in fixed personalities, I don't believe in a person being only one person and predictable beyond certain attributes and tastes and dislikes that in the end tell you nothing about them really. Instead I believe in a self that is fluid and always in motion. The action taken by that self are fixed, after they occur. The self takes actions one day and then take other actions that are contradictory the next, and sometimes this occurs without any causality. I don't believe in knowing, I suppose, but in being.

Next, usually I agree with almost everything on Maud Newton'sblog, but in an entry on the Booker Prize by her friend Andy, when he admits he thinks Arundahti Roy's The God of Small Things was a self-indulgent vanity piece, I am left slack-jawed. I loved The God of Small Things. I recommend it to people I love who I think should read that book. Those characters, the world Roy creates in that book, are still close to my heart several years after first reading it. I think the language is gorgeous. I love the splicing of words to create new words, I love the way the text is drenched in metaphor and simile. A.S. Byatt, who I also love, felt the book was over the top when it won the Booker, but I disagreed with my girl A.S. back then, even if I do respect the lady. And I'll disagree with Maud's friend now. First of all, I'm suspicious of the term "self-indulgent" when applied to a great many things, especially literature. I mean, really, what does a person mean when they apply that term to a book? Self-indulgent. It sounds to me as if they are saying, This writer wrote this book only for themselves and no one else. It's written in such a way that no audience was considered as the author wrote it. And if that's what a critic means when they apply that term, I think that's crap. Obviously I (and great many other people) loved The God of Small Things, so don't discount me and those other people as a valid audience. If Roy was being self-indulgent, then she also indulged me and a great many others, which means you have to take away the "selfish" connotation of that label. And if this isn't the definition of "self-indulgent" people mean when they use that word to describe a book, then I'm not sure what they mean. And vanity piece? Vanity? Again it has implications that the critic is describing the author to be only concerned with him or herself. Again I don't find this a correct term for The God of Small Things. I feel Roy opened up a wide vista for many readers to inhabit while reading her book.

I think a lot of critics, when using the terms "self-indulgent" and "vanity", really mean that this books uses poetic language, it makes up words that don't even exist maybe, it creates forms that we've never seen before and why do we need to do that? What's wrong with good old fashioned fiction? I hate how poetic literary creations get shafted simply because they use language at a heightened level, or invent narrative structures that a reader must become acquainted with, and learn new strategies for reading as they go. I think those books are important, and shouldn't be bashed simply because they don't fall in line with a preconceived notion of the sort of language an author should use, or a certain kind of pattern of telling, or anything that premeditates the act of reading a book for the first time at all. I think those are good rules for living in a social world too. Too often we make judgments on people for the same reasons that we do upon these books. Who cares if someone doesn't talk, dress, behave, etc in the way that the majority of others do? Take them in and let them be. They might (and most likely do) have something to add to the spectrum of humanity.

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

An entry in three parts...

Part One

There are things I like about living in Japan, and things I don't like.

Things I like:

I like being able to buy green tea ice cream whenever, wherever I want it.

I like the economy of space, how it's used and lived in. Much more sensible and even aesthetic to me than the sprawling homes of much of America.

I like the politeness (cross-listed below).

I like that the country takes the environment seriously (even if there are ugly powers that be that will abuse it like there are everywhere, but so many of your everyday people actually really do care).

I like the language (cross-listed).

I like all the weird foods I come across and get to try for the first time in my life. I mean, even if you're a connoisseur of Japanese foods back in America, you're not going to find three-fourths of the kinds of food that I've been introduced to in the country itself.

Things I don't like:

I don't like having to wait for everything to happen. It seems everything here is a huge bureaucratic mess that takes at least ten people to figure out and sometimes, oh well, it doesn't get figured out. Sorry, bye bye.

I don't like not having central heating...ANYWHERE. Nuff said.

I don't like all the politeness sometimes (cross-listed). It's nice mostly, but there are days when I think, Okay So and So San, now that we got all that bowing and complimenting out of the way, tell me what you're REALLY thinking.

I don't like the language sometimes (cross listed). This has more to do with being immersed in another culture than with the language itself. Sometimes I just want to be able to walk through a store or a subway station and understand everything that's being said around me without having to think about it.

I don't like the medical experiences I've had recently, described in earlier posts.

I don't like being looked at and talked about so much in certain places where I guess certain sectors of the population aren't used to seeing foreigners. Sometimes I just want to disappear.

Part Two

So I voted for the Nebula Ballot online today. Glad they've made it easy to do, especially for people overseas. My only questions is this: Why the hell are there so few nominations on the ballot this year, and why are so many of them crappy? This is not to say that any and all of them are crappy. Actually a few of those listed I recommended to be on the preliminary ballot. It's just, well to be honest, it's just an uninspiring list. Certainly makes me hopeful for those works that are wonderful on the ballot, but really, there must have been more stories out there this year that might have been included on this list. I am sure lots of you reading this will enlighten me or degrade me. Enlighten and degrade away.

Part Three

So there is a teacher at the junior high, an English teacher, who rarely has me come to his classes. This is because he actually doesn't really speak good English and is mostly afraid he won't understand me in class and the kids will find out. It annoys me because if he would get over this fear and have me spend more time in his class, he would see that I'm flexible and will speak with him at a level of English that he's more competent with, even if it's very low. In any case, I got over this months ago, but suddenly it was his turn to be observed teaching a class today by almost all the other teachers in the school (they do that here) and also some man with a clipboard and a stern face marking things down during the entire class period. And of course now all of a sudden this teacher wants me to teach with him. Well it would look weird that the school has an assistant language teacher from the States and he isn't being made use of, right? So now I get the call to go to this teacher's classroom and be a part of one of the most horrible teaching experiences of my life. You can't just expect to start team teaching with someone out of the blue and do it well. This guy should have been working with me for the past five months like the other teachers, who I've gelled with and teach smoothly with now, knowing how they run a classroom and what they expect of me while I'm in it. Some give me a lot of control, others want most of the control and want to tell me what to do and when to do it. I'm fine with any approach, as long as I've been given time and instruction to become accommodating. So today while me and this teacher are being observed by the rest of the teachers and said stern faced man with clipboard taking vigorous notes, pretty much everything that can go wrong went wrong.

In the first period class, the teacher was trying to fix his Powerpoint presentation that he couldn't get to work, and I managed to teach the class entirely on my own, and by the end of the period, without the aid of Powerpoint and any of his lesson plans, I had the students comparing all sorts of things, and they were raising their hands to join in because I was making it fun for them, allowing them to compare their teachers on various subjects (it was a lesson in using comparatives like "more than" and putting -er and -est on the end of adjectives). So you know, I'd ask them things like, "Who is stronger? Me or Mr. Nagasawa? Who is funnier? Me or Ms. Ohama? Who is cuter? Me or Mr. Hiraga? Who is nicer? Me or Ms. Fujita?" We put an impromptu scoreboard on the chalkboard to keep points for teachers who got the positive end of the comparisons. This seemed to work completely fine, and was an elegant and smoothly flowing classroom exercise that the kids were excited about. Also, I didn't speak Japanese to them the entire time, and they figured out what the words "than" and "more than" and "-er" and "-est" were meant to do all on their own, just by listening and watching me. Unfortunately, there were only a couple of teachers watching during that period.

Next we move on to second period class, with a few more teachers, and lo and behold the Powerpoint is up and running, and all it does is eat up our classroom time as the teacher takes forever to go through the slides of pictures, using images for the kids to compare. The U.S. is bigger than Japan, etc. The 500 Yen coin is larger than the 50 yen coin, etc. The kids become restless in between shifts of images and chatter a bit. After this class ends, Ohama sensei comes up to me and says, Chris, I think that there is a lot of waste of time during the image part of this lesson. The kids start chatting and no one listens. Maybe you should do something about that.

Okay, I know she came to me with that because she saw me teaching the class alone the previous period and knows it ran better when I did it myself. But this is this teacher's class now that he's got his stuff up and running, not mine. What can I do? And why isn't she going to him and telling him he's got a lesson plan that wastes a lot of time and isn't efficient? Why am I being told this? It's not my lesson plan. So anyway, I just said I agreed but didn't know what I could do about it at this point. It was too late, and I hadn't been consulted enough by the teacher ahead of time to come up with ideas on how to improve the lesson.

Then the third period comes and this is when about forty teachers are watching us teach and the stern faced man comes in with the principle. My mouth is dry from so much talking and probably from nerves too, because this ship is going to sink, I know it, and what's worse is that I'm up in front of that classroom and am going to take the fall, possibly with this teacher, or on my own, because you know I'm just some American guy and why am I not making this classroom work, damn it, even though I'm just supposed to "assist". But I figure if Ohama comes to me with criticism of the teacher's lesson plan instead of going to him, maybe the same thing will happen with the principle and whoever the stern faced man is.

Anyway, the class sucks and I make myself stop short of just walking out because I'm so frustrated and want to take over and save it from careening uncontrollably into oblivion, but I'm still really mad about this. Fujita sensei asked me after that class if the teacher and I had consulted before class about the lesson and I said, well a little bit, but not much. She of course had an evasive answer to that response and said, Ahh, yes, he was much too busy probably. She smiled too, that smile only Fujita can give, which always makes me wonder, are we thinking the same thing underneath these words we're exchanging, do we both understand that this teacher was ill prepared and mostly because he avoids having to speak English with me, or do you really think he was too busy? Sometimes she smiles like that and I feel like it's a signal that she knows, and that her answer is trying to tell me something opposite of what it's actually saying, and then at other times I can't rely on that being the case at all. I'll never find out, because the questions I want to ask she wouldn't want to answer. It would be impolite to talk about someone else in this manner. The thing is, I like this teacher, I just wish he would have used me in his classroom more and gotten used to me, rather than allowing his own insecurities to keep us from finding a balance together so that when observation days like this one come around, we can do well together.

Anyway, tomorrow I go to an elementary school, so I will just have to forget about today by allowing the little ones to be themselves, which almost always cheers me up.

Sunday, January 16, 2005

I totally just went into the school bathroom pissed off about the ear thing and pinched my nose and closed my mouth and forced so much air up into my ears that the both popped. My voice sounds a little funny still, but I can hear much better than this morning. Of course this may be temporary and my ear my close back up again for whatever reason, but right now I am very very happy.

This morning I woke up and my ear felt increasingly worse, so I called my coordinator and told her I'd like to go to a doctor or even the hospital if I had to. I was starting to get a bit afraid. I didn't know if my ear was infected or what was going on, and didn't want to risk waiting for that allergy shot to do anything more. Hiromi called around to various hospitals, most of which were either closed or had various assortments of doctors on staff, such as a pyschologist in charge of the emergency room at one of them, who all said they couldn't do anything for me. I was getting really angry and a bit afraid all at the same time. I mean, what kind of hospital says they can't do anything for you without even seeing you? I began to feel like I was in a Kafka novel, and have been jokingly (and halfway seriously) murmuring gaijin sabetsu (discrimation against foreigners) for the past couple of days. I told Tadashi that Hiromi couldn't seem to find any clinic or hospital that would treat me, and he started calling hospitals too, thinking perhaps Hiromi was doing the good Japanese girl and not questioning the authority of any of the people she talked to on the phone. After a few calls, we found a hospital forty five minutes away that would see me, and it was once again an in and out procedure, and once again I received not antibiotics, but some sort of anti-inflammatory medicine. Apparently my nose and throat are infected, thus blocking up my ear somehow, although I have no sore throat and my nose feels fine. I am taking the medicine doubtfully but with hope. Maybe Japanese doctors don't like to prescribe antibiotics, but you know at this point I want my god damned ear to work again. I don't care if there's wisdom in avoiding antibiotics if possible. I haven't been able to hear for a week now. I'm not even confident in the pronouncements of these doctors as they just sort of look at me briefly and breezily diagnose me with things I'm not sure are even right (as in throat infection etc., I don't feel anything going on in my throat, but all right, whatever, maybe there are throat infections you can't feel? If so, I've never experienced one before). I feel entirely safe in Japan usually, but not safe at all right now when it comes to the medical system. Hopefully these anti-inflammatory pills will do something to help.

Friday, January 14, 2005

I have been warned that I haven't posted in over a week. Gomen ne (sorry ok?). This was the first week back to school after fuyu yasumi (winter break). It was both good to be back at school and also difficult because the break was long enough that it felt like I had to gear up to be a beginner at the schools again. How easy it is to slip out of a routine, and to feel your confidence in speaking another language slip also, after only a two week break. Thankfully the transition wasn't as difficult as I thought it would be, though I have also got a sinus infection at the moment, and that has slowed me down. I can't hear very well out of my left ear. I went to the doctor after school on Wednesday and he told me it was due to allergies, which it's getting near to hayfever season here and I have bad allergies as it is, so he gave me a shot to deal with the pollens here, but he didn't give me any medicine to clear up the infection that was already there. I asked him why not repeatedly and he kept telling me the allergy shot would be enough, but three days later I still can't hear very well out of my left ear due to it being clogged up, and so all week I kept saying, "mo ikai" to the students and teachers, one more time, because I couldn't catch everything they were saying with only one ear working right.

On Thursday I returned to Numasato elementary school and even though I was sick and could only half hear what I and other people were saying, it was a lovely day. The first three classes were fourth graders. I made them interview each other like reporters using the English phrases they've learned with me so far this year, and write their classmates answers down on paper and report their findings to the rest of the class. They were very industrious and serious about this, which is both cute and unnerving. Only a couple of kids who just can't keep up with the rest of their classmates sat at their desks saying, "Sensei! Eigo o wakaranai!" Teacher, I don't understand English! So I spent most of the time doing interviews back and forth with them, and in fact they did understand English and could say their phrases they've learned, they just needed someone to sit down with them and prompt them a little bit. The last two classes of the day were third graders, and we were going over colors and numbers together, and the last game we played I would call out a color and they'd have to find something in the room that matched the color I said, and when I called out white they all rushed to me and swarmed in a circle, holding onto my legs and arms and several tickled my stomach. It was also very cute and unnerving. I've never encountered children so excitable and touchy feely as Japanese kids, or am I just out of touch with American children? I don't think I would have rushed a foreign teacher and tickled him or her when I was a kid. But maybe my vision of my childhood isn't very clear anymore. Maybe I would.

I like Numasato a lot. Each elementary school does its own thing. Takada gives me vegetables and fruit from the children's garden when I go to that school, Hatozaki kids sing me songs like "Stand By Me" and have learned how to play "Country Roads" on their recorders to play for me as a surprise when I visit. Numasato teachers feed me and feed me all sorts of Japanese treats, and keep me loaded up on coffee, which is of course necessary working with their kids. Ikenobe sensei, the vice principle of Numasato, talked quite a bit with me, so I had to get some of my rusty Japanese gears going again after the two week break.

I ran with the track and field team on Tuesday after school, but I was already starting to get sick, so I didn't run the rest of the week. I hate missing practice with them because some of those boys had little interest in English before I started running with them, and once I did they began to get better at English and take more interest in learning it in class, their teachers told me. One 7th grade boy runs beside me and says anything he can think of in English while we run, even if it doesn't necessarily add up to a conversation: "How's the weather?" he says, "It's cloudy. Oh look, it's Chris. How are you, Chris? Do you know me? I like running. Do you like ice cream? My favorite subject is science. English is difficult." In class today, we played a game and he was constantly raising his hand and giving me significant smiles, trying to please me with his answers. I am mote mote, according to Tadashi, very popular with the kids.

I have also hit another phase in the language acquisition process. I can feel these physically when they occur. I don't know how to describe them. The last time I had one was in November, which was a very draining month. I dreamed in Japanese and after a few weeks it stopped and I felt like a certain amount of the language I'd been struggling with had become internalized and slips easily off my tongue now. Now I'm having Japanese dreams again, and I have been studying a lot this past week in between teaching classes, so I can feel it coming to that point again. This is both good news and distressing, because it's always a sort of feverish process to assimilate whatever I've been struggling with. This used to happen when I was learning how to write stories in the beginning. I'd go a few months, then I'd have a sort of minor breakdown, after which certain techniques and concepts I'd been struggling to learn how to use in my writing worked more naturally for me, in ways that fit who I was as a writer, rather than how they worked for other writers where I was picking up the ideas and strategies from reading their fiction. So I suppose learning how to do anything well is really learning a language of some sort. Writing stories is a language in and of itself too. It has its own grammar and rules and structures and nuances in how to create meaning. The rules are able to be broken to produce new results just like language can be broken and bent into new forms too. I've begun to see language acquisition as a sort of dominant metaphor for living life. And actually I think it's been there for a long time for me, that metaphor. Even in the novel I wrote last year, the narrator is a "collector of words".

At Japanese class tonight I was tired and sick and probably sounded like a drunk Japanese man when I tried to tell our teacher what I did over winter break in Japanese. I couldn't collect my thoughts and eventually was like, oh whatever. By the end of a week being surrounded by Japanese only and speaking it on a daily basis, I sometimes am just too tired to learn new things at the end of a week. But I suppose there is no real ideal day to hold class. Friday night probably is best. I wouldn't want to give up my Saturdays or Sundays, I suppose.

If I haven't mentioned it, Japan makes all sorts of different flavors of Kit Kats. I posted this news on the With Boots circle blog I belong to, but failed to do so here. My favorite flavor is the Green Tea Kit Kat, although just today I ran across a new flavor. Cantaloupe. I can't believe it. I bought one, but it wasn't really that good. Interesting, but not a big seller, I imagine. Well, at least not a big seller for me. But the Green Tea, mmm, oishii! (Delicious!)

My apartment is freezing due to the lack of central heating (complains complains) and even though I have a kerosene heater to warm the place up, the insulation in Japanese housing is terrible too, so the heat just leaks out quickly. According to people I work with and friends I've made here, Japanese people find it to be natural to deal with the cold, and to be cold during the winter. It's summer that the housing has been built for, to keep everything as cool as possible. Although I tried to point out that proper insulation would actually make this much easier, no one really bit on that idea. They just give me foggy looks, as if this idea were as strange as people once thought flying to the moon was.

I can often not help but feel like I'm living in a strange cross-warp between the worlds of nineteen-fifties America and the postmodern techno thriller The Matrix. It's an difficult mix to live in sometimes, but definitely interesting. I have never felt more American in my life. And often I feel like I'm getting inklings of what it must have be like for immigrants who have come to America in the past and also the present. Since there are three alphabets here and I only know two of them and a handful of characters from the third alphabet, if I come across things in Kanji (third alphabet) I have to struggle to figure out what something may be, a certain kind of medicine, what exactly is in this package at the grocery store, is this a blanket or something altogether different (and often it looks like one thing and really is something else that I never would have guessed). I have been talking to Tadashi about how it feels to be a foreigner. He understands some things, but not everything, because he hasn't lived abroad yet, and I think this is something prevalent with many of my Japanese friends. For example, Ohama sensei went to Portugal to teach Portuguese students about Japan for a month in the autumn. She came back complaing about how everything she was offered to eat was potatoes and bread, potatoes and bread. She still makes jokes about this months later, yet she isn't able to understand why I sometimes crave food different from traditional Japanese food, even though she herself experienced being away from her home life for a short period and had an introduction to what it must be like to be seperated from everything you know. This distresses me sometimes. I sometimes hope for someone, a Japanese person, to know what it feels like to be a foreigner away from everything that they know, but I rarely run across anyone who has left the country other than for brief spurts of tourism. Fujita lived in America for three years, but she said she lived in an area of California so densely populated with Japanese people working in America in the eighties that she didn't have to speak English if she didn't want to.

I mentioned that I was trying to finish a story before I left for New Year's in Tokyo, and I think I didn't mention it again, but I did finish that story before I left. Finally got the suicide club story written, first draft at least. I'm not sure what I'll do with it as it's entirely nonspeculative. It has all sort of ideas in it, sure, but it can't possibly sell to a genre magazine, unless I tried it in horror magazines, as it does have a sort of horror element to it, although I think even that is a bit of a stretch for the sort of story it is. In any case, it's written, and I'm really pleased with it. Tadashi read it and said he felt that the characters were all very familiar to him, like people he knew, which made me feel good because this was the first story I wrote where the main characters were all Japanese and I want to make sure I'm capturing their consciousnesses in such a way that they feel real and right to a Japanese reader too. That's really important to me.

And now it is late and time for me to go to bed and dream in Japanese some more.

Thursday, January 06, 2005

So I finally made it back from my New Year's vacation. New Year's Eve was spent in Tokyo with Kevin, Beth, and Pete, dancing at a club called Vanillas, which has three floors, each with different music playing, although it seemed the disco floor was the most popular, so crowded I barely had room to dance. Vanilla's is in Roppongi, which is also home to this cool little lady statue playing her guitar. I was a bit disappointed with the music selection. You know, on one hand, they'd play Janet Jackson and I'd perk up and go out to dance, and then the next it was Donna Summer or someone equally disco-queenish, which is fine and all, but man the Japanese people there loved that stuff up. Had special moments in the song to shout hey hey hey and do little hand motions that were much too close to the elementary school kids throwing their hands in the air shouting "Gambatte!" but you know, cultural differences, blah blah blah. I would have liked some more hip hop. They did play "Jenny from the Block", so I suppose one can't moan about the whole register of dance songs that evening.

The next day I left Tokyo on a shikansen (bullet train) and went south to Nagoya to stay with my friend Tadashi. On New Year's Day I had a traditional dinner with his father, mother, brother, sister-in-law, and their baby. The food was wonderful, and so was Tadashi's family, who were very welcoming and sweet to me. They acted as if my being there was natural, which made me feel at home, almost like being with my own family.

We spent the rest of the week doing a variety of fun things. Karaokeing with Tadashi's good friends, dancing at a swanky club in downtown Nagoya, seeing Mt. Fuji all covered in snow, seeing the incredible Christmas dinosaurs of Nagoya, finally getting to eat some Mexican food that had actual heat and spice to it, eating the famous noodles of Nagoya, and climbing part way up a mountain to an onsen perched on the side of it. That was a hell of a climb. But all in all, a great week. Probably one of the best since I got here.

Sorry the pics are mostly all small. I forgot my camera and had to take pictures with my cell phone.