Monday, August 29, 2005

Fuji Revisited

Ok, so some pictures did turn out.

The four before their journey begun.

Look how happy they are at first.

No problem, he says.

Seventh level and still going strong, even though it's begun to storm like crazy.

8th station! Still going, but the storm has picked up more and we are soaked clear through to the point that no one will even pose by the level sign!

A whole lot of people stuck at level 8, looking dreary but still somehow none the worse for wear.

The decision is made by Jody and Phillipe to get a room at the inn. This makes Jody very happy.

Katie and I reach the inn a half hour later. It is the numb fingers and toes that decide me to stay too. Here we are warming ourselves by a pit of hot coals.

A few hours later we take the quick route down the mountain. I was depressed about not making it to the top, but then I looked outward and saw all the fog and clouds and thought, we still climbed way up into the sky, didn't we?

So then everything was happiness again.

And thus we began our descent, reconstituted, wearing very cold, wet socks.

With only the occasional pause for Jody's vanity poses.

And upon our return, I decided that I deserved some chemicals after all of that healthy activity!

And no one was happier than when I found the window where we could pick up our bus tickets home!(Well they were to Shinjuku, but anywhere was better than Fuji at the time.)

The End

Friday, August 26, 2005

Moving on

Almost moved in. Tomorrow will end it hopefully. In the meantime, since you've already gone and read that M. Rickert story linked to below (and if you haven't, get on the ball) go read Jeff Ford's new blog. He's a cool dude who writes awesome books.

Thursday, August 25, 2005


Spent a lovely night with some new and old friends in Tokyo (I got to eat really really good Mexican--really great Tequila too!) and now I'm back in my apartment waiting for the typhoon to end so I can move tomorrow. I'll be a bit busy for a few days, so until then, if you haven't read it already, go read M. Rickert's "Anyway". It's wonderful.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Fuji san

Don't expect pictures, unless you happen to like pictures of the rivers of rainwater washing over the volcanic rock I was climbing last night with a walking stick in one hand and a flashlight in the other. Mt. Fuji is breathtaking, but partway up a typhoon blew in, the wind gusting and the rain blowing my hood down. And even with rain gear on, I was soaked clear through and my backpack got soaked and everything inside it, and by the time I reached a little over 80 percent of the height of the mountain, my friends Jody and Phillipe who had gone ahead of me and Katie, who was traveling with me, had stopped at a travel lodge on the mountainside and got a mat to sleep on until morning. Katie decided to stay too. I wanted to keep going on to reach the summit but the thing that decided me in the end was that I could no longer feel my fingers or feet. My climbing shoes were water logged and my gloves were too. At one point on the climb a shoelace came untied, so I balanced on this very steep volanic rock area we were climbing and while I was retying my shoe, my glove slid into a water puddle. It was already wet from the gusting rain, but as I grabbed it out, all soaking wet and dripping, while thunder and lightning crackled all around us, I thought, God damned Frodo and Sam's little jaunt up Mount Doom was nothing compared to this.

But the ordeal made it so exciting, and it did feel like a trip up a fantasy mountain in many ways, with little stops along the way where people gather in lodges and where they would burn symbols into your walking stick for each level you made it to, and I think the typhoon drama made it an even more memorable experience than it would have been if we'd had good weather. Jody might have got some pictures, so if so, I'll post them when I get them from her. But I honestly think nothing much came out of last night photographically. Unfortunate, but I'm not sure photos could really describe the experience of climbing Mount Fuji in the middle of the night, during a typhoon. And words really can't either.

Monday, August 22, 2005

Happy Anniversary, Japan

I almost forgot. But it's been a year we've been together now. The honeymoon is definitely over, but I still love ya.


We went to Obon last week at the Ushiku Daibutsu. Obon is the time of year when family members who have passed away are said to return for a brief period. Lanterns are lit for them to find their way to and from the cemeteries and they return to their former homes. Most people in Japan return to their hometowns for Obon, to be with their families during this time. As one acquaintance told me, he had to go home for Obon this year because it was his grandmother's first Obon. She had died last year.

The beginning of the night is full of drumming and horseplay onstage.

It's not the seemingly somber atmosphere one might expect from a festival for the dead. There are food stalls and games to play.

It's later in the evening, when the lanterns are being lit and the monk's begin chanting that things become a bit more serious.

As the night grew darker, the lanterns glowed an orange red color.

And soon everything was lit by lantern light alone.

To give you an idea of how big the Daibutsu is, you can see here that the lanterns, which hung on poles roughly at the height of my shoulders, contrasted below the Buddha's height. The Daibutsu is three times taller than the Statue of Liberty. It's in the Guinness Book of World Records as the tallest Buddha in the world. It's construction was completed in the early nineties.

Towards the end of the night it was spotlighted for everyone.

And there were of course fireworks to cap everything off.

Tomorrow I climb Mount Fuji. Later this week, I move apartments, so things will be sparse here for a while, till I get back into the swing of things at school in another week and a half and find my feet again. Hope everyone is well.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005


Earthquake, 7.0 on the scale, was eating brunch with a friend while it happened. I stood up and said, stand up, this is weird, even for an earthquake in Japan. So my friend Jody stood up and looked at me like I would then reveal the next step in our plan. Then everyone in the place sort of looked at each other. I said, Whoa, and two Japanese girls giggled. Then they said Sugoi! and we giggled. And the a while later the earthquake subsided and we walked out and everything went back to normal...but it was really really weird. I've been here a year, and I've experienced a lot of earthquakes (three or four while my mom was here actually) but this was the longest and strongest one yet, I think. But I'm okay. Some of you have emailed to ask if I'm alive/okay/cool/etc. I am. And thanks for asking. It was a bit weird, enough to make me stand up and care about the earthquake, which I'd become accustomed to and had stopped thinking much of, sort of like a California native. But all is well. And I'll catch up with email soon. Thanks for caring about me.


Saturday, August 13, 2005

Writer Whining

I am beginning to see the light of day again, the piles of work that kept growing are beginning to recede. And now I'm contemplating diving into a rewrite of the last story/chapter I wrote on the novel I've been working on while I've been living in Japan. It's funny. I got really comfortable writing the sections of the book as I went. They're supposed to work as individual stories and also function as chapters, sort of. In the way that the sections of a David Mitchell novel with a variety of narrators does, or the Raymond Carver inspired movie "Shortcuts" intertwine the narratives of various people into a sort of mosaic narrative. Characters who are connected or whose actions create a reaction in another person's story, characters whose stories are related even if they don't realize it. That sort of thing. It's something I became intrigued with after I moved here and my perspective on life shifted. Because there were all sorts of things linking me or people I knew to other people in a world that, for me, had just shifted from small town Midwestern America to something a little more international and far away from everything I knew. And then I come to the fork in the road story that took me several months to finish a *first draft* of and in the end I still didn't get it close to what it's got to be. There's all this *stuff* there, but it has to be completely rewritten, almost from scratch. Not quite from scratch, but it feels like it in many ways. I've done this before, and it usually turns out to produce something much more interesting and satisfying than what it had been in its previous incarnations, but I still get a little down when I write a full draft of a story and am still figuring out how it has to be written once that first draft is down. I haven't had a story flip around in my hands like a twisty fish in a long time, always changing shape, the character's problem and even central being changing midstream. Sigh. Back back back to the first page with this one. At least I have a lot of material to use from the original concept draft.

Sorry to have interrupted the normal flow of entries with writer whining. But sometimes a guy's got to vent.

Friday, August 12, 2005

Shimotsuma Monogatari

By the way, David, you have got to see this movie. (And all the rest of you, too, who understand Japanese or can somehow find a translation of this movie.) In Japanese it's called "Shimotsuma Monogatari". Shimotsuma is a town near where I live. Just around the block really. My friend Jody lives the next town over from it. And weirdly, there are scenes from this film filmed like five minutes from my apartment here, at the Ushiku no Daibutsu (Great Buddha of Ushiku). Which is the tallest Buddha in the world. Yep, in my back yard. And it's amazing. Here's a look or two at it from my mom's visit.

It's just lovely as a scene backdrop for a movie. I really do hope someone in America translates this movie. It's wonderful and in the same vein as much of the young, contemporary fiction/film that America is producing as well.

By the way, this site translates it as "Kamikaze Girls" but that is not what the original title means.

The Case Against Babies

Coolest essay I've read in years. By Joy Williams. Go. Read. Now.

Swiped from Gwenda.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Pointing to my vacation last week

Excuse me for being lazy, but I've got a ton of writerly work that's due/late and since it's my vacation from school, I'm catching up. The past two weeks were taken up mostly by being with my mom and aunt, showing them the Japan I know. And it was a blast, but now I've got to buckle down and get work done now that they've gone back home. So, in an effort to save time, I'm just going to point you to my friend Jody's blog, which chronicles much of the last week with my mom and aunt here, along with Jody and Katie, two other foreigners nearby, teaching English in Japan. We went to Hakone last week, south of Tokyo, near Mount Fuji, and stayed in a ryokan, a traditional Japanese inn, that had private onsen (hot springs) and gave us a wonderful dinner and breakfast. Much fun was had in the site seeing before we got to the ryokan, but I'll let the pictures (which can be clicked to made bigger if anything catches your fancy) speak for themselves. Note: Jody takes about three or four posts to do the few days we're gone, so you'll want to scroll backwards down to the bottom and read all the way up if, that is, you're truly interested).


Matt Cheney says it better than I could.

Monday, August 08, 2005

From the Files

The book you should be buying. It's sophisticated and funny and sad, an ode and an elegy to the past and the future, an affirmation that the only time we have to live is now.

Monday, August 01, 2005

A View From Outside

Strange Horizons has posted an interview K. Lincoln Bird did with me and Yoshio Kobayashi a while back. Go read it and see what you think. I think it raises a lot of questions to talk about, that are being talked about right now within speculative literature, but Yoshio's perspective on it is so unique that the questions he raises, for me, are always refreshing.