Tuesday, March 28, 2006


"Dead Boy Found" which originally appeared in Kelly Link's anthology, Trampoline, will be translated to Japanese and published in the June issue of Hayakawa SF. (Very excited about this! It will be my first story published in Japan and because of the bonds I've made here over the time I've lived here, it's a really nice feeling.)

Also, "The Language of Moths" has made next year's preliminary Nebula ballot.

More news coming in the next few weeks.

Monday, March 27, 2006


Today we went to Nara, home of the famouse deers of Nara which circulate the park and temples as if it is any other pasture and are hand fed by the visitors who come to town, where we went to the temple where Nara's Great Buddha resides. It's huge. Not as big as the one near my apartment, but but grand and very very old. The temple it's housed in is one of the most gorgeous temple's I've ever seen in my life. Perhaps it's my favorite of all the temples I've seen in Japan and also in Thailand. As we went in, we asked a group of Japanese boys if they'd take a picture for us which they did, very meticulously, worried that it wasn't good enough, but I told them it was great and thanked them and then they stopped us a moment later and asked if we would take a picture with them. I said, "All of us together?" and they said yes, so we did that, aide by another random Japanese stranger, this time an older gentleman, who was very enamored with the cross cultural picture taking and happy to help. We lit incense at the temple with the boys and then went into the temple to gape slack-jawed at the Buddha. This is the third Great Buddha in Japan I've seen. I think there is perhaps only one other I haven't seen yet, but I may be wrong. I love the Great Buddhas. They're always awe-inspiring things to gaze at for a while.

The other very cool thing in this temple are these huge pillars inside that are part of its support system. They're incredibly large and made of wood, and one of them has a tiny little squarish hole at its base which, if you are able to pass through it, is said to be a sign that you can reach enlightenment easily. Or, err, something like that. My guidebook is in my bag at the moment. Anyway, little kids pass through it easily, which is the joke. It looks like this:

And then afterwards it looks like this:

Anyway, lots of kids go through it, and some Japanese women did too, though some needed help from their kids to be pulled out the rest of the way. Jody and her mom and sister wanted me to give it a try. I said I thought it was impossible. Then the high school boys helped each other do it and Jody and her mom and sister kept saying to do it, and I kept circling the base and thinking, nope, impossible. It really is tiny and I'm a bit claustrophobic. And I had other reasons I could think of to not try (I had a jacket tied around my waist, I'd have to take that off, oh and I bought this really nice new man bag which I'd have to have someone hold and I didn't want to be seperated from it, and my watch I didn't want to scratch if I went through, etc. etc.) and then I heard this Japanese fellow tell his friend in Japanese that gaijin can't fit through the hole and I thought, Oh no he didn't just say what I just heard, and then I thought, This man's going to make me take my new man bag off, and then I did just that, and my jacket, and my watch, and gave them over to Jody and her mom and sister and got in line behind the other kids and when it came my turn I went through that hole like a thread through the eye of a needle and pulled myself out the other side without any problems. Much cheering and clapping ensued, which then inspired Paula, Jody's sister to go through the hole as well. She also succeeded, although her pants were pulled halfway down by the time she got out and she got a bruise on one arm from squeezing. An older Japanese gentleman clapped his hands when Paula was done and said, "Sugoi na!" (amazing! great! wow! sort of sentiment) but I think he clapped because Paula was still pulling up her pants.

We then got our fortunes from a monk at the front of the temple by shake a canister of sticks with numbers engraved on them. The numbers match a corresponding fortune and when I pulled out mine, the monk said Oh no no no, you don't want that one, and made me put it back and gave me a different canister and said, this is the one you should use. The first one was obviously probably the worst luck fortune you could get, but when I pulled from the other canister I got the best fortune possible. Paula was mad because the monk didn't tell her to put her stick back in as she was pulling it out and she was apparently told she was going to die or something and so she had to tie her fortune to the bad fortune post outside, where you can leave your bad fortune behind you.

There will be pictures of hole crawling in the future, but they're on Jody's and Jody's mom camera's so will come later. For now, all I can say is maybe that hole is too little for a lot of gaijin, Mister Stereotyper of Foreigners, but this gaijin got through and perhaps will reach Nirvana before you do.

Sunday, March 26, 2006


In Kyoto at the moment. It's a gorgeous place, the cherry blossoms are trying to push out of their buds but I think we're going to miss them by a few days or a week. Tomorrow is Nara and then back home to Ami by the evening so I can move out of my apartment on Wednesday. Three weeks left in Japan. Saw some American tourists having trouble figuring out how to withdraw money from an ATM machine here and stopped to ask if they needed help. Was told by the mother, very rudely, "No!" as if I was going to shake her down for all she had, even though her son in the ATM box was shouting back, "I have no clue what to do with this thing. It's all in Japanese." Oh well, suckers, guess that's what you get. Totally going to have to walk around with blinders on and ear plugs in when I'm back most likely. Sigh. America the beautiful.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Birthdays, Kimonos, and Goodbyes

Yesterday Katie and I headed to Asakusa in Tokyo, which is a sort of old town district, a place where you can buy kimonos and the accessories that accompany them. We needed to pick up a few accessories because earlier this week, Katie's and my private students, Akiko and Masako and Hiroko, who we take turns teaching English on Wednesdays and then eat Masako's homecooking for dinner afterwards, took us to a kimono shop for Katie's birthday and my going away present. They dressed us up in kimonos and took pictures. I don't actually have any on my computer, only in print, so will post some later after I get Katie's pictures from her. Anyway, the kimono sensei was so nice, she gave me the kimono I wore. It was a men's casual kimono, but casual kimono to me still looks amazing, and she gave Katie a kimono too, not the one she wore, which I think was a bit expensive, but one that is really fancifully designed that she can hang as a decoration when she gets back home. The things we still needed to complete our kimonos, though, were proper shoes and belts to tie them with, and I still need an undershirt/collar for mine. Anyways, we went to Asakusa to shop for these things and other souvenir, as Katie's going home next Sunday and won't have a chance to go back and buy the stuff next weekend.

On the way back to the train station in Asakusa, we ran into a festival of some kind at Sensoji Temple and then took the train to Kashiwa, a city halfway home, and stopped there to meet the others for Andrea's birthday party. Which was also sort of mine and Katie's and Mona's going away party, as Beth had put together photo scrapbooks for all of us and everyone took turns signing the pages by the pictures with messages and then also message boards were passed around for everyone to take turns signing a message onto as well. After not eating much at all most of the day and one long island ice tea too many later I felt awful stayed at Kevin and Beth's apartment to pass out while the others went to karaoke. I never miss karaoke, so I was Not Well. Not fair. Anyway, I'll be back in town to stay with Kevin and Beth for a few days before I leave to come home on April 24th, so we will just have to karaoke my last time together with them here then.

Some pics of the day/night:

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

The Book Loving Friend

It's been so long since I've been in an English language bookstore, I mean one devoted to it, with just rows and rows of books full of English. I sometimes get this anxious, shaky hands give-it-to-me feeling when I imagine bookstores full of English books back home. This is one of the things I'm looking forward to doing soon after I return, perhaps the very next day. I am tempted to make my parents, who are picking me up at the airport, drive me straight to a bookstore, but as I'll have been flying and waiting between planes for about sixteen hours altogether, I think I may just want to go home and sleep. Although that may be too weird to be back in America too, so perhaps a bookstore after a restaurant would be appropriate. In any case, I have been fantasizing about all this to a high degree and have realized that I really like to look in bookstores with a second book-loving friend so we can come across books and show the other one, say this looks interesting, they ask the right questions that a reader's reader asks, you discuss things about the book even down to the design and choice of cover images and fonts, tell each other what you've heard or not, delight in discovering something neither has heard of and looks like a keeper, etc. but I have realized I don't think I have any book loving friends near my town. And now more than ever I will have need of book loving friends to catch me up on what all has changed in the bookstores while I've been gone. So many new books, so much new book gossip, so much so much!

Someone who fits the book loving friend description should come to the Warren/Youngstown area of Ohio around April 25th. I'll be waiting.

You Know You've Had A Long Day At Work When...

...you do one of these internet things about yourself and "awwww" over the answer. Yes, it was a long day.

Christopher Barzak --

Benevolent to a fault

'How" will you be defined in the dictionary?' at QuizGalaxy.com

Monday, March 13, 2006

Not Surprised

I think it's funny how, when it serves his purposes to isolate Americans, he says we need to turn inward and be suspicious of other nations, so he can then put some money in his and his buddies' pockets. Then when it's about him wanting to outsource jobs, and Americans don't want to see even more work go outside the country, he says it's time to globalize, we can't shut our borders to dealing with other economies. Of course not, because his own families' and friends' interests are all about getting labor for lower wages. If you believe anything this man says, you might as well write stupid on your forehead and just give him everything you own, because he's going to steal it from you anyway.

Friday, March 10, 2006

Technical Meltdown

I'm writing this from my company's office, just to let you all know, my laptop has died a really horrid death and since it would take about a month and a half to have it fixed (if it can be fixed) I'm waiting to take the wreckage home with me and have it serviced in the States, where I bought it and luckily still have a guarantee. I'll have email access for the next week and a half at school, but after the 23rd, I'm done working there, and will be traveling and staying with friends until I leave Japan on April 24th. So if you email me, there may be some lag in response time. I'll try to find places to check it while I'm traveling in April, though, so don't hesitate to contact me.

I also have some news to announce eventually, but I'm waiting until everything's official before writing publicly about it.

Other than that, I'll see you here off and on for the next month and a half, and then hopefully more of you in person in May. I'm looking forward to coming home.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Come on, baby

You know you want to come sing karaoke in Japan too.

Saturday, March 04, 2006

I've Read This Book Already...

...but this looks like the nicest edition of it so far. Will have to pick it up once I get back home and raid the local bookstores where there will be truckloads of books full of English. Mmmm. I can't wait.

Friday, March 03, 2006

Make the World Better, Buy Books

A sale you should not miss!