Thursday, July 30, 2009

Ajisai (Hydrangea)

Shizuoka is the hydrangea capital of Japan. In the U. S., you mostly see the mophead varieties in foundation plantings around houses. In Japan, lacecap varieties grow in huge wild hedges. I hadn't appreciated the beauty of hydrangea before moving to Japan but they soon became my favorite flower. In Ch. 5, I mention a hydrangea hedge on Gaby's running route: "White herons gathered in the river, upstream from laundry suds pouring out of a city grate, and hydrangeas bloomed on the banks, dropping blue and lavender petals over soda cans and bento cartons littered beside the asphalt."

Monday, July 27, 2009

How Is a Tree Like a Mountain?

Mt. Fuji is a Shinto shrine, and so is this tree. This one was just one block off my bicycle route from my apartment to the university. I would check in on it now and again, to say hello or make a wish. It's quite a bit larger than the typical tree in Japan. (Size matters?)

Friday, July 24, 2009


Here is the tetrapot at the Shizuoka coast as described in Chapter 7 of American Fuji. This is a favorite spot for college girls to set off fireworks.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

"We'll take this one to the moon!" (Mr. Eguchi, Chapter 1)

It's been a busy week as pre-publication interest in American Fuji is rising, but stay tuned for a series of posts about my midnight hike up Mt. Fuji to coincide with the anniversary of that event--which also happens to be the 40th anniversary of the moon landing. Do you remember?

Friday, July 10, 2009

Where American Fuji began

This is the "Western room" of my apartment, named for the hardwood floor. It was the same size as my tatami (traditional) room, 6 mats. A mat is roughly 1 meter by 2 meters. I had to buy a special transformer for my computer to convert 120 volts to 100 volts. Most U. S. electronics will work good enough for jazz, but computers are sensitive. After a year of being underpowered, my computer data was scrambled and I lost all my files. Shikata ga nai. What else could I do but start the novel all over again?

(I admit I'm one of those geeks who likes black and white photography. Somehow, it makes me seem more authentic as a writer.)

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Lost wish

Last night, I tied my Tanabata wish to my plum tree, but it rained and I couldn't see any stars. The Japanese word for rain is ame. The kanji for ame is one of my favorites, resembling rain slanting down through a window.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Two Stars

The Tamiya plastic model factory in Shizuoka was my landmark for finding my way back to my neighborhood, just as Alex Thorn did in Chapter 6. I always wondered if their two-star logo related to Tanabata. Surprisingly, this photo reminds me of another place I lived that was about 5,000 miles away: San Luis Obispo, California. Californians, do you agree?

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Art can be dangerous

Just as Gaby had her favorite Chinese scroll, I had mine. Mine is not peonies, but a landscape featuring a poet (in scarlet) and friends admiring a waterfall. I bought the scroll on vacation in Hong Kong and it didn't fit any allowable luggage size. Fortunately, air travel was not as paranoid then as it is now and I was able to take it carry-on and store it in the area for first-class passengers' umbrellas. Customs officials in Hong Kong and Japan both opened it, unrolled it, and admired it before sending me through. The flowers are cyclamen which did well inside my cold apartment.