Sunday, August 30, 2009

That Fantasy Life in the Globe

The return of American Fuji received notice in today's Boston Globe. The title, "That Fantasy Life", applies to another book reviewed in Jan Gardner's column, but couldn't it also apply to Mr. Eguchi's fantasy funeral company, Gone With The Wind?

Thanks to my friend Sue who let me know American Fuji is mentioned in the September Costco Connection. Tell your reading groups to fire up the forklift and buy a pallet of copies this week! (Thanks, PJ.)

Saturday, August 29, 2009

The Bridge to Luck

The largest Shinto shrine in Shizuoka is Sengen Jinja. It is an entire hill, with several buildings and paths and wonderful views, and I hiked there often. This is the bridge at one of the entrances. Perhaps what I miss most about Japan is the way people welcome metaphors in mundane conversation. In Shizuoka, I could say I am posting a photo of this bridge to the Shrine (where people pray for luck) to invite good luck for the reissue of my novel this week, and no one would think I was crazy or odd or (worse) poetic. Perhaps good luck will also come to anyone who comments on this post.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Beer from a Vending Machine

From American Fuji, Ch. 6, p. 63: "Vending machines sold cigarettes, candy, sandwiches, batteries, and beer. Beer from a vending machine! What a temptation for minors. Cody had never mentioned this in his letters, and Alex had no trouble guessing why." (Cody, Alex's son, spent a year as an exchange student at the fictional Shizuyama University.)

It's all real. Not only beer, but cold beer. Yours for several hundred yen and a push of a button. (Wouldn't this be helpful on a Sunday in Massachusetts?)

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

V is for Vending

Vending machines abound in Japan, even isolated in a field. This one sells vegetables from a neighborhood garden. What's different for an American is that Japan doesn't have our zoning system. In Japan, you'll find industry, agriculture, and residence all mixed up together, perhaps in the same block. You can see an apartment complex to the left behind this small commercial orchard. You'll also notice the litter around the vending machine, despite Japan's reputation for public cleanliness.

Friday, August 21, 2009

I Made the Front Page

Today's Hollis Brookline Journal features an article about me and the reissue of my novel. I've already had someone mention it to me at my favorite coffee shop, A & E Roastery.

The Ocean Loves Me

A cool joke for a hot day:

Q. How do you know if the ocean likes you?

A. It waves!

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

August: The Death Month

In Japanese, the word for hot is atsui. In the usual small talk about weather, you'll hear the word mushi-atsui, which means humid and hot. Although the temperature reached 100 yesterday in New Hampshire, I have to say it wasn't nearly as hot as mushi-atsui in Japan.

On hot days when Japanese people had a mild film of sweat on their faces, my sweat was running in rivulets off my nose, soaking my clothes, dripping into puddles on the floor. It's a Caucasian thing; they didn't understand. My sweat was rude because it was outstanding.

The heat is often described in American Fuji. From p. 62: "Outside, Alex felt physically slugged by the humidity. Haze or smoke intensified the hot white glare, nearly choking him. It was only 9:00 AM." Later in his walk, on p. 64: "Alex kept walking, feeling the heat coming through the soles of his shoes. [He] stopped to peel his shirtfront a few inches off his chest and palpitate some air through the cloth. His head pounded. He looked for shade, but found only a tiny circling shadow of a hawk."

In Japan, August is known as the month of death because the elderly die from the strain of the heat.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Sumpu castle moat

With the Japanese elections coming up August 30, I offer a profoundly symbolic senryu (haiku with personal or political content):

A duck watches carp
in the castle moat
near city hall.

c. 2009 Sara Backer

Thursday, August 13, 2009


In contrast to the zany Western imitations in Japan, you'll come across pockets of ancient exquisite beauty. This was the first lotus blossom I saw in person. Took my breath away.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Behind the Scenes Extra

Check out today's Media Bistro GalleyCat blog to learn more about the reissue of American Fuji through an interview with Berkley Publisher Leslie Gelbman.

Teacups in Tokyo

This photo is for people who don't believe Japan is really as I describe it in American Fuji. Yes, a department store did dress mannequins in upside-down teacup hats as mentioned in Chapter 12 (p.138). The other hat looks like the top of a soft black ice cream cone, so desu ne? That's me in the middle.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Peace at the Summit

In Japan, I celebrated holidays by hiking a large hill in Shizuoka that is a Shinto shrine called Sengen Jinja. Yet, this statue at the top, Oshaka-sama, standing on a lotus, is Buddhist. It's a memorial for war victims.

Today, August 6, is the anniversary of the U. S. atomic bombing of Hiroshima. A good day to remember the cost of war and to observe peace.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Death on Mt. Fuji

After I finished posting my special Mt. Fuji/Moon Landing Anniversary series, I read in the L. A. Times that an American man working in Tokyo and his Japanese friend died, probably of hypothermia, during their climb up Mt. Fuji on July 24, 2009. The police officer is reported to have said Mt. Fuji is not a mountain to be underestimated, meaning it's a steeper mountain and tougher climb than people think. Every year, climbers die on Mt. Fuji, and it always saddens me, having had such a vivid experience of it myself.