Tuesday, September 29, 2009

My favorite temple is Todaiji, said to be the largest wooden structure in the world. This is a postcard of the enormous Buddha that Gaby tells Alex about in Chapter 21:

"His right hand signifies the removal of human fears, like this." Gaby held up her right hand, tilting her middle finger forward slightly. "And his left hand signifies the hearing of people's desires." She stretched her left hand out palm up, with her thumb overlapping the base of her forefinger."

Even looking at the postcard makes me feel his compassion and serenity.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Fun with Parking

A photo of my friend Eric hamming it up behind a parking sign. Sometimes, the mainland Japan culture is so uptight you have to let off steam in harmless ways like this.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

The Long and Winding Road

The coastal fort of Tokugawa Ieyasu, the first Shogun of the Edo period, is a landmark in Shizuoka. You can see the steps are shallow and easy, but the hike up is long and cumulatively arduous, switchback after switchback . . .

I didn't take the tram from the shogunate to Nihondaira, but I describe the Nihondaira parking lot (used as a kind of lovers' lane at night) in American Fuji on p. 93.

Friday, September 18, 2009

The Usual View of Mt. Fuji

These are wishes tied to branches halfway up Sengen Jinja hill where there is a view of Mt. Fuji. This is what you usually see at this spot, directly facing Fuji-san. No mountain. But after you see it once, you know it's there and that changes the way you see the clouds hiding it.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Mopeds for Bipeds

This is the rack of bicycles and mopeds that blew over in the storm in American Fuji. Japanese parking spaces are scarce and mopeds are a good way to get around as long as you don't mind living dangerously.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Shelf Awareness

Click on the title for a triple interview: me, Marilyn Lustig of Wellesley Booksmith, and Leslie Gelbman, Publisher of Berkley. (Shannon McKenna Schmidt interviewed each of us independently.)

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Feline/Canine Border: The Girl of 2DK (#7)

This is what I saw looking down from my back balcony. All the back balconies (or porches, on the ground floor) were set up for washing machines and separate spin-dry machines. No dryers. Even in the 1990's, clothes were hung on lines and dryers were only for rich people. The cat belonged to one neighbor and the dog another, but they knew where the border was and reinforced it with hissing and barking. Of course, when I stepped outside with my camera, they both looked up at me.

From American Fuji, p. 46: "Gaby woke to the boisterous churning of the washing machine on her neighbor's balcony, separated from her own balcony by a thin metal partition. When they both did laundry, she and her neighbor stood with their shoulders less than a foot apart, but the partition between them kept them from seeing each other, and they remained strangers. Privacy depended on context in Japan. It was all right to wear pajamas on your back balcony; even if your neighbors spotted you, they weren't supposed to look there. But you had to be fully dressed to bring your newspaper in your front door, the legitimate realm of public scrutiny."

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Balcony Tango: The Girl of 2DK (#6)

This my front balcony, the one I envisioned Gaby and Alex walking on, trying to sync their footsteps so Gaby's neighbor wouldn't think he spent the night. Beside the doors, you see outdoor hot water heaters. Instead of storing hot water in tanks, heaters heat as you use the water. Of course, you have to remember to turn them on and off each time.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Wellesley Booksmith

Many thanks to Wellesley Booksmith for hosting my book talk last night.The highlight of the event was a hand-crafted Japanese fusion dessert invented by lovely chef/bookseller Lee featuring angel food cake, apples, green tea ice cream, and a secret sauce. Delicious! More thanks to Marilyn for her die-hard support of my novel, Blanche for photographing and driving (baby, you can drive my car), and all who came and made it festive. I do indeed get by with a little help from my friends.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Where Three Floors Meet: Girl of 2DK (#5)

Here, a view of the three clashing floor patterns: tub and sink room (mustard yellow), toilet room (orange checks), and dining kitchen (red and white). The tiny Christmas tree (about 1' high) was purchased pre-decorated.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Kitchen: The Girl of Apartment 2DK (#4)

One of my favorite novels is Banana Yoshimoto's Kitchen . However, the kitchen of her novel is far grander than the typical apartment kitchen which has no oven. I bought myself a deluxe three-burner hot plate with a small broiling drawer. (Appliances are not included with rentals in Japan.) The dish rack used all of the counter space!

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Fuzzy Slippers & Weights: Girl of 2DK( #3)

Here I am inside my 2DK apartment. See how the ceiling, counter, and table are all lower? Everything in Japan is a smaller scale, which creates an ongoing environment of disorientation for an American. I felt like a doll a bit too big for the dollhouse. That's why I had Alex Thorn constantly bang his head entering a room due to the smaller doorways. Luckily, I was the height of a Japanese man and didn't get hurt as much. The local gym was only for men, so I bought weights to try to keep in shape at home. The postcard taped to my cupboard is of Mt. Fuji. I still miss my wooden table and chairs that I had to leave behind, but I'm glad to have a bigger kitchen, now, with an oven.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Maison Tooru: The Girl of Apt. 2DK #2

If I were a male professor, I could have lived in University housing. As a female professor (one of three in the university), I had to find my own apartment. This turned out to be a blessing in disguise, as I was able to find a lovely apartment with a Western toilet, while University housing had traditional Japanese squat toilets. This is the street view of my apartment building in Shizuoka named Maison Tooru. My apartment was on the second floor. Just go up the metal staircase and follow the balcony to the third and last door on the left.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

The Girl of Apartment 2DK

I admit it: I "gave" Gaby Stanton my own apartment in Shizuoka. This week and next, I'll post daily about my (and her) apartment, a safe haven for both of us during our years in Japan. When I was a kid, I was a fan of the comic strip The Girls of Apartment 3-G (Tommie, Margo and Luann--anyone else remember?) so I riffed off the title for my own. "DK" is the abbreviation for dining kitchen (one room). 2DK means you have two rooms in addition to the dining kitchen. Gaby's fictional apartment was a 1DK.

From American Fuji, p. 48: "Gaby's apartment consisted of two rooms flanked by front and back balconies, with a bath room, toilet room, and closet lined up on one side. . . [snip] . . . Her back room, which had only her futon and television set, had a beautiful tatami floor. She enjoyed the aesthetic of empty space and left the drab sand-colored walls bare."

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Toadstool Bookshop Kick-Off

Thanks to the Milford, New Hampshire Toadstool Bookshop for hosting my opening day event on September 1st. It was great to meet other people who had experienced Japan and connect with long-time and new friends. The highlight, I think, was genuine Japanese "Pocky" sticks, crunched in unison at the appropriate moment in the reading. I invite all who came to share their impressions on this blog, and return to see the real life scenes in Shizuoka that inspired many of the descriptions. Doumo arigato, mina-san.