This week I’m turning the update over to my son Nathan, who has just returned from a month-long stay in Japan. As some of you know, Nate is a Japanese-to-English translator (he just completed a massive METAL GEAR SOLID novel for Viz). His girl Abby joined him for the final two weeks, and he proposed. She accepted. You’ll see some of that in his great pics below.
First though, I do want to share a couple of links.
The first review for TRIPLE PLAY is in from that great writer Ed Gorman.
I’ve been going through my photos and posting them on my personal blog here, but I wanted to share some of the highlights, and some others that I haven’t caught up to yet.
Artisan fair in Okazaki, Japan. Featured center is a giant Japanese drum and locally woven fabric. The exhibition took place inside an old sake brewery with an original wood roof.
My friend and fellow University of Iowa alum Dodzi in a Book Off, a national chain of used bookstores that sells not only novels but manga, cds, movies, and video games. These stores are everywhere—most towns have at least one, and my home city of Okazaki (with a population of around 370,000) has three. Nagoya (think Chicago and its suburbs) has around twenty-five. Most books are half-price, while overstock (probably about a third of each store’s stock) is a dollar each. Each time I go to Japan, I take a day with Dodzi and hit as many stores as possible to stock up on reading for the next year or two.
A demonstration of Japanese pearl diving. The women divers are known as ama (yes, as in You Only LIve Twice). I’m not sure if ama still do most of the actual harvesting or if it’s just for a tourist show, but they did go underwater and come back up quite a few oysters before retreating to the heated boat (The water was about 45 degrees.)
Forest at Ise Grand Shrine. Japanese shrines and temples (the difference being that shrines are Shinto and temples are Buddhist) are often located in enclaves of natural forest, doubling as both religious site and national park. Even a small, local shrine inside a city will occasionally have a half-acre or so of woodland, or even a small playground area for children. This stone retaining wall, part of the much larger shrine complex at Ise, was probably built hundreds or even thousands of years ago, and the forest permitted to reclaim it.
Ema (small wooden plaques) at Fushimi Inari shrine. These wooden plaques can be purchased at many Shinto shrines for a few dollars. Typically, a prayer or wish is written on the reverse side and hung at the shrine. The fox head ema of this shrine are unique in that the front can be drawn on as well.
Me at Fushimi Inari Head Shrine, Kyoto. Shinto Shrines have torii gates to mark the entrance into sacred land. As a mark of the shrine’s importance, Fushimi Inari has thousands of the gates, often spaced close enough to give the impression of a tunnel. When we asked someone why there were so many torii, he said, “Because more is better.” There’s probably a more historical or religious explanation, but that’s good enough for me.
Sunset at Miyajima. The giant torii seems to float on the water and shows the competing theory, “Bigger is better.” When the tide goes out, people can (and do) walk right up to it.
Me with a lifesize statue of Solid Snake from the immensely popular Metal Gear Solid video game series. My trip to Japan was in part a celebration of completing my third novel translation, a novelization of Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots. The book is at the printers now!
I’ll close the update with one more picture, and what was definitely the highlight of the trip. At the Linx Resort on Mikawa Bay, I asked Abby, my girlfriend of two years to marry me. She said yes.