July 25, 2010

unbelievably, reading books about Japan

Good heavens…you may or may not be wondering what I have been up to lately…

I have been traveling around Japan in my “areas” as a sales representative.  On my days off I have finally gotten back “my groove” and am reading, listening to music and watching movies again…
So, what have I been reading?  Well, I finished reading Marie Mutsuki Mockett’s “Picking Ash From Bones”.  In a nutshell: it was great!

I usually freak out when someone writes about Japan in English. There are often quite a few errors.  Names are irritably non-Japanese, foods are mixed up with other Asian countries and the Japanese tendencies are nothing but stale stereotypes.

However, Marie’s book gives you a REAL sense of time and space in Japan, both old and new.  Her mother is Japanese and father is American, just like me so it is not too much of a wonder that she gets everything right;-)

The story starts with a mother and daughter and how their lives are constricted because they are a family of two. Japan still holds a bit of prejudice towards single parent families, although not as harsh as in the 1950s, when the story begins.
 (You can get a short synopsis of the book here:
As time goes by the story gets passed on to the next generation.  The new central figure Rumi, is raised in the US and has a chance to visit present time Japan.  The reason Rumi flies to Japan is unique from a western point of view.  Maybe even mystical since it has to do with a ghost, but being half Japanese myself, it actually seemed natural. 
Along with snapshots of homes, schools and society you will learn a bit about the Japanese version of Buddhism and the indigenous religion of Shintoism as well.

For someone who know Japan the way I do (because I live here and like the author am half Japanese) it made me want to give my mom a big hug for raising me up in two cultures.

So what am I going to read next???  Marie seems to have unlocked my ability to read about Japan in English so I think I will follow up with the following titles: 

Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet (because one of the characters has the same first name as I do!) and…
 the new book by David Mitchell “The Thousand Autumns of Jacob De Zoet (my husband is from Nagasaki, which is the stage for this novel)…so many coincidences….
I am almost finished with “At Home in Japan” a non-fiction by Rebecca Otowa.

This book also is a lovely one to flip through in between stuff as I sip tea and fan myself on the hot summer nights…
“Shojo no Tomo” (the girls’ friend) a magazine for girls that is no longer in print but was loved by girls in Japan during the 1950s…right around the same time Marie’s novel starts off!

Ooooh, look at the hairstyles!


Butternut Squash said...

Hiya Tulsa,

I couldn't see your pictures. Could be on my end. 'Picking Bones from Ash,' sounds very interesting. I'll look for it.

Hope you are loving your work!

Frances said...

Hello from New York to you Tulsa!

It's great to see a post from you after a ... bit of a pause. I have trouble finding time to post blogs, too, so treasure seeing yours. (Like B Squash, I also did not see your pictures.)

But I did read your words about Ms Mockett's book and will look for it at my library. If they do not have it, I'll have to ask you for more details about the publisher, etc.

I have got that David Mitchell book on reserve at the library. I do love all his previous books.

Hoping that you and I both get more opportunities to do some posts as this very hot summer continues. xo

smallkucing said...

Unable to view the photos of the book.

This books sound great. Will definitely try and find it. Hopefully we have it here at our local book store.

B said...

I've added the first one to my list, sounds great! I really want to visit Japan, hope I make it soon! :)

Sandor Benko said...

"I usually freak out when someone writes about Japan in English." Haha, so true! Maybe I need to read this book to "unlock" my ability to read about Japan in English...

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the tips, and the warning ;-) I'm currently finishing my third book (for kids) starring a Japanese heroine and some awesome yokai, so I am always fighting to portray true Japan. I was picked up once for letting Miku reheat a frozen pizza for her dinner but defended the position: it's not like Japanese people don't eat pizza!
Anyway, off my high horse: I'm off to find more on those books. Thanks!