Golden

Well, this past week was Golden Week here in Japan.  What that means is that most offices and schools at least are shut down for the week and many, many people travel. We did our traveling early this year when we went to Oita with family, but we still IMG_1163managed to have some fun around town.  We saw some friends (who must love us- they brought me some Cafe Bustelo!) and found some new places practically right next door.  We did manage to get a tiny bit out of town, though, and went to Odawara Castle, which was pretty awesome.

Today is technically still Golden Week, even though it’s Monday.  This year, instead of being just 5 days off, has an extra day off in honor of the abdication of Emperor Akihito.  Quite literally the end of an era here as Heisei ends and Reiwa begins.  Fun fact: the timing of all this is very deliberate.  The era changed over at the same time as the fiscal year.

So today we’re taking it slow to ease back into regular life.  My husband went to a movie and we’re meeting up for lunch.  The Boy is doing some spelling lessons, but we’re skipping the math and essay writing.  I’m working on some edits and on getting Caroline into some trouble in another book, but I’m not stressing too hard about it.  The weather is warming up and we have the balcony doors open to enjoy the breeze.  On the whole, not a bad end to a spring break.

vacation

My family spent this past weekend in Oita prefecture (which you’ve seen if you follow my Instagram.). The trip was partly to spend time with my husband’s cousins and family, and partly to track down my father-in-law’s birthplace in rural Japan.  It was a whirlwind of kids and busses and hotels and exhaustion, but I think it was rather worth it.

We did, indeed, find where my father-in-law (and uncle, who was with us on this trip) lived for a time.  It’s now an empty field in Matama, across from a temple that Uncle remembered clearly.  My husband and his cousin got to walk where their fathers walked as children, and that’s pretty damn cool if you ask me.  Meanwhile, The Spouses took The Kids to the beach where we ended up helping some people catch razor clams.  The Boy decided that the clams must be sharp, so mostly just poked around finding crabs and jellyfish, but the younger two had no such qualms and snagged the clams as fast as they popped out of their holes.

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Just outside the train station in Beppu.  Welcome to the ‘onsen capitol of Japan!’

Then off to Beppu for a stay at a ryokan.  I found futons to be pleasantly comfortable, but my poor husband doesn’t do well with them.  We saw cats and tengu and steaming hand baths beckoning tourists to visit the onsen behind them for just a few coins.  We bought local bamboo housewares and food made with local citrus to which I am no hopelessly addicted.

The hardest and scariest part for me, personally, is that I was traveling with a group of people who were all multi-lingual to some degree, but the two primary languages of the group were English and Korean.  Only my husband had any real Japanese.  As such he ended up with whatever group needed the most fluent person at the time, leaving me with the others.

I am in no way fit to be an interpreter and was barely comfortable buying coffee and saying thank you to the hotel staff.  Suddenly I’m trying to find out how to navigate a taxi from a tiny town in the countryside and order food at the one postage stamp bar that was willing to serve foreigners.  It was entirely terrifying and well outside of my comfort zone.

I’m fairly sheltered, living in Tokyo.  Either folks have some rudimentary English or it

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This is a historic onsen bathhouse, and that’s literally all I got from this sign…

simply doesn’t matter.  The checkout clerk at the giant grocery store we go to doesn’t care if I can chat with her, and most of the folks we talk to frequently are either native English speakers or are fluent enough to make no difference.  I’m entirely spoiled as an expat and I damn well know it.

So this past weekend worked and stretched my limited Japanese skills.  Saturday morning was almost miserable, but by the time we were heading through the airport I was cheerfully mangling the language as needed.  I regret not being able to read all the signs and learning all the stories from our travels, but there’s always next time.  This trip was amazing.  We made some memories, we found some of our roots, and at least I got a fresh view of where I want to go in the future.

And if anyone wants to send me some kabosu marmalade or candied peels or hot sauce or something, I’d be super okay with that…

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Kabosu. So delicious!

Inspiring

I get stuck.  Like any author, I get stuck hard sometimes, usually at the halfway point of my book, then again at just before the climax.  It’s a real problem because even if I’ve got a solid idea of what needs to happen, it’s like I can’t see the road between here and there.

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Photo credit: Drew Coffman on VisualHunt / CC BY

 

So I was a little stalled out getting the bad guy dealt with in my current work.  I mean, I went through a ton of different ideas: having Caroline sneak into his office and confront him.  Having The Gang go into a massive battle against a troop of minions.  Having a convenient meteor fall on the dude’s head.  Really, I went through a ton of terrible ideas that left me flat and uninspired.

So… I ignored it and hoped that inspiration would magically strike me in a bolt from the heavens because ignoring a problem always makes it go away, right?  I played some video games with The Boy.  I read a ton of stuff from Kindle Unlimited, mostly outside of the UF genre (Although I did read an amusing one about vampires versus mummified zombies.  Good times.) I went out to dinner with some friends.

And that’s what saved me.  I mentioned that I was stuck on the idea of the Stealth Badass (you know, the hero that seems completely harmless but turns out to be 150% more qualified to handle the problem. Think Danny Ocean or Kenshin.) and the reason was because I was trying to figure out how to beat a bad guy.  And my friend Jordan, blessings upon him, started asking questions and just saying stuff with a shrug and a face like he thought he was saying something dumb and obvious.

I had to scramble to get my notebook out and get all the genius down on paper before I forgot it all.  I nearly left dinner early so I could get back to my laptop.

So, now I have the bad guy beaten, my heroine saved the day and learned a lesson or two (maybe) and I’m feeling just a little smug about it all.  Sure, there’s still lots of editing and revising to do on this, but I feel more confident about it than I have in a while.  I really hope you all enjoy it when it’s ready to be released into the wild, because thanks to Jordan, I’m feeling really happy with these people and can’t wait to spend a little more time with them in their world.

And that’s the best possible scenario of all for a writer.

I never even noticed

I was going to write about my Writer Goals for this year here, but I have to put it off a week.  You see, I went to a museum exhibit with my family last week, and it gave me a few things to think about that I wasn’t expecting.  Let me back up.

As you are no doubt aware, anime is a big thing.  I’ve been watching anime since before I even knew what it was.  Mostly things about determined warriors trying to save the world or the universe of the princess, or all three at once.  I did watch Sailor Moon, though, I won’t lie.  Basically, there was one thing that threaded them all together for me: the fight of good against evil.

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Sakura, looking at her own poster, from the exhibit.

Well, Cardcaptor Sakura wasn’t one of the shows I watched.  I probably would have if it had been on TV, but I didn’t even encounter it until much later, and honestly never watched it until The Boy saw it on Netflix and decided it was his new favorite.  The basic premise is that Sakura accidentally releases a pack of magical cards, each one capable of wreaking considerable havoc.  In order to clean up her mess she has to go out and find— and capture— all the cards.

Even still, it was just another magical girl adventure to me, though the fact that she was in elementary school was a bit of a new twist to me,  and I didn’t pay much attention to Sakura or her friends as they rounded up errant Clow Cards and solved problems.

Until I went to the exhibit and right at the front of the exhibit— before the fun projection movie we sat through with the cute mascot character, and well before the room full of extremely well made costumes to reflect Sakura’s nearly infinite wardrobe or the original manga artwork— it was pointed out that there was no villain in the show.

I was staggered.  Four years of manga issues, 70 episodes of an animated TV show, and there wasn’t a bad guy to defeat.  Sakura and her friends were fighting battles near constantly it seemed, much like any other show of this sort, but once I started thinking about it I realized that was accurate.  Her job was to collect the stray cards by counteracting their powers.  There are rivals on occasion, and definitely a few life-risking challenges, but mostly there are allies and friends and once I started thinking about the episodes I’ve seen, she’s basically a Disney Princess, making friends with everyone she meets through the power of kindness and positivity.

It’s a reasonably long-running urban fantasy adventure story with no evil force actively working against our hero.  She’s garnered fans around the world, and the amount of merchandise and books sold and art inspired by the characters is just stunning, and I’m humbled and inspired by the whole idea.

And now I have a goal to get my characters their own museum exhibit someday.  So maybe there’s a writer’s goal for you this week after all.

Already?

Welp, it’s New Year’s Eve as I write this, and there is SO MUCH cleaning and getting ready to do. I have a few resolutions, but I think I’ll consider them a bit and write about them next time.  Today, I’ve got my family around me, and a whole new country to experience for this holiday.  Today is for staying close to home and family.  Tomorrow we’re heading to Kamakura to explore a bit and celebrate a whole new year.

So until next week– year– I’ll just say that I hope that you find health, contentment, and lots of great books in 2019.  Happy new year!

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Care and feeding

man-dark-silhouetteI am, as you have no doubt figured by now, rather more of an introvert than anything.  Finding some peace and quiet to sit with a good book and a cup of coffee is a pretty much a life goal.  My husband, on the other hand, is an extrovert.  As much as he loves hanging out at home, he actually starts getting twitchy if he doesn’t get to marinate in the wildly swirling energy of a group of people.  Needless to say, Tokyo is a good place for him.

The only real trouble is that he’s caught between wanting to do what I need him to do for my own mental health (take our son off for a few hours so I can have some peace and quiet at home, turn the TV down fairly low, that sort of thing,) and honestly not understanding what I need.  To him, going out with a large group and spending hours talking and eating and going to karaoke 7is as necessary as breathing.  To me… well I like a few hours of that, but it’s exhausting beyond words after a while.  I’m pretty classic.  I need alone time to recover from being social, with fairly few exceptions.

So the other night we went out to celebrate two friends’ birthdays.  It was a wonderful day that was half spent just us as a family, wandering around and seeing the sights as we slowly made our way to the restaurant we were meeting everyone at.  Once there, we had a fun, slightly odd meal of almost all pies, and they wrapped up while I wrangled The Boy.  On the train home there was a flurry of texting, then silence, then more texting.  The Boy and I were ready to get home and crawl into bed, but my husband? He wanted to go back, meet everyone for karaoke at another station not far from us.

So, in a park in Tokyo, on a warm autumn evening, I had to call him to task.  It was an entertaining conversation that never quite reached the argument stage, where I told him to go.  Go play with his friends, sing loud songs about giant robots and argue about whose turn it is next.  He wanted to stay with us, go through the whole bath-and-bed routine with our son.  Watch whatever recorded on the DVR that day.  He wanted to take care of us and make sure we weren’t left out, even though he reeeeeally wanted to go out and play with his friends, and I wanted to go home and take a long bath.

I feel for him.  It’s hard, not understanding at such a visceral level what makes someone else tick.  I don’t see the appeal, myself, of karaoke.  Or of loud restaurants and spending hours at an arcade with the flashing lights and overwhelming noise.  But my husband does.  He thrives on it.  And I love him, so I send him off.  And he tries to understand the other side of that coin, to help me get the time I need, but I think that ultimately it’s much easier for an introvert to send someone away than it is for an extrovert to leave someone behind.

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Photo credit: Bennilover via Visual hunt / CC BY-ND

Blog post goes here

I’m wiped out, you guys.  I apologize.  I spent last week pretending that I wasn’t sick, then the weekend was The Boy’s birthday.  We went, shockingly enough, to Akihabara.  The Boy wanted to go to the Gundam Cafe (giant robots, you guys.  They’re multi-generational.)

Well, we went, but it seems that so did half of Tokyo.  There was some kind of Pokemon Go thing happening as well, and it was a holiday weekend, and there was a sale at the infamous Yodobashi Camera, and basically, it was a perfect storm of overstimulation and Thoe Boy made it clear that he was Done.

Honestly?  So were the rest of us.

We never made it to dinner and we spent the rest of the holiday weekend crashed out on the sofa watching tv and not really moving much.  I kinda did the same again today, and still feel fairly drained.  I’ve been doing some revisions, and I made dinner, and that’s about it, so no acceptably geeky or writerly post today.  If you are really jonesing for something new to read, there’s a short story posted for Patrons!  Otherwise, I beg your pardon and your patience, and I promise to do better by you next week.dog-sleeping-resting-rest-canine-tired-sleepy

Influenced

You are no doubt shocked to learn that I am pretty heavily influenced by Japanese folk tales in my writing.  Yes, I’m a longtime anime fan, but well before I discovered the joys of giant robots and magical girls, I knew Hokusai and Fukurokuju.  My grandparents had, in my father’s lifetime, lived in Japan for a while and brought home with them not just art for the walls, but the songs Dad learned in Kindergarten and everyday household stuff like cups and jewelry boxes.

F43A050A-8531-452F-9E7B-10AF557D1A63 (1)So it should come as little surprise that I’ve got an eye for evidence of the more old-fashioned stories in my new hometown, and this weekend I was surrounded by them.  The Boy and I walked over to Skytree Tower last week, using a park as a less congested route, and came across a series of murals.  There were men being confronted by yokai, a woman being murdered, critters dancing under the moon that I am guessing were tanuki…

The Boy?  He was not so impressed.  There were no giant robots or rocket ships in any of the murals.  I feel like I’m failing him, but he’s definitely his father’s son, so I’ll take it.  I took photos of the text that accompanied each picture so that my husband could tell me the stories, but we haven’t gotten that far yet so I’m still free to make things up.  What story should I think of next?

Summer

Holy balls it’s hot here, you guys.  Like, melt into a puddle the moment you step foot outside hot.  Even the hallways in the apartment building are hot and they’re theoretically air conditioned.  It’s get your errands done early in the day hot.  It’s carry an insulated bag for your milk hot.  It’s so hot nobody even wants to wear their skin let alone clothes hot.  And it’s not just the temperature that’s got everyone sweating.  It’s so humid that stepping outside feels like wearing a damp wool bag over your whole body.  It’s so humid that the laundry takes forever to dry on the line.  It’s an itchy, prickly, sticky, soupy heat.

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My kakigouri was lemon, but The Boy prefers melon flavor.

That said, there are ways around it.  You can stay in your apartment with the AC on and play video games (or write!) all day.  The only trouble is that you start to feel a little stir crazy after a bit— especially with an active 8 year old boy involved!  If you can survive the walk, head to a mall or a shopping arcade of some sort.  Always pleasantly air conditioned there’s usually enough to do to spend a few hours.  We could try to figure out how to get to a beach of some sort, but wed have to go buy swimsuits first, and then get on the train for a while, and… well.

So instead we’re settling for a combination of the two above options, with a few others thrown in.  The Boy has developed an instant love of kakigouri and melon soda, and I can’t blame him.  There’s always ice cream, as well.  We each have folding fans we carry around, and can I tell you how much I love my new parasol?  Love.

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Finished setting up!  Now’s the calm before the crowds…

There are benefits to summer, though.  Fireworks and summer festivals and the abundance of produce at the shop across the street.  I enjoy the sound of the cicadas in the odd quiet moment, though I know they drive some folks crazy.  I do wish we had a little space to grew some plants, but then, we do have a small balcony and now a potted rosemary, so we may be closer to a container gardener life than I’d thought.

It’s hot, sure, but I’m finding that I’m enjoying the season anyway.  At the risk of melting every time we go out, I still like to walk to the market and see what’s there, and discovering what’s going on at the park we walk through to get there.  You never know when you’ll find a festival, and where there’s a festival, there’s probably kakigouri.

Life, large and small

14949202534_bacd339174_bI had a blog post all written out but when I looked at it this morning, I kind of hated it.  So I scrapped it and here we are. Post-less and out of ideas first thing on Monday morning.  Ah well.

If you’re following my Facebook or my Instagram, you’ll have seen some of our adventures this weekend.  We got out and about and played, and left our son’s backpack on the train, and got the bag back with everything but his Nintendo Switch.  We had some amazing food, saw some awesome people, and I still have some photos left to post later this week

I got to practice my terrible Japanese a little, which is honestly pretty surprising.  I’m one of that terribly self-conscious sort of people who don’t want to sound like an idiot in any language, and when it’s a language you don’t know well… Well.  But my husband’s friend is super cool and I felt pretty comfortable to try my limited Japanese on her, and in return, she used her somewhat less limited English on me.  We both had beers and honestly, it was kind of perfect.  I hope we get to hang out some more soon.

When we got home last night, we were getting ready for bed, and my husband made a comment about how he can tell that I’m really here now.  When I asked him what he meant, he pointed to the small desk he was standing next to and pointed.

“I’ve never been so happy to see coffee rings,” he said.  I, naturally, threw a pillow at him, but honestly?  I love you too, sweetheart. And I’ll start using a coaster, thanks.

 

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Coffee rings are a symbol of love.  I think.   Photo credit: roger.karlsson on Visual hunt / CC BY