Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Stuff and "Japan-related" Stuff

Home
I had the best trip home at the end of May/Start of June, and it worked out perfectly since I was at my new job for one week before going so, I pretty much had time to just get an idea of what it would be like (good, I think) but didn't have the usual crazy mad dash to get stuff done before leaving or the clean up/catch up upon return. That meant that I could enjoy my trip without even a fleeting thought about work. Nice! Seeing my nephew graduate from high school was definitely a highlight - I know I sound old to say this, but truly it's amazing how grown up he is. My family was awesome, making sure that I got to see and do and eat a lot, even the touristy stuff that I love.

"Japan-related" stuff
I laugh when I think about "Japan-related" stuff because that was how a lot of us described the kind of job/career we wanted when leaving Japan after three years, thinking we had the world by the balls with our snazzy little degrees (not knowing that many of us - me included - majored something completely useless) backed by such a "worldly" experience and that a "Japan-related" job would just be handed to us upon re-entry to the United States. Needless to say, that didn't really work out for most of us. Still, for the first year or two back from Japan, I was going through reverse culture shock and missed Japan and everything about it terribly. I still have some of that, like not wearing my shoes, owning several small Japan size spoons for coffee, making occasional trips to the Asian grocery for "comfort foods" that remind me of Japan, and most of all dreaming that if I ever won the lottery I'd build a house that had a Japan room complete with the sliding doors, the huge closets to store futons, tatami flooring, a kotatsu (table with heater under it that you put a special quilt over - cozy!), and even a tokonoma (an alcove) where I'd keep beautiful flowers. As the years have gone by and I've settled back into my "real" life here at home in the US of Ah, I've pined less and less for my life in Japan.

Until I started reading Sujata Massey's books.

Tom found one of her books, "Zen Attitude," somewhere and brought it home thinking I might like it because it was "Japan-related." It sat on a shelf for about a year until I picked it up and brought it with me on my trip home. Since then, I've bought a few more and have a few more on hold at the library because I can't stop reading. I love this series!! Basically, each of the (so far) 9 books are fiction/mysteries about Rei Shimura, a Japanese-American (Japanese dad, American mom) from California who lives in Japan as an antiques dealer (though she starts off as an English teacher) where crime and mystery seems to find her in each book. The stories themselves are really absorbing, the character is interesting as she deals with being partly Japanese while party still a gaijin, but even more than that, I love them because it makes me feel like I am back in Japan because there is so much of the common everyday Japan things that I hadn't thought about in years, from foods to social ettiquette to train lines and even locations I've been to. It's like taking a trip back to my Japan days.

So now I'm obsessed with Japan again almost as much as I was when I first returned. I'm craving Japanese food and even had to go and spend $70 at the Asian grocery a week or two ago (emphasis there is on Japan - almost anything you can imagine, they have it) to stock up. The kaitenzushi (sushi that goes around on a track) restaurant got some of my money last weekend. I was trying to find a picture for a friend of mine, and while doing so I came across my kimono and yukatas (summer kimonos), and now it's got me wondering if I still remember enough from my kimono classes to be able to try wearing it again and tie the obi (sash) into that pillow-looking thing that goes on your back.

Anyway, if you are looking for a good read, especially if you have an interest in Japan, Sujata Massey's books about Rei Shimura have definitely kept me entertained. Here they are (links are from author's page, some with excerpts, some about the book):

The Salaryman's Wife (1997)
Zen Attitude (1998)
The Flower Master (1999)
The Floating Girl (2000)
The Bride's Kimono (2001)
The Samurai's Daughter (2003)
The Pearl Diver (2004)
The Typhoon Lover (2005)
Girl in a Box (expected release sometime in 2006)

Due to the availability wherever I was when I finished one, I wound out reading out of order (the stories are stand-alone, but probably are better in order). I read Zen Attitude, then Samurai's Daughter, then Salaryman's Wife, then Flower Master last week, and currently halfway through The Floating Girl (I'm getting into order, kind of). Each one is delicious so far.

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