Tsuki Magazine Takes You Inside Japan

It’s got stunning photography capturing the quiet beauty of everyday life in Japan. It’s got thought-provoking interviews on race relations and self-publishing. It’s got engrossing Japan-themed fiction and nonfiction including my very first published story!

If you’re really interested in life in Japan, and not just the tourist traps they show you in Lonely Planet, this is a magazine you need to read. Click here to read a free sample. I think I can safely say after reading the debut issue that it was a huge success. A big thank you goes to Caroline Josephine, the mastermind behind it all. I’m ecstatic to be included in the magazine along with my fellow bloggers and photographers Loco of Loco in Yokohama, Joanne Yu, Our Man in Abiko, J.C Greenway of Ten Minutes Hate and Made in DNA. I hope to see and be included in many more issues to come.

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Below is a sample from my story. Head over to Tsuki Magazine to read the rest. Get your copy here!

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An officer and an interpreter waited on Anna with typical Japanese courtesy, standing silently but alert at the side of her hospital bed. The officer had a pen poised over a notebook. The interpreter stared at her with his bushy, dark eyebrows raised in expectation. Anna stared dumbly at a limp curtain (that should have been white but wasn’t quite), bunched up at the corner of the empty hospital bed across from hers as she tried to shake free the details of the night before. They’d settled like potatoes in the sluggish stew of her brain. She could hear nurses talking in Japanese in the hallway outside her room, and though she usually tuned out at the sound of a language she could barely understand, today their chatter distracted her. The gash in her arm stung and itched, tight and uncomfortable under the gauze with the stitches pulling it closed. She knew there would be a bad scar, and hoped it wouldn’t screw up her chances of getting modeling gigs in the future.

Focus, Anna focus. She closed her eyes and breathed deep, smelling the harsh cleanliness of antiseptic chemicals. She started her recollection with what she remembered most clearly: The blood, running down her arm first in one thin stream, then a little red river, breaking off into branches when it overflowed. It was like looking at one of those artsy pictures where everything is in black in white, except one thing that’s a really bright colour – a red balloon, a yellow scarf, something like that. No, she didn’t scream. She couldn’t feel the knife slicing into her. She only knew she’d been badly cut because she could see it, and the eruption of blood splitting into three streams snaking down her arm, dripping off her elbow onto the road. She was too mesmerized to scream. Yeah, she probably was in shock. It hurt like a bitch after though.

The officer and interpreter chatted for a few seconds in fast Japanese, until finally the interpreter turned his dark eyes on her and asked, “Please tell it from the beginning.”

* * *

It had been a hot night. Though the sun was asleep it was still unreasonably sticky out, and Anna knew there were embarrassing sweat stains on the back of her blouse. She was making the long, boring walk from the station to her apartment. She remembered being impressed that she was halfway home and hadn’t had to dodge anyone coming at her on a bicycle yet, or stop at the side of one of Tokyo’s narrow roads for a car to roll by. No looking at her shoes or the flowers in the front yard of a house or something, to avoid eye contact with the driver. Then, she’d stupidly thought it was good luck.

She was closing in on the intersection where she would turn for the home stretch to her place, when she saw the first person she’d seen on the back roads all night – which was strange to be honest, ‘cause there are a ton of apartments and houses in the area. She couldn’t tell if it were a man or a woman. All she could make out was that whoever it was wore one of those hospital masks people here strap onto their faces when they’re sick, or is it trying not to get sick? Anyway, it stood out, bright white against the person’s black coat, black hair and the blackness of the night.  Anna had wondered how on Earth this person could stand wearing that long, dark coat in the heat. Yes, she could respect the dedication to fashion, but it was one of those nights where it’s so humid the air is tangible, and you just can’t seem to get enough oxygen no matter how deep you breathe.

Anna turned left at the intersection and the other person turned as well, and ended up walking behind her. Soon, Anna noticed the coat-wearer was practically on her heels. She could hear breathing – slow loud inhales and exhales like someone meditating, or maybe trying to supress their rage. She sped up, thinking maybe the person was agitated because she was in their way or something, even though they were the only people on the road and he or she could have easily gone around Anna. However, she shrugged it off as a “Japanese” thing, like passing someone on the road might come off as rude, but when she began to walk faster the person matched her pace. That was when Anna realized she was nervous.

Why is this dude right under me like this? She had decided it was a man. Oh God, maybe he’s some kind of crazy person who hates foreigners, or – shit – is he gonna try to rape me or something? Dammit where is everyone?

She remembered hearing that rapists look for women who seem like “victims”, and that they don’t want to risk being identified. Maybe it was unwise, but she turned and faced the strange person.

 

Golden Week 2012: What Happened in Hiroshima?

Oh, the stories I have to tell about Hiroshima!

I flew instead of taking the bullet train because as crazy as it sounds it was cheaper. I booked the flight like three months in advance so I got huge discount. I was met at the airport by a friend who lives in Hiroshima and her ma and sister, and just like that we were off.

We went to the famous Hiroshima peace memorial park and museum first. I was warned that it would be depressing, but it was heartbreaking. Near the end of the museum tour are images of the damage done by the A-bomb: people with burns and melted skin and the sickness that came after. But the most shocking thing to me was a series of letters from the mayor of Hiroshima to the president of the United States asking them to stop nuclear testing. There were letters as recent as January 2012. The whole experience was pretty sobering. Depressing yes, but something that I felt I shouldn’t overlook…not that I plan to launch any nuclear missiles anytime soon but who knows, it may one day be an issue I, or anyone who has visited the museum needs to vote on, so I think seeing the complete devastation and decimation caused by nuclear warfare is important.

But I also wanted to have some fun in Hiroshima. The A-bomb’s not all the place is famous for. Some of you may know I was dying to go there to see this magnificence up close and personal. See how majestic it is? How beautiful? How red? The next day, when I woke up at my friend’s place and we piled into the car with her ma to catch the ferry to Miyajima, I was a little disappointed because it was cloudy and rainy. Damn, this crappy lighting will mess up all my pictures. I thought. But the mountaintops were covered in this swirling, silvery fog, and it gave the area a kind of a cool, mysterious atmosphere. I kept pointing it out and my friend and her ma kept laughing at my city-girl enthusiasm. There’re no misty mountaintops in Tokyo.

Cool.

We got to the ferry terminal and her ma paid for all our tickets including mine, even though I protested. We got on the ferry and it slowly puttered to Miyajima. The scenery was beautiful, foggy green mountains all round us, the rolling see underneath us, and then I saw it – the torii! And it looked…like…THIS!

Somebody up there hates me

What the… the rain wasn’t enough? Murphy, you and that law of yours got some ‘splainin to do. I felt my lower lip tremble a little while my friend and her ma tried to soothe me with soft, regretful zannens (that’s too bad). But I’m tough, and it’ll take more than a torii under renovation to break me.

Itsukushima shrine must be beautiful in good weather, because even with the grayness and dampness it was still gorgeous. Finally, some good pictures!

The best part of the trip up to Miyajima was getting to devour some Hiroshima okonomiyaki.  The place we went to was small, family run, and the okonomiyaki was goooood. There was one old woman behind the counter who was just staring at me, mesmerized by my use of chopsticks. It was great entertainment for her and I could just hear the commentary in her head:

Oh it looks like she’s struggling on that one piece, is she gonna do it? Oh the cheese is really gooey maybe she won’t be able to cut through it. Is she…yes…she did it! Sugoooi!

Oishikatta

We went back to the house shortly after that, where I took the elevator (!) up to my swanky room and passed out from the sneezing I had been doing all day. Did I forget to mention I was having an extreme hay fever attack as well?

After my nap my friend’s dad came home and I was finally able to meet him. He took us all out to dinner at a really fancy, traditional Japanese restaurant. As we sat in our private room with soft shamisen music playing over the speakers I thought wow, all this for little old me?

The first course was an elaborately decorated sashimi plate. Here look at it, tell me that’s not some elaborate decoration.

Yep there’s a lobster tail and some seashells on there, even a fresh crab. So fresh that as the waitress was bringing the plate in the crab rolled off and tried to make a break for it. My feet went up off the floor and under me so fast. My friend’s ma squealed even as she picked the crab up by one of its legs and it struggled weakly. The waitress was all apologizing and bowing, but by the way she speedily took the crab away, I think it must happen a lot. I think he was chopped up into a soup we had later. Anyway, after that with every course I sent a silent prayer – please, nothing alive.

See, this family has been very kind to be, taking me into their home and such. I couldn’t insult them by refusing to eat something “yucky” at dinner. Even though I’ve been in Japan for over a year I haven’t been that adventurous with food, mostly only eating the basics like sushi, sashimi and curry. But no matter what kind of “Fear Factor” like weirdness they brought out, (you remember that show? Where people had to eat bull testicles and living bugs and alladat?) I was determined to at least try to get it down.  Luckily not only was everything dead, but for the most part delicious. The only think I didn’t care for was sea urchin. Imagine what it might be like to eat a pair of musty, sweaty old socks, and you’re close to what it tastes like.

My favourite course was the Hiroshima beef above. It was so soft and juicy and…and beefy…*drool*.  I would go back to Hiroshima just for that.

It came out sizzling on the plate, like high-class korean BBQ.

Despite the rain and the renovations, I had a great time in Hiroshima, but even Hiroshima beef couldn’t keep me away from the wonders of Kyoto.

To be continued…