Today, my guest blogger is author Jennifer Griffith who wrote Big in Japan (scroll down a few posts to see my review of her awesome book). Her post, directly below, highlights a beautiful trip down memory lane as she conjures up pictures and scenes she came to love while living in Japan. Made me yearn to experience what she did. Take it away, Jennifer!
Many thanks, Elsie, for letting me guest blog today. It’s an honor. And thank you so much for reviewing my novel Big in Japan on Monday! I’m so glad you liked it.
So, I’m thinking back on Japan today, the cool stuff that happened when I lived there. Although I didn’t ever get to see a sumo wrestling match live while there, I did see a few sumo wrestlers in full kimono garb in the train station from time to time in Tokyo. They were huge. And they had an entourage. It’s not something you forget, even after almost 20 years.
Time fades memories (especially after childbirth!), but luckily I took a cue from my Japanese friends and snapped about 50 zillion photos while I was there. Nobody goes anywhere without a camera. I love the pic I have of a lady’s house while she teaches me how to make octopus popovers in a little cast iron popover cooker. They tasted a lot better than you might think. And I love that the word for octopus in Japanese is tako. I’d like a tako, please.
Come to think of it, waaaay too many of my photos were of food. The wheat muffins overflowing out of their pan in our toaster oven because we put in too much baking powder. The breakfast of barbecued squid and sliced cucumbers with a side of Kewpie mayonnaise. The approximation of a zucchini cake we made for a guy on his birthday with cucumbers and spinach instead because we had no zucchini (it’s the consistency of cucumbers and the color of spinach, we reasoned.) The “black egg” my friend from Taiwan offered me.
“Can you eat black egg?” The only logical answer to that question would be, “No.”
Other great photos are of the scenery surrounding the places I lived. The winter night we went to the beach at Tokyo Bay, the Chiba side, and could see the black silhouette of Mt. Fuji against an orange sky across the bay. The hillsides of a mountain orchard covered with apricot blossoms in the spring. The koi-filled moat surrounding the Matsumoto castle, painted white, majestic on its rock foundation and strong as a fortress. The red, flare-roofed Shinto shrine atop the mountain above Nagano—that serves as a mausoleum and butterfly museum.
Of course, people are the best memories. I remember riding my pink mountain bike with my long light brown hair streaming out behind me, and little kids all in a line wearing their matching yellow rainslickers would yell, “Gaijin da!” and point. “It’s a foreigner!” I definitely looked different, but they never made me feel bad about it.
Being there for that time, I really grew to love Japan. After penning novels for a decade or so, I thought it would be fun to take my readers on a virtual trip to Japan, give them a chance to experience the sights, smells, sounds of the cities and countryside, to meet some of the characters, to taste some of the food through a book. In spite of the fact that Big in Japan is a sports novel, it has romantic elements. I hope at least some of the love that readers take away from it is a shared feeling of my love for Japan.