I've run out of steam and it doesn't help when I think I'm likely writing this blog to no one but myself.
Yesterday the JASV had its first symposium - Discover Japan - at Saint Michael's College. It was a whole day affair beginning at 10 a.m. and ending at 4 p.m. There was a good turnout in spite of the beautiful weather. The seven guest speakers all showed up well prepared with interesting speeches. Aside from giving my own speech I acted as MC. That was a tough job. I was totally uncomfortable when I had to let a speaker know he or she had run out of time.
I've run out of steam and it doesn't help when I think I'm likely writing this blog to no one but myself.
Sunday Toshi and I took a trip to Glens Falls, New York, for the Chronicle Book Fair. This was my second year. I shared a table with Shelagh Shapiro whose radio program "Write the Book" I was interviewed on. We both sold some books but not as many as either of us would have liked (though better than selling none!). It was fun to meet people I'd met last year and to hear good things about my book.
As the weather gets cold and it's gray outside it is the perfect time to curl up with a good book. Enjoy!
Hello again everyone. It's been a while. I hope good health has you within its wings. I've been up and down.
This summer has been as beastly in its own way as last winter was in its. I hardly dare to imagine what this coming winter will be like. I'm still pecking away at my memoir(s) of my years in Japan. Some days I wonder if I'll ever finish it. In truth, it's close to the end. I think I may be stalling because I dread trying to find a publisher for it.
After a long hiatus, I'm going to be out selling my book. I'll be at the Chronicle Book Fair in Glens Falls, NY on November 8th from 11:00 to 3:00. If you're in the neighborhood, drop in. We'd love to see you. I'll be sharing a table with Shelagh Shapiro, fellow Vermont author and host of radio program Write the Book. I'm looking forward to an especially pleasant day.
As I don't have an air conditioner here, I can't last much longer and it's only 9:30 in the morning.
Stay cool and keep on turning those paper pages.
Geez! It's been so long since I've written a new post that I can't even remember how to do it. I guess I've got it now. Yes, we've been to Japan and back. This was our first trip in two and a half years, and it was a strikingly different one from usual. Normally, we stay in a hotel in Kyoto, and that remains our base throughout our stay. This time we stayed in Ricky's new small apartment in Osaka Prefecture. Our base location was so far from Kyoto that it cramped my social activities. May was unseasonably hot. After trekking to and from Kyoto a few times I decided that I would not contact some of my friends after all. People who work would not have been able to get together until the evening. I couldn't face a 90 minute trip "home" after dinner. Since I hadn't warned anyone that I'd be visiting no one's feelings were hurt. At least I hope they weren't! We had many plans when we arrived but only accomplished a small part of them. My severe back pain made everything difficult and slowed us down. We did see a Takigi Noh performance - Noh performed outdoors by torchlight. Interestingly, one of my old neighbors and friend has been making Noh masks as a hobby for about 10 years. When she and several other friends got together with Toshi and Ricky and me for lunch, she brought along two of her wonderful masks to show us. She's a very talented artist and they looked professional. They're carved from wood and then painted.
We had many delicious meals - something we always look forward to when we visit. We also visited a very large temple complex we'd never visited before - Myoshinji. One of the sub-temples had several beautiful gardens.
The trip was perhaps not as productive as usual but we got to spend a lot of time with Ricky.
I'm suffering badly from jet lag. When I can't sleep I've been reading about witches and vampires.
The JASV's Matsuri '15 has come and gone. It's hard to believe after preparing for six months that it's over so quickly. Of course, there are still many loose ends to tie up, but soon it will all be a memory until we begin preparations for 2017. Thankfully, that's 1 1/2 years away. Many people have expressed regrets that we don't present the event every year. My response has been that we don't have the money or the volunteers to support an annual Matsuri.
Thanks to the help of my Danish friend Elizabeth, who is a member of the JASV, I was able to display everything I'd hoped to. And thanks to a younger member, Piotr, I had someone diligently keeping an on eye on my exhibit when I needed to take a bathroom break or chat with someone. He was rather shocked to see so many people touching things even though there were signs saying "DO NOT TOUCH" right in front of them. It never ceases to amaze me no matter how many times I set up exhibits. I can understand young children touching since they don't know any better: but adults touching I just don't understand.
Well, I'm rambling and should get into bed with my Elizabeth Peters' mystery.
Sadly, dragging my various paraphernalia - books, signs, easel and framed LIFE Magazine article about my mother from 1960 - to the South Burlington Community Library for an author fair last night seems to have been the proverbial straw that broke this camel's back. I'd been suffering and going for PT for awhile but it feels like any progress I made has now been negated. Of course, it wasn't just yesterday's schlepping. I'd spent the day before trying to set up my display items in a practice run for the exhibit I'm preparing on Japanese containers for Sunday's Matsuri. I was up and down the stairs carrying things too many times to count.
Like many or most of the authors last night, I didn't sell any books, but I did have a chance to chat with other interesting authors and visitors. I plugged Matsuri to many people and hope that at least will produce results on Sunday. Perhaps the highlight of the evening was an a cappella performance by the UVM Top Cats. Charming guys with good voices. I was a vocal member of the audience and was singled out to be the recipient of a love song. A young guy with dark sparkling eyes nearly rubbed noses with me as he passionately offered to fly me away. He'd tossed me his jacket, which I caressed with suitable reciprocal passion. I put my arms in the sleeves, lifted them above me and gracefully flapped my wings. The guy was practically sitting on my lap, but as he was a senior I didn't feel like too much of a cradle robber. It was almost overwhelming when he invited the rest of the guys to join him and we were surrounded. It was all in fun and provided an opportunity for this "Kosher Ham" to ham it up. I haven't had a chance to do that for a very long time, and I had lots of fun. Afterwards, several members of the audience told me they loved it. Melissa Pasanen, the food critic and author, took photos which she said she'd send to me.
It kind of reminded me of a true story of my mother's. At the time she was in her late 70's and still living in NYC, one block south of 125th Street, between Broadway and Amsterdam. The sidewalk on the way to the bus stop from her apartment was uneven. She tripped and fell. A neighbor called 911, and until the fire truck arrived this short, redheaded grandmother was left lying on the sidewalk like a beached whale. She closed her eyes and tried to still her wildly beating heart. When she opened them again she looked up and found she was surrounded by a circle of handsome young firefighters towering above her. Looking around she sighed in appreciation, perked up, grinned and said, "All you gorgeous young things. I must have died and gone to Heaven."
Mother's Day is coming soon. Think about your mothers or mother figures or surrogate mothers. Let them know how you feel about them. And if you don't have a gift yet, you can always buy them a copy of my book - a book written by a daughter as a tribute to her own mother.
Seems I've missed the chance to wish most of my Christian friends a Happy Easter. They managed to have beautiful weather without my wishes. The first day of Passover we awoke to a white world. Normally, I find the first falling of snow beautiful. This time I'd had my fill of the cold white stuff. I want spring already! Passover has a few more days to go so I wish all of you who celebrate this festival of freedom happiness and freedom in your own lives as well as freedom and peace throughout the world.
We, especially Toshi, are up to our eyeballs in preparation for the JASV's 17th Matsuri '15 (Visit their website at jasv.org for detailed information.). For my part, I've managed to solicit donations of gift cards from some local businesses to be used as door prizes and such. Aside from selling and signing books I will be setting up a small exhibit highlighting Japanese "Containers." Choosing which to display is fun, but preparing labels and signs is not my favorite pastime.
I hope my exhibit will broaden the world of each person who visits it. Think about what a container is. Likely, the first thing that comes to your mind is a milk container, or plastic Tupperware, or maybe the large steel shipping containers that we often see being transported on trains, planes and big rigs. But in between there's a whole world of containers of all sizes and materials - bamboo, glass, wood, clay, fabric, metal, paper and so on. Stretch your mind a bit and think about the myriad of other containers in our lives. Hint: An envelope is a container for a letter. The Japanese have fascinating containers. Many of them are art whether superbly decorated or left plain for us to admire the material from which they were made and the skill of the creator.
If you're in the area on April 19th and can come to Matsuri, you and your family will have a wonderful time and learn a lot about Japan at the same time. Don't forget to come over to my "corner" and introduce yourself. We've had visitors come to Matsuri from all the surrounding states and sometimes from even farther away.
Time for me to get some work done. Happy reading.
I think this will end up being the winter that broke this camel's back. Age and cold don't seem to mix in my case. I've been hibernating all winter. It just gets worse and worse, with an occasional "warm" day thrown in to keep me from going stark raving mad. My book progresses, though slowly.
Our son Ricky is on the verge of returning to Japan. We will become empty nesters again. It's best for all of us, particularly Ricky, but it's still hard to take.
We were invited to the home of friends from the JASV last weekend for a wonderful dinner of sauerbraten with all the fixings. Toshi had thought he remembered where they lived, but we ended up driving the streets with light snow falling for thirty minutes before we decided we'd have to find someone to ask directions. Toshi would ask me the name of a road we were passing and I'd say, "I can't see." By the time we were close enough for me to possibly make out the name, we zoomed by it too quickly for me to read. I don't see well at night and I don't think my long distance glasses are very effective even in broad daylight. Once we turned off the main road we ended up in a maze of roads with houses that looked alike in the dark. To make matters worse, the maze had one-way streets which prevented us from making our way out to the main road again.
We finally did escape with me saying I'd never trust Toshi's confidence again when it came to directions. We would henceforth carry at least a phone number and address, preferably a gps as well. On the main road once more I saw a gas station with a small shop. "We're asking if they have a phone book." I said. The very nice Asian woman at the cash register showed me a business directory. I explained that I needed a residential one. She handed me another business directory. I explained our problem. "Oh, our boss knows everything!" she said with firm faith in the man.
We went over to his office and found a very nice man eager to be of help to us. We finally established that he actually knew our friends. He thought he even knew the road they lived on. But to be safe, he called information. The operator asked for the address. Our savior said we weren't sure. More waiting. She wanted the number, "That's what we want." he replied. He was looking for the street number, but he was given the phone number. Unfortunately, the number was no longer in use. "Come, I'll drive you to Larry's house." And he did—right to their driveway. Turned out that John was a really nice politician who's up for reelection. We wish him well.
L. and S. had called our house to ask Ricky if we'd left late. Poor Ricky was afraid we'd been in an accident and said maybe he should go out looking for us. We all were relieved when we arrived safely. It turns out that they no longer own a land line so there's no way of looking them up. We are the opposite. We don't own a cell phone.
After the delicious meal, S. gave me a book she'd picked up second hand, Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet. It was published in 2009. I really enjoyed it as she had. It tells the story of the evacuation and internment of Japanese and Japanese Americans living in Seattle during World War II through the eyes of a young Chinese American whose father is rabidly anti-Japanese. A very unique perspective. I highly recommend it.
I'm off to eat brunch.
Nearly one month of 2015 has passed. It's been a bitter cold winter so far here in Vermont. I don't want the polar bears to lose their ice, but hope for it to warm up in our neck of the woods. If I had wings I'd fly south. Aside from any other things standing in the way of becoming snow birds (money being prime), Toshi, who is thoroughly dedicated to his unpaid job as president of JASV, says we can't disappear for part of the year as long as he's president. I swear he spends more time on his volunteer job than he did on his paid one.
The board, spearheaded by Toshi, is already neck deep in preparations for Matsuri, the huge, biennial festival the JASV presents at St. Michael's College in Colchester, Vermont. This year the date is set for April 19th. It suddenly seems to be approaching quickly.
I'm still hard at work on my Japanese memoir. It's now close to 600 pages long. Most are double spaced, but that's still a lot. Editing it is the next challenge, though it's far from the last job. Submitting it to a publisher is something I'm already dreading though I'm not anywhere near that stage yet.
Time to get dressed and eat something.
Take advantage of the cold weather to curl up with a good book. Happy reading.
Sorry I haven't been blogging. Thanksgiving passed, Chanukah, my birthday and Christmas passed. And suddenly, like magic, we are in a new year. I hope it will be a good one for us all—filled with good health. Dare I hope for world peace? How about baby steps towards it? As long as we keep heading forward rather than back.
I'm still busy at work on my memoir of my years in Japan. It's quite a difficult job choosing what to include and what to leave out and how to arrange it all. I'm hoping I'll be able to sell it to an editor once its finished. Even if I had the money, I can't imagine tackling self-publishing again (despite the beautiful book that is the fruit of my labor).
My husband Toshi is already busy with preparations for the Japan-America Society of Vermont's biennial Matsuri (festival) which will take place this year on April 19th. He was busy here and there this year giving lectures and demonstrations about Ikebana, Japanese flower arranging, and Japanese pottery. While continuing with this, his main focus is now Matsuri. It is amazingly complicated with so many participants to organize. It's the JASV's largest activity and is so expensive and time consuming that it can only be done every two years. If you want to know more about it and the JASV go to JASV.org.
Hopefully, I'll be better at writing this year and perhaps some of you will actually write to me. HAPPY NEW YEAR
Hi, I'm Susan Saitoh, author of "Encounter with Japan: An Adventure in Love." I am a baby blogger, taking my first steps. This is my first blog and it's part of my first website. Hope I'll get the hang of it fast.