Ever since my first trip to Japan at age 13, the culture has had a deep hold on me. The delicate, old houses; the serene ponds with tiny bridges; the gorgeous pottery ... it's all too perfect! I've been learning Japanese since 2001, and I particularly love decoding kanji, the Chinese characters used in Japanese writing.
On several occasions, I've spoken on PRI's radio program "The World in Words" about my Japan-related passions.
My love of kanji has led to three major writing projects: Joy o' Kanji, my book Crazy for Kanji: A Student's Guide to the Wonderful World of Japanese Characters, and my blog Kanji Curiosity. There's more about all my kanji writing on the Kanji page of this site.
My other Japan-related writing has appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle, AsianWeek, Japanophile, the East Bay Monthly, the East Bay Express, Hyde Park Review of Books, Rain Taxi Review of Books, Persimmon, Bright Lights Film Journal, Ameridreams, NACLA: Report on the Americas, and the Jewish Magazine.
Have a Listen!
On three occasions, I've spoken about Japan-related topics on PRI's program "The World in Words," hosted by Patrick Cox.
- April 27, 2010: I spoke about five unusual Japanese expressions. My segment goes from 19:05 to the end of the podcast, filling nearly nine minutes.
- March 4, 2009: I spoke at length about my love of kanji, as well as my undying passion for author Haruki Murakami. My part goes from 10:14 to 22:15.
- November 2008: I did a very short Geo Quiz. The World in Words did an A-Z of the elections in two parts. My segment happened at the letter O (O for Obama), 5 or 6 minutes into the N–Z podcast. Red Room later selected that as "Best Podcast."
- Novel Writing as a Balancing Act
This Q&A with novelist Todd Shimoda appeared on the Chin Music Press blog. Shimoda and I discussed the creative process behind his novel Oh! A Mystery of Mono No Aware.
- Novelist Todd Shimoda Discusses New Book and Japan
This piece appeared in AsianWeek. It's a different Q&A with Shimoda about Japanese culture and about his latest work, Oh! A Mystery of Mono No Aware.
For more Japan-related writing, see:
- The Diagnosis: Japan Through the Eyes of Kenzaburo Oe
After hearing Oe speak at the University of California, Berkeley, I was inspired to write about this Nobelist in Literature for Japanophile.
- Japanese-Peruvians: Reviled and Respected
My friendship with a Japanese-Peruvian made me curious about how the Japanese ended up in Peru. I explain that and much more in this piece, which first appeared in NACLA and was then reprinted in Japanophile.
- If a Jew Ran for President: A Cautionary Tale from Peru
While researching Japanese-Peruvians, I contemplated intriguing parallels between that group and American Jews. My essay on the topic appeared in the Jewish Magazine.
- Dis-Orientation: Japan from a Western Viewpoint in Topsy-Turvy and the Mikado
This piece first appeared in Japanophile as "'Topsy-Turvy' Leaves Japanophiles Disoriented." It has now found a permanent home on the Bright Lights Film Journal website. That's where this link will take you.
- General Interest, where the March 2010 "Family" article is about a cherry blossom festival featuring taiko drumming and mochi pounding.
- Book Reviews, where I've reviewed six books set in Japan: Losing Kei by Suzanne Kamata, Midori by Moonlight by Wendy Nelson Tokunaga, Out by Natsuo Kirino, The Inland Sea by Donald Richie, The Donald Richie Reader, and Native American in the Land of the Shogun by Frederik L. Schodt.
- On Food, for reviews of Cha-Ya, a vegetarian Japanese restaurant, and Grasshopper, a Japan-inspired small-plates venue.
- Profiles, for my profiles of Japanese-American TV news reporter Robert Handa and Stone Bridge Press founder Peter Goodman. The article about festival founders includes a segment on the Japanese moon-viewing festival.