Five things that might make you fall in love with Japan
Guest Post by Nina Schuyler
As an addition to the Book Blog Tour that was organized for The TRANSLATOR by Nina Schuyler, the author wrote a Guest Post for our readers about her experience in Japan.
When I was young, my dad traveled a lot to Japan for business. I was ten-years-old, when I first visited, and everything, absolutely everything, was different and interesting and memorable. From the food to the houses with walls made from paper, to the Shinto shrines and swarms of people who politely rode the trains. Enamored with the country, I went back another four times, studied Japanese at college and have written two novels, The Painting and The Translator, that take the reader to Japan. Here are a few fine things that might make you fall in love with the country.
Little Warm Hand Towels: At almost every Japanese restaurant, café or pub, the moment you sit down, you’re handed a little, warm hand towel to wash your hands before you eat. I didn’t think I’d miss such a thing, but I do! Yes, it cleans your hands, but it’s also this indulgent transition from the bustle of the day to the delicious Japanese food in front of you.
Every Possible Flavor of Kit Kat: It becomes a sort of game: what sort of flavor will I find in this town? Yes, I’m talking about the candy, but in Japan, you can buy them in all sorts of odd flavors: grilled potato, green tea, wasabi, apple vinegar, red bean, cherry blossom, white peach, red bean paste. My favorite? Green tea, and I confess, I never tried French salt.
Japanese Baths: When I visit Japan, I stay at friends’ houses, and the traditional home has a wonderful hot-tub-like bath. It looks like a wood rain barrel, and after first showering, you step into the barrel, the water up to your chin. A sort of warm water massage. The more modern homes have baths that are operated by a control panel (usually located in the kitchen). The bath fills up to a specified level, stays at a constant temperature, and plays a song when the bath is ready.
Super Safe: Any country, where a woman can travel alone, safely, happily, should be touted. Yes, Japan has its crime, but I’ve always felt safe, traveling alone, moving through busy, crowded Tokyo, and quieter Kyoto and Kurashiki and Hiroshima. Everywhere, the people are amazingly friendly and helpful. Once, I couldn’t find my train, and a woman shut down her shop at the train station and led me to the right platform.
Vending Machines: Everywhere you go, you’ll find vending machines, even perched in people’s front yards. Need an umbrella? No problem. Look for a vending machine. The machines sell books, toothpaste, condoms, cameras, underwear, beer, hot and cold drinks (in the same machine). I read in Japan, there’s one machine for every 23 people.
I’d love to hear what you love about Japan. What do you miss?
About the Author
Nina Schuyler’s first novel, The Painting, (Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill, 2004), was a finalist for the Northern California Book Awards. It was also selected by the San Francisco Chronicle as one of the Best Books of 2004, and dubbed a “fearless debut” by MSNBC and a “great debut” by the Rocky M ountain News. It’s been translated into Chinese, Portuguese, and Serbian.
Her short story, “The Bob Society,” was nominated for a Pushcart Prize. Her poems, short stories and essays have appeared in ZYZZYVA, Santa Clara Review, Fugue, The Meadowland Review, The Battered Suitcase, and other literary journals. She reviews fiction for The Rumpus and The Children’s Book Review. She’s fiction editor at Able Muse.
She attended Stanford University for her undergraduate degree, earned a law degree at Hastings College of the Law and an MFA in fiction with an emphasis on poetry at San Francisco State University. She currently teaches creative writing at the University of San Francisco.