When Foreign Becomes Normal: Reflections on Living in Japan

Where to begin with such a title? As I am American, I guess that is where my story starts. Moving to Japan in 2000 was a life changer.

When you go from a place of long cold winters with brilliant summers and tree covered, well-everything, moving to a new land offers many jarring sights.

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Electric poles stick out into the streets. Not on people’s property-that would be taking up their land. Nope, right in the street where you have to weave and bob around them in traffic. I have become adept at this and now do not even notice when I do it.

Food is fresh. As in you buy the food you are going to eat that day, you eat it, and you go shopping for 15 minutes again the next day. No more buying food for 2 weeks. No more thoughts of, “Why don’t I just go to Burger King and eat a bacon cheese burger?” No, you don’t do that anymore. Well I don’t do that anymore. I eat more vegetables and fish than before. The rice we buy and eat was grown in the prefecture we live.

Every year I go to a health check that costs me the equivalent of $12USD. It includes: barium stomach cancer check, lung cancer x-ray, urinalysis, fecal coliform check, blood pressure, EKG, blood test (cholesterol HDL/LDL, hemoglobin, etc.), height/weight check and a check by a doctor.

I never had, save for kids checks at elementary school, a health check growing up. I am much more likely to go to a doctor here if I think something is wrong-a big difference from my homeland where I avoided doctors because essentially I am cheap and do not have deep pockets.

People marvel at how Japanese live so long. If you could have a doctor tell you what to do every year and just followed 25% of the advice it might add years to ones life. Not to mention the tie in with my second observation about food and its freshness.

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Oops, do you see what is happening here? I am starting to turn this post from an observation of what becomes normal into a comparison between two places and there is always something bad when you do that. Why? Because one side will always be demolished. It’s an unfair thing to compare one country or people against another-unconsciously I was stacking the deck in the Japanese favor. No, Japan is not better than America, just different. So after nearly 20 years what is normal that was not normal before?

I am. I don’t see myself as a foreigner here, even though my face clearly is. After such a long time and coming here relatively young I am a man betwixt nationalities. I relate to Japanese people, but I am not from here. I understand some of what Americans think, but have supplanted it with another set of mistranslated rules.

I have changed as I lived here to the point where I am now comfortable being a resident. Life feels normal in every way, even if I marvel at the different sort of life I am living from the rest of my family. Again not positives, just differences.

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I hope that where ever you may be, you are taking note of the people and things around you. If you are a writer this is an essential point. Observe people, learn and understand them if at all possible. Write it down and relive what you have observed. Pass it on to the next person to savor, to enjoy. Make the normal in your life the extraordinary for others lives. And above all-

Keep writing.

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I’m Getting Off Track

As I’ve mentioned multiple times here on my blog, if I am not posting-I’m usually busy writing. Now that I am posting, well my priority shifts to blogging instead of where I should be, getting the words out for my next novel. How will I balance doing both?

Solution: WordPress Post Scheduling

When I write multiple blog posts in a single day I can post them by using the scheduling tool. This way, if I actually plan out my posts and hammer them out before hand, I can post indefinitely AND keep up my writing as I don’t have to keep thinking,”What am I going to post today?”

The point is-we all need to plan ahead and do a bit of cramming in this life to get where we need to go. I for one am up writing blog posts now at 5:00 am. For the love of posting, for the love of my writing, for my future.

Keep writing.

The “Role” of the Dice

That isn’t a miss spell!

I wrote my short story book Gold River City 100 using a large collection of dice accumulated over the past 5 years. The idea of writing stories first occurred to me after getting a set of Rory’s story dice for use in my English classes. I saw their potential for making stories to be exciting and set about to collect more in order to make a set of short stories with a common theme-the background being Gold River City. A year later, and 100 short stories later, I published Gold River City 100.

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Rory’s Story Dice are the most well known recent imagination dice out there, but there are many others. I got # dice with up to 24, I found odd dice-like one from a Jumanji board game- and sets like Story Dice which I bought off Amazon. Another interesting one was a set by Kerplunk that has days of the week, months, compass directions and continents dice that have been fun to use.

Rolling dice and then thinking up a story was a challenge, but it also meant I could let go and just write. Don’t think about it, make a story and at the end most of the stories turned out pretty good. There was a subconscious thing going on and the dice only helped in giving me invitation to elaborate on what I didn’t even know I was thinking.

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I recommend if you want to try writing with dice you should get a set of either Rory’s original Story Cubes or Story Dice and see if they work for you. Limiting the number of dice you use also makes it easier for some, but you can experiment. The whole idea is to keep writing!

So, keep writing.

Melatonin and Dreams

I am not a person who likes to take any artificial chemicals. My feeling is ibuprofen is a last resort. Yet one minor inconvenience rests on me daily insomnia. I know in part it is due to lower activity levels which mean getting to sleep in a state of awakeness is just harder, but it robs me of being completely at my best. So melatonin is in the cabinet.

I first tried this supplement about 15 years ago and found it worked well-with one interesting side effect. Now, to preface this, I have a vivid dream life that I often remember after waking. There are many dreams I could easily write about, they have stuck with me. When I take melatonin though I remember them very clearly. They are less fragments and more complete impressions. Chalking this up to the hormones properties seems the most likely answer, yet it is still pretty fascinating to me.

Sleep is very important. I am making a concerted effort to get more sleep. This means: no watching videos or surfing the internet at night, not listening to music (unless for the specific reason of sleeping) and making myself as comfortable as possible while going to bed.

I will do my best, for it all ties in with trying to get as much done each day as it possible. Busy bees make honey, so to type.

Keep writing.

Positive or Opposite?

The last week has seen me go from working on my current novel to doing nothing at all on the positive side. What is positive? PROGRESS. Which is to say I wrote, edited or out lined a portion of my novel to make it better. I did not. The desert of my creativity covered the metropolis of my mind with sand. Life took its corrosive toll.

Not one to get depressed, my mind is abstaining from writing today in order to jump in to it on the morrow. If you refuse yourself the writing-you often find you want to. My reverse psychology will be put to the test tomorrow morning as I plan to get up early and get to work. There are other little things in life which need to be done-most of them on the computer-and those will also need knocking out at the same time.

There are enough hours in the day. There is enough time in life to get your dream accomplished. Accumulated actions have far reaching impacts on our lives.

I stand resolute, ready to tackle my mystery novel fresh faced and twinkle eyed.

Keep writing, it’s what I’m doing too!

Using the Past in Your Writing: The Paradox of Personal Experience

Sticky Subject.

You have an idea, it involves you and actual people in the actual world. There is a compelling line of thought in it, but on the one hand you hesitate. Personal experience? Should I actually talk about what really happened?

The world we live in, this great swath of personal happenings, should not be ignored. I know there will be authors, people who think they know better, that will tell you to avoid using personal things in your writing. You can hurt others feelings, you can broach dangerous topics that could harm your reputation, you could anger family. NO, YOU MUST USE IMAGINATION TO CREATE A WORK THAT IS ORIGINAL. Sorry, that just isn’t what many authors have done in their own fiction.

I think leaving family out of it might be a good idea, after all angering those you love is not wise. On the other side of the coin is the fact life can be many shades you can use to highlight issues in family life without directly making it look like you are talking about them. In other words, use your personal experiences with the masking and manipulation of your fiction.

I found this the case in my latest book Gas Station. I wrote the first draft pretty much as a non-fiction book. After redrafting it a second time I found if I shift character names, make events more interesting than they actually were in life, continue to add detail to the atmosphere while referencing the time frame in which the book was happening, the book became more exciting and readable.

What does this mean? It means that real life is often a lot more mundane, or boring, than we like to admit. Fiction shouldn’t be either so it is up to the author to impact the reading through the tricks and tweaks that make a story take off running though the fields of other peoples imaginations. I couldn’t have written a book about my experiences at a gas station in Maine at the end of the 90’s if I couldn’t have added things that made the book better. I don’t have a memory like that, though a fair bit of the book is, at its heart, truth.

Why put the book up on Amazon as fiction? Aren’t you fibbing when you embellish, alter things in such a story? Hey, it’s MY story. If you think everyone writes the truth (or should right the truth all the time) then literature would be a lot more boring than it now is. It is essentially why I put the book up as fiction, though there is much reality with it. If I say it is fiction it is. Opens up a new world for you maybe to think that way, but there you have it. You are in command of what you write, you are the one who decides to use what is within you. All we as readers ask is that you write it in the most entertaining, exciting, funny, white knuckle joy ride that you possibly can.

I want you, and me too, to keep writing as much as we can. Personal experience is a good way to show the world little pieces of who you are. The world needs you. You’re special stories are waiting to be read.

Keep writing, even if it is about yourself.

Earthquake in Osaka

I felt it. I actually felt it this time. I was sitting at my computer working on lesson reports for my school, around 8 in the morning, when I thought I was moving my chair more than usual. Then I noticed the computer desk was swaying and stood up, turned on the TV 30 seconds later it was the big news. At 7:59 a magnitude 5.9 hit the Osaka area with a shaking intensity of 6-which translates to very shaky. Japan uses two ways to measure a quake, Magnitude and Shaking intensity. The later makes a big difference in the impact to buildings and roads.

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As of present I have seen reports of 3 dead and 61 injured. This number will probably rise as the true impact is made known. One street had a sink hole with water gushing out, another place an old building caught fire, a water aqueduct pipe on a bridge separated and gushed water. 170,000 homes were left without power.

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My wife seemed tired of the news. Earthquakes used to be very regular and their impact was just a local consequence. Now when there is a little quake the news dogs on with the same images over and over. To me it’s sensationalism on the media’s part. They want us to keep watching the TV.

Tragedies happen and I am sad to see Osaka have a quake at any time. I rather fancy the sassy people and fun atmosphere. I hope the impact will be low scale and recovery quick.

People are resilient beings, especially here where the earth had a habit of moving.

Keep writing.