Category Archives: full of names

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.


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.


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.


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.


Posting Author Cards

ishikawaenglish author.png

If you’re reading my blog for the first time then I would first like to say, Thank You!

Blogging is a great opportunity to talk about life here in Japan and about other things that surprise me. I haven’t been posting many blog articles recently, mainly because of my Daily Video Blog project that posted 315 videos last year (2017).

That was a lot of fun, though it did get in the way of me posting more informative posts I feel at times. Still it was a goal and I did it, which makes me feel good!

So check back soon and see what I’ve posted and thanks again for stopping by. If you are a Japanese reader who got one of my Author Cards thank you even more!

Starting Too Many Projects???

Well it is a challenge to manage time and get as much writing done as I can fit in between the job of teaching English, but somehow my mind was in gear yesterday.

I started outlining for the next installment of Gold River City, a book that will have more chapters than the last. It will be another short story collection and to build up material I have to sit down and do it.

Next up was the first brainstorming sessions for a non-fiction book called Sticker Book. I got a good amount of ideas from the brainstorming which was encouraging. I hope to use this as my NaNoWriMo project, either way I want to finish it as soon as I can.

“Nathan! Come on man you are already working on a current novel aren’t you?”

“Yes, that’s right invisible critic, and I got some of that writing done yesterday too.”

“Well then, good on you.”

Creativity comes in waves, yesterday it was breaking on the beach of my mind and I can say that it made me happy-any time spent building up stuff for the production bank is well worth my time. It is motivational and inspirational.

I even came up with an idea to combine a series of cover titles I had churned out by using them as the outline points of a story I had written extensively but could never get it off the ground. Why couldn’t I? Maybe because the story as a whole is unwieldy, a behemoth of sorts, and braking it down into separate “titles” makes it easier to develop and refine. So, another point for the creative Monday!

It’s raining, but my spirits are far from dampened! Have a great writing day people.

Keep writing.

My Writing: What It Means to Me

Writing has been a habit of mine for a long time. I feel truly thankful for parents who didn’t put me down for creating stories, for making odd ideas into fanciful characters and spending time with my nose in old dictionaries.

My first stories were for school and luckily many of these survived the years, tucked away in boxes in my parents attic. My wife was surprised. I took photographs of all of them, then dumped them so as to free up space.

You did what?!?!

I dumped all of my old writings, but they are taking up a tiny space on my hard drives now. The point is that taking pictures reminded me that I have been writing for a long time, since at least the age of 10. Fast forward 30 years and I have written 5 books and journal-ed extensively. Japan was the game changer in this, if I had not come here, I wouldn’t have become a productive writer.

The author’s 3rd fiction novel.

English isolation breeds the need for reading. I had no TV, internet, computer or even radio when I moved into my first apartment here in Japan. I only got a radio and a typewriter so that will tell you how cheap I was living-but my days were filled with cultural excitement and my nights with the hundreds of books I borrowed from the library a few minutes walk away, or from my friend Jon’s house. Reading lead to writing, the two go hand in hand.

The author’s first novel!

I started writing store scenes in notebooks before and after work at Starbucks. This was back when there was only one Starbucks in my entire city and it was a mixing place for people at all hours. I wrote and wrote, with double espresso in hand, until ideas began to form for a novel. I still haven’t written that novel, but it sparked all kinds of short stories and ideas to flow.

The first year married I wrote a 50 page outline for a novel and hammered out 10 edits with great gusto. I really enjoyed it and that first novel was easy. A common occurrence I later learned for new writers. My next books took longer, but I have enjoyed writing and dreaming ever since.

The Cards
The author’s 2nd novel

I guess what writing really means to me has to do with the best things in life. It’s love, excitement, fun, pro-active and productive. I am not thankful than proud. More rich in understanding than rich in funds. The value is in knowing it is possible to complete something you set out to do. That alone should bring those good things along with it!

The author’s first non-fiction/fiction blended work.

Life is short, I would rather spend mine with the ones I love, writing and teaching my life away. God has been there leading me to write and now, at the edge of really taking off, I feel grateful for all He has shown me in my life to this point.

Keep writing.

You Can Never Go Back, But You Can Polish the Past

Where I used to live in Kanazawa, Japan, was deep in the heart of a residential district of the city. It was a place of old buildings, people and dreams. It was where I found Gold River City, the imaginary representation of Kanazawa city that lives on in my imagination.


The trouble is, when I go back to the same neighborhoods, I am not going back to the same places. My apartment, that I lived in for 3 years, is now completely gone. So much has changed one might get lost on the same streets that were familiar only a decade ago. Only the Sakura shrine remains unchanged, which makes a lot of sense because religious sights rarely get make overs.


But the memories persist in between the cracked stucco and ripped rice paper windows of a city I used to walk through every waking hour of my life. The dreams are still there, the memories, and I will mine them for the diamonds that remain buried. They will shine, because I want them to shine. That is one of the magic things about fiction. It is a highlighter for things reality takes for granted. Things that are probably now long gone.


Fiction is a different world from our own.


Keep writing, remembering and dreaming. It’s what makes you a writer.

My Name is Chance, Last Chance

Ok, so my name is not Chance, but that is the way a writer can feel as they sit looking into the abyss of their own creative force. Wow, well what I meant to communicate was that some stories feel like our last good chance to get it right, to write it right.
This is especially true if you are working through drafts of a novel. You want it to be as good as possible-perfection is a pipe dream-and the thought creeps in on tigers feet that this is your last chance to get it right.
Don’t sweat it folks. Enjoy the experience, do the work and make it impactive. We all face these and the key is to not stress out about them. You won’t live long if stress is at the root of your writing (though you might write faster!).
As I work through a current draft of my 6th book and 4th novel, I get the feeling this could be my last chance. So I banish the thought. Push it out and remind myself that my writing isn’t over, until God pulls me from the shelf. So I will keep hammering out my drafts, publishing my books and smiling.
God is good. He gives us these creative powers to make interesting things, to bring beauty and joy. And the interesting thing about beauty is that it can regenerate with every new situation. Every new bud on the branch.
I hope all of you out there in the blogging world are able to express your ideas. Speak your minds. Open doors and tell stories. Thank you for checking out my blog, I am just a writer trying to make his way, maybe just like you.
Keep writing.

Making Progress

In order to get ahead as a writer you need to work. Obvious I know, but much more important than it sounds. Magic is not in my finger-tips. It just isn’t there and not much walking around is going to help that. My back-side must be in a chair, the words need to come out of the mind, travel down the arms and hammer away on the keys and then I need to look at them and rewrite them once again.

“There is no good writing, except re-writing.”

One of my coworkers said his professor in university said that and it’s true. Ray Bradberry believes in writing with quickness, to avoid the internal narrator, to say what might be the best, fastest, way to get the words out-but even he edits and retypes. Sure the days of the typewriter are mostly gone (I still have three and wish I could use them, but hey they are noisier than my Neo typing pad), but we still print and paint the pages with pen and then rework the text do we not people? Yes, or at least yes I hope you do. Because it is human to make mistakes. Especially in the act of communication.

I was talking about progress wasn’t I, oh yes, well I am do the work and even a page or two is encouraging. I need to see motion or I will not keep up the fight. Tangible progress is that I can see in some form. Downloading the text to the computer (as I said I use a typing pad) is progress. I am saving files and that also means progress.

Posting blog articles, getting my video journal taped, creating book covers for potential future novels, tracking down the pictures of a sticker book I took pictures of this past summer, all is progress because when the wheels are turning it means I am going somewhere useful.

Don’t stand still. Go and do, you’ll feel better even with a little done. People use to see progress when the page hit the desk, computers often make the words fly up into the ether. Print it, kill some trees and free your words. Then use ink and change them, make them better. Say the right things at the right times, and love it all. For if you can do it with love it does matter.

I can feel a bruise on my left side of my head. You know it tells me? That I was doing something and got a bump. When I wake up in the morning and feel my hands a little sore from typing it tells me I was actually working at it.

May you write your dream, so that your dream may live.

Keep writing, please, I beg it of you.