Friday, April 11, 2014

J is for (Modern) Japanese Stories

Today's keeper book doesn't exactly start with the letter "J" but it's close enough. The only other "J"book I have is Holly Schindler's The Junction of Sunshine and Lucky, which I've recently posted about here. (It's a good post--Holly shared her top 12 tips for writing Middle Grade fiction. Please visit!) So in order to not repeat myself,  Modern Japanese Stories, an Anthology edited by Ivan Morris and illustrated with 25 full-page woodcuts will have to fill-in today.

I bought the book in Southern California at a tiny Japanese mall where I had lunch one afternoon. The bookstore next to the restaurant was a cool, dark space decorated with fluttering cotton flags and carrying rows and rows of books printed in Japanese. The books themselves intrigued me with their rice paper pages, plain but colorful fabric-textured covers, and the way they fit into my hands with a lovely, balanced weight. Holding one was like handling a scented melon, warm and satisfying between my palms. Unfortunately, I couldn't read a single word of any of the text! The shop owner could sense my dilemma, and kindly pointed me toward a small shelf of books in English. Modern Japanese Stories caught my eye. Just like the rest of the books in the store, it had that same weight and size I found so appealing. I bought the book right away and started to read it that night.

I wasn't disappointed. Over the years I've read it many, many times and have developed quite a fascination with all things Japanese. I've since read a large number of both modern and early Japanese novels; watched Japanese films whenever possible; studied Japanese ceramics, which have been a huge influence on my own ceramic work; and last year for National Poetry Month I went so far as to write and illustrate a Japanese-inspired art journal I titled "30 Days of Kimono." I wrote a blog post about it here, and created a Pinterest board for the project as well. The journal/sketchbook turned out to be so interesting I'm still adding to it, this time exploring the world of the Geisha.

One day I hope to go to Japan. My husband has been there five (!) times for business, but I was never able to accompany him. He assures me that downtown Tokyo is nothing like my romantic vision of a quiet mountain inn complete with our own private tea garden and a view of cherry blossoms in the snow. I don't care--I want to see Tokyo too! Both places are on my bucket list. In the meantime, I'm happy to re-read Modern Japanese Stories and dream.


KAT Writer said...

That is amazing that a single book could take you on such a journey of discovery. I'm going to have to find this book for a friend of mine who likes all things Japanese as well. Including the pottery. There is a pottery market there where she bought a ton of great pieces. Hopefully you can find it when you visit.

Valerie Storey said...

Appreciate you stopping by, thanks for visiting! Books are indeed journeys of discovery, I can't imagine a world without them. Same for pottery markets!