A great sorrow
March 25, 2011
It's been two weeks since a quake and tsunami devastated the eastern coast of Tohoku, and yet it already feels like it happened some time in the distant past. Our beloved Japan took such a brutal hit, only to be followed by a nuclear scare that is still unresolved. It left many of us numb as we tracked down friends and family to make sure they were safe. For days, we talked about how Chin Music Press should respond to all this, but nothing felt right. Giving money is fine, but it didn't seem like enough.
I'm one of many Americans who has had my whole adult life shaped by Japan. I went there on a whim in 1985, looking to escape the young Republicans and the inevitable life of a junk bond trader. Now those young Republicans have grown up and are trying to take over Wisconsin. I, on the other hand, run a rarely profitable small press in rainy Seattle that publishes works in translation. Thank you, Japan. I drive a 13-year-old Toyota Sienna minivan whose brakes have never once stuck to the floor mat. Thank you again. And Iím married to Yuko, who I met in Tokyo, and raise three bicultural children with her. A very big thank you, Japan.
I owe so much to Japan. It helps me pay my mortgage, makes my life richer culturally and probably keeps me from getting fat.
The Western media reports, when they stick to the facts, have been informative. When they try to wrap up the people of Japan in a nice understandable bundle, they miss the mark. The Japanese I know arenít all stoic. Some whine more than a three-year-old in need of a nap. They arenít all resigned to their fates Ė some of the most dedicated activists Iíve ever met are Japanese. And they donít all trust authority. Oscar Wilde once said, ďThe whole of Japan is a pure invention.Ē He must have been watching Fox and CNN. Bill Maher recently said that Americans have an uncanny knack for making everything about themselves. Drink your iodine, California.
It wonít mean much to those who walk the halls of power in Kasumigaseki (although we know for a fact that Prime Minister Naoto Kan owns a copy of Curing Japanís America Addiction
), but I hope it means something to our Japanese (and Japanophile) friends that despite this ridiculous economic downturn, Chin Music Press is dedicated to telling the stories of modern Japan, no matter how quirky, offbeat, or in this case, sad, they may be. Weíll be here long after Scott Walker is run off as a Reagan wannabe; weíll be scraping together enough money for one more literary translation or insiderís report because, Japan, we owe you at least that much.
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As a Japanese born living in the U.S. for a lot more than half of my life, I came to realize that there are more people who "know more about Japan" than I do. And also many who think " they know." I found both types to be difficult to work with. The ones that I am friends are who accepted me as an individual.