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Reading

~Chinese / 中文
《平如美棠》饶平如

~Japanese / 日本語
「女のいない男たち」村上春樹
「職業は武装解除」瀬谷ルミ子

~English
"Notes on Democracy" Arundhati Roy

~Korean / 한국어
《그렇습니까? 기린입니다》박민규
《소나기》 황순원

~Finished / 読了 / 已读
「コンビニ人間」村田沙耶香
"Factory Girls" Lesley Chang
"Your Republic is Calling You" Kim Young-ha
「色彩を持たない多崎つくると彼の巡礼の年」村上春樹
《裸命》陈冠中
"River Town" Peter Hessler
"Oracle Bones" Peter Hessler
"Country Driving" Peter Hessler
「カンガルー日和」村上春樹
「こころ」夏目漱石
「火の鳥9」 手塚治虫
《呐喊》鲁迅
《娃》莫言
《朋友》余华
"Inside the Kingdom" Robert Lacey
《活着》余华
"A Room of One's Own" Virginia Woolf
「羊をめぐる冒険」村上春樹
《阿Q正传》鲁迅
《倾城之恋 》张爱玲
《茉莉香片》张爱玲
《金锁记》张爱玲
「深夜特急」(2)沢木耕太郎
「1973年のピンボール」 村上春樹
"One Foot In Eden" Ron Rash
「双子の星」宮沢賢治

Eating soba in Mitsuse with my host family

On August 20, my host parents picked me up from Tenjin in downtown Fukuoka and we went to the mountains at Mitsuse. When I studied at Kyushu University in 2009-2010, I didn’t live with a host family, but I had host parents named Shinobu and Yoshinori with whom I met regularly, and we explored in and around Fukuoka together. Shinobu, my host mother, picked me up and we dropped by the house to meet Yoshinori. She gave me a copy of “Hinotori No. 9”, a 1967 manga by a favorite author of her’s named Tezuka Osamu 手塚治虫.

We drove out of the city into the Kyushu countryside, which is brilliantly green and full of mountains and mist. We passed clusters of squat houses and factories in a broad plain, then climbed a winding road into the hills. We passed under a web of overpasses in the mountains climbing up a long valley, and started down the other side. We stopped for soba noodles in Mitsuse. Soba is the local specialty. I ate a hot bowl of farm-raised chicken soup with soba, and we discussed my coming trip to China. My host parents love China and visited years ago. Perhaps they will come see me in Shanghai?

It was two years since I had seen them last. My host mom joked that she had turned into an old lady. Her main business is still making hats, but she has broadened into “remaking” kimono into Western dresses. Kimono are quite expensive in Japan, and few people wear or even know how to wear them. The custom of wearing Western clothes saturated Japan about 100 years ago, so today its difficult to find a place for traditional dress. Kimono can be rented for special occasions, as a real kimono is not likely to get much more wear than a tuxedo or wedding dress. My host mom hopes the remade dresses would sell in America. Who knows?

Two years ago, when I left Fukuoka, it was my host mom who said, “From now on you’ll see how Japanese will change your life.” With two more years of Japanese, I came back and experienced Japan at a depth I’d only imagined. Perhaps the myth that Japanese and Japan are impenetrable to “Westerners” lurked somewhere in my mind, but I was buoyed by my teacher’s creed, “Culture doesn’t ask for your passport.” Perhaps I needed to prove this to myself. In any case, I was elated when a friend said, “If I only close my eyes, you’re a Japanese.” I felt a sublime happiness in speaking freely in a language that hadn’t saturated the years after my birth, and the greatest happiness in deepening the bonds between myself and my friends, teachers, and host family. If I may land on a distant shore and feel at home in my heart, where cannot I find happiness? The world is full of friends, and I am small.

Kieran

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1 Comment

  1. […] via Nagasaki by boat. I spent about five days in Fukuoka meeting old friends, teachers, and my host family. (I also wrote a post about the temple of the Great […]

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Kieran Maynard

Kieran Maynard

Writer, translator, researcher, traveler specializing in Japanese and Chinese literature.

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