Kansai Scene Essay

Rising to the challenge


In 1994, I attended an exhibition of Heian period art at the Kyoto National Museum,  celebrating the 1200th anniversary of the founding of Heian Kyo. Scrolls of strange creatures swimming in shimmering seas and magnificent Chinese temples, eleven headed buddhas and Fudo Myoo deities surrounded me, contrasting  with the sun, surf and monotonous Spanish tract architecture of southern California, my place of birth. From that day on, this fascination with the Heian world sustained me in my work on a novel、“A Thousand Years of Love”、which took four years to complete.


When completing articles for “The Japan Times” and various magazines and newspapers here in Japan and abroad, I’d think, “Allright, I’ve climbed Mt. Hakusan and Tateyama, now it’s time to conquer Mt. Fuji!”


“A Thousand Years of Love” was my “Mt. Fuji.”J


As I found myself at the bottom, looking up to the clouds, I wondered where to start? Looking back, I marvel at the audacity of trying to take on such a project.


Nevertheless, I put on my hiking boots, packed my obento, and began the ascent, sustained by my experience at the museum. yosh!


So much to carry! My research materials consisted of academic writings in English, dissertations, academic material in Japanese, children’s’ books in Japanese, magazines, copies of ancient scrolls, and so on. I also went to different temples, shrines, and festivals in Kyoto and Nara and took videos.


Along the way, I employed several comrades to lighten my load, helping with translation. After a few years of research, I felt I had the basic plot laid out. I had reached the “fifth station,” of Mt. Fuji.


Hugging and puffing, I struggled along, getting to know my characters, writing and rewriting, changing the patterns of  kimonos, the colors, and the sexual orientation of the Chinese divination master from straight to gayJ


What would Genji have thought?


I continued to climb, enjoying the ethereal air, as I mingled among the aristocracy. The Dragon Woman, lover of the poetry of Li Ho and fire, Yoryusen, the androgynous Valentino of the palace (and object of affection for the divination master), Kaishi, “child of the sea”, searching for the remains of the grave of her mother, ( and secretly longing for her half brother Yoryusen) and so on…


What would Sei Shonagon have thought, with her acidic tongue?


Probably, “how dare thisgaijin write about the affairs of the palace?”  throwing her pillow book at me!


I flew to Tokyo on some other business, and met a past life recaller, introduced to me by a friend. She stared at me intensely, sitting in her 10th floor mansion, saying “I see Kaga and one million bushels of rice. You were a princess in a past life.” She then bowed, low enough to convince even Sei and Genji.


I hadn’t said a word to her about my novel.


At last I was finished. I had reached the eighth station of Fuji!


It was now time to send it out to publishers, which I did, about sixty of them.


“The premise is interesting but…”


“Thanks so much for your interest, but we feel at this time…”


and my favorite,


“I’d like to see a moreZen like approach.”


I was determined, however, not to let all my hard work tumble down in a rockslide of wasted effort. I ended up self publishing, releasing my book in March of this year.


Yes, it was very hard work, but the satisfaction of standing “above the clouds,” has lifted me to new heights as a writer. I look forward to scaling more peaks in the future.


  Available until 7/1 at: Avanti Book Center, Tel: 682-5031(Book signing-Sat, June 5th, 3-4pm.); Ashiya Books, 5th floor of Kintetsu Dept. Store, (both behind Kyoto Stn.); Maruzen Books in Kawaramachi;Osaka:Junkudo Books in Abanza Bldg, and Junkudo, Nishinomiya station. Online: http://www.trafford.com/robots/03-1713.html and Amazon.com

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