I’ve got quite a few subscribers to my blog who aren’t following me on other social media thingies, so I wanted to post a little update.
Aside from my podcast (Uncanny Japan), I have this other side hustle I’m very passionate about. That is, digging up obscure Japanese folktales, translating, retelling/reimagining them, and then recording them with cool background music. They are offered as one of the rewards for my 5$ and up Patrons.
It occurred to me, though, recently that if you weren’t a Patron, you’d have no idea what a Bedtime Story sounded like. So my Tech Guy and I decided to do one for free. This is the PG-rated version of “The Melon Princess”. The R-rated version (much more flay-y) will be available to my Patrons.
My job is the stories. I do all that mentioned above. But the audio editing, the super nitty gritty stuff that makes it sound so cool is my Tech Guy, Rich Pav. Then there is the background music, haunting and beautiful. That would be courtesy of my son, Julyan Matsuura.
If you have a few moments and some earbuds or headphones, pop those puppies in and lie down on a sofa or nearby bed, get comfortable and listen to me tell you the story of “The Melon Princess and the Heavenly Demon”.
The podcast episode that explains what the heavenly demon (amanojaku) is, is right here.
Well, hello there, 2018! You really snuck up on me.
I just sat down and re-read last year’s New Year’s blog post and had a hearty chuckle. I might have grimaced and winced a couple times, probably wiped away a few tears. There I was sure that the previous year (2016) was so insanely tumultuous and difficult that the coming year (this past one) could only get better. I jumped in ready to batten down the proverbial hatches and wait until some some much needed (dare I say, deserved?) calm seas appeared. Yeah. That didn’t happen. And I kid you not when I say the cray-cray that went down this past year to me personally was completely separate from all political news and state-of-the-world absurdness going on.
So, 2017 wasn’t all bad, actually. Some truly amazing things happened and I’ll get to those in a second. But first…
A super quick rundown: It’s January first and I’m sitting here in a two-room apartment in front of a nice monitor (finally!), a mechanical keyboard (never knew such magic existed!) and staring at a small tank full of minnows (They love me and I’m training them. Shut up.) and I’m thinking I’m doing okay, despite it all, I’m a *special* kind of happy. Last year, I had to make what was probably the toughest decision of my life. I can’t really get into the details here, just know it was many, many years brewing and all that time while I was turning over my options, there was never any this-is-the-right-choice moments. Or there were and I just kept missing them. Think: boiling frog analogy, I guess. It’s hard to listen to your heart when you’re sure you’re going mad and nothing sounds or feels sane.
For a very long time, it was easy *not* to make a choice. But I realized that ‘not making a choice’ *is* making a choice (someone very wise told me that *nods at C.M.*). And that ‘not making a choice’ (in my case) was lazy, dangerous, and just plain weak.
So I made the decision. There were consequences. Big ones. Payoffs. I lost (for the time being) virtually all of my writing time, for one. I’m in a two-bedroom apartment, for two. There are other things, but let’s skip all the dramatic and gory details and let me tell you about what good occurred because I did the difficult thing.
1) Sanity is returning, slowly albeit. It feels like I’m learning how to be a real person all over again. And that’s a positive thing.
2) I am no longer dependent on anyone financially. This is a deep down feel-good that I never expected would, well, feel so good. Yay, me!
3) I have monitor, keyboard, and also affectionate minnows(*), my own space, and that *special* kind of happy.
In April I did a reading from my new book in Kobe.
A few other biggies that happened as a result of me taking action when so long I’d remained paralyzed and wishy-washy and afraid:
In February my second collection of stories was published by Independent Legions Press. It’s called The Carp-Faced Boy and Other Tales, and this time I went complete horror, which was fun and challenging and something I want to explore more.
Paperbacksandpugs Tweeted the most adorable Tweet about The Carp-Faced Boy.
I also started a monthly podcast that has just celebrated its one-year anniversary. This was an entirely new endeavor and scary in its own right. Take into consideration that up until very recently I didn’t speak English, except maybe once a week to my parents, for years and years, like almost twenty. I could feel my synapses fizzling out and my brain shrinking. I was able to write, but my verbal story-telling ability was fast disappearing. It’s still not back, but I think I’m getting better. The podcast was a way to try and nip that cerebral decline in the bud as well as a way to introduce people to the Japan I love via a different medium. There are people who read books. There are people who listen to podcasts. Sometimes they’re the same people. Sometimes, they’re not. So I did a bit of hustling and with the help of a friend who knows a whole lot more than I do, I started Uncanny Japan. I even trended for awhile on an app for Trending Podcasts. Which basically means I got a heap of subscribers and answer lots of emails.
I made myself a home studio.
Around that time, I discovered Patreon and made a page there where, again, I could possibly reach like-minded people and tell them a story and teach them something odd and/or creepy about Japan that they didn’t know before. Over the past year, 26 people have become Patrons of mine, and I adore each and every one of them. I want to have a house party and invite them all over, feed them exotic Japanese foods, ply them with expensive sake and introduce them to my minnows…only a I’m a little short on room right now. One of these days! For the time being, these wonderful people make me want to work harder. Do better.
One super tough thing that happened in 2017 was that I needed to procure a full-time job. I don’t know about stars aligning and the Magic 8-Ball declaring ‘Signs point to yes!’, but dagnubbit (!) I was taken on at an adorable and wonderful English school where I couldn’t be happier. Think Totoro and magical cabin in the woods. The time thing I gotta work out myself. But the atmosphere, the students, and my bosses are all fantastic. I really couldn’t have landed in a better place.
In some ways it feels like I survived 2017 by the skin of my teeth, that I’m clumsily juggling too many things, and that I’m always not doing enough. In other ways, it feels like I hustled my ass off and got busy and stayed creative and hopeful when I could easily have shut down and turned off.
Life is by no means perfect. There are still dragons in dem 2018 waters (Oh, how I love mixing my metaphors!).
Time management is a must. Now that I don’t have big blocks of time to write, I need to be able to switch on and off from project to project at will. This has been proving extremely difficult for me. This is one of my top three dragons that must be slayed. Or caged. Or tamed. Or, crap, just get him to organize my hours and days and weeks for me.
Second dragon is health and fitness. I lost a good deal of weight and was walking an hour or more a day two years ago. This year with my new schedule and (again) my less-than-capable skills of planning spiffy routines, I’ve put a good deal of weight back on, and no walking. That beast needs to go down this year. Down, I tell you. And maybe I’ll burn some calories while I wrestle him. With time as valuable as it is and me really wanting to start (again) and finish (for real) my novel, I need to figure this one out.
Dragon Three is writing. Gotta ride this puppy. I’ve got a novel started, and an agent asking where they hell is it? To the depths of my very soul I want to finish this novel. 2018, I’m looking at you.
So that’s me. I’m not about New Year’s resolutions so much. I’m more about winged monsters with scales and fiery breath trying to take me out (Or help me out. Seriously. I’m all over the place up here.) and what I can do to overcome them or work with them, or…you get the picture.
How about you? What are your goals, dreams, thoughts for/about 2018?
Whatever they are, I hope the dreams come true, the goals are achieved, and the thoughts are, well, thunk.
This is me wishing you all a wonderful and Happy New Year!
(*) Affectionate Minnows is the name of my new band.
My November Uncanny Japan podcast was about goro awase (語呂合わせ), a kind of Japanese, number word play. I give a few examples there and thought I was done with the topic when yesterday during every single one of my classes I heard the elementary school students ask kids from other schools if they had been given a free package of katsuo bushi – (kastuo bushi is dried and smoked tuna flakes. My town is kinda famous for producing them).
Anyway, I finally asked what was up with that. Why would they be given a package of dried tuna flakes? And why would ALL the elementary schools be giving them out?
The answer I got was brilliant.
The kids told me that it was November 24 (11. 24) or “ii fushi” Day. “Ii” meaning good and “fushi” sounding somewhat like katsuo bushi.
That got me thinking about the post I did on Facebook about how November 22 (11. 22) is considered “ii fufu” Day, which is “Happy Married Douples’ Day”, I guess. Since November is 11, and 11 is one one or ii in Japanese, meaning good, I figured there have got to be a whole bunch of other interesting play-on-words days this month.
Here are a few of the keepers:
11.8 Good Teeth Day – ii ha いい歯
11.9 Good Ventilation Day – ii ku (ki) いい空気 (kuki meaning air)
11.10 Good Toilet Day – ii to (ire) いいトイレ
11.12 Good Skin Day – ii hi fu いい皮膚
11.26 Good Bath Day – ii fu ro いい風呂
11.27 Good Carp Day – ii fu na いい鮒
11.29 Good Meat Day – ii ni ku いい肉
I know it’s the end of the month so we’ve missed a lot of these. There are only a couple more days left, but I notice I’m writing this on Good Bath Day. So go one, take yourself a nice, long and good bath. Tomorrow you may thoroughly enjoy some carp and then two days after that appreciate meat on the 29th.
Ever since I got back from the States in early September, it seems like I’ve refashioned myself into a kind of plate spinner, albeit a somewhat neurotic plate spinner. So as a reminder to myself and a heads up to anyone interested in what’s going on in my life, here is a bullet point list of the larger saucers currently twirling precariously above my head.
Uncanny Japan is my very own — and still very green — podcast. It’s short at 10-15 minutes and comes out on the 15th-ish of every month. You can find it on the website (Uncanny Japan) and on iTunes. I’ve even heard it’s up in other places for Android. I don’t know how all that works, if they picked it up or what. Seriously. I told you I’m green. But the content is fun and weird and dare I say, uncanny. I’m enjoying it so much I figure I’m bound to get better. And, hey, if you listen now, you can later say, “I knew her when…”.
Here’s the elevator pitch:
“Uncanny Japan explores all that is weird from old Japan. Strange superstitions, and old wives tales, cultural oddities, and interesting language quirks. These are little treasures I dig up while doing research for my writing.”
It’s 100% free. Give it a listen and tell your friends. Also, if you have any thoughts, opinions, or ideas for the podcast, let me know. This is very much a wok in progress.
The monthly support I get from Patreon will go toward both my podcasts and my writing. I think I have some neat rewards available, especially for anyone interested in Japan and its culture.
One example is that for only $5.00/month and up I will send you a recording of a Bedtime Story. This is me retelling and very often reimagining an old Japanese folktale. I’m searching out the more obscure ones, so it will more than likely be a story you’ve never heard before. There are also some other neat rewards at the higher levels, too. So if you’re curious about that sort of thing, give that a gander right here.
Here you will find stories about a carp-faced boy, a dancing monkey with magical powers, and a creepy theremin player with a secret, just to name a few.
I’m going to write a post very soon as a kind of companion to the book. A little insider information, if you will. I’m also going to podcast about some of the stranger things I discovered while researching the stories. So if you’re interested in my freaky, Japanese-themed tales, please look here.
Wew! So there you have it. Those are my biggies. While there are quite a few other plates in various stages of rotation, I’ll keep this post short and limit it three. I’ll get to those other saucers later.
Everyone take care. Stay sane. Do something nice for yourself today.
It’s kind of true. I go for an early morning walk roughly the same time every day. For a month or so now when I get to a certain point on that walk, I come across this crow sitting on top of a huge mound of dirt. Since I have nothing better to do, I talk to it. “Hey there. What’s up? You going to warn me if an earthquake is coming?”
Sometimes it just stares at me like I’m an idiot. Sometimes it cocks its little crow head. (…Like I’m an idiot.)
I walk on.
This had been going on for awhile, and he wasn’t there all the time — like once every four or five walks. And no real conversation had taken place yet either. But I’m nothing if not an aspiring optimist. So I kept trying.
Then one day I was actually talking on Skype with a friend when I passed the dirt mountain. Despite the fact I was prattling away and had earbuds in, I heard this loud cawing nearby. I popped out an earbud and to my surprise the crow was sitting there, bobbing his head, and making a fuss.
I was so excited! He’s talking to me!
My interpretation: He was upset because I hadn’t given him proper morning greetings that day.
Suffice it to say, it was from that day onward that I was convinced I could converse with crows. Or I could with some practice. It would take time. But him and I? We had a connection!
Now fast forward to yesterday. I was walking my walk, but my regular crow was absent. No hurt feelings here. He’s got a life, too. But farther along I spotted three crows hanging out by some rice fields and a small stream. I did what anyone would do in that situation. I stopped a little distance away and started chatting them up. “Hey, I see there are three of you. Friends? Come here often?”
To my surprise they all seem really interested in what I had to say. I mean, they weren’t flying away. So I kept talking, letting them know I get them. I understand. Meanwhile, the whole time I’m thinking holy cow (!) I’m really doing this. I’m like the crow whisperer or something!
I step closer, closer. They’re still not flying away. They’re still hugely interested in what I’m saying. Now I’m thinking I’m some kind of crow linguist savant. Maybe I can write a book. Or star in a TV show. Something pu tout by National Geographic or the Animal Channel.
Talk. Talk. Talk.
Step. Step. Step.
This could be my THING!
Just when my conversation is getting a little more complex, and I’m trying to explain the Brexit vote to them and why they should be worried, I take one more step. I’m right up on them.
They caw and hop-fly a little distance away. What did I say? Come on?
Then I see why they were so reluctant to leave in the first place. Why they put up with my inane chattering.
*Warning: Photo of dead aquatic animal below.*
Yup. Someone had (maybe them?) caught an eel and tossed it up on to that concrete thing. It wasn’t necessarily my witty banter that kept them from fleeing. It was a delicious breakfast.
Which made me sad and then made me remember my original crow, the one that hangs out on the dirt mound. Maybe he’s really not into me. Maybe it’s not into my winning personality or my sparkling charm at all. Maybe there are just a whole bunch of juicy worms buried in that humongous dirt mountain, and he’s just guarding them … from me.
But I’m nothing if not an aspiring optimist, so I remember that day he called out to me when I passed without addressing him. That happened! Maybe it’s not that I *can’t* converse with crows. It’s just I’m getting the vocabulary wrong. I’m still convinced he was trying to tell me something. Perhaps it wasn’t, “Hey, you didn’t say hi this morning.” It could have been, “Big juicy worm! RIGHT HERE! You should see this!”
So not a real conversation…yet. But I’ll take it. It’s a start.