Another One In The Incubator

Well it took me six days to complete, writing an hour or two here, and hour or so there. I just moved to a new city Hikone in Shiga Prefecture, Japan, and as usual am in search of a good place to write. I’ve been strolling around town a couple of times and have yet to find a good espresso but I have been able to get some writing done. It’s just a short piece, a small part of a larger story but also kind of an introduction to one of the main stories I’m working on. Thus I’m in a bit unsure if I want to publish it here quite yet.

In any case it’s just a first draft and not ready as yet. But I’m happy to have pushed through and got the whole thing written start to finish. I started out with some good momentum during my couple of days off work but then had a tiring few days at work. I also wanted to do some Facebooking and start a new book in Japanese but I knew I had to keep my momentum and get the first draft done. I then hit a difficult patch in the story but as I said, I just kept plugging away. And now it’s done. Time to put it in the incubator and set the timer to six weeks a la On Writing.

Oh wait, I should probably type it up on the computer and do a word count. ‘White Mist. Red Evening’ took four days writing and weighed in at 5,389 words. This one took six days though to be fair some of those days I didn’t have time to write much, maybe nothing on some days. Hmmm a working title? Oh I already have one. ‘The True Hero’. Sounds a bit dramatic I suppose. I can’t say much about the main character but the story does involve a dragon.

I also suppose it is about time I checked in on White Mist.

Edit: typed it all up with only minor fixes. 3,634 words. A little lighter than White Mist. Okay, 6 weeks will be about May 29th. See you then.

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In the Snow Country

Sometimes the grass is greener on the other side of the fence and sometimes it’s fine just where you are. More than fine in fact.

I’m currently wintering in snowy Hakuba, Japan, a ski resort village chock full of Aussies. While that in itself is not the best thing for trying to immerse oneself in Japanese culture, it does provide me with a way to make a living and thus able to spend the season honing my snowboarding skills.

When I originally found out that I would be able to extend my visa and thus have plenty of time to spend 3 months of it in a resort town I was excited by the opportunities. I wanted to head to Hakuba as it was a place my friends had been to before and loved. As luck would have it a friend I had met earlier in the year in Nara had an acquaintance who was a manager of one of the hotels in town and there appeared to be work available. It’s good to have connections.

After multiple attempts to get details and confirmation of the job, however, the hotel manager seemed too busy to talk to me and that prospect fell through. I may have missed some vital communication due to the language barrier but I felt like I was being strung along a bit. I decided not to wait any longer hanging my hopes on that job and went back to the internet to attempt to find a job on the ski slopes. That proved to be quite troublesome as all the resort jobs were listed in Japanese and the task of translation was more than a little daunting.

In the end I found an older job advertisement for work in a ski rental shop. I filled out the forms and fired off my resume with photo in hope they were still hiring. One phone interview later I was offered a job and my winter prospects had gone from uncertain to great. I had originally come to Japan to experience its four seasons and what better way to appreciate the winter than in the snow country.

I feel truly fortunate that I’m working in the rental shop. Not only do I get the chance to learn about all the different nuances of ski and snowboarding gear, I pretty much get to take that gear out and try it out on the mountain, every day if I really want to. When I ride the chairlifts and see the workers sitting in their little operator huts or standing in the wind and snow keeping the snow clear of the chairs, I think to myself how lucky I am to be able to work in a nice and warm shop only 5 minutes walk to the chair lift. Life is good.

During the season I got a chance to assist a hotel that was short-staffed for one day. My job involved cleaning the small bathrooms each room had on one of the floors. While it was a new experience for me and even a little enlightening, it certainly wasn’t as fun or as profitable ideas-wise for me as my ski rental job. Had I gotten that first hotel job I would have never have learned all that I have about snowboarding and skis. Hotel work is hard and a little boring I think. Whew, dodged a bullet there.

When things fall through in the first place sometimes they really can end up working out for the better. You just gotta keep riding it out till the end.

Living the dream.

Climbing Mountains

It’s been a long time between posts I know. The worse thing is that is been a similarly long time between writing sessions for me. The problems is that I’m busy haring around Japan, working abominably long hours, taking too many photos that need sorting and backing up and uploading (another thing I’ve been neglecting). Sleeping schedule has gone to pieces too lately as I went late night clubbing in Okinawa, followed a few days later by a 3am jaunt to Tsukiji fish market in Tokyo to see the tuna auctions. Tonight I’m climbing through the wee hours to reach the top of Mount Fuji for the sunrise. Life is so disorganised right now and all I want to do is spend a month relaxing and catching up. I hope the weather is good.

On The Ranch

Well, I came to Japan for an experience and I definitely think I’ve struck gold. It took a while but some ideas finally started flowing. In fact I think I’ve got too many ideas to write about at once; a great problem for a writer to have I guess. I spent about six weeks in Osaka and by the end of that time I was finally getting back into the writing groove. I’d found a cafe with decent espresso to write in and life was finally slowing down enough for me write again.

Unfortunately for the writing but otherwise fortunately, I’ve now up and moved to Aso in Kumamoto Prefecture, Kyushu. I didn’t ever imagine I’d be working on a horse ranch but I am and I’m quite loving it here. Everything is new to me, the people are great, I’m learning Japanese. There’s something satisfying about getting in and doing some physical labour too.

Perhaps the most obvious benefit is that I’m learning about caring for and riding horses.There are horses in fantasy and what better way to learn to write about horses than from experience, right? That’s my motto anyway. My first duty I learned was to sweep up the horse shit in the stables. At times I find myself leaning on my broom in the stables, phrases coming to me, some better than others. Thick as horse piss. Inured to manure. Okay, that one probably won’t make the cut but I’ve got others.

Maybe a fantasy based on horses will be the next big thing. Or maybe not. The Horse Whisperer has been done. Still there are possibilities and I’m excited. For me, the life and people on this ranch, as well as the surrounding countryside and city (not to mention the volcano) are constant sources of inspiration. There’s nothing quite like putting yourself in new situations for gaining new perspectives and generating new thoughts.

It’s Not About Races, Just Places, Faces

As an Australian living in Japan I want to fit in to this society. As an Asian I feel like I can blend in, that is, until I open my mouth. I have been told, however, that my face is that of a Chinese and one can tell I am not Japanese, even without looking at my current wardrobe, which is somewhat limited as a backpacker and quite Australian at that.

So I want to pass as a Japanese but would I change my face for it? Hell no. On the one hand I want to fit in. I want to be Japanese. On the other hand my pride as a Chinese perks up at this seeming betrayal. Cultural pride was not something that was strong in me when I was growing up, the only Chinese boy in my grade. Even my self image was that of a westerner. But it has been growing stronger as I’ve gotten older and been more surrounded by Asians and Asian culture. Perhaps it is clear to you that what I really want is not to be Japanese but to be accepted.

It’s funny, back in high school we used to study books in English class, books with themes such as racism and cultural identity, books such as Huckleberry Finn and To Kill A Mockingbird. Back then it all seemed so contrived, writing essays on what the author was trying to convey with this point of view or how that metaphor achieved something or other else. Boring. Now, however, it seems to me that those are the some of the really meaty, worthwhile issues to ponder and discourse. Of course, one doesn’t want to be too ham-handed when writing creative fiction and delivering a sermon dressed up as a story. I think you really need to start with a story of real interest and let any themes naturally flow through rather than the other way around. That’s the plan anyway!

So I think I must accept that I shan’t be taken for a Japanese person. Which is fine and as it should be. To the discerning eye I will remain a gaijin just like any blond-haired beach-going Aussie.

BTW, I think I should put Huck Finn and To Kill A Mockingbird on my list of books to read, or reread in this case.

Good Friday Fast

I suppose the first thing I should say is that the big office move was successful. I am now in Japan. Well, sort of successful. I’m definitely here, but it seems I’ve left my work ethic in Australia. More on Japan later.

I came home today and Red Scot told me he is fasting for Easter. In fact, he is fasting in sympathy for someone who is fasting for Easter. That made me think, I should do that. To see what it’s like. I don’t think I’ve ever done any 40 hour famine like they had back in schooldays. So I’m fasting for 24 hours. Unfortunately the last thing I ate was at 5pm and it was a chocoman. It’s a chocalate version of a steamed pork bun available from Chinatown (not the bbq pork variety). This was before I’d made the decision to fast. Not exactly the best ‘last meal’.

Easter is not a big deal here in Japan and the Christian presence is low. Fasting should be an interesting experience. It’s already got me thinking about how much I like food. The question is, what should the first thing I eat to break my fast be?