All posts tagged: Somewhere Among

Birds of BEYOND ME

I see birds everywhere in west Tokyo. They are in my garden and in the farmer’s fields outside our windows. Before the pandemic, I walked to the grocery store or to the station every day so I would see them in the trees along the street, in garden trees, and on buildings. I would take the camera with me (before iphones) and I would take walks just to photograph them. So naturally, birds have shown up in my writing. Click on my photos to look more closely, but also click on the link in red below them to see photos at Cornell Lab’s eBird. Be sure to click on “Listen” on their page. You can hear what I hear almost every day.   White-cheeked Starlings (Spodiopsar cineraceus) come to the fields to forage for insects. One always followed or led our neighborhood farmer as he tilled his field. The same one every day? Every year? I am not sure. The farmer has retired and I still see starlings. But none follow the farmer who rents …

Somewhere Among

Set in Japan 2001. Ema is an eleven-year-old American-Japanese girl; bi-cultural, bilingual and bi-national with an American mother and a Japanese father. Ema has lived in Japan all her life, has attended Japanese public school, has done well and has friends that she has to leave for a few months because of her mother’s difficult pregnancy. She and her parents go across Tokyo to stay at her grandparents’ house. Ema’s grandmother takes care of them and makes sure that Ema knows the finer points of Japanese culture. Ema is miserable trying to keep peace between her grandmother and mother,  to keep cool in the summer heat, and to keep up her studies. She finishes the schoolwork for the semester under her grandmother’s nose and in front of the television. It is always on; her grandfather never misses the news. Things heat up even more for Ema when a bully at the neighborhood school that she has to attend in the fall makes her life miserable as well. Waiting for the sibling she has always wanted, …

Writing Somewhere Among

I didn’t set out to write about 9-11. At the time of the earthquake and tsunami March 11, 2011, I was working on a middle grade prose novel set in Texas, my home state. The earth rocked our Tokyo house for months afterwards. The damaged nuclear plant threatened Japan’s air, food, and water. Leaving Japan was not an option. We were rooted here. We had lived with my Japanese in-laws for over twenty years, one child was in university, and the other was about to start Japanese high school. Who could leave and come back? Health issues, an ageing mother-in-law, and pets made it impossible to go to the area to volunteer. I tried working on the Texas novel and sent out a lifeline by paying for a critique for it. Survival mode took its toll and I eventually had to put it aside. I needed to ground myself in Japan. Gardening and photographing nature and our neighborhood farmer had always been grounding. Writing, too. I wasn’t able to write about the aftershocks, the fleeing …

Heiwa no Daitō, The Great Pagoda of Peace

Over the years, I have seen this building rising from the treetops on our way to and from the Narita airport. Though it does not appear in the story of my middle grade novel, Somewhere Among, a rendering of it by Alessandro Gottardo made its way onto the cover. Its Japanese name is Heiwa no Daitō and its English name is The Great Pagoda of Peace. The two-roof building is a tahōtō, a Japanese structure called a unlike pagodas in other Asian countries. It stands 190 feet high and sits on top of a hill on the grounds of Shinshoji Temple in Narita City. Underneath the ground floor of The Great Pagoda of Peace, a time capsule, scheduled to be opened in 2434, holds messages of peace from 11 world leaders. A Peace Festival is held each May.

Peace Doll

Over twenty years ago, as I was getting off the train at my station, a Japanese woman handed me the paper doll encased in a plastic sleeve. A slip of paper on the outside says,”May Peace Prevail on Earth.” We have used it as a Christmas ornament ever since. I was surprised by the English and have always wondered about it. Was the woman handing out dolls to foreigners she saw on the train? Did she have dolls with the Japanese translation to give to Japanese people? I once found a link to a Japanese group who was giving peace dolls away. I cannot find it now, but it may have been linked to the group who created Peace Poles and Masahisa Goi of Japan. When I started writing for children, I searched for a way to use this doll in a story. After the 2011 earthquakes and tsunami of Japan, a story found me.  It turned out to be a story set in Japan 2001. SOMEWHERE AMONG, my first novel, debuted in April 2016.

Story Calendar with Links

Somewhere Among  takes place in Japan 2001. Anniversaries, holidays, solstices, and historical events that Japan and the United States share were woven throughout the story. For verification and further study, I have included links to English sources. Links to other sources are included in each post on this website. It is important to note that Sea Day and Respect for the Aged Day now fall on the third Monday of July and September respectively. That was not the case in 2001. Also note that moon-viewing is traditionally mid-September but it depends on the year  Check here for the holiday calendar for 2001. Space/moon data and weather charts for west Tokyo were used as reference for the scenes. For Japan 2001 http://www.timeanddate.com/holidays/japan/2001 Thurs. June 21, 2001 summer equinox                                           http://wwp.greenwichmeantime.com/longest-day/equinox-solstice-2000-2009.htm Sun. July 1, 2001 Hawaii raising Ehime Maru, Star Bulletin                  http://archives.starbulletin.com/2001/07/01/news/story5.html Thurs. July 5, 2001 12 pm Japan; …

Story Playlist

Many songs influenced the writing of Somewhere Among. I have included links to some of them. I listened to these four songs almost daily: two songs, “Inochi no Namae” (the Name of Life lyrics) and “Itsumo nando demo” (lyrics Ghiblink) from Hayao Miyazaki’s movie Spirited Away, Sen to Chihiro no Kamikakushi, were played on TV and radio so often after the release of the 2001 movie in Japan, U2’s “Stuck in a Moment You Can’t Get Out Of” (2000), was a filler between shows on Japanese cable in the weeks before September 11, and this solo version of George Harrison’s “While My Guitar Gently Weeps”  was quiet, reflective comfort during the months after September 11. The up-tempo version came out in 1968 when I was eleven, the age of the main character, Ema. Those song titles became poem titles or influenced poems along with two Beatles’ song,  “With a Little Help from My Friends” (1967) and “Let It Be” (1970). The Beatles’ “Ob-la-di Ob-la-da” (1968) provided the title and structure for the poem about the Sports …

International Day of Peace for Peace One Day

International Day of Peace is on September 21. The 2017 theme is Together for Peace, Safety, Respect & Dignity For All.  For information about 2017 events, check here and the UN Peace Day Facebook page.  For more information check the Facebook page for Peace One Day as well as their websites and the other links below. History On September 7, 2001, the United Nations unanimously adopted a fixed date, September 21, for International Day of Peace (originally sponsored by the United Kingdom and Costa Rica for the third Tuesday of the month of September.) The U.N. also defined International Day of Peace as a day of ceasefire and non-violence. These proposals were introduced by U.N. members from Costa Rica and the United Kingdom after two years of international lobbying by Jeremy Gilley, the founder of Peace One Day, and his team. Four days later, on September 11 International Day of  Peace for 2001, Kofi Annan, the then Secretary-General of the U.N., was scheduled to make the announcement at a press conference at the Peace Bell outside …

Japan-U.S. Friendship

GIFTS OF TREES, 1910 – present You may know the long and interesting history of Japan’s 1912 gift of the Washington, D. C. cherry trees. But did you know that in 1915, three years after the gift of cherry trees, the United States government sent seeds and saplings of dogwood to Japan? They were the first dogwood  trees in Japan. Gifts of Friendship (Japan Joint Issue) stamps were issued on April 10, 2015 to commemorate the 1915 gift of dogwoods. After World War II ended in 1945, cuttings from the cherry trees in Washington, D.C. were sent to Japan to restore the Tokyo collection that had perished during the American bombing attacks during the war. The two countries’ tree giving continues through the United States-Japan Bridging Foundation Friendship Blossoms Initiative. To read about the history of the National Cherry Blossom Festival check here at National Geographic’s press room. The last original dogwood and Ambassador Caroline Kennedy Taft’s Gift of Dogwoods to Japan Grew Up in Avon U.S. eyes 3,000 dogwoods for ‘sakura’ anniversary U.S. Embassy …

The Ehime Maru February 2001

On February 9, 2001, The Ehime Maru, a Japanese high school fishery training boat, sank 9 miles off Diamond Head after the submarine USS Greeneville surfaced beneath it. Nine people on The Ehime Maru perished. In January 2002,  a memorial was built at Kaka’ako Waterfront Park in Honolulu and was unveiled in February 2002.  The memorial stands on a hill overlooking the ocean. It is made of nine granite blocks. Engravings include an outline of ship and a map of the accident site. One of the ship’s two anchors lay next to nine links from the anchor chain to signify the nine lost lives. The names of those who perished are engraved on the stone. The Japan-America Society of Hawai’i maintain the memorial with the help of volunteers from the community. This photo was taken in 2015.   Construction of Ehime Memorial Underway January 20. 2002 Memorial to Ehime Maru Nine Unveiled Japan Times Feb. 11, 2002 Ehime Maru Memorial Draws Japan Tourists June 27, 2002