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#28250 - 25/05/05 07:31 AM Re: Torey's Visit to Japan
Anonymous
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I don't have any pictures of all the fun Masako, Yuri and I had in the evening of this day. We enjoyed a lovely meal and then played around like silly school girls in one of those photo booths that takes your picture against different backgrounds and makes stickers out of them. It was one of the most fun evenings I've had in a long time and we laughed and laughed - and probably scared all the teenagers in there!! That is the best thing about being with my friends here in Japan. We laugh a lot. We are always laughing. It stands out in my mind whenever I remember my visits.

So, next day and back to work. Masako, Yuri and I take the train to Fukuoka which is a city on the north side of the island of Kyushu and is about two hours away from Kumamoto.

First is an interview at the Nishinihon newspaper building with reporter Ryoji Tanaka

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Then it is lunch time and we have been invited to have lunch with Mr. Ko Watanabe from NHK and his wife and two young daughters. We had met with Ko the previous day in Kumamoto where he produced the talk show I was on. However, he lives in Fukuoka with his family.

The name of the restaurant is Nagano and here is a picture of the very beautiful entrance. I'm sorry it is not as clear as it could be. There are lovely stepping stones in the background through a Japanese-type garden. And in front, notice the salt in the corner of the doorway:

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Yuri, my editor, explained it like this:

The salt in the corner of the entrance means "welcome and enjoy the comfortable time". It originates from one of the ancient Japanese stories. In Heian era (about 8th - 11th century), noble people's dates were different from ours today. Noble men went to the women's house since noble women were never supposed to go out. (And the wedding meant that a man go into his wife's family.) Therefore, a woman waited her lover visiting on a cow carriage every night and prepared the salt in the corner of the entrance in order that her lover's cow would wait quietly and patiently so that her lover could stay with her longer. Koichi told me that he learned this from one of the stories of old Rakugo, Japanese traditional story telling, which is usually funny stories.

It was hard to get a proper picture of our table, as the restaurant is a very traditional one where diners sit on tatami mats around the table in small private rooms separated by screens. This makes it hard to stand back enough to get everyone in without a screen getting in the way!

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The kind of meal we had is called "mizutaki nabe". 'Nabe' means 'cooking pot' and you see the waitress serving from the nabe in this first picture. The Fukuoka area is famous for its chicken, so first small pieces of chicken on the bone is poached in simmering water. The resulting broth is served up in pottery mugs at the beginning of the meal and this is what the waitress is doing - ladling broth into cups. At our table there are two nabe because there are seven of us and they are built with into the table with a gas burner underneath which the waitress can adjust. She comes at different intervals and adds different items. After we have had our pieces of chicken, she then adds chicken dumplings. These cook and we eat them. Then she comes with rice noodles and lots of vegetables like spring onions, cabbage and others and these are put into the pot and they cook. And all the time we ladle things out as we want them. At the end, the broth is served again, often with rice, but we were running late to our next appointment, so we did not get to that course.

Here we are, much progressed in the meal, and you can see the table is no longer so neat and tidy!

That is Ko's daughter Hana nearest us. She is six. Then Hikaru, who is three, then Ko, then his wife Miki, who is expecting their third child in July. My editor Yuri is on the other side of the table.

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Then it was on to Junkudo bookstore for a talk and booksigning. They don't normally organize big events at bookstores in Fukuoka, so the staff had to be creative in finding a location with enough room. They chose the story area in the children's department, so the pictures have had to be cropped quite close to cut out a very large and cheery-faced tree that seems to want to join me in several pictures!

Here we have the crowd patiently waiting for me to arrive.  -

After talking came the booksigning. I met one of the long-time members of the THBB - Coco - at the booksigning. She hasn't posted in a long while but still visits very regularly.

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And some very enthusiastic fans!

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Finally it is over and I go into the back of the bookshop to enjoy tea with the staff.

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#28251 - 26/05/05 07:12 AM Re: Torey's Visit to Japan
Anonymous
Unregistered


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After the book-signing at Junkudo Hakata, I went "backstage" into the staff area to spend some time with Junkudo staff.

This is Chiyomi, the children's book buyer, and she had given me some lovely postcards of Fukuoka and a very beautiful Japanese children's book as a gift. Later, when I get home, I will try and take some pictures to show you the story.

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I remember when I was first going to come to Japan back in 1998. I read all these western guide books to prepare myself for Japanese culture and one of the things the books all said was how "stand-offish" the Japanese are and how they did not like you to touch them. Oh? I think the writers of these books have visited a different Japan than I have.

Chiyomi and I again:

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Then Mr. Nakamura, the manager of Junukdo Hakata presents me with a bottle of very special alcohol called "shochu" which is a native product of Kyushu. Most westerners are familiar with saki, but in this part of Japan, when they say "saki" they actually mean this distilled alchohol called "shochu". Shochu is made from one of several raw materials, including sweet potato, (shochu made from this is called "imo-jochu.") Other materials commonly used include from rice, soba (buckwheat), and barley. So this is a very special treat indeed.

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#28252 - 27/05/05 07:04 AM Re: Torey's Visit to Japan
Anonymous
Unregistered


Then it is time to fly back to Tokyo. As it is May 21, it my birthday and Masako's birthday. So her husband Norio and her son Kei are joining us for a celebration meal. It is in a lovely French/Jaspanese fusion restaurant.

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We have a very nice meal and then order dessert. Everyone's dessert arrives except Masako's and mine. We wait and wait, watching enviously as Norio, Kei and Yuri tuck into theirs. Then wow! We discover why there was the wait. The restaurant staff bring out our ice cream on long plates that have "Happy Birthday, Torey" and "Happy Birthday, Masako" written in chocolate. Sparklers are stuck into a piece of banana. This is suprise enough because we had not said it was our birthday, but even more surprising, all the staff in this fancy restaurant then came and sang "Happy Birthday" to us. As you can tell, I was a little overwhelmed!

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Once once calmed down, here we two birthday girls are, showing off our celebration desserts!

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Here's a close-up picture of Masako's birthday plate that Yuri took. (She took one of mine too, but unfortunately my ice cream was very quick to melt and cover my name!)

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It was a very special birthday indeed!

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#28253 - 27/05/05 07:22 AM Re: Torey's Visit to Japan
Anonymous
Unregistered


Sunday is a day of rest! I have the whole day off until 5PM when it is time to go to Junkata Ikebukuro in Tokyo for the next book-signing.(For those of you getting confused by the Japanese names, 'Junkata' is the name of a major bookstore chain in Japan and I have been at the branch in Fukuoka and now the main branch in Tokyo.)

I spent much of my free time catching up with tasks on the computer. Because I am returning from Japan to go straight into publicity in London, I need to spend quite a lot of time with e-mail to keep all the activities straight. I am very fond of green tea and was drinking this while working, but thought I would like a little snack as well, so I went down the street from my hotel to a convenience store to buy a little package of rice cracker snack mix to eat while I worked. I include this picture just for those of you with squeamish western stomachs but also because it did, in fact, catch ME by surprise as well, because I had spilled the contents out on a piece of paper beside the computer and was munching away before I noticed that one of the components of the mix were little dried fish not unlike the special little snacks I give Lucy at home! (And yes, I continued to munch the whole mix right down.)

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Then it was off to Junkudo. First I give an informal talk of about an hour's length to the people who have come.

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I hadn't actually understood that I would be speaking for quite so long, so I had not prepared anything. Consequently, I just talked "off the top of my head" and then invited questions from the audience and we carried on from there. At first I was afraid this wouldn't work, but it turned into a very good discussion, thanks to many excellent and quite profound questions from the audience. Beside me is my interpreter Kaori.

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Afterwards came the booksigning.

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And here to have her book signed is Yukako, one of our Japanese members of the THBB message board!

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Afterwards the Junkudo staff, I, Yuri and Masako all went out to dinner. This is us at the start (Mr. Minoru Fukushima the manager of Junkudo Ikebukuro is on the right) and you can see how neat and fresh everything is.

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As the evening wore on and the very tasty Japanese beer flowed (in those lovely green pottery cups) more Junuko staff joined us and the hospitality and food, as always, were a real treat.

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#28254 - 27/05/05 09:20 AM Re: Torey's Visit to Japan
Anonymous
Unregistered


Now it is Monday and back to work. I go over to my publishing house, Hayakawa Shobo, where I will have interviews with various Tokyo newspapers.

Hayakawa always does a beautiful window display at the front for their visiting authors. Indeed, this is my very first memory of my very first trip to Japan - standing in front of the "Welcome to Japan" window. This time, I am pleased to see it saying "Welcome Back of Japan". With me, of course, is my really special editor, Yuri Kagoshima.

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Upstairs in the conference room, I meet first with Maki Ookubo from Asahi Newspaper.

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Long interview and already time for lunch. I was asked where I would like to go for my very last lunch in Japan and I chose to have soba noodles at a very special restaurant called Kanda Yabu Soba that I loved during my last visit. This is the one of the authentic "Yabu Soba" restaurants in Tokyo. There was a very famous soba restaurant known for its tasty soba in Tokyo at the end of Edo era (during the 19th century). The restaurant was surrounded by bamboo woods, which in Japanese is called "Take-yabu" . "Take" means bamboo, and "yabu" means woods. Therefore the restaurant was called "Yabu Soba". The original restaurant was destroyed but it is said that some staff moved on to this restaurant in order to protect the original recipe in Kanda (this locality).

Here is the restaurant from the outside and you will notice it is of an old, traditional design.

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And they make an effort to re-create the feel of the bamboo forest around the restaurant.

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So we enjoy a wonderful meal of soba noodles and because it is a nice spring day, they open the sliding doors to allow us to enjoy the bamboo garden.

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#28255 - 27/05/05 10:03 AM Re: Torey's Visit to Japan
Anonymous
Unregistered


Because of the bad earthquake in 1923 and, even more so, because of the bombings in World War II, very little of "old" Tokyo still exists. However, in this area where the soba restaurant is, a few traditional buildings still stand.

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And here is an old smoked eel shop with a quaint front:

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We are walking back from the soba restaurant to my publishing house and I can not help but stop and take a picture of this shop making tofu. Because it is a warm day, they have slid the panels back and the tofu tanks (in front on the left) are close to the pavement. (And if you look very closely at the back, you will see the family dog watching me from his comfy bed!)

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Finally back to work. More interviews. The first is with Yuki Sato from Mainichi newspaper. (I'm drinking cold coffee, for those of you wondering!)

[img]http://www.torey-hayden.com/sheep%202005/japan/japan6/interview%20with%20Ms.%20Yuki%20Sato%20of%20Mainichi5.jpg

The final interview is with Mr. Kanda Ishida from Yomuiri newspaper and we didn't get pictures, which is a pity, as Mr. Ishida was one of the first people to interview me the very first visit back in 1998. So we spend much time reminiscing!

So all my work is now done in Japan.

The very last thing is dinner with Mr. Hayakawa, my publisher. He is a very special man and I have enjoyed being one of his authors for almost ten years now.

His wife Yoko was going to join us for dinner in the very exclusive French restaurant in the basement of the Hayakawa Shobo building, but unfortunately she wasn't feeling well, so it was just Mr. Hayakawa and me and we began the meal very sedately.

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As the evening wore on, we talked more and more about what we both know best: BOOKS!! Look how happy and relaxed we have ended up, surrounded by what has brought us together!!

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And then it is the end. This is always the sad time. Yuri rides out to Narita, Tokyo's big international airport with me. We cry a little and talk about the next visit, which I hope will be soon. And she snaps the last picture as I go off towards security and the passengers-only area.

(And for the moment, that picture doesn't want to show up!)

And that ends what as been just such a really fantastic visit to Japan.

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