Bonnie at Thirsty for Tea has graciously included me in the Writing Process Blog Tour going around. She is a passionate cook and tea enthusiast with an eye for aesthetics, very creative taste and ideas, and enviable handiwork. She covers everything from types of tea and how to attain and prepare them, sweets and snacks to go with tea, as well as tea-related crafts. I always feel so uplifted after reading her pretty posts. Please check her out, and thank you to everyone who visited from her page!
Here are my answers on my writing process:
1) What am I working on?
While I try to keep a steady mix of stories according to the categories listed on the side bar, the Kojiki manga requires the most work. The story I’m currently working on, “Fatal and Fateful Trials“, is probably going to be the longest of all the stories I intend to post here. Then again, we’ll just have to see how long the Kuniyuzuri myth proves to be since there will be so many San’in spots to introduce with it.
2) How does my work differ from others of its genre?
While there are a lot of Japan blogs that seek to display life in Japan or explain many aspects of Japanese culture or introduce interesting places, there aren’t many San’in region blogs. Such an injustice! That, and, well… manga. I have messy manga mixed in my posts.
3) Why do I write what I do?
In choosing content, I try to post things that I’ve found interesting about life the region. I post it either because others might find it informative, or it’s a way of telling people what I’m up to because in this day and age it’s much easier to say “go read my blog!” instead of writing detailed letters to multiple people on the cool stuff I’m up to and see here. Ideally, I’d like to increase awareness of the region, and I’d like to give readers a sense of the local culture. That often requires explaining many wider aspects of Japanese culture. Instead of just saying “there was a legend about an eight-headed serpent around here and that’s why we have good sake” I find it much more interesting to elaborate. That, and writing in comic form is fun.
4) How does your writing process work?
This differs depending on the content. To break it down by category:
Buri-chan Anecdotes: I have a life. Amusing stuff happens, and I later scribble it down. Depending on how relevant it is, this might be the prelude to some lengthy explanation of some aspect of Japanese culture, from language to etiquette to nerdy historical references.
Famous Persons: If it’s a name that comes up a lot here, they’re probably worth explaining in the blog so I can just refer back to them as necessary. I start with general knowledge I’ve picked up from living and working here, and then I fill in the blanks with some research. Sometimes I include nicer quality comics written for a multilingual newsletter my office releases every few months for international tourists and residents.
Folk Tales: I pick up a few at places like Izumo Kanbe-no-Sato where you can listen to professional story tellers, but I mostly get them from a couple of books with collections of San’in region tales. Quite often there are similar stories from other parts of Japan, but one of the fun parts is seeing the little differences and how people have shaped them to fit the local geography and culture.
Ghost Stories: I haven’t been doing enough of these, but these are typically inspired by the works of Lafcadio Hearn and Mizuki Shigeru, whose works on local and wider ghostly folklore are very apparent in the region. So much so that when I’m guiding people around Matsue for fun, I usually tend to interject the tour with comments about the human sacrifices and monsters spoken of in each place.
Historical Anecdotes: I tend to pick up a lot of historical anecdotes about Matsue through my work, but I am a history nerd so I tend to store a lot of trivial facts in my brain very easily. In order to make them understandable, I usually have to flesh them out with some book research and double-checked facts. Sometimes my print-quality comics wind up in this section, too.
Local Anecdotes: This is rather easy, it just requires being active in the region and noticing interesting stuff. A lot of my entries tend to fall in this category.
Mythology: This is the backbone of my content. I start with research–numerous sources in both Japanese and English, but usually Japanese–and write my own interpretations of the Kojiki (and Izumo Fudoki!) myths based on the consistencies (or more interestingly, inconsistencies) of my collection of sources. Then I make an outline of the manga, and for the art I start with a pencil sketch, then inking, then shading/scanning/fixing/shading/typesetting the panels for each part. This is a process I have gotten lazier and lazier with as I’ve gotten busier and busier with life among the region. After each story, I write a few entries to introduce the spots in the San’in region that correlate with the myths–if there wasn’t so much correlation, I wouldn’t bother telling the stories, after all!
Upcoming Blogs on the Writing Process Blog Tour:
Yurihama Blog is maintained by Sarah, a fellow San’in region Coordinator for International Relations. She is based in this small Tottori town, home to one of my favorite legends in Japan about a heavenly maiden having a stay in Japan. During Sara’s stay in Japan, she’s been writing entries in both English and Japanese about local Yurihama topics, including culture, cuisine, and news about what’s going in the international side of things at the local level. I admire how clear and specific she is in her entries and the perimeters she works within. I enjoy how she has a good eye for vignettes of the city, and as someone working in international relations, it’s helpful to see projects going on in other places. I tend to talk more about Shimane in my blog, so go read her blog and give Tottori some love, too!
The Japans is a blog about daily life in Japan by Belgian national Haruko (pen name). Having been a Japan fanatic for a long time, she felt the need for a blog that showed the simple reality of day-to-day life in Japan, rather than focusing on ‘weird Japan’ or on travel stories, as many other blogs already do. Based on her experiences living in Toyota City for a year, she tries to give her honest and nuanced impressions of life in Japan, with a dash of humor and self-relativation mixed in. I have always appreciated her style and clarity in her descriptions, as well as her treatment of daily Japanese life. Her subject matter is about the things that, in my opinion, Japan wouldn’t feel like Japan without.
Ruth, who keeps the Thai Village blog, grew up in Salokbaht in central Thailand where she learned to value the simple things in life. Later she went to school in Chiangmai before moving to the UK. After graduating she returned to Thailand and taught at Payap University and then the British Council in Bangkok. Recently she started combining photography and writing in the form of Haiga. In her work she seeks to cut through the stereotypical images of Thailand and provide a glimpse of something more real. She has one book of poetry published called ‘The Peacock Room’ which was short-listed for the Jerwood Aldeburgh First Collection Prize 2007. She is currently working on a novel ‘The Yoke Thay Artist of Chiangmai’ which explores the life of a female marionette artist in the mid-16th century under the reign of one of the few queens of Lanna.