Wednesday, September 30, 2009

 

A Trip to the Stars

Do you remember when you fell in love with reading as a child? How you loved living in your imagination with characters in a book for company? How much fun it was to travel in time and to feel the connection between your inner and outer life? This gets harder as we become adults. Novels--fiction-become serious business. Literature. They are supposed to "comment" on something because we are now supposed to be about something other than the imagination. But the best novels-at least for me-still touch the remaining part of my brain that is twelve, and caught up in Narnia or A Wrinkle in Time or the Susan Cooper books, while understanding that I am now an Adult. If this is you too, and you haven't read Nicholas Christopher's books, please get started.

I've never met Nicholas Christopher, but I am a tremendous fan. There are lots of books out this fall by famous writers, but that shouldn't stop you from exploring older books that deserve attention. One of my favorites is A Trip to the Stars. It's beautifully written, for a start. But it also has the ability to simply sweep you up in its story, characters and imagination. All of Christopher's books that I have read accomplish this. Why he isn't better known, I don't know, but the universe isn't always just.

The novel opens with a kidnapping in the New York Planetarium. A family is torn apart. Hearts are broken. Lovers separated. And then all the parties try to find each other, and their struggles are mirrored in the stars, in Zuni legends, in the lush beaches of Hawaii, in wars, in casinos and in a cast of unforgettable and eccentric characters.

I love novels like this. Actually, I have to be careful about saying things "like this"--there are few novels "like this." I wish there were more novels like A Trip to the Stars. So, let me be a bit clearer. I love novels that suck me in and send me on an adventure. I love novels full of lushness and character and imagination that are also well written, and are not self-indulgent. Few writers can accomplish all of the above. Christopher does.

 

An Alternative Plot Summary

Poking around on the internet, I found this description of my novel from The Strand bookstore. I love it-for a great many reasons. Thank you, anonymous copywriter.

As a bastard child growing up in a Japanese mountain town in the 1950s, Satomi didn't have it easy. The other women in the town feel threatened by her mother's restless sexuality, leaving Satomi and her mother constantly on the fringe of society. The scenery of this mountain town eventually give way to contemporary San Francisco where Satomi's daughter Rumi has grown up without her mother. When Rumi begins to see a ghost, she decides that it must be the spirit of her mother, and she begins to search for answers. Marie Mutsuki Mockett's debut novel "Picking Bones from Ash" is a richly imaginative, lyrical, and haunting depiction of two cultures and generations and the women who haunt them.

 

The Bamboo Forest

In the opening chapter of my novel, young Satomi recounts the story of the Moon Princess, who was discovered inside a bamboo shoot. The Moon Princess, or Kaguyahime, is a classic Japanese fairy tale that most school children learn. It's so popular, even Hello Kitty has done her time posing inside a bamboo stalk.



I've always loved this story--it's beautiful, haunting and like all Japanese fairy tales, a little bit sad at the very end. It's difficult for me to go to Japan and look at a bamboo forest and not see it as a potential hiding space for an adventure or a story. Look, for example, at this photo of a bamboo forest that I snapped one fall. To me, this looked like the entry-way to a secret world.



Now imagine that you grew up in a little town like this, nestled in a small valley. The dark patches of green are pine, the lighter patches bamboo. If you were an adventurous, imaginative kid, well . . . aren't all kids? It'd be hard not to explore your surroundings.



When I was trying to think of a way to start my novel that would draw in readers, I first heard the bossy voice of Satomi speaking to me--and that's where you get the opening lines about women needing to develop a talent. And then I thought about Kaguyahime and the bamboo forest. This is one of the wonderful things about Japanese fairy tales--there are lots of starring roles for girls and princesses. The women all have special powers and while men love them, the tales rarely end in marriage, as stories do in the west. The girls are just too special to be captured or conquered. And I mean, really, isn't beauty like that?

It might not make sense that a baby could be born inside a bamboo stalk to western audiences, but that's because we rarely see the kind of bamboo here that exists in Asia. Most western bamboo--the kind found in parks or gardens--is quite thin. There are actually many varieties of bamboo. On one trip to Japan, I set out to look for as fat a stalk as possible. My mother had heard a rumor about fat bamboo on an island south of Hiroshima. So, we hired a car and drove around.



In the foreground, you can see some kind of carved stone--I think this is to mark what would once have been a sacred space. If you make it the end of my novel, then you can see how this rock would have embedded itself in my imagination and stayed there!




In the opening chapter, young Satomi watches as a ghostly woman harvests some shoots to eat. They are not easy to dig up--the root system is very deep and complex. But here's a shot of a shoot emerging from the ground.



I'm always nostalgic when I see shoots like this for sale by the side of the road. While traveling in Japan, it's pretty hard to stop to cook something yourself, unless you are staying with friends (and it's not exactly polite to show up with groceries and say to your host--hey can you cook this for me?). Knowing this my mother once found some shoots in Chinatown in San Jose, and promptly bought them so we could cook together. This prompted a little piece on cooking with bamboo shoots which the always generous Maud Newton put on her website.

I guess I as a panda in a former life-I really love the savory flavor of fresh shoots. Finally, if you have my book, you now have some insight into why there's a sprig of bamboo on the back cover . . .

Monday, September 28, 2009

 

Used Books

Ah, used books. How do I feel about you now?

I'm on record expounding on the delights of my favorite bookstore of all time (with Powell's probably a tie). Much of my attraction to the Green Apple is its maze-like, ramshackle nature and superb selection. And then there is the used books section, which I have been known to comb through, methodically, until I have amassed a new pile of treasures to ship back to New York. Yep. I'll start at A and then walk slowly through the stacks until I get to Z.

But the other day, an acquaintance sent me an email saying he'd seen my book at the Strand (my book is not quite out yet, so how exactly was it for sale already?), and that he thought he might pick it up and read it. I bristled. There was the "I might pick it up" comment, which, you know . . . My cousin Brian occasionally refers to dithering behavior by using cats as an example. As in: "Are you in or out of the cat door?" If you have cats, then you know what I mean. Open a door for a cat, and he might take up an hour of your life, circling around, trying to decide if he likes your ankles, or the door, of if he suddenly needs to clean his foot, while some sudden bird activity looks enticing so he glances outside, and you open the door wider, but then just as quickly he's distracted by the sun patch on the dining room floor . . . And so on. And it's the same with people. Are you in or out of the cat door? I don't mind if people don't like my book, or don't plan to read it. But, you know, decide.

Artists who get to this point in their careers understand that you might not like their art, but that you might end up being friends or whatever.

Then, after thinking things over, I pointed out to the acquaintance that writers make their living off of book sales. This does not include copies of galleys re-purposed on Ebay or at the Strand or elsewhere. And I write this as someone who was so desperate to read Donna Tartt's new book that I actually forked out cash on Ebay to get a copy (I have since repented and bought the actual book as well). I write this as someone who, as I wrote above, methodically combs the stacks of the Green Apple.

I have also become periodically so obsessed with particular books, that I will collect and own several copies so I can give them away to people as presents when need be. This means, I will go through the stacks of a used bookstore to see if said copies of books require rescuing. I get upset to see these special books abandoned by their former owners. Like, did the previous owner not know he owned wisdom? I used to routinely have more than one copy of Cannery Row, by John Steinbeck. I also still have several copies of Erich Neumann's Amor and Psyche, because I think it's still an impressive work. Other works I won't mention because the writers are still living, and my writer crushes have evaporated. Oh, except I think I still have two copies of The Secret History by Donna Tartt. What can I say? I found one that was signed, and had to have it. Better that I own it, than it sit there, languishing.

But here we are now, on the eve of publication of my book, and every book sale will count for me, and will help determine what kind of a writing future I will have--or if I will have one. I think, now, of all the just-released books I bought second hand and feel very bad. Very bad indeed. And yet, I understand. I understand why I, perpetually stuck in this boho-poor lifestyle, opted for the cheap way to buy the book I wanted. I will understand why you do too.

So, here's my compromise to my acquaintance and everyone else. Just don't tell me if you bought my book used. At least for a while.

PS--When you buy the book used (which, yes, I have noticed some are doing, I don't get credit for the sale. Which, hopefully, I made clear above).

Thursday, September 24, 2009

 

Kay Ryan's Suitcase



A number of years ago (1995?) when I was living in the Bay Area, I was listening to the local NPR station. The program that afternoon included three poetry readings, which were taking place in San Francisco's Herbst Theater. A poet took to the stage and announced that she would be reading a "topical" poem that was meant to be "applied locally." The first line of her poem: "Herbst is the superlative of herb."

I straightened up. Here was someone very clever and sly and very smart. I wrote down her name--Kay Ryan--and when the day was over, I had been to the local bookstore to purchase her collection of poetry: Flamingo Watching. The two other poets that day were Robert Haas and Jane Hirschfield. But it was Ryan I remembered.

I became a tremendous fan. The internet was new then, and I could find only one article about her work. I looked for her poems in the New Yorker. I bought volumes of Poetry magazine just because her work was included. I found her so smart and original. Of course her personal story resonated with me too--here was someone outside of the academy who had a singular vision and pursued it. These were all things I related to as an aspiring writer. I have all her books, even the very first one she printed called "Dragon Acts to Dragon Ends"--there must be only a few hundred that were very printed. I don't know.

In case you haven't been paying attention, Kay Ryan has since gone on to become the US Poet Laureate (2008). When she received this honor, I felt extremely fan-girlish. My Kay Ryan! Whom I had loved for such a long time was getting the attention she deserved! I am a rational person with friends who are well known in their fields, but I'm afraid that I am not at all immune to feelings of fandom about certain artists. Kay Ryan is one of them.

Yesterday, on my flight back from San Francisco, I noticed a suitcase in the Business Class section. It had been left behind--the Business and First class passengers had long since departed the plane. The tag read: "Kay Ryan." I thought: could it be? I actually considered not getting off the plane right away to see if THE Kay Ryan might claim the suitcase. But this seemed like an extreme and stalkerish thing to do. I did, however, Tweet late last night that I wondered if the suitcase had actually belonged to my very favorite living poet. All day today I wondered if I had blown my chance to let her know how much I loved her work.



This evening, my friend Jeffrey and I were off to see Tosca at the Met (despite the many reports of booing, I thought the production was excellent, and the naysayers crazy. But more on that another time). Before the opera, however, Jeffrey took me to the opening of the Poets House, a gorgeous space filled with poetry journals and books and with views of the Hudson River. Bill Murray was there. So too Laurie Anderson.

I was waddling after a group of nimble people getting into the elevator when I fell behind. Pregnant women are often stragglers. A figure in a black suit blocked my way. The people in the elevator smiled patiently as I tried to get around the dark suit. Once in the elevator I looked to see who had been obstructing my path. As the doors closed, I looked at Jeffrey and asked: "Was that Kay Ryan?" It was.

I could not believe it. So. That HAD been her suitcase. I stumbled back down the stairs, (past Bill Murray) and went over to say hello. She was, of course, extremely kind and my friends watched as I babbled on and on about Dragon Acts to Dragon Ends (she asked me to burn it. As if. We all start somewhere) and her "Herbst is the superlative of herb" poem. We took a photo, which you see above. We had a lovely chat about a number of things and she put up with me. And then, we went on our way.



Laurie Anderson talked about how we are all in the mine and we are all in trouble. "There is trouble in the mine," she said. I couldn't see her, but there were video screens with her face everywhere on every floor. She used a voice distorter.



The tech guy watched to make sure everything was working. I ate a lot of hors d'oeuvres. And then, we left for the opera, and Jeffrey had to listen to me say all night that I could not believe I had met Kay Ryan and that it had been her suitcase after all on my flight.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

 

Edwidge Danticat and the Brooklyn Book Festival


You can't really tell, but this is a photo of Edwidge Danticat, who has just won the Brooklyn Book Festival "BoBi" award. I thought about congratulating her--our essays are side by side in Creative Nonfiction. But that just seemed like a silly thing to do, though she radiated kindness.

Later in the evening, Alexander Hemon won the first ever St. Francis College Literary Prize, established to honor a "mid career" writer.

So many writers in the room that evening. New York is such a city of artists.

 

Bathroom Poetry



Whilst in the bathroom at the San Francisco airport, I noticed what looked like graffiti on the wall. Actually, someone had incorporated literary quotes about San Francisco into the design of the bathroom. There were Dylan Thomas, and William Saroyan.

"But oh, San Francisco! It is and has everything~
you wouldn't think that such a place as San Francisco could exist.
The lobsters, clams,crabs. Oh, Cat, what food for you. And all the people are open and friendly. Dylan Thomas"


"San Francisco itself is art, above all literary art. Every block is a short story, every hill a novel. Every home a poem, every dweller within immortal. That is the whole truth. William Saroyan."


"It's a mad city, inhabited by perfectly insane people whose women are of remarkable beauty. Rudyard Kipling."


I probably wigged out some people, as I patiently tried to photograph each quote in its entirety; bathrooms aren't places for photographs, really. But they probably aren't literary places for most people generally, and I rather like it when things aren't what they seem to be.


 

Monterey Jazz Festival



Growing up on the Monterey Peninsula, I was aware of the famous jazz festival held here every year, but never actually went to see any of the shows. I wanted to. I remember one year I was working as a bank teller and Branford Marsalis was going to play; he insisted on being paid in cash and the cops showed up to accompany his payment out the door.



I've now been to the festival three years, generally combining the trip with other activities; last year, we held a memorial service for my father. This year, my husband and I thought we'd try to get away together for a little bit since we will soon have permanent company.

The weather has been lovely--summer hasn't ended here and in fact just seems to be deepening. One afternoon we went to hear Pete Seeger and his band play. Can you believe he is 90 years old? And still, he is playing and singing and his love of life comes through. He invited us all to sing with him--"Turn Turn Turn," and "This Land Is Your Land." These are songs I realize I know because as a child in the 70s, my father would have played his guitar on the beach, and we would sing while roasting and eating marshmallows. The songs of protest all sound remarkable contemporary and I love the idea that long after the original singers are gone, a song can still resonate.



We also went to the Hyatt late at night for the jam session. I made it until around 2AM, when Gordon and I decided it was probably time to go to sleep. But not before hearing more musicians play and just simply enjoying sitting there in their collective presence. Musicians--they aren't like writers. I hesitate to put the difference into words, but I do so enjoy the love of life that people who thrive in the late hours seem to always have. These have always been creative hours for me.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

 

Brooklyn Book Festival and the Columbia Spectator

Out of the past four days, I've been in Brooklyn three times; I wonder if the universe is sending me a subtle nudge?

After my reading at the Brooklyn Book Festival (more later), I spoke with Kassy Lee, a student at my alma mater, Columbia University. She wrote up a lovely article about my reading and my book for the university newspaper, the Spectator. An excerpt:

"The excerpt Mockett read chronicles the life of a mother and daughter in the small Japanese mountain town of Kuma-Ume. As she read, Mockett’s melodic voice evoked a vision of Japan through the eyes of a young girl: part magical, with tales of mystical bamboo, and part universal, with tales of hiding from school bullies. Much like the work of Salman Rushdie, Mockett’s story blends traditional folk tales with a more contemporary and American realist approach to storytelling."

Friday, September 11, 2009

 

The True Business of Writing: Building a Career (Portland's Wordstock Festival)

For a long time, I thought that becoming a writer was something happened to other people. Like, it just happened to them. You know-a fairy godmother waved her wand and then, tada, they, the chosen, became writers. It couldn't possibly happen to me.

I'd look at bios of authors on book jackets and think: Wow. She knew someone. She went to Harvard. He must have had connections. He's from New York. Her mother was a literary agent. He worked at an edgy newspaper. I am from a small town in California. My father was a farmer. I don't know anyone. I'm screwed.

And maybe, just maybe, you look at me and think: Hey! She had connections! She went to an Ivy League school! Of course she got a book deal. I promise you, it's not true. I had absolutely zero connections at one point. I do not have family members in publishing. My father was really supportive of me, but he worried a lot, and thought perhaps I should learn to be a computer programmer in Silicon Valley, or an international lawyer, capitalizing on my language skills. It just happens sometimes that you can work your ass off and make a dream come true.

I didn't really find that reading biographies of writers was particularly helpful. Most of these books talk about the writer's early beginnings, their influences, their struggles and then the challenges of writing each book, ie, they focus on the art of writing (as they should). But how, I always wondered, did these writers I admired--Steinbeck, Twain--build their careers? How did they get agents? How did they get published? What are the nuts and bolts of building a career? What does it look like on the inside?

On the rare occasion that I ran into a real writer (generally an airplane), I would ask for advice and was usually told: "Keep writing." And, yes, that's true. There is no writing career without writing. And, yes, craft is very, very important. But I still wondered: how does this becoming a writer thing happen? Sure, there are some books out there that discuss query letters and submissions and dealing with rejection. But they don't really tell you all that much. I think the closest thing I found to a illustrate "the truth" was Anne Lamott's book "Bird by Bird," in which she describes the editing process she underwent for her second novel. That was painful to read. That was helpful to remember when I was editing my first novel yet again for my agent. She also makes it very clear that a well written book is likely to find a home. I found that comforting too. The Poets and Writers message boards were also very helpful to me in the beginning. And again, I want to make clear--there is no substitute for actually doing the work and doing it well. The greatest weapon you'll have if you want to build a writing career is to actually write.

But there is so much more for young writers to know. What are the real odds of submission/rejection/acceptance? Does anyone actually get out of the slush pile? Is there really some focused way to build a career? How, in god's name, do you know if you are really making any progress?

I became really serious about writing about six years ago--and I say this as someone who had always wanted to be a writer, but as it turns out, was mostly spinning her wheels--and finally have an idea of what is involved. I'm going to try to share what I've learned with people next month, when I teach a class at Wordstock, in Portland, Oregon. If you are around, I hope you'll swing by. I'll be brutally honest about my experiences. I'll tell you how I squandered time just generally being insecure and afraid of rejection. I'll be showing you some of my rejection letters and talking about the lessons I learned from them. I'll show you some of my publication/rejection stats. I'll show you my very first query letter. I'll show you some horrible query letters. I'll try to be as honest as I can about how to go about building your career.

The thing is--all professions require that we think consciously about what we are doing and how we can do it better. I don't understand why writing should be any different. Yes, your work and the quality of your work is still the most important thing, and, yes, there is no point in starting your professional career until your writing is at a certain level. And because writing is an art, and all the arts are sort of subjective and nebulous, it is a little harder to chart a path in it than it is to, say, become a physician where the steps are much more clearly defined.

But I think there's too much mystery surrounding publishing, and I don't like that.

Next month, I'll endeavor to demystify as much as I can, and I hope you'll swing by and join my class if you are around.

 

Nashville Public Library

Many thanks to the Nashville Public Library, which has selected "Picking Bones from Ash" for their "Early Bird" Book Club. I'm flattered and quite excited that I'll have a chance to interact with readers this early on. Note the choice of saucy author photo. I promise, I'm not always that serious.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

 

Arkham Asylum

I'm intrigued by this Seth Shiesel of the New York Times. He's awfully literate and smart . . . and he likes video games. This is what he looks like.



You know, I have an pretty Waspy sounding name myself, so it goes to show you can't always have an idea of what someone will look like based on a name.

I am feeling a touch of fall in the air here, which makes me happy because it means I will most likely stop collapsing from the heat. It also makes me feel sort of cozy. Like, in addition to hot cider and hot chocolate and a book . . . I want to play a video game. A good one. Usually I go to Game Stop and ask a nice fifteen year old what he recommends, but lately that strategy has not been working. Enter Seth Shiesel and his very literate video game column in the New York Times . . . and a strong recommendation for Arkham Asylum. The review opens thus:

Playing the new Batman: Arkham Asylum game, I couldn’t stop thinking about Walker Percy’s foreword to “A Confederacy of Dunces,” John Kennedy Toole’s posthumously published masterwork. Recounting his profound reluctance to read a barely legible carbon copy by a dead, unknown writer, Mr. Percy writes: “In this case I read on. And on. First with the sinking feeling that it was not bad enough to quit, then with a prickle of interest, then a growing excitement and finally an incredulity: surely it was not possible that it was so good. I shall resist the temptation to say what first made me gape, grin, laugh out loud, shake my head in wonderment. Better let the reader make the discovery on his own.”


Get it? Mr. Shiesel can evaluate games on the level of serious entertainment. Art, even. He gets the whole high-low culture thing. But then he goes on to write:

Arkham Asylum’s visuals, sound design, combat and exploration are all engagingly realized, but it is the superb writing and acting that propel the game from good to great.


I am one of those people who believes that it's only a matter of time before we stop thinking of games as pulp and as art--much in the same way that the novel is held in such high regard now, or that "graphic novels" have suddenly gained a certain kind of cachet. And let's not forget animated movies which in some cases are now considered "film." So I was curious to play Arkham Asylum, in which Batman and Joker play starring roles, to find out how good the writing actually is. And . . . it's excellent. Wonderful dialogue. The game design is good too--you actually feel like Batman because you have to rely on his particular super powers--stealth, combat, boomerangs--to complete quests. Not for you some super-charged weapon or ultra-heavy armor to facilitate combat. You actually have to think a bit. I liked that.

But more than anything, it is the story and pacing which make the game so engaging. And the writer is none other than Paul Dini, creator of "Lost" (which I have to confess, I've never seen) and who bizarrely seems to have gone to my high school! I'm still only 10% of the way in the game, but already recommend it most enthusiastically. And as for the writing--it's a reminder of what can happen when a talented writer is involved in the development of a game; it becomes something greater than a time killer. I was thrilled, and very quickly put away the disappointing and boring shooter game which required absolutely no strategic thinking whatsoever. I do still have a pile of books to read and have to be careful of just how I waste my time . . .

Sunday, September 06, 2009

 

Calming Corners Interview with Yvelette Stines

The very gracious Yvelette Stines of Calming Corners recently wrote to ask me for an interview. I enjoyed communicating with Stines because she really made me think about my writing process and how Picking Bones from Ash came about.

A sample:

At what point did you consider yourself a writer and felt comfortable about it?

I remember listening to Richard Russo on the radio one time—he was asked how he felt when he won the Pulitzer Prize, and he said he was happy, but that he was also pretty happy the first time he had an acceptance for his first publication. And it’s true. There’s nothing quite like that. But I think I didn’t feel comfortable calling myself a writer until the novel was accepted for publication. I always had a very strict definition for myself as to what it meant to be a writer; it meant I had to publish. Until then, nothing really counted.


Please take a look if you are interested, then stay to explore both Stines' own site, and the Calming Corners website.

Friday, September 04, 2009

 

Bread Loaf Scholars



Here we are, my new friends to whom I've grown quite attached, and yours truly. The light is gorgeous here--we are standing just outside Treman where a cocktail hour was in progress. Being pregnant meant no cocktails for me, sadly.

Thursday, September 03, 2009

 

Picking Bones from Ash Website

Picking Bones from Ash now has its very own website, with some early reviews, quotes and event listings. As you can see, the fall looks very busy, and I'm looking forward to traveling and meeting new readers.

I'll be updating the site as reviews continue to come in and more interviews are available. Thanks so much for supporting the book!

 

Picking Bones from Ash and the Largehearted Boy Playlist

I'm so excited to share the very first ever play list I've ever compiled for my novel, Picking Bones from Ash. David Gutowski, who runs the venerated blog "Largehearted Boy" invited me to compose a post, and I did. Below is a sample, but please do take a look at whole thing over at his site, and then explore. David was the first to ask writers to put together a list of songs that influenced them, or that they see acting as soundtracks to their novels. Others now imitate him, but he's the original.

In my novel, Picking Bones from Ash, youthful characters take advantage of the 1960s jet age to explore the world. Hippies on “vision quests”—mostly men—dive into Eastern mysticism. Young Satomi, a classically trained pianist from the far north of Japan, listens with fascination to jazz in Tokyo, before she departs for Paris. As travel gets easier, so too does the global criss-crossing of art and popular culture.

If you’ve stepped into a chain bookstore today, then you know the international market Japanese anime and manga now command. Japanese pop stars have to master hip hop moves to remain relevant and contemporary; dance studios in New York are filled with kids from Asia perfecting urban moves along their western counterparts. And there seems to be no shortage of young Americans willing to tattoo themselves with Chinese characters. I’m fascinated by the way both “low” and “high” cultures are spreading with the aid of the Internet. I wanted to capture some of this change in my book, and the play list below reflects what my characters listen to, what I listen to, and a few things I hope you might listen to if you have not already.

2. Traditional Shinto music



In my novel, the very American Rumi, finds herself in a snowy mountain town, surrounded by Japanese men dressed as demons and dancing around a bonfire. She’s scared; the locals think her fear is funny. Festivals like these have a rich history in Japan, stemming from Shinto, the indigenous religion, which is animistic, mischievous and fun. I always tell people that if they travel to Japan, they have to catch at least one matsuri to see “the real Japan.” Like Carnival, matsuri allows people to relax, cast of the everyday, drink, dress up, dance and have fun. Spirited Away, the Miyazaki movie, reflects the playful yet frightening aspect of the matsuri and the wild world of the gods.



I went to a very real demon festival in the north of Japan; adults think the demons are funny, the kids are terrified, and the adults think it’s funny that the kids are terrified. Youtube is full of videos of adults scaring kids, and laughing about it.

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