Scavenger Hunt Contest! Author and Friend Trisha Wooldridge’s New Book Cover

thekelpie_front_onlyAuthor and friend Trisha Wooldridge from Massachusetts has a new book coming out before the end of this year and I am privileged to help her reveal pieces of the cover of her book – scavenger hunt style!  The book is a wonderful story of mystery and kids – and wisdom and maturity.  My blog here is but one of the places you need to go to find pieces of the cover, put together the puzzle – a poem – and WIN! Please go to Trish’s blog for details of the contest – more about the story and how to win fun prizes!

This is but one piece of the cover and puzzle – a special piece as you can read below.


The MacArthur Tartan

“Once upon a time…a great-great uncle that we hadn’t known prior […] saw my dad on the show Who Do You Think You Are? where he tried looking into his dad’s line back to the Clan Arthur but only found a dead end. Great-great Uncle William MacArthur sent us family records and the deed to the falling-apart castle just before he died.”

My friend Aimee Weinstein was one of my first beta readers for The Kelpie, and she gave me a lot of great feedback.  We’ve been friends for some years since we shared an online tutoring job, and I adore her blog posts about modern culture and anthropology as she discusses being an American ex-pat over in Tokyo. Because she does so much with culture, I wanted to give her the MacArthur Tartan to display on her blog.

macarthurclantartanAlso, I stole Aimee’s name and spelling for Heather’s mom.

If you look very closely on the cover, you’ll see the strips of this tartan, especially when you see the full wraparound cover. This is my artist, Vic’s, rendition of the MacArthur Tartan (because tartans can be copyrighted.)

I chose Clan Arthur from Scotland because there actually happens to be a lovely hole in the clan history over in Scotland that I could squeeze my family into, giving them a long-forgotten castle with a mysterious past.  The MacArthur Clan also has a lot of American history; I found more on that than about those left in Scotland.  This also fits because Heather’s family is a mix of American and Scottish.

Thank you very much, Aimee, for being part of my Scavenger Hunt and the journey of The Kelpie!

Guest blogger: Larry Greenberg

My friend, long-term resident of Tokyo and Jewish Community of Japan Board Member Larry Greenberg has remained in Tokyo throughout the earthquake and tsunami disaster, as well as the ongoing concerns about the situation at the Fukushima nuclear power plant.  Larry reflected on his reasons for choosing to stay in Tokyo despite the quick exodus of many other foreign residents.

At 2:46 pm on Friday afternoon March 11th I was seated in a narration booth at a studio in downtown Tokyo.  As I read out the lines of my narration script the microphone in front of me began to shake.  “Earthquake!”  That word flashed into my mind and I looked out through the glass window that separated me from the director and the sound technician. Our eyes met and in a flash we shared the same thought “Everything is fine.  Let’s keep on going.”

So, we carried on for 15 seconds or so until the entire room began to shake and we all knew that “this was a big one” and that it was time to get outside.  As we walked down the steps the entire building was rocked by tremors and when we finally got outside we saw crowds of people rushing out of the surrounding buildings.  We all knew that this was a serious quake and that something bad was happening and that this was going to affect us all.

After about 15 minutes the intensity of the tremors fell off somewhat and I looked at the director and the sound techie and simultaneously we all said the same thing: “Let’s go back in and get it done!”  And so we went back inside and over the next 90 minutes we finished the project despite the constant aftershocks.  Afterwards, as I walked 90 minutes back to my office amidst the crowds of people who were calmly walking home, I thought back on how spontaneously and naturally my Japanese colleagues and I each knew that something big had happened, that this was serious, but that right now we each had something important to do.  And we did it.

It’s been 19 days since the disaster struck. During these 19 days we have learned that close to 30,000 people have lost their lives.  We have seen images of entire towns being swallowed by walls of water.  We have learned that in fact the Earth was shifted into a new orbit.  We have watched as selfless heroes have struggled to bring the situation at the stricken Fukushima nuclear plant under control.  We have been concerned about an array of indices that have shown that there is radiation contamination across a wide range.

And yet there has been calm.  People in Tokyo have gotten up, watched the news, eaten breakfast and gone to work.  Some people have chosen to send their children away and many entire families have gone.  But the overwhelming response on the part of the people of Tokyo has been to get on with it, to do what we each need to do and to stay calm and ask ourselves one by one what each of us can and should do.

And that is why I am here, why I am glad to be here and why I am proud of Japan and proud of her people.  It is also why I am confident that once again Japan will recover from the challenge that it currently faces.

Guest Blogger Dan Cherubin: On Running in Tokyo

Today as a special treat we have a guest blogger, Daniel Cherubin.  His blog, Rebbetzin Man in Japan is a favorite

Dan, left, enjoys Tokyo with his husband, Rabbi Antonio

of mine.  Daniel is not only a great writer, particularly a great describer with his talent for comparison and contrast, but he is a terrific observer.  He often notices something that other people might not and his sparkling wit comes to the fore with a comment or two.  He is new to Tokyo having just moved here from New York in August with his husband, the new Rabbi at my synagogue.   The Jewish Community of Japan, I hope, has been welcoming to Dan and Rabbi Antonio and getting to know both of them has been a real treat for me.   So here is Dan’s view on the city – being new in the city and trying to get a little exercise.

Regards – see you Thursday!!


Everything Is Not Always Perfect

The most common question I am asked by fellow ex-pats is, “How are you settling in?” This is often phrased as a very fretful question, as if a somewhat negative answer will upset some heretofore unknown equilibrium. After all, these are often the same people who constantly go on about how perfect life in Tokyo is: “There’s no crime, it’s so SAFE, everyone is so NICE, there’s no BAD NEWS.”

Personally, I think these people need to get out more. Yes, Tokyo has a very nice atmosphere, a patina of pleasantness, as it were.  But frankly I’m glad there really are some cracks in its rather gray façade. I see daily train delays, pushy folks and petty vandalism. I’ve seen littering, schoolboys torturing cats and cigarettes flung into the street.

This is not to say Tokyo is hell. Rather, it is refreshing to see some semblance of regular city living. I’m glad to see it’s not a pristine city, afraid of some small, snide action. This entropy is not on the level of NYC or London, or at least it’s not visible to my ex-pat eye. But I do see something there, and that seems to upset many other Westerners. The Japanese, not so much.

It gives one the idea of actually living in a city while going about one’s daily activities. One activity I’ve taken up here is running. It was a combination of reasons: physical health, mental health, extra time ad yes, safer streets. Not safer in the sense of cars; Tokyoites, in my mind, are on the level of Bostonians when it comes to rules of the road, and many streets are narrow and uneven. But it is safer to run around at night in unknown parts of the city. There’s less chance of being attacked by crazies or having youth throw things at you.

But the latter actually did happen. A few times I felt a small object (usually rolled up paper or a wrapper) hit my back as I ran past some school kids. I usually just ignore it. Until that one fateful night…

I was running at around 5 PM, a bit earlier than usual. And I ran past a large group of high school students getting out of cram class. I ran around them as they took up the whole sidewalk (which is a whole other topic: the insistence of every Japanese to “mall-walk” in a bustling metropolis).  And as I ran ahead of them, I got popped in the head with a can. Hard. There was no other place it could have originated, and watching them all look down at the ground when I came running back added to the guilty vibe. I ended up throwing the can point blank at one of the “ringleaders” and then continued on my run, hearing some accented English-language insults thrown after me.

I was angry, yes. I was also bleeding. And I imagine those kids will not throw cans at large, lumbering gaijin anymore. But I did get over the anger. It could have been a lot worse.

The interesting part came is when I recounted the story for various people. My Japanese colleagues and acquaintances were apologetic, but also mentioned the pressure on high school kids at cram time and didn’t seem altogether surprised that it could happen, although it didn’t make them happy. And my Western acquaintances? The ones who would always spin these tales of the Utopia of the East? They acted like I just told them ice cream is made from puppies. The intense denial, the fumbling for excuses (“They must not have been Japanese!”) the look of fear as if I was going to throw open the door to the world and show them that not everything is perfect. It was quite funny.

A bit later, I was perusing the fora on Runners World (yes, I’m being very geeky about running) and there was a topic on “problems from non-runners while you run.” Ninety percent of the runners’ responses? Teenagers throwing things at them. This is from the US, Canada, Latin America, Europe and, yes, Asia. It’s what teenagers do: act stupid without thinking.

And reading these comments, I definitely knew my situation could be worse. No one chased me with weapons, no one threw something dangerous like a rock, no one tried to trip me and rob me. I was made ever so slightly bloody by a drink can.

But it did happen and it was caused by Japanese youth. This stuff happens in a city. ANY city. Even Tokyo. There is crime, there are transit issues and there are stupid high school packs. It’s not the end of the world and in a way it’s nice to know that I’m living in reality. So, my advice to those who ask me how I’m settling in is, maybe they should take up running. They might experience the REAL Tokyo!