Talking Story

Today’s blog is courtesy of Jennifer Griffith, author of Big in Japan and member of the Jolly Fish Press ‘ohana. Her newest novel is a fish out of water story about a plus-sized Texan who goes to Japan on a quick business trip, but ends up living in a sumo stable fighting for his life and chasing after the girl of his dreams. At turns sweet, thrilling, and always hilarious, it’s a great read.

Thank you, Lehua, for allowing me to guest blog today. It’s an honor.

My latest novel, Big in Japan, has been out for just over a month now, and it’s amazing to see the reactions to it. The funniest one might be, “How the heck did you write that?”

Maybe they’re asking how a short, mom-type person wrote from the perspective of a … well, a giant. Who’s a 24 year-old man. That’s a valid question. I guess I channeled my inner sumo wrestler.

It’s been a lot of years since I lived in Japan. Like, almost 20. I wanted Big in Japan to be as authentic as possible—as much of a virtual trip to Tokyo as I could muster with the little details of sights and smells and the kitchy things that are Japan. Unfortunately, I’ve given birth five times since then, which is a veritable mind-wipe each time. So the most legitimate meaning of that question should actually be, “How did you write that and remember all that stuff?”

To which I reply, duh! In Japan you take your camera with you everywhere and you photodocument every single aspect of your day.

Cases in point: I have pictures of my bathtub; of my lunch of sliced cucumbers and barbecued squid and a pile of Kewpie mayonnaise; of mugi (wheat bran) muffins boiling over in my toaster-oven sized oven; of my clothes drying on the line; of myself going off a jump on my hot pink mountain bike wearing the kind of helmet only the mentally challenged Japanese people (and the American girls) wear; of my feet turned green and blue from the dyed leather in my blue oxford shoes after walking through the ankle-deep water after the August typhoon in Tokyo. I have pictures I took in the grocery store of bags of tiny round mochi balls in pink and green and white and of the narrowest house I’ve ever seen—just barely wider than my armspan from fingertip to fingertip.

But as a writer, the pics are not my only “external hard drive” source to remember details about beautiful Japan. I’ll be forever grateful I kept an almost-daily journal of my experiences.

I’ve got a record of “funny.” I have daily lists of the wacky English-language text on t-shirts, like the one with the tortoise at the top and the caption, “His mustache is so proud of him.” I’ve got stories about someone we lovingly referred to as “underwear man,” and the time I had to eat a stir-fried cricket on a dare. I also kept a record of the high cost of fresh fruit. Like the fact that a single watermelon cost upwards of $100!

Beyond that, when I was writing about Buck’s difficult transition into the Japanese culture, I had my own rocky emotional mess all bleeding out in hot pink pen all over my journal to draw from. And to write Buck’s final settling in, his acceptance of the country after some pretty significant culture shock, I had the feelings of catharsis I’d recorded as well.

Best of all, I’ve also got a whole cast of interesting and amazing people I met while I was there, and the heroine of the story is a conglomerate of the best of the Japanese women I met during my year and a half on the island.

When I first received my assignment to go to Japan, I was scared spitless. Then I told my grandpa, and he about jumped out of his skin. He’d lived there with my grandma and their six-or-so kids in the 1950s. He insisted I drive the half hour to his house because he was pulling out his slides. There were hundreds of pictures of the forests of Matsushima and the gardens at Nikko, and the ocean and houses and smiling people. His photodocumentation went great lengths toward calming my fears, and his love for Japan oozed its way into my heart, where it has lodged ever since.

I hope that love oozes into the hearts of the readers of Big in Japan.

Jennifer Griffith lives in Arizona with her husband and five kids. She lived in Japan for a year and a half during college and at 5’1” she is far too short to ever consider sumo as a career. This is her fourth published novel. Big in Japan is available  as a hardback and ebook nationwide at purveyors of fine books such as Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Click here to see the book trailer. Trust me, you wanna see it.

Follow Jennifer’s adventures in writing at:

To read my review of Big in Japan, click here.

 

One Response to Channeling Her Inner Sumo
Guest Blog by Jennifer Griffith
Author of Big in Japan

  • Jennifer, you’re just too cute and talented! So glad you took so many pictures while in Japan, since they were a HUGE means in making a successful book, well that and your awesome writing too.

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