Story Wonders: A Story Blogging Excuse

Standard

freeimages.co.uk photos of objects

Below you will find what I posted on my Facebook page about the crazy writing time I had yesterday. This is my excuse for not blogging on my usual day. I have ideas for next week brewing but that’s about it.

Had the story ready in November.
Contest date was all the way in March.
I’ll hold off, I decided. Hold off until they announce the judge so I can address the cover letter.
Today, I think, “Wait a second! This is March! I’d better check the deadline!”
When is the deadline? Today! March 8th is the deadline. (And that was extended from the original March 1st, lucky dog that I am.)
Yes, I got it put together.
Yes, I submitted it.
Yes, I wonder why on this planet full of passions, I happen to have this need to write.
I wonder this often with my stiff back, my tired head, and my cursor’s spinning wheels of doom that come at the most inconvenient times.
And then I just feel glad. Glad I get to do it. Glad my son will rub my shoulders and tell me it’s going to be okay.
Glad I wrote the story in November, even, so I could put off submitting it until now.

Here are some photos from the Nihonjin Face play that I couldn’t fit into Japantown last week.

And here’s a Neil Gaiman quote for good measure.

57e6d1ca79bae24e3a9a150ccacea34c-2

As usual, I have more to say than I thought.

Have a wonderful week!

Screen Shot 2015-03-28 at 6.57.01 AM

Advertisements

Story Wonders: Tacoma’s Japantown

Standard
img_9225

The Japanese Language School Memorial on the University of Washington campus.

“I’m not from Tacoma and didn’t know there was a Japantown here until recently,” said writer and guide Tamiko Nimura. 

I wasn’t surprised. I’ve lived in and around Tacoma for the majority of my 40 plus years. I was born at Tacoma General. I even go to a church connected to Whitney Memorial, the one-time Japanese Methodist Episcopal church in the heart of Japantown.

I didn’t know, either.

About two years ago I stumbled on the history. Ever since I discovered Tacoma once had several blocks filled with businesses owned by Japanese immigrants and citizens, I’ve been trying to imagine the place. I’ve pieced the picture together in my own mind with historical records of the Japanese American Citizens League, the photo documents of the Northwest Room, and historylink.org.

When I was working at the downtown campus, I peered down the streets while driving up the hill off the 705 exit, wondering what used to be where.

About a year ago, I discovered Michael Sullivan with his Tacoma History blog and then somehow tumbled into a heartfelt post by Nimura. 

Then two weeks ago, I read of the 75th anniversary of Executive Order 9066, the order that incarcerated over 100,000 Japanese Americans living on the West Coast of the U.S. without trial or recourse.

To commemorate this event, the University of Washington and the Broadway Center in Tacoma put together a play called Nihonjin Face and then a guided tour (my mouth dropped wide open when I read this!) of Nihonmachi, or Japantown.

By coincidence, I already had tickets for the play with the youth group from my church.

All I had to do was race from one end of the town to the other to make it to the tour on time.

Of course, I raced. 

When I arrived breathless at the starting point, I noticed many other interested tourists wanting to see where Japantown once rested on the side of Tacoma’s steep hill. I never counted heads but estimate thirty to fifty of us wandered around while both Nimura and Sullivan pointed to where the remaining buildings stood and to a grassy knoll. In that spot, the Japanese Language School taught a whole generation of children born in the United States before the incarceration.

We started at the corner of the university nearest The Swiss. From there, we could stare up at the Japanese Methodist Episcopal Church, now owned by the U.W. and used as an art studio. The congregation never fully recovered after Camps Harmony and Minidoka.

img_9209

Frederick Heath designed this church along with many other sites familiar to the area, including Stadium High School down the road.

Next we moved down Fawcett Street and across the hill to the Tacoma Buddhist Temple. Across from this once stood the Japanese Language School. After Pearl Harbor, the teachers faced arrest and the locals came to be sorted for removal.

(I missed on-site photos of this because I held the iPad instead here. Once I blogged about the mural behind the temple, though.)

We spent more time hearing about the buildings lost to the wrecking ball, including the Lorenz Building and the Hiroshima-ya Hotel. Sullivan and Nimura told stories of Chinese Americans wearing “I am Chinese” buttons to explain their right to stay in the area during the war and then went on to tell of one of the greatest community losses from the incarceration.

A massive parking garage now squats on the the corner of C and 13th. This is the former location of The Crystal Palace, designed by the same architect who built Pike’s Place Market in Seattle.

Here vendors from every corner of the area sold wares much like what still happens in Seattle. The freshest produce came from the Japanese American farmers in the Fife Valley, Sullivan told us. Months after the farmers faced life in the Puyallup Fairgrounds, the market closed and became barracks for soldiers.

I’m not sure how to end this post except to say that two years ago, when I started reading about the history in my backyard, I had no idea it would become so painfully relevant in 2017. I’m encouraged that so many of us turned out to learn what I wish we had known all along–what I wish still stood vibrant and alive perched on Tacoma’s hill.

I think now of all the other multicultural treasures we have and dream of keeping them thriving in our neighborhoods. I think we have enough memorials.

 

 

Story Wonders: Who Remembers You?

Standard

“Hi there!” the woman said, and I knew I remembered her. Or I knew I should remember her.

My son and I stood staring at her at the YMCA near those tiny lockers with the punch codes. I peered a little more closely, hoping I could pull something from the back of my brain, and then I shook my head.

“No. I can’t think of who you are. Where do I know you from?”

“Aikido! I’m Lorelei. My sister and I took it with you and my dad in Tacoma.”

The light, I am so happy to report, went off in my head then. I did know her and have a fuzzy memory of her face once more.

I asked how she recognized me after all this time.

“I never forget a face,” she said. So it would seem. I took my last Aikido class before my oldest son was born some time in 1998 which means that she recognized me almost twenty years later.

But after seeing Lorelei, I did give the ukemi another try in the secrecy of my own living room. I’m pleased to report that I can still go backwards and forwards on the right side. The left side is another story. I also cannot recommend trying a flourish with pointed toes. That, it turns out, wasn’t what the Aikido founders had in mind when rolling away from an attack.

At least I can recall some things.

In case you think I was turning gymnastic style somersaults, here’s instruction on how to get started with a roll. Learning these made me feel as uncoordinated as that Disney hippo on a balance beam. I spent a lot of time very close to the floor getting acquainted with every wrinkle in the mat.

And here is another guy who has his ukemi down. I was never built up to that mid-air flip, but I loved that feeling of falling and not getting hurt. Last night I remembered I still do.

 Extra note: Lorelei’s memory isn’t perfect, either. 

‘Killer with a K!’ she said. 

It was Karrie. My nickname was Karrie with a K. (Killer! Ha!)

Wednesday Wonders:Mr. G the Gingerbread Man Goes to Japan Part 2

Standard

When we last saw Mr. G on his trip, he discovered that people drive on the left in the island nation just before he enjoyed an apple–or rather he watched while the human ate the apple.

Today, I report on the rest of his adventures as told by tour guide Marci Kobayashi-Smith. These adventures took several days for our intrepid Mr. G.

Day 1

We went out for breakfast with the Gingerbread Man.

(They went to Denny’s in Japan!)

He looked over every page of the breakfast menu carefully.

Then we had fun taking pictures while we waited for the food to arrive.

He looked at both options first and then decided to share with Akira. You can see Akira is trying to teach him how to use chopsticks.

(Akira Kobayahi is tour guide Marci’s husband.)

15303904_10211897342936027_1010000561_o15328129_10211897343216034_377416940_n15355912_10211897344056055_1146264739_n

After breakfast Akira paid the bill and let the Gingerbread Man keep the change. He said he’s going to bring it back with him so Q can see how Japanese coins look.

15301146_10211897360296461_352336464_n

15292727_10211897360056455_1349974557_o

We took walk after breakfast and met someone very interesting but I’ll save that for later. Right now we’re driving to the nursing home to see Akira’s mom. Akira is helping the Gingerbread Man drive.

15310630_10211898690889725_1982571702_n

Day 2

We have a lot to report today! First, I want to share some pics from yesterday. The Gingerbread Man (we’ve nicknamed him Mr. G) found some interesting things.

First, he found a big building just for karaoke. Inside there are many small rooms and people of all ages go in and rent the rooms and have fun singing. We told him it’s not so unusual. There are karaoke buildings like this all over Japan.

15328341_10211909997132374_2141628411_n

Mr. G. also noticed there are a lot of poles and wires. You can see them here in this picture.

15301245_10211909999532434_10276592_n

In Japan, most of the telephone and electric wires are above ground. Mr. G said that in Puyallup most of the wires are underground. Is that true??

Even though there are many wires, there are still some beautiful streets. This street is lined with Gingko trees.

It was so pretty so we decided to take a walk. And we weren’t the only ones. Many people were out walking…

15300552_10211910027973145_534586312_n

We also found a flower shop, a grocery store with many bicycles parked out front and a Pizza Hut!!

Mr. G said he thinks there might be a Pizza Hut in Puyallup but he doesn’t eat pizza so he’s not sure. Have you seen delivery scooters like this in Puyallup?
Mr. G was really into the yellow leaves. He asked us to take many pictures…

15356875_10211910056693863_1198492597_n

He saved a few leaves. You’ve probably seen Gingko trees before but just in case he’s going to bring back a couple of leaves to show you. Here is one.

15300758_10211910069334179_1629351495_n

15310266_10211910070534209_632315552_n

15356874_10211910080174450_821123302_n

So you are probably getting tired of the yellow leaves, right? Well, on the way back home, we met someone really interesting. And, I’m not talking about the snowman. Take a look at this next picture. Can you guess what it is?

15320265_10211910100494958_897507648_n

Well how about this next picture? Look carefully and I bet you can figure it out!

15300503_10211910103655037_1690866494_n

Did you figure it out? He is a police officer! The little corner office where he works is called a “koban” and in English everyone calls it a police box. It’s like a mini police station. Every neighborhood in Japan has one.

Usually there is only one or maybe two officers working at the Police Box. Sometimes you can see them out patrolling on their bicycles.
And one last view from our walk yesterday…

Tomorrow I’ll tell you all about the laundromat we visited. And, guess what? Mr. G. went out for sushi!

Day 3

Today Mr. G stayed home but I still haven’t shared some of the pics from yesterday…We went out for sushi. Instead of taking sushi that came around on the conveyor belt we ordered from the digital menu. A few minutes later it arrived on another conveyor belt right to our table. Then, Mr. G got really excited when we put the plates down the shoot. Every 5 plates we get a chance to win a prize and this time WE WON!!!

 

15327674_10211920596717357_227192_n

15328176_10211920597957388_399239823_n

 

But, after all that raw fish Mr. G wanted something different so we ordered grilled eel, tenpura and french fries! Yum!

15387567_10211920623118017_570858945_o

The french fries and plate prizes were a fantastic selling points for Quinton, too! He says he’d rather go on Mr.G’s trip than to Disneyland!

And that concludes the tour. Mr. G is somewhere on his way across the Pacific back to the Puyallup elementary school and Quinton’s class.

Wishing you peace and french fries for this holiday season,

Screen Shot 2015-03-28 at 6.57.01 AM