Yomimono #16 – now available!

Yomimono #16 features cover art created by Kyushu expat Michelle Zacharias. Of her work, the artist says that no preliminary sketches are made. “The artwork grows organically and then finally dictates when a piece is finished or not.” This is from a piece called “Celebration,” created with colored pencils, watercolors, and gesso on wood panels.

This issue also includes writing by Nepalese filmmaker/writer Sushma Joshi, self-proclaimed “international party boy” Marcus Bird, poet and novelist David Galef, and others.

Here are some first lines from stories and poems:

“I did not mean to sell you.”

“If the ant had not bitten Mrs. Mathur on the back of her ample thigh, perhaps none of this would have happened.”

“It was New Year’s morning in the city of Sapporo, in northern Japan.”

“My twin brother and I carved out together a cave in the snow.”

“Mamoko slid the slender ink stick forward then backward, making sure that her even strokes made no ripples in the jet black liquid in the shallow well of her ink stone, just like he had taught her.”

“I was halfway between a juvenile/delinquent and an old degenerate.”

“I don’t like to sleep.”

“She had never spoken, she did not speak.”

To purchase a copy, click  here.

TOMO Launch

Tomo: Friendship Through Fiction – An Anthology of Japan Teen Stories, will launch in jsut a couple of weeks. This book will benefit teen survivors of the March 11, 2011 triple disaster which claimed over 15,000 lives in northeastern Japan. This book includes stories and translations by several Yomimono contributors including Ann Tashi Slater, Leza Lowitz, Shogo Oketani, Toshiya Kamei, and Wendy Nelson Tokunaga.

According to the notoriously cranky Kirkus Review, this anthology presents “a broadly appealing mix of the tragic and droll, comforting, disturbing, exotic and universal, with nary a clinker in the bunch”

Two events to launch the book will be held stateside as follows:

Boston Children’s Museum, Japan Society of Boston and Stone Bridge Press present:

Tomo: Friendship Through Fiction

A bilingual evening of storytelling, creativity and outreach for Boston teens to support young people in Japan affected by and recovering from the March 2011 earthquake & tsunami disasters.

Tomo, meaning “friend” in Japanese, is a collection of short stories and graphic art for readers age 12 and up, contributed by authors and artists from around the world, all of whom share a connection to Japan. Editor Holly Thompson (a Massachusetts native), Boston’s own Tak Toyoshima (“Secret Asian Man”) & other contributors will share their stories and help museum guests write or draw their own letters of support to teens in the hardest hit areas of Japan.

Books will be available for purchase, & proceeds from sales go to the Japanese NPO Hope for Tomorrow.

Friday, March 23rd from 6:30-8pm

Boston Children’s Museum

2nd Floor The Common

308 Congress Street

Boston, MA 02210

$1 Admission, Online RSVP Requested:

For more information about the book, please visit here.


New York Public Library and Stone Bridge Press present:

Tomo: Friendship Through Fiction

An afternoon of storytelling, creativity and outreach for New York teens to support young people in Japan affected by and recovering from the March 2011 earthquake & tsunami disasters.

Tomo, meaning “friend” in Japanese, is a collection of short stories and graphic art for

readers age 12 and up, contributed by authors and artists from around the world, all of whom share a connection to Japan. Editor Holly Thompson, graphic artist Tak Toyoshima (“Secret Asian Man”) & other contributors will share their stories and help library patrons write or draw letters of support to teens in the hardest hit areas of Japan.

25 copies of Tomo: Friendship through Fiction– An Anthology of Japan Teen Stories will be given away.

Saturday March 31st, 2pm

Ottendorfer Library, NYPL

135 2nd Ave. Manhattan

N/R/6 at Astor Place

Free Admission – RSVP Required:


Sales of Yomimono Lit Mag to Benefit Japan Red Cross

For the next month, all money generated from sales of Yomimono will go to the Japan Red Cross to help with the victims of the earthquake and tsunami. 

You can purchase copies here.

Other efforts are underway to raise money in the literary and artistic community. You can read about some of them here.

Writers for Tohoku

If you’re a writer looking for a way to help the victims of last week’s hurricane and tsunami, consider this.


Five Questions for Marian Pierce

Marian Pierce’s short stories have been published in Portland Monthly, GQ magazine, The Japan Times, The Mississippi Review, Puerto del Sol, STORY, Scribner’s Best of the Fiction Workshops 1997, and other venues. She was shortlisted for the 2008 David Wong Fellowship at the University of East Anglia, for an author writing about the Far East. Her story “Tokyo Pleasureland” appears in Yomimono #15.

Photo: Janice Pierce Photography

What was the inspiration for your story?

 In 2005 I spent 3 months in Tokyo doing research for a novel I have been working on, oh, forever! On an exceptionally hot August day, I took a break and went to Asakusa Kannon Temple. I sat down under a ginko tree next to an old man, and remarked in Japanese to him how hot it was. We started conversing, and he told me about his experiences during the firebombing of Tokyo. He also handed me a fan at one point, which is described in the story.

The Swedish man in the story is based on someone who I talked to at the “Gaijin House” I was staying in in Saitama at the time. He was just as girl crazy as described!

Describe your writing space.

When I write by hand I lie on my couch, sit at my kitchen table, or sit cross legged on the floor or a patch of grass somewhere. When writing at my computer, I sit at little desk which faces a bulletin board filled with photos of friends and family.

What are you working on now?

 A novel about, in part, the crash of JAL Flight 123 in 1985.

What’s the last book you’ve read?

 Under the Banyan Tree by R.K. Narayan. I love Narayan’s humor, the compassion that infuses his writing, and his deceptively simple style.

What is your favorite place in Japan?

That’s a hard one, but I absolutely loved Yakushima Island and the ancient Jomon sugi trees.

Review of SKY = EMPTY

Poet and former expat Judy Halebsky’s recently published collection, Sky = Empty, is reviewed in The Japan Times. Halebsky, who was awarded the 2009 New Issues Poetry Prize by judge Marvin Bell, contributed three new poems to Yomimono #15. An interview with Halebsky appears in Yomiono #14.

Incidental Music by Jane Joritz-Nakagawa

Yomimono contributor Jane Joritz-Nakagawa’s fifth book of poems, incidental music is out with BlazeVOX and is available from Amazon.

Whereas traditional poetics relied on meter and rhyme to create structure, the poems in incidental music use chains of association, sound, and logic to explore the form behind form. These cleverly wrought poems do what the greatest of poetry does — serve as objects of contemplation inviting the reader into a small universe both familiar and unfamiliar, knowable and unknowable. These poems challenge and thrill.


Jane Joritz-Nakagawa’s incidental music presents an atonal surround sound of turbulent registers. In this work there is dissonance and friction at the level of figuration—a “welding of phenomenological scalpels”. These poems are filled with humans facing human conundrums. Joritz-Nakagawa’s lyrics emphatically convey that a wound is not a tomb—the tone is often solemn but also wry. “These are not full truths” — chaos threatens time and despair close to oblivion is unraveled in paradoxical lines, yet there is a bold confidence emitted, a pact is made to keep going. Amidst the rumble is an evanescence that can’t be collapsed into a flat plane.


incidental music is attentive to the deep formal traditions of poetry in the western tradition: the sonnet, the pantoum, the cinquain, the rondeau, the triolet, the ghazal. And yet, as Jane Joritz-Nakagawa well knows, these traditions get their strength in how they intertwine with the contemporary. Incidental music is both innovative and inclusive of all that poetry can do.


Yomimono in The Japan Times!

Kris Kosaka recently reviewed Yomimono #15 in The Japan Times. You can read what she had to say here.

Five Questions for Shogo Oketani

 Shogo Oketani was born in Tokyo, Japan in 1958. His great-grandmother was a geisha, and his great-grandfather was a gambler. He graduated from Keio University and spent over a decade as a staff writer for The Sangyo Times. He has been a translator for Apple, Eastman Kodak, The Mori Group, Lucasfilm, IBM, Hitachi, Applied Materials and LAM Research, and others.

Oketani is author of a collection of poems, Cold River, co-author of Designing with Kanji: Japanese Character Motifs for Surface, Skin & Spirit, and co-translator of America and Other Poems by Ayukawa Nobuo: 1947-1986, for which he received the Japan-U.S. Friendship Commission Award for the Translation of Japanese Literature, and a grant from the NEA.

His translations have appeared in Manoa, Another Chicago Magazine, The Poetry of Men’s Lives,  and  W. W. Norton’s Language for A New Century, among others. His essay on translation appeared in The Poem Behind the Poem: On Translating Asian Poetry (Copper Canyon).  His fiction has appeared in Wingspan (All Nippon Airline’s inflight magazine) Kyoto Journal, and Another Kind of Paradise: Short Stories from the New Asia-Pacific

His story “A Farewell in the Snow” appears in Yomimono #15. It will appear in slightly different form in his book J-Boys: Kazuo’s World, Tokyo 1965, which  is forthcoming in Summer, 2011 in English translation by Avery Fischer Udagawa with Stone Bridge Press.   

Oketani is a black belt in Karate and Shaolinquan and also practices Kendo and Judo. He teaches Self-Defense workshops at Sun and Moon Yoga in Tokyo and at various corporations.

What was the inspiration for your story?

This story is based on a memory from childhood. When I was ten years old, my classmate, whose father owned a local meat shop,  disappeared after summer vacation. We weren’t that close,  but we sometimes played together after school. Towards the end of summer vacation, I was walking along the street in the shopping district when I heard someone call my name. I looked around to find him in front of the shop. “Hey, did you finish your homework yet?” he asked. “No, not yet. I still have a lot to do!” I said. He laughed. “Me, too. See you at school in September.” That was it.

But he never came back to school. The teacher even tried to find him, but he’d completely disappeared. Later, another classmate told me that his father had mixed rabbit meat with pork meat at their shop, and  no one knew where his family had gone.  At the end of September, the teacher told us that his family had moved because of a family matter (katei no jijo). This memory stuck in my mind, so I used this episode in one of the stories of J-Boys. 

 Describe your writing space.

I mainly write at a kotatsu (heated table) in my home office,  sitting on the floor. I write by hand, vertically, with a fountain pen, on Japanese notepaper.  I’ve studied at a small Japanese desk on the tatami mat ever since I was a teenager, and I just got used to writing and thinking sitting on the floor. 

What are you working on now?

I’m working on edits to J-Boys.  I’m also writing a story about Kazuo, the main character in J-Boys, who is now in his fifties. And I plan to revisit a draft of a novel about an eccentric medieval Samurai lord, called Basara, and work on a sequel to a YA novel about a ninja that my wife (Leza Lowitz) and I wrote.

What’s the last book you’ve read?

Ant Soldiers (ari no heitai), a nonfiction book (also now a documentary) about soldiers who were forced to stay in China after WWII by top-ranking Japanese Army officials in order to fight with the Kuomintang against the Communist party. Even though the war had ended, the Japanese Army wanted to maintain Japanese military power in China and forced 2,600 soldiers to stay in Shantung province in China against the Potsdam Declaration.    

 What is your favorite place in Japan?

The back streets of Ginza in Tokyo. They’re very quiet and not so crowded. You can still feel the earthy atmosphere of old downtown Tokyo (shitamachi) there, even amidst the glamour of the Ginza.

You can buy a copy of Yomimono #15 here.

Five Questions for Morowa Yejide

Morowa Yejidé is a fiction writer and a native of Washington, D.C.  She was educated at Kalamazoo College, where she received a B.A. in International Relations, and graduated from the international exchange program at Waseda University in Tokyo, Japan.  Her literary works have appeared in the Adirondack Review, Istanbul Literary Review, Underground Voices, Ascent Aspirations Magazine, the Taj Mahal Review, and the Willesden Herald. Her story, “Tokyo Chocolate,” about an African-American exchange student in Japan, appears in Yomimono #15.


What was the inspiration for your story?

 I think we discover many profound things in people and places that we least expect. For me, that place was the dining room table of a Japanese family that hosted my year-long exchange student experience. That table was the place where real and imagined history, dreams and disappointments, commonalities and differences all mixed together to reveal new truths. “Tokyo Chocolate” was a great way for me to look at the layers of that discovery through the eyes of a character in an unusual situation.  I wanted the reader to experience this situation as if it was a box being slowly unwrapped.  When we come to the end– along with the character– we discover something that maybe we hadn’t expected.  It was my desire to create this effect that inspired me to write “Tokyo Chocolate.”

Describe your writing space.

 I don’t have one specific writing space.  It often changes depending on my family and schedule.  I write when and where I can, which usually tends to be the dining room table, a pen and notebook in the bathtub, or my iPad.

 What are you working on now?

 A literary novel.

 What is the last book you read?

 Song for Night, by Chris Abani.  I love stories that depict the interior world of a character, and how that character projects that out into what is around them.  Chris Abani does this with beauty and precision.

What’s your favorite place in Japan?

 The shores of the Japan Sea.  I can still close my eyes and feel as if I’m standing on its black sands, with the brightly colored volcanic pebbles sprinkled about me.

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