Monday, February 19, 2007


A Review of Ben Hills' "Princess Masako: Prisoner of the Chrysanthemum Crown"

As a fan of Princess Masako, I was so happy a book had finally been written about her life that I actually pre-ordered my copy. I was anxious to learn more about this diplomat who gave up her career with the Japanese Foreign Service to become Crown Prince Naruhito’s Princess. Unfortunately, the writer to take on this task was the Australian Ben Hills. The tone of the book is shockingly irreverent, passages are littered with slang and curse words and Mr. Hills is constantly mocking the people in his book, including his sources. I am not certain why a man who could fail to see even the beauty in Masako-sama’s gorgeous, traditional wedding costume (choosing instead to focus on her stilted walk under the weight of the garments) would take on the task of trying to write the story of one of the nations most beloved cultural symbols. I tried to give him the benefit of the doubt, thinking perhaps he might be unaware that little girls throughout Japan display dolls wearing this elaborate dress every year on Girls’s Day, however later in the book he made reference to these O-hina-sama, proving that he was just out to be cruel. Sadly, there are also several references to Japan’s seedier side included in the book. All nations have their blemishes, however this book was not the place to point them out, especially when they were entirely unrelated to Princess Masako. It is as if Mr. Hills was unable to produce enough substantial content and so he resorted to muckraking in a failed attempt to make the book interesting. I continued my way through the book simply because I had paid for it. Surprisingly, I am glad that I did (finish it, not pay for it). The last three chapters of the book were interesting. The tone changes, the content improves and I actually learned something - even a few things about Masako-sama. Still, it was not enough to redeem the first seven chapters. I do believe that there is an amazing story to be told in Princess Masako’s life, a sad story even. I just do not feel that Mr. Hills has told it. Perhaps the only way the story will ever be told is if the Princess, herself, is allowed to write it.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007


A little story

Once upon a time there were three American friends dining in a cafe in Japan. The waitress serving them spoke to them in near perfect English. She had been living in Boston and only returned to Japan because she had been unable to renew her visa and was actively looking for a way to return to the States. She asked, "Why? Why do you want to live in Japan? Don't you think life in the United States so much better?"

Some days, it really is difficult to answer those questions.


Please don't ask . . .

Ask me what, you say? Well, Please don't ask me how my Valentine's Day was. Since I married a Japanese man, Valentine's Day is pretty much a non-event in my life. You see, Valentine's Day has been distorted into a complete disaster of a day in Japan. Why? How? Because the tradition here is that only the MEN receive chocolate! I know! It is criminal! Women are to give men chocolate on Valentine's day and expect nothing in return. There is even this concept of "giri choco," obligatory chocolate which women are expected to give to their male superiors. The men's answer to any complaints of unfairness is that women have "White Day." On March 13th, men are supposed to present the women who gave them chocolates on Valentine's day with return sweets . . . that is . . . only if they return their affection! Wait, it get worse! Women don't even get good chocolate on White day, they get WHITE CHOCOLATE or marshmallow confections. Who wants those?!? Also, there is no "giri white-o," so only the kindest of bosses will be handing their office ladies white treats. I told you, it is just plain wrong. Still, Mina and I just finished making brownies to give to her daddy, grandfather and uncle. I did buy Toshi some heart shaped senbei (Japanese rice crackers) and two pieces of dark chocolate (no, I am not bitter, okay, I am bitter, but I am not mean, he has really been watching his diet recently, so that is why). But, I won't be holding my breath for "White Day" as only once have I received something and that was from a teacher I used to work with who was very careful to make sure my experiences in Japan were as positive as possible. It is probably his fault I am still here, he really did make things nice. Too bad it wasn't him I married! (I hope you can see the sarcasm in my letters.) So, I sit here with a bag of Hershey's Miniatures I scored at an import shop earlier in the week and try to remember the lonely Valentine's Days in my past when I cursed the holiday rather than the scent of yellow roses. My children are napping simultaneously presently and that really is the best gift for me these days anyway. I think I will go lose myself in a book, maybe even a cheesey romance. Happy Valentine's Day!

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?